8 posts categorized "TBC"

March 19, 2012

BeatTips.com Beat Battle, February 2012 Winner Announced

Castro Leads the Field in the Second Contest of the Year


The winner: Castro Beats - "Oh Lord"

Here's the February, 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle breakdown. You can also read it in TBC at: Winner of the February 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle Is...
And you can hear all of the beats for February 2012's battle here: BeatTips.com Beat Battle, February 2012

Castro - "Oh Lord"

You’ve been hammering a way at your own style and sound now for a while. And I can say, without any trepidation, that you do have your own style and sound… It’s all here! There’s the “Castro drums”—the booming, well-balanced kick that shapes the groove, the tucked in punch-snare, and the truncated tambourine hi-hat sound. There’s the synth-line stacking; you’re a pro at this now (you’ve been practicing your chords or what? dope!). And the two most important things that caught me about this joint: (1) the dead-steady rhythm; and (2) the furious, hungry feel that the beat gives off. This beat is so pure to its own style and sound that it could run the gambit of uses—everything from gutter rap, to air-out-the-club music, to sci-fiction/mystery film noir.
Special points: That minor embellishment at the 1:02 mark is powerful, not so much because you can hear, but because you can feel the change and rise of tension. And the synth stinger that crashes in around the 1:20 mark raises the ante even further. All around solid composition!

One more thing, what also makes your style and sound so interesting is that your drums pay homage to your natural sampling intuition and instincts, while your synth lines service your non-sampling influences.

2nd Place:
Uhohbeats - "This is My Prayer"

This beat was similar to the one you entered into the January battle. That’s no surprise, though, because you used the same source material, no? Either way, there is enough of a difference for this joint to stand on its own. Now, I don’t know if this joint was the “A” or “B” version, but I was drawn to this one more. It’s slower, and therefore, it simmers and grips you. Most importantly, this simmering feeling coupled with the relaxed drumwork leaves more room for a rapper to dig in to.

3rd Place:
Waldo - "Question/Answer"

Beautiful. The groove is serious on this. The drumwork is deceptively simple, that up and down tumbling drum pattern with delicate brushes of percussion? Yo, that’s not easy to pull off, and you crush it. This beat acts like it wants to lull you to sleep, but it’s the drums that turn the otherwise passive sample into danger.

Segundo Award for Consistency and Contribution
The DJ Pas Rhyme Award for the Beat that Made Me Write a Rhyme to It (All New Award!)

Castro – “Oh Lord"

(For breakdown, see 1st Place breakdown above)

Get Paid With Heart Award for the #1 Crossover Joint that Still Pays Homage to the Beatmaking Craft
TBC Most Improved Award

Anomaly – "Aqui Te Esperare"

Your sense of rhythm—or perhaps better stated, your ability to incorporate a clear, sustainable rhythm structure in your beats—has improved substantially. You’re approaching that one plateau of understanding that every good musician eventually reaches: to enjoy and embrace simplicity is the key to anything complex or otherwise that you can imagine. Your ideas used to be sporadic, unfocused. Now, I hear a deeper level of control and direction in your music. You’re no longer trying to force all of your musical influences. Instead, you’re toning everything down and getting to the heart of what you want to say with each specific beat.
One thing, though. I strongly recommend that you look into sampling your own drum sounds.

Honorable Mentions:

d.C. – “Concert for Rose”
The drums on this joint were bangin’ harder than usual. Good! This beat had a more sinister feel but with your customary audio polish. Also, this beat had more edge to it than your previous “cinematic” efforts. One thing’s for certain, when you make harder, straight-forward drum arrangements, the overall beat sounds more raw and gutter.

Rex Rey – “Music Makers & Dreamers”
Solid all-around sound scope. The ambient feel clashing (in a good way) with the break-beat drum feel made for an interesting mix. Saxophone parts were excellent, and the understated bass line “glued” together the whole piece nicely.

Speologic – “Science”
This beat is very similar to the Boyz N Da Hood theme song. Have you seen that movie? Main differences between that theme song and your beat is that your beat is set at a faster pitch (higher key) and the drums swing more. The saxophone parts work well. The overall rising nature of the piece, along with the shuffling drums, is what really makes this beat.
One thing, though. This joint is more film score than “beat” beat.


