14 posts categorized "Sequencing Drums"

June 28, 2011

5th Seal Vlog #7

Brooklyn Beatsmith 5th Seal Drops His Latest Beat Vlog

For vlog #7, 5th Seal raids the infamous (and well-tread) dig spot A-1 Records in New York City (and runs into one of the greatest ever on the beats). As per his other installments, he offers a glimpse of the making of one of his beat gems. 5th Seal is a friend, so I'm happy that he's gaining a new level recognition.

The video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship

5th Seal Vlog #7

5th Seal Vlog #7 from 5th Seal on Vimeo.

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 17, 2011

Using the Alternating Pitch Technique on Drum Sounds

Technique Adds Unique Dimension to Your Drum Frameworks


Even though "the drums" are fundamental in beatmaking, many beatmakers overlook the various ways to get the most out of their existing drum sounds. One way to get more out of your drums sounds is to alternate the pitch of each drum sound within various measures—if not all measures—of a beat.

Changing the pitch of drum sounds is something that I often do in the creation of my beats. For snares, I typically have the same snare sound landing in a beat at three different pitch speeds (degrees). That is to say, I'll have one snare sound set at its original pitch level, the same sound set at a faster or slower pitch speed (usually one eighth or quarter note faster or slower), and the same sound again set at a faster or slower pitch speed (usually one eighth or quarter note faster or slower). Sometimes I determine the right pitch-degree of each snare-hit in real time usually by assigning the same snare sound—at three different pitch-speeds—to three different pads on my MPC, and playing the snares while the rest of the beat is in play/record mode. Still, there are other times (perhaps more often) where I simply play each snare-hit at the same pitch, then I later go back in and program the pitch changes at the points that feel right to me.

For hi-hats, rides, and tambourines, I use the same alternating-pitch technique for; however, for hi-hats, I usually only alternate the pitch of hi-hits at specific points within a beat. And when it comes to kick sounds, I use the alternating-pitch technique even more sparingly. With kicks, I only slightly change the pitch of the kick at certain times within the drum pattern.

Finally, I should point out that not only does alternating the pitch of your drum sounds allow you to get much more out of your existing drum sounds, such a technique also helps you create drum frameworks that really come alive. In other words, in addition to creating unique textures and sonic impressions, using the alternating pitch technique allows you to make your drums come off more natural, and it helps decrease the mechanical feel that often occurs with electronic drum sounds. Moreover, used in the right way—that is, for feel and sound, NOT just for the sake of using a technique—the alternating pitch technique also helps with the tightening up of the rhythm of your beats.

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 15, 2011

One Key to Customizing Drum Sounds

When it Comes to Drum Customization, Continuity Remains Is Paramount


For Part the BeatTips.com "Customizing Drum Sounds" series, I thought it would be a great idea to share my response to my friend and fellow beatmaker (and one of the most respected members of The BeatTips Community), dKelloway.

Here's dKelloway (AKA "DK") comments and questions:

"ok so i dig in the crates, sample 2 different kicks from 2 vinyl records (in mono), ran it though a dj mixer, then brought it to my pc via zip disk. Then, I added compression, eq, and reverb and I ended up with the custom kick sound heard in the attachment. I am using FL Studio to edit my drum sounds when i'm not using the MPC. I tried soloing the drum hit and recording it into edison and they don't sound like they do during my beat. Say I want to use this kick again and mess with the pitch and whatnot for another beat how can I use it without having to go through the whole process of layering eq'ing and compression again with the 2 drum sounds?"

My Response

dk, question... If you now have an MPC, why are you not using it as your fundamental "drums provider?" Most of my drum sounds come from my Akai S950; the rest come from my MPC 4000. But the point is: the sounds come from the same "family." When you customize your sounds to work with your MPC, there's NO WAY they'll ever sound the "same" in a software environment...and that's aside from the compression/sound quality loss issues.

Another thing. You know I stress customization; however, customize your drum sounds within a reasonable manner. That is to say, don't get too complicated! Drums are fundamental, so the idea is to develop some continuity with your drum sounds, as it will develop continuity to your overall sound. For instance, I've used drum sounds from my Roland Fantom S and from Reason (software). BUT... I sample the sounds into my Akai S950 and/or my Akai MPC 4000!

