4 posts categorized "TBC Shop Talk"

August 22, 2011

Things to Remember when Diggin' in the Crates

The BeatTips Community (TBC) Thread of the Day: Diggin Tips


Diggin' in the crates can be an arduous task, to say the least. But without some kind of "system" or approach, diggin' can be down right intimidating. Recently, TBC member sigmundfred started a thread for diggin' tips, so here in this article I wanted to share some of the replies as well as my own.

From TBC Member Sigmundfred:

"I'm just new to the diggin'...
and want to know some basics tips to choose record wisely (all type of music, classical include)...
hahaha right now, it's often the chick on the cover who guide me ... LOL...
nah... the year, the disc compagny, the persons who work on the project, etc...

Other question, do you listen to all the record you bough entirely or do you skip to severals points of each song and let luck be your master?"

From TBC Member BrandonF42088:

"First of all I must state than I am not an master digger by any means. I am however able to find records with samples I like that have the certain tones and moods I want.

Things that I look for when I am digging for records are like you said, the year it was recorded (I usually go for records for the 60-70s but have found some ill cuts from the 80s as well other decades*) , the record label, the people that are playing on the record and who produced the record. I also will buy a record if I like the cover if its for a decent price. To be honest you never know what you will find until you listen to the record and I find lots of little gems in records I had low expectations for.

*I know DJ Premier has flipped some really ill samples from the 1910s. Just some food for thought.

When I dig I go to a few spots: the chain stores (Amoeba, Rasputin, & Streetlight) I usually rock the dollar bins and buy anything that looks good from the 60s and 70s I have found lots of good records in the dollar bins and in fact some of my favorite beats I have made are from dollar bin records.

When I want to buy rare records and originals I go to a few local spots around my area. I keep a ongoing list on my phone when I go digging in certain spots so I sometimes know exactly what I am looking for. I have had the most success on finding what I want on ebay. I have also found private dealers on soulstrut.com forums that have annual auctions where you can bid on tons of rare records from their collection. I must give warning that buying records on ebay can be a dangerous expensive habit. When I buy expensive records I check the data bases: Popsike, GEMM, and Music Stack to make sure I don't spend too much.

Always check the record you are buying before you buy it in a store to make sure it isn't totally scratched up or even broken. Also beware of warped records because they will sound bad and pitched up an down the needle goes over the warped area which will sound weird and not something you generally would want to sample."

From TBC Member Smellypants:

"I have never sold records back to a record store, nothing wrong with that, but I've gone back to records I've deemed useless before and found like a dope drum break, groove or even just one shots etc.

I think the more you dig and make beats the more your ear develops, it allows you to hear things you might have previously overlooked, and as ones chopping skills improve your more likely to use a sample that you might have considered too challenging before.

I'm no master digger either but I have never ever had a problem finding ill records and ill samples, and I frequently dig in thrift stores, to start off keep your eyes open for the record label, artist, year pressed and even album cover, if you start to get into the whole digging thing you'll find good stuff, do research online, listen to music on youtube, some people have entire channels dedicated to listing drum breaks and such, it may seem overwhelming at first but digging is a win win for me, I think you can extract value from almost any record so don't worry about it too much just get ya hands dirty, you'll make distinctions as you go."

Here's my reply:

As for what to look for? Absolutely you want to check:
The Front and Back Album Cover

The album cover is obviously the first thing that you see and the first "clue" that draws you in. I've seen some horrible, crazy looking LP covers for albums that have had MASSIVE gems (from phrases to drum sounds) on them. However, I've also seen some exquisite cover designs that yielded equally valuable music. And I've also seen some really great looking album covers with less than stellar source material. Ha, but generally speaking, in my years of diggin' for records, I've found that you can't go wrong with any cover with a beautiful lady from the 1970s on it, or a pic of drums (and bongos), or a mean looking group in a field of grass or some other scene like that.

Next, no matter what's on the front cover, the back cover is crucial!!! This is where you'll find musician, producer, engineer, and studio credits. Who performed on the recordings is just as important of a clue as who produced and engineered them, as well as where they were recorded. It's worth getting familiar with the popular music producers and song writers of the 60s and 70s. Also, regardless to where your musical sensibilities lie, get familiar with the regional and global sounds. This way, when you're not familiar with any of the names of the performers, you'll be able to get a sense of the feel and direction of the album based on where the music was recorded. This is particularly important for soloist without their own band, because the musicians performing will likely be drawn from a pool of local session musicians. And there was a distinct difference between session musicians around the country. (For example, between the 1960s and 1970s, a distinct style and sound can be heard in New York and the North East; Chicago/Detroit; the South East: Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi; the South West: Texas; and the West: Southern California and Northern California.)