Mike Millz – “Stolen Emotions”

The primary sample is solid and looped perfectly. But the drum programming lacks a clear direction and commitment. With such a powerful sample, the drum pattern has to be tight and steady. With this type of sample and arrangement, a simple “K K S K K S” pattern would have worked just fine. At certain points (too many), the kick is all over the place. A misplaced kick drum is a sure-fire sign of a less effective drum program. Trust the structure of the most dominant part of your beat (in this case, the primary sample), then build an accompaniment for it. Don’t think that you have to do more with the drums. Just do what works—supply a solid backbeat and call it a day. (Hit me up through email, so I can break it down further.)

Andy Mayhem – “So Tired”
You can hear punches (where you're "punching in" the samples). Also, I was waiting for something else to happen, but it never did. As the beat is, it sounds like a shell idea.

SC Beatz – “Hight Votage”
Your consistency is here. The changes are flawless. My only concern is that this is more film/television music/score. Sure, it’s a beat, but I had trouble envisioning what type of rapper it would be for. Again, this joint is solid. I just hear your more R&B polished side in it, and I’m not sure if that was your intention or not.

Don Productions – “Who Are You”
On the surface, this beat is put together decently enough… But here’s the thing, it sounds too contrived, nothing distinct! It’s like a knock-off caricature of a familiar idea, concept, and sound. It doesn’t sound like it’s your own style and sound. In fact, it sounds mentally forced like you’re following some conceptual script. I can say this because I’ve heard a number of your beats, and some had a natural feeling, whereas this one doesn’t. For instance, here you incorporated a number of unnecessary clap hits (listen to the 1:02 mark, and the 1:24 mark). I never heard distractions like that in your beats from a couple of years ago. Stuff like that happens when you’re looking for extra stuff to add to the jumbo stew…

I know you’re still working your way through the Maschine and all; and in fact, I don’t know what you used to make this joint. But my big warning to you use is to recapture your ability to insert feeling into your music before it’s too late. That live beat-battle-intentionally-no-sample-Dr. Dre-keys-with-a-side-of-Just-Blaze-elements will never sound bad, because to do it requires some base level of proficiency. But that said, I don’t think it will ever lead you to your own distinct style and sound.
Note: This is two beats now back to back that shared these same non-distinct, forced qualities…

Brandon – “DRMG”
Sounds like a rough idea. Try turning the tempo up and adding a drum fill at every 8th or 16th bar. That Stylistics song is inviting, but unless you can make it swing, or chop it up into new moving parts, it might not be worth messing with.

MelloKid – “What”
I liked this. I wanted to point out that the heart of the beat happens at 0:23 through 0:46, before that change. Listen to the tightness of this part of the beat. Think about who could rhyme over it, then go back and listen from the 0:47 mark and ask yourself if it would enhance their rhyme flow or distract from it.

Final thoughts.

Cool thing about this battle was that you could hear the directional moves that several members have made. That’s important, because a clear commitment to one direction or another leads to your own style and sound.

In comparison to last month’s battle, I’d say that January’s battle was the more competitive one; and so that’s the bar to beat for each month…

My apologies for posting the results of this battle so late. I took an extra week to listen to everybody's beat two more times before I made my final notes. As a result of the delay, March’s battle will begin on the 19th, and the submission deadline will be extended until the 27th.

Finally, I want to welcome all of the new members to TBC! Each month we’re growing stronger, and I count on everybody to raise the bar of our discussions. Thank you for doing so.

One more note: The BeatTips.com Beat Battle is for BeatTips.com subscribers and TBC members only. If you have not subscribed to BeatTips.com, please do so before the next battle begins. You can subscribe to BeatTips.com by going to the home page, [url]http://www.beattips.com[/url] and clicking the “Get email updates” button near the top right, just beneath the menu bar. TBC members who are not subscribed to BeatTips.com will not be able to participate in future BeatTips.com Beat Battles.

The March BeatTips.com Beat Battle will begin on Monday, March 19, 2012!!!

Congratulations to Castro
Castro email me at: [email]beattips@gmail.com[/email], include your full name and complete address for where you’d like your book delivered. Also, include a pic so I can feature you on the home page of BeatTips.com, and a phone number to where you can be reached at for your interview feature.


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

February 27, 2012

BeatTips Jewel Droppin': An Interview with Upright, January, 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle Winner

TBC Member Upright on Music Process and How Community Sparks Creativity

Interview by AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

California based beatmaker Upright is a humble, thoughtful music maker who takes the art of beatmaking seriously. After years of studying the art form and sharpening his craft, he as emerged with a style and sound that he's finally pleased with. Find out how one of The BeatTips Community's own has developed his skill and hit on a new direction.