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 14, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: O.C. & A.G. - "2 For The Money," Beat by Showbiz

Street Corner Laced Rhymes and A Hard-Hitting, but Intricately Arranged Beat


Attitude. More specifically, the "hip hop attitude." That's one of the core components of any of hip hop culture's four primary elements. And in O.C. and A.G.'s "2 For The Money" (beat by Showbiz), there is no shortage of attitude. Moreover, there's no shortage of the components that comprise a dope song.

O.C., long one of the most surefire (but slept-on) lyricist to ever grab a mic, sets off "2 For The Money" with a bravado that can only be summed up as New York City confidence. O's rhyme flow is as fluid as it is abrasive. And his lyrical content—always engaging—is as clever as it broken-glass serious. Then there's A.G., every bit "street corner" and aggressive as O.C., but less agile and more direct.

Then there's Showbiz on the beat. Here, the fellow D.I.T.C. brethren crafts one razor blade of a track. Showbiz's arrangement on this beat is masterwork! He builds the core groove around bass piano chops. But the real standout work on this heater is how he uses horn and string chops to weave a structure that packs a powerful punch. The first horn sample is a quick 3-note phrase that jabs in and out. And then there's the string samples. Dope! Showbiz uses several string samples. The first one dances up and down in a suspense-like fashion; it's this string sample that's prioritized during the first quarter of the verses in the song. The second string sample is an ascending, bottom-heavy string-horn phrase that carries a sustained whine after its crescendo. It's this string-horn phrase that Showbiz uses to relieve the first string sample, at the midway mark of the verse. After the string-horn phrase gets burn for four bars, the first string sample returns, followed by one more 2-bar round of the string-horn phrase, which finally gives way to the climax: a subdued and sustain brass stab with all other music elements (drumork included) dropped out.

Finally, got a mention that the hook cuts on this song are served up by DJ Premier.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

O.C. & A.G. - "2 For The Money" (from Oasis, beat by Showbiz, featuring cuts by DJ Premier)

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

February 03, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: James Brown & The JBs - "I Don't Want Nobody"

Rolling, Rumbling, Muddy Bass; Brassy Brass; Home Cooked Drums; and of Course, the Vocal Styles of Soul Brother #1


*In the discussion of music, numerous names are tossed around. Sure, their are many recording artists who are worthy of some level of research. But then there are those names that are worthy of intense MusicStudy. These are the Marquee Names...*

In 1969, America was trampling fast into a new era. Just one year after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy; and one year after the 1968 Summer Olympics "Black Power Salute" of black American track stars, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. 1969: the social turbulence of the 1960s was coming to a close.

Such broad-based social turbulence triggered a new awakening in the African American (Black) music tradition, when in 1965, James Brown introduced a new form of soul music he dubbed "funk." By 1969, James Brown had perfected his funk sound, which included tightly wound rhythms, percussive and "brassy" horn arrangements, and unmistakable grooves that rocked steady on the down beat. And seemingly always key to James Brown's funk sound was his straight-forward social commentary.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

James Brown & The JBs get down with "I Don't Want Nobody."

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 27, 2011

Ty Fyffe Stresses The Importance Of Getting The Groove Going First

Sometimes Keeping It Simple Is All The Complexity A Beat Needs


I have strong admiration for Ty Fyffe's work. His beats all share a "no nonsense" quality. His drums are steady and always knock hard. And the overall character of his sound selection—usually made up of obscure, untraceable sounds—is sparse, but flanked my intricate nuances. In this video, Ty Fyffe illustrates making a beat through the use of multiple sound-stabs. Fyffe assigns the same sound-stab (I think) to roughly 8 pads on his Akai MPC 2500. For each pad assignment, he has the sound-stab set at a different pitch level, which allows him to play each sound-stab like individual notes.

The video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Episode 1 Music Producer Ty Fyffe Shows You How To Make A Hit

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 19, 2011

The Wisemen's 'Children of A Lesser God': Classic Street Rap in Full Effect

With 'Children of A Lesser God,' The Wisemen Deliver Classic Street Rap; But Don’t Call It a Throwback, the Essence of The Wisemen Has Been Here for Years


BeatTips Rating: 5/5

BeatTips Rating Breakdown

To be certain, The Wisemen's album, Children of a Lesser God, is quintessential, unmitigated street rap of the highest quality. I began here because it's necessary to point out. Why? Because at the moment, hip hop/rap music is overly “represented” (I use the term lightly) by three main unfortunate trends: (1) status quo safety efforts, you know, where the top acts do just enough to oil the mainstream machine; (2) lifeless beats and parochial rhymes [where sampling is surface-level at best, and where synth-based creations are either extra emo or just plain too “synthy”]; and (3) publicity-stunt rappers who say or do seemingly anything for attention.