The Label

Of course the label is an important indicator as the album cover; even more so when you're trying to determine to the sound and scope of music and the style and tonal quality as well. I great reference point is to check for the household names like Atlantic (went major in '67), Motown, Curtom, Buddah, Salsoul, CTI, Stax, Blue Note, ATCO (a subsidiary of Atlantic specializing in soul), V.L.P., Columbia, etc. Each label had a specific kind of artist roster, and each label used its own unique production and recording "system". Thus, getting to know the labels and their corresponding output goes a long way, when you're diggin'. But be careful not to just get stuck looking for the "known" labels, because in the '60s and '70s (lesser in the '80s), there were lots of smaller indie labels (with "one-off" recordings and the like) to go along with the household names.

After You Get the Records Back to the Lab

After you've gathered your records and you're back at the lab and the REAL diggin' begins, the number one thing to remember is PATIENCE!!! I always recommend giving every record that you get at least one full listen. This can be painstakingly slow, especially if you're early into diggin', but trust me, patience in this regard pays off big time for two reasons: (1) you will undoubtedly be able to catch gems that you would have otherwise missed; and (2) regardless of what you actually find, you are doing MusicStudy—listening to and learning more about music; in particular, you're learning new musical patterns and textures that go into your individual musical well of ideas.

One more thing about given each album a full listen: PLAN your listening sessions. For example, literally take each album one song at a time. Look at the song length of the album and listen throughout the duration. You can stop while you're listening, especially if something immediately moves you to create a beat. But remember EXACTLY where you left off, and do not check the next song on the album until you've listened fully to the previous song. On most albums of the late 1960s through mid-1970s, there are usually 4 to 5 songs on each side (remember, 8 songs qualified for an album then). So if you plan to treat each song equally, your listening sessions will be less daunting... Also, keep this in mind: A full listen of an album allows you to get familiar with the music direction of the LP. This is helpful not only because it will guide how you listen (screen, survey) the album, it will also help you learn more about how to create consistent music themes of your own.

Aside from Patience, It's Important to Keep an Open Mind.

With each new record, you never know exactly what you're going to get. Sure, certain clues (such as the aforementioned album cover and performance credits) will give you an idea about what to expect, but what you expect and what's actually on the record doesn't always pan out. This is one reason to have an open mind: to accept the record on its own musical terms before you sample it.

Another reason that it's important to keep an open mind before listening to your records deals with your mood and intent. Let's say that you're in a grungy, hard core mood, and you're looking for bass parts and "dark" sounds. What happens when you drop the needle on the record and you hear a bunch of harps and bright strings? An open mind let's you shift your mood and intent and go where the source material takes you. Now, I'm not saying that you have to abandon your mood or your creative intentions. I'm pointing out how helpful an open mind can be, especially when you've already got your mind made up about what you're going to do sounds that you've yet to hear. When I first started out diggin' for records, I would bypass a lot of good source material, just because it didn't fit my predetermined ideas. What I later learned was to let the music "talk to me." Instead of trying to dictate to the record what it had to be, I learned how to see/hear what it could be. This was a turning point for me, not only because it broadened and strengthen my sampling approach, but also because it led me to listen to music much more closely and carefully. And this helped me to understand the different ways that certain types of arrangements and sounds could be manipulated to fit my style and sound. Further, it also helped me to learn how to better craft riffs and phrases using a keyboard (live instrumentation)...which I then, of course, sample. (In The BeatTips Manual, I discuss composition in great detail.)


*Click here to read the full "Diggin' Tips" TBC Thread

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

June 12, 2011

TBC Thread of the Day: "Proper Signal Chain for mixing samples?"

Finding the Right Signal Chain for Your Style and Sound, When Your Mixing Samples in Your DAW


DK: "Is there a proper signal chain for mixing samples (pre-recorded material off records) such as drums, basslines, and non-drum sound instruments?"

Sa'id: dk, First thing. When you say "*signal chain* for mixing samples," do you mean to ask about what signal chain to use to when tracking (recording) into your DAW? The reason I ask is because, if you're at the *mixing* point, you're already past the signal chain point...