BeatTips: Where are you from, Upright?

Upright: I was born in LA [California]. But right now I’m living out in San Bernardino. Basically, about an hour and half from LA.

BeatTips: How did you first get involved with hip hop/rap music? What drew you in?

Upright: Well, in the ‘90s, I was pretty much a big, big, big fan of East Coast hip hop. So basically, that’s where it really came alive at. Man, so many artists. But yeah, back in the ‘90s is when I first got hip to hip hop. I was probably like 16 or so.

BeatTips: Who put you on to it? Friends or family?

Upright: Friends, definitely friends.

BeatTips: So describe you in the ‘90s.

Upright: I would go to the club scene, you know, just like a hip hop dancer. So in the ‘90s, I was dancing and just listening to a lot of music. And that’s really how the love for hip hop kind of started.

BeatTips: Wow, a dancer. So what were the first hip hop songs you heard?

Upright: The first song I heard was the Geto Boys. And that was really like, uh, gangsta rap kind of, you know. So Geto Boys. That was like my first taste of hip hop. And I don’t know where I got that from. And then from there it was like Brand Nubian. So I went directly into East Coast stuff. I stayed with the East Coast phase for a long time, man. I wasn’t really too much into anything West Coast. Even though I lived on the West Coast. Not that it wasn’t good; I just wasn’t in to it.

BeatTips: What was it about the East Coast that you preferred over West Coast Music?

Upright: It seemed like the rap was more…it seemed like it had more substance, more style, more just creativity. The beats sounded better, you know, to me; that was to me. And out here on the West Coast, man, it was more like, the big guys like Cube, there was a lot of them. But they were mainly into like gangsta rap. See, me being on the West Coast, I was trying to get away from that type of mentality, you know what I mean?

BeatTips: Exactly.

Upright: So the East Coast, the East Coast was more about lyric flippin’, you know, flippin’ lyrics and just the skill behind the rapper more so than the gangsta lifestyle.

BeatTips: You mentioned beats. When did you start? How long have you been making beats?

Upright: I started making beats about 13 years ago.

BeatTips: How old were you at the time?

Upright: I was 23 when I first started producing, trying to produce beats. And I got started on the little—man, it’s crazy, it was the little, uh, Sony Playstation. They had this little thing called Music Generator. And that’s really where I started trying to make beats. It all kind of started from there. And I was always a guitar player. And it kind of came together because I would want to play my guitar and kind of have a beat to play my guitar to. So that was kind of in there, too, a little bit.

BeatTips: Wait. You were playing guitar before? How long were you playing guitar before you started making beats?

Upright: I was playing guitar, that was probably about four years before. No, no, no, you know, when I was about 14, I got the guitar. But I didn’t play it much. I had it since I was 14, but a few years before I started making beats, I started playing the guitar heavy. I was playing the guitar real heavy before I really started making beats. And then I started making beats, once I felt like I had a little bit under my belt on the guitar. I wanted to move on to something else. So that’s when the beatmaking came into it.

BeatTips: That’s dope right there. How did you make that transition? What made you say, ‘You know what, I’m going to put the guitar on the side for a minute, and I’m try this out?’

Upright: Man, it was just that—really, it was the availability of that PlayStation game…I mean, I was playing a lot of PlayStation at the time, and just sitting around playing my guitar. And then that game popped up, and I was like, ‘Man, this game is…’ ‘Cuz really, it was like a production tool. But it was in the form of a game, you know what I mean. So when I saw that, I was like, ‘Man, this right here is something I could probably use,’ you know. So I sat down with that, and was really getting into it… I didn’t know that it was really like a starting tool, you know. I really didn’t know about your MPCs and your SP12s and stuff like that. I really had no idea that there was real, like, where I would even go to try to make a beat, as far as hardware. Earlier in my hip hop, like just when I was listening to hip hop and going to clubs dancing, and I saw this one cat. He hand a drum machine; at the time, it looked so complex to me. I didn’t even know what it really was, how you could even use something like that. I figured, man, you gotta have all kinds of money to get something like that. But then years later, I came across that little Sony Playstation thing, and that was it for me.

BeatTips: So did you have a teacher, or did you just start doing everything on your own?

Upright: I just started doing everything on my own. And for years, I really didn’t—I was trying to do my own thing, so I messed with that [Music Generator] for a good couple of years, just that by itself, before I even began to branch out and really try to get some real equipment.