Taken together, these three trends paint a disturbing picture of today’s hip hop/rap music. But this picture is, by any knowledgeable or sensible account, grossly incomplete. Truth is, there’s a lot of good, well-intentioned hip hop/rap music available today. Yet most of it is simply drowned out by waves of mediocrity. Thus in an environment such as this, we need albums like The Wisemen’s Children of A Lesser God to shatter through the Plexiglass.

When you think about it, it’s always been the quintessential street rap album (think Wu-Tang or Nas’s first LP efforts, for instance) that has had the best chance to cut through all the clown noise with something simultaneously threatening, enjoyable, and of course, meaningful. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons this album failed to get proper press coverage when in dropped back in October, 2010; ironically, on the exact same day as The Left’s celebrated Gas Mask. But I digress.)

That being said, street rap albums are a curious thing. They're difficult to pull off, mostly because of the balancing act of authenticity, creativity, and entertainment appeal. And they don’t always hit the mark established by similar albums from hip hop/rap hey-day eras. But The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God convincingly strikes the target.

Now, I’d be remiss if I did not mention that the Wisemen artfully use the Wu-Tang architecture as a guide. Here, let’s remember The Wu-Tang Clan: The Wu-Tang Clan were (and still are) in their own league; they were aggressively insular and self-contained; their slang, flows, and metaphors were the codes of their own world—outsiders be damned; they broke from conventional music forms; they rhymed to impress, to challenge, to compete with each other.

Many of these characteristics and qualities come to mind when you listen to The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God. And for good reason, as the clear Wu-Tang influence is an actual legitimate connection—The Wisemen front man, Bronze Nazarath is a recognized Wu-affiliate (his link to and work with The RZA has been documented). That being said, however, The Wisemen are not mere emulators of the Wu-Tang style, sound, and mystique; rather, they are the much needed extension of it. An extension, I should add, that is not homage alone, but inspiration, and more importantly, obligation. Indeed, The Wisemen seem to have a deep sense of obligation (duty) to maintain this extension (connection) and to keep alive the influence of one of the most powerful forces in hip hop/rap music history. Fortunately for us, they do a great job in this regard. (I especially liked Children of a Lesser God's inclusion of skits, an element unique to hip hop/rap—not always used or performed effectively—that Wu-Tang perfected.)

But homage and duty to Wu-Tang aside, The Wisemen are keenly devoted to representing themselves and their brand of self-contained community. Indeed, they are not given over to erasing the memory banks of their own background, just for the pursuit of an often romanticized hip hop/rap era (i.e. “the ‘90s”). Instead, The Wisemen understand that while past eras of hip hop/rap music may fade, the essence of these eras remain and never dissolve. As such, the characteristics and nuance of these eras can be studied and used by current music makers for the purpose of creating something that doesn’t simply attempt to mimic, but aims to be just as creative and mutually engaging. Where most of “the ‘90s” revival outfits miss this crucial understanding, The Wisemen absorb and internalize it, rendering a long player (album) that’s just as much reminiscent as it is authentically personal.

In fact, Children of a Lesser God demonstrates how The Wisemen reconcile Detroit’s unique sensibilities with other influential hip hop/rap cities. And I say this to make one thing clear: The Wisemen are NOT hip hop/rap carpetbaggers (like others I’ve noticed), avoiding the sensibility of their home town. On the contrary, The Wisemen are skilled music makers who have connected the rich soul music roots (and nuance) of Detroit to their hip hop/rap influences (some obvious, others not so much). Ultimately, this makes for a style and sound that authentically represents them (their specific interpretations of proven hip hop/rap styles and sounds) and their famed city.