Second thing:
I don't think that the use of the word "proper" is the best way to phrase your question or kick off this thread. Perhaps the word "effective" is better. "Proper" sounds dogmatic, as in there's only one way. In regards to signal chains, there are multiple effective ways that different people like to choose, for various reasons

If you are asking about what signal chain to use before the mixing point, well, then consider the fact that an *effective* signal chain completely depends on the beatmaker (and mixer) and the style and sound he or she (or they) is/are going for. Different sounds produce different signals, but the degree of difference changes with the sample. For example, a stand-alone bass sample will generate one kind of signal; while a sample that contains basslines, drums, and non-drum instruments will generate yet another kind of signal.

DK: First of all, thanks the reply.

Secondly, I agree wholeheartedly that "effective" would have been a much better word for what I'm asking. The best thing about TBC is that we have no "know it all's" here that claim to know everything and therefore bring down the integrity of the boards. Amen to that.

Back to my original question though, I meant once the samples are tracked into the DAW, is there a certain signal chain on the inserts that would help me mix my samples more efficiently? For example, say that I have a high-pass filter applied on my primary sample track (the sample contains a guitar, strings, piano chords, organ etc) and I planned on "bumping" the sample like you described in the BeatTips Manual. Say, I wanted also wanted to compress the sample and add some reverb as well. Would the proper plugin sequence on the inserts be 1) high pass filter 2) compression 3) reverb, or should I compress the sound last? If so, is there a reason behind doing so?

I remember you posting here a few months ago that it helps to know your sounds, and to have that sound available if possible before entering the mix phase (eg. using a kick drum with lots of low end in your beat before tracking it into your DAW).

Before sampling, I also use your trick of playing around with the DJ mixer so I can get the sound that I'm looking for before sampling. What I mean in this case is that for this particular I noticed that the bassline didn't really stand out, but I wanted the strings and the organ sounds (the mids and the highs) to stand out so they would be easier to chop. Doing so, I turned down the low end on the dj mixer so the bass was less audible when I sampled it. This did help me get the sound I was looking for, but if I was looking to tweak it even further in my DAW, which plugin effects chain would be the most beneficial for what I'm trying to do with the sample?


Sa'id: Dk,

OK, now I get what you're asking...
Generally speaking, compression would be last on the chain you described. As for the high pass filter and the reverb, that depends on what you're trying to achieve. I usually work my levels (EQ/Filters) before I apply reverb. But then there are other times (for instance, sometimes when I re-sample my own snare sounds) where I apply the reverb (for the elongated sound and roominess) before the EQ. In cases like these, I'm interested in the "shape" of the sound before the "color" (feel, EQ) of the sound. So once I get the shape of the sound (the duration, spacing), I can then go about modifying how it knocks (or doesn't), shuffles, or tucks through the mix, etc.

It's often a good thing to compress last because compression actually "squashes"/restrains the fullness of a sound. In fact, with my style and sound I tend to avoid compression as much as possible. This is why I've spent a great deal of time knowing my sound before I track into my DAW... The idea is to have the sound as close to complete as possible before I mix. This way, when I mix it or turn it over to someone else to mix, there's no guess work—The sound scope is already there, like a map... Check out my interview with mix engineer Steve Sola in The BeatTips Manual where he discusses receiving a near-finished mix, before he even touched it.

As for the DJ mixer amplification/EQ, please note: I pretty much have the left and right EQ bands (channels) set to a default! In other words, I don't adjust my mixer for every record (or other source material) that I sample. Instead, my DJ mixer's EQs stay the same... But remember, I route my DJ mixer through my analog Mackie board. And it is there where I may modify the Hi's and Lo's of the source material, before I sample it. Keeping my DJ mixer with my custom default EQ setting helps keep my own style and sound.

Finally, remember, once you get any bass part into your DAW, you can just duplicate the tracked bass part (as needed) and boost the low end (I like to use the multiple band EQ) on the duplicates or turn their volume up.

Participate in this TBC thread here: "Proper Signal Chain for mixing samples?"

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

September 28, 2010

The BeatTips Community Shop Talk: How Do You Like To Remix A Song

DC And The Beat Pharmacy Take Us Through Their Processes Of Remixing A Song

By dC and The Beat Pharmacy

I do all my remixes in logic. I usually start by playing the a cappella and running through all my beats to see if I have something that fits the mood, tempo, etc of the song. 90% of the time I already have something I can use so I just load up the session and get to work.

What I do is match the a cappella to the tempo of my beat. I'll usually cut the vocals in 4/8/16 bar increments and time stretch it to match the beat. It's definitely more involved than that but you get the gist of it. I do that until everything fits then I'll go back and add breaks, drops, etc to accentuate the lyrics. Then I'm done.