BeatTips: Wow. Two years. So what was the first setup that you had?

Upright: The first real setup I had was Sony Acid. I was messing around with Acid in a computer, just a computer a friend gave me. And I was playing around with that. But I couldn’t really figure out the software side. So it was kind of frustrating, because I knew that I wanted to stay software at the time, because I had came from that game. And that was cool for about a year a so. And then my brother, he was into house music, and he was starting to buy a lot of hardware. He had an old Yamaha drum machine, and then he had this crazy sequencer, man, it just looked like a straight typewriter, like a computer keyboard. He told me that was his sequencer, and I was blown away. But he was really the first one that got me into hardware. So I went out and bought a Korg Electribe (sp). That was the first real piece of hardware that I had.

BeatTips: What’s the Korg Electribe?

Upright: The Korg Electribe, it’s basically like, it kind of looks like a 808 a little bit. Or no, you know what, maybe more like the 303. Roland had a bass module; it kind of looked like that…It’s basically just a synth, and you know, it had drum sounds in there, too. You could program it and do all kinds of stuff in there.

BeatTips: And how long did you rock with that?

Upright: I rocked with that—I had that in my main setup for a while. I got that in ’04. And I had that up until 2009.

BeatTips: So wait. You were using the Korg Ectribe along with Acid? Or at that time, had you left Acid alone?

Upright: Yeah, I had left Acid alone. I was just messing around with that by itself. And I wasn’t even really, you know, making anything…I was really just trying to figure out what hardware was at that point. And since my brother got me into hardware, he had so much hardware. We would MIDI up his machine with my machine and then run it into a mixer, and we would just kind of collaborate on music. So it wasn't really hip hop, it was his house stuff with what I was trying to do.

BeatTips: So your brother taught you a lot about music-making in general?

Upright: He taught me a lot about hardware, how to MIDI-up stuff, how to connect two modules. And so from there…he had a sequencer, and I needed something more. Then I remembered, my mind went back to the ‘90s, I was like, 'Man, I can sample!' My buddy said I ought to get some records. And I was like, 'Yeah, records!' So when I got some records, I needed something more than just that Electribe because I can’t—No, actually, you know what, that’s backwards. He was telling me that I need to sample. So then my mind went back to the '90s. So I went and bought a SP606. Which was like a kind of knock-of the, really, the MPC. Roland was just trying to knock-of the MPC. So then I realized that the 606 wouldn’t really chop, it wouldn’t chop like the MPC would. So I got rid of the 606 and I got the MPC 2500.

BeatTips: And what did you notice when you got the 2500? What happened to you as a music maker and your whole understanding of beats?

Upright: When I had the 2500, I was starting to really get into sampling records. So I started realizing that there was a lot more control. Like, you could take a sample and really manipulate it and do a lot with it. That’s what the MPC first introduced me to—so much I could do with just recording a sample. Because before that, I hadn’t really tapped into what could be done with just a piece of audio. I was just programming beats and trying to make synth lines and stuff like that. But once I got the MPC, I started realizing you can take a sample and manipulate it and flip it and take it to another level and really make it your own. So that’s what the MPC really opened me up to.

BeatTips: And at that time, what were the things that you were studying? As far as like, people, tools, books, anything? How were you learning?

Upright: Well, at that time, man, I wasn’t really–I still didn’t have a direction that I was trying to go. I know I wanted to sample, but I didn’t know...I didn’t think to go back to some of the music I was listening to. I didn’t really think to do that until a while later. But at the time…my mindset was like, O.K., I’m going to take these records and do my own thing. As I was doing that, I noticed that things just didn’t sound like I wanted them to, you know. It was a sample, I was flippin’ it, but something was missing. And I think what that was...I didn’t have any structure, any inspiration.

BeatTips: So where did you find that inspiration and structure at?

Upright: Well, I really, I just started dissecting people like Kev Brown. He was one of the first ones that I really was like, 'Man, this cat’s pretty fresh right here.' I started dissecting what he was doing and just getting inspiration off of people like that.

BeatTips: When did things start to click for you? Like when did you start to get the hang of it?