BeatTips Rating Breakdown

Favorite Joints

“Thirsty Fish” ft. Raekwon
(Bronze, Salute, and Raekwon KILL this joint. One of the toughest beats I've ever heard! And Rae is in prime form; you can tell he was diggin' this beat—produced by Kelaar 7)

“Victoriuos Hoods” ft. Victorious, Planet Asia
“Makes Me Want a Shot”
The Illness 2
ft. Illah Days (Verse 1&2), Phillie
“Makes Me Want a Shot”
ft. Salute Da Kidd, Bronze Nazareth, Kevlaar 7

Sureshot Singles

“Thirsty Fish” (10)
“Children of a Lesser God” (10)
“Lucy” (10)
“Makes Me Want a Shot” (10)
“Panic at Vicious Park” (9)
“Victorious Hoods” (10)

Sleeper Cuts

“Faith Doctrine ft. Beace”
“Get U Shot”
“I Gotta Know”
ft. Salute Da Kid, Phillie, Bronze Nazareth, Illah Dayz

Solid Album Cuts
“The Illness 2”
“Do It Again”
“Corn Liquor Thoughts”
“Hurt Lockers”

Gripes and Weak Moments

Final Analysis

The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God is enjoyable. Quite a feat when you consider that most street rap albums are long on the “shock and awe” and short on the enjoy factor. I found that I was able to really chill with this album, you know, dig in to it. This album holds no skip through joints. Beats are not repetitive; each song lays down its own claim. And the song order; the lyrical quality (every rapper in the crew is distinguishable and more than capable); and the timelessness of the dope beats all combine to stop you from rush consumption. I’m also compelled to point out that I found Children of a Lesser God as—if not more—enjoyable than many of my favorite hip hop/rap albums (from the ‘90s til now).

On Children of a Lesser God, there’s no deliberate (or perhaps contrived) social commentary that you might expect to find from the likes of a so-called “conscious rapper.” Yet the social commentary comes through clear in an unflinching, “as told to you” manner. Of course there’s stories of crime, weed and liquor use, and sex-capades. But none of the subject matter on Children of a Lesser God is forced or meant as sensationalism. Instead, the material comes off naturally, with much nuance to take in and subtle lessons to be learned. I appreciate when lyrics inform, enlighten, and challenge without the stench of falsity.

The best parts of The Wisemen’s Children of a Lesser God, notably the songs “Thirsty Fish,” “Victoriuos Hoods,” and “Makes Me Want a Shot” exude a sound, polish, and feel that just isn’t equaled right now. This is not to say that there is no one else offering soul samples and hard raps. Of course there are. But many other acts who are using this formula (soul samples and hard raps) are doing little to draft their own unique blueprints from this foundational formula; nor are they doing a fairly good job at representing the pedigree for which they aim to emulate, match, or surpass. Does this mean that The Wisemen match or surpass the Wu-Tang Clan? No. But it does mean this: In their aim and effort to stay true to their pedigree and influences, they were, in turn, able to create something authentically theirs—something that will now stand for others to attempt to emulate, match, or surpass. That's the continuum promise of a dope pedigree.

Thus, my final overall evaluation of Children of a Lesser God? it’s a 5-star classic. Aside from its cache of razor sharp, crew-backed rhymes and hard—and often eloquent—beats, what truly makes an album like The Wisemen’s Children of A Lesser God a classic is not only it’s ability to take you back, but its enduring power to keep you focused here, in the now, while also giving you a glimpse of the promise of hip hop/rap’s tomorrow.


January 17, 2011

For Me, Starting a Beat with the Drums a Rarity

Of Course there's Nothing Wrong with Starting a Beat with the Drums; However, in Some Cases, It May Be Limiting


When beginning a new beat, I almost never start with the drums, no matter what type of beat that I'm making. And even for those beats that I have started with the drums, I've always recognized the fact that in some ways, starting with the drums can limit your creative flexibility. I say this because when you start with the drums, you typically wind up having to fit (match) things to the drums rather than the other way round. In other words, starting with the drums first pretty much locks you in to that one drum program/pattern and theme (or variation thereof), leaving little room for new direction.

On the other hand, starting with the non-drums first often seems to leave more room (flexibility). In fact, for me, I've always found that starting a beat off with non-drum allows me to imagine ("visualize") the various drum approaches that could work. Often, this tends to leave me with more room for intuitive creativity.