I think doing remixes is a good tool to get exposure especially if you don't have emcees to work with. I used to do remixes all the time. It also gives you a feel for what your beats will sound like with an artist on top.

The Beat Pharmacy
Thanks for sharing d.c. Do you try and work within the Bpm of the original song? That's how I have approached it in the past. Do you find that time stretching the vocals tends to give them an unnatural feel and sound? If a song is being remixed to a much higher tempo then the original say to give it more club appeal then I can definitely see the benefit of time stretching the vocals in order to lock them in.

No doubt. I definitely try and work close to the original bpm, probably no more then +/- 7 bpm, maybe 10 if i really want it to work. I don't get any unnatural sounds or feelings from time stretching the vocals. I think logic's time stretching is actually pretty good and it's never so extreme that it'll create artifacts anyway. I don't know if you heard that drake remix I posted on here a while ago but that's an example of what I do.

September 20, 2010

The BeatTips Community Shop Talk: How Often Do You Sidechain?

TBC Members Talk Shop About The Use Of Sidechain Compression

By D. Kelloway, Brandon F42088, and Amir Said (Sa'id)

Sidechain compression has been coming up a lot lately. In The BeatTips Community, it's been a lead topic for several months, and in recent weeks I've received a number of emails about it. So I thought it would be a good idea to feature this TBC shop talk between members dKelloway and Brandon F42088.

While making hip hop/rap beats how often do you find yourself using sidechain compression w/ the kick and bassline? Lately for me I've been using it often. How about you?

Not too often for hip hop beats I will sometimes have the kick trigger the threshold for a compressor on the bass if I am mixing a live hip hop track but generally not on my own tracks.

I use compression pretty lightly on my own tracks because a lot of bass samples that I have got off of records have already been compressed when they were originally recorded or mixed.

I also use a compressors sidechain for ducking when I am mixing other music or post production stuff. Sometimes I will have the vocal trigger the threshold for certain musical elements so the vocal will bring down the other music a little.
Edit/Delete Message

hmm, interesting. I thought that in the 1970's that engineers used little compression on the drums. Does this apply to the bass as well?

It depends on the record but they did compress bass and drums too as well as other elements to some extent. If you look at some of the boards that where used to track bands in the 1970s, there are built-in compressors right on the channels as well as master bus compressors (console manufacturers like NEVE and SSL).

The compression you are talking about—I believe—is the limiting done in the mastering stage that squashes the shit out of the dynamic range of a track that is very commonly done by mastering engineers today. In the 1970s they did not use hard ceiling limiters like they do today. If you look at a record from the 1970s that has not been remastered recently and then you take that same record that has been remasterd, there is a huge difference. You will see that the remastered record sounds much louder and has way less dynamic range.

The reason for this over limiting is to compete with the loudness of records today. Look at the latest metalica record and import a track into your DAW that shit is a straight up square wave. Square waves = distortion!

Sorry I totally got sidetracked.

Anyway there is nothing wrong with using sidechain compression with samples, if it sounds better to you. On the next track I track out I will experiment with some sidechain compression with the kick and bass.

For over 95% of the beats that I've made, I haven't used sidechain compression. As for beats/songs that I've gone on to mix (by a mix engineer or myself), I have used sidechain compression.

As my own general rule, I try to avoid—as much as possible—what I consider to be mix treatments in the beatmaking phase of recording. What I mean by "mix treatments" are measures and methods that I consider to be typically reserved for the mix stage of recording.

For one thing, I'm pretty tuned into (no pun intended) to the sort of sounds (textures) that fit my style and overall sound. Therefore, when I sample—either from a record or such, or even myself playing live—the ways in which I chop (truncate) my samples often keeps me from having to use a measure like sidechain compression. Reason why? I know my drum sounds, particularly my kicks, which means I already have a good idea of which of my kicks will "turn up the bass," that is to say, make the bass part's signal (or any other sound) too hot. Thus, when I'm crafting a beat, I'm very mindful of both the sound, feel, and signal that the elements I'm using are giving off.

So before I even track into my DAW (in this case, Pro Tools 7), I've already "tucked" my kick or smoothed out my bass parts in a way in which one element is not slamming the harder, making sidechain compression unnecessary for me in the beatmaking stage.

Now, that being said, once I've tracked everything into my DAW, there are some instances in which I will apply sidechain compression. But even then, the times that I do so is far and few between. The reality for me is, if I didn't focus so much on customizing and thus knowing my drum sounds, I might find that I need to use sidechain compression more often. But because I can hear when a kick of my is slamming or something spiking in certain parts, I like to make the adjustments before I track into my DAW.

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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