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 06, 2011

The Wisemen Help Light Up Detroit with Golden Arm Touch

Wu-Tang Nexus and Beatmaker Centered Ethos Makes this Wonder Group Shine; Detroit/New York City-Connection Illuminated


Certainly no disrespect to The Left, Black Milk, or even Royce Da 5’9 (all of which I hold in high regard). But The Wisemen (comprised of Bronze Nazareth, Kevlaar 7—real brothers and both beatmaker-rappers—, Phillie, Salute the Kid, Illah Dayz, and June Megaladon) are so deft at representing their obvious Wu-Tang influence—from production sound to lyrical flow—that I’m compelled to dub them the new leaders of the quickly emerging Detroit/New York City-connection rap architecture. And while The Left may be the more accessible leaders of this new architecture right now (as evidenced by their recent unanimous good reception among the most credible music blogs), The Wisemen—who are much more grittier, edgier, and sinister—seem to have more street staying power.

Because of their legitimate Wu-Tang affiliation (nurtured by The RZA’s direct connection to The Wisemen’s co-founder, beatmaker/rapper Bronze Nazareth), The Wisemen offer a more “meat and bones” representation of New York soulful hardcore rap. This is particularly refreshing because they are not imitating the New York (mostly Wu-Tang) sound as much as they are essentially demonstrating Detroit’s overall unique palate for hip hop/rap music as well their own uncanny ability to convincingly interpret it at will. For it could be said that the casual observer of Detroit hip hop/rap is only able to recognizes its Midwest location and perhaps its natural musical affiliations and influences. However, the deeper purveyor of Detroit hip hop/rap recognizes that this Wu-Tang nexus—a link that transcends regional “rules” or considerations—is not new, but an old one that has finally found its era for national (if not global) exposure, and subsequently, massive celebration.

Speaking of The Left, I’ve been meaning to write a review for their stellar album, Gas Mask. I had it all planned. The review would not be just about the quality of their project. Instead, I planned to highlight one fascinating characteristic of modern day Detroit hip hop/rap: the undeniable musical connection (lineage) to New York soulful hardcore rap. I had planned to make The Left the centerpiece example of this remarkable connection. But I held back on that review, and subsequent theory, because I wanted to hear The Wisemen’s new joint, “Thirsty Fish,” before I completed my thesis. Well, after listening to The Wisemen’s “Thirsty Fish,” the first single off of their recently released sophomore effort, Children of a Lesser God, my conclusion has shifted.

I’m going to hold off on publishing my final thoughts until after I’ve heard (thoroughly listened to) The Wiseman’s full album. But for now, I’m going to zone out to their song “Thirsty Fish.” I invite you to do the same. Particularly, I encourage you to study how The Wiseman, a group from Detroit, so flawlessly capture the quintessential Wu-Tang sound. This is proof that anyone, from anywhere, can capture the essence of a style and sound, as long as they commit to it.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship

The Wisemen ft. Raekwon - "Thirsty Fish"

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 04, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Marco Polo and Ruste Juxx Deliver Hardcore Rap with "Nobody"

With "Nobody," Marco Polo and Ruste Juxx Prove They are Indeed Somebody Worth Paying Close Attention To


The way some people tell it, classic creative, "meat and bones" hip hop/rap is dead. Or that the "punch-you-in-the-gut" beat style is no longer in existence. Wrong. On both counts. Here with a joint that has seemingly come out of nowhere, Marco Polo and Ruste Juxx are demonstrating hip hop/rap's most hard-hitting formula: tuff beats and street-rumble rhymes.

Anchored around a pulsating, piano-led riff and a milky, heavyweight bass line, the groove that beatmaster Marco Polo cooks up is soulfully energetic and thoroughly hypnotic. For the drums, Marco goes with a ratchet-like, syncopated snare that jukes and jabs, while the bottom-fed kick raps through the track like a battering ram knocking on a medieval castle entrance. And for good measure, Marco peppers the entire drum framework with 1/8 hi-hat hits that shuffle and swing in its own rhythm.

As for Ruste Juxx on the rhyme, Brooklyn-bred flow is front and center. Each line of every rhyme is delivered with the confidence of a pound-for-pound best rated boxer. Juxx doesn't just drop lines; instead, he spits them out with the arrogance and bravado of someone who brandishes razors under his tongue. And while the harshness of his classic New York rasp is ever apparent, the dexterity and overall polish of his rhyme skills is hard to ignore.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Marco Polo and Ruste Juxx - "Nobody"

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

Dedicated to exploring the art of beatmaking in all of its glory.

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