Upright: Man, to be honest, I think that was like last year! It hasn’t been that long since I really felt like things are starting to click. And for me, I guess it was slower because I didn’t go to people and try to look at, like, ‘O.K., what is this dude doing? What makes his tracks dope?’ until recently. And then what really brought it together for me, man, was the EQ’ing and compression. Cuz I had my drums, and I’d listen to other people’s tracks, and I’d be like, 'Man, they sound so much fatter, so much more.' It still didn’t click with me that it was the drum track that was really driving hip hop. I don’t know why, man, it just never clicked with me. But my buddy, Matt Hoffman, and he does more like his own compositions of rock and stuff like that, I would listen to him and his stuff sounded so dynamic. And I was like, 'Why does his track sound like that?' I could hear everything real good. And the drums were crisp and the sounds were crisp. And so, just talking with him, he introduced me to compression and EQ’ing and stuff like that. And I started studying that stuff. He would tell me, “EQ this and compress that,” and I really didn’t know what he was talking about. So I started looking into that, then I would go back and listen to people’s beats, then I put 2 and 2 together.

BeatTips: What’s your current setup?

Upright: Right now, I’d say my main piece is Reason 6. That’s my main tool. And then I have the Maschine, too. I can just stand alone with Reason 6, but Maschine is pretty dope, too. And then I have the MPD. I had the MPC 2500, but when I saw what Reason could do, I had to check out Reason. Once I started messing with Reason, I realized that basically everything that I can do in the 2500, I can do in Reason. So I got rid of the 2500.

BeatTips: So translate your workflow for how you use Reason 6, based off of your experience using the 2500. How does that translate?

Upright: So like a comparison between those two?

BeatTips: No, not necessarily a comparison, but how are you able to achieve on Reason 6 what you used to achieve on the 2500?

Upright: O.K., I see what you’re saying. Well, basically, the 2500—you know you could slice up samples and then it had 16 levels. So those were the two things that I was like, 'As long as I can do that, then I’m going to be O.K.' So I had to get Recycle. That was the thing. You chop up in Recycle. And then from there, once it’s a Rex file, it’ll go in the Rex player. So there’s your chops right there. And then anything you have chopped up, you can throw into one of the other samplers, and get basically your 16 levels. So for me, it was those two things; and then being able to record whatever I want. My turntable runs right into my computer. If I need to record a guitar, bow, it’ll go right into Reason like it would the MPC.

BeatTips: What interface are you using? How are you going into your computer?

Upright: I’m just going through a ProFire. It’s a little M-Audio interface, ProFire 610. It has 4 ins, MIDI, and 4 outputs.

BeatTips: And what are you using to control Reason with?

Upright: I control Reason with a MPD 32. And then I have a MIDI keyboard, an Ediorl M30…the MIDI keyboard for playing like chords and stuff like that.

BeatTips: So break down your music process. Are you systematic or more organic?

Upright: Lately, I’ve been real systemic. Because I feel like if I can get the melody that I like first, if I can really feel the melody, that’s what I want there first. Because I know I want to bring the drums in hard…If I get a good melody that I like, then I know that behind that I can bring a drum track in that’s going to hit and compliment the melody. So I’ll pull all my drums off of vinyl. That’s where I start. I’ll get my melody going, then I’ll find a break on a vinyl record. And then find one that matches that melody, that goes good with that melody. And then I’ll chop up the drums and lay the drums down; and basically that’s the foundation. Then from there, I’ll probably add something subtle or light on top of that to kind of compliment the groove. And then from there, I’ll got to the bass line.

BeatTips: Let’s go back to Recycle for a moment. With software, have you found that it takes you longer or just about the same time?

Upright: Uh…[thinks long about it] To me, it seems faster, because if I have an idea, I know everything is in the computer already, pretty much. Unless I want to get something from another record and throw it in there, too. The only thing that I’d say is the extra step is when I have to chop something up. So that’s kind of why I got the Maschine. Because the Maschine is just like a chopping beast. Where the MPC 2500 could have 64 slices, the Maschine can have 4,096 slices! You can put one Rex file on one pad of the Maschine. A Rex file can be 92 slices, so now you have 92 slices on one pad.

BeatTips: But tell me what’s the benefit of that? How have you used that capability before. Give me example.

Upright: So you can drop a Rex file on one pad, and then use your keyboard to play that melodies and those chops, or whatever you have on that Rex file on that pad. And so that’s just one pad. So instead of having, you know, a whole MPC dedicated to your melody or something, let’s say you chop something up that extensively to where you have all those chops on there, now that’s just on one pad. I have all those other pads for whatever else I may need them for. The Maschine is crazy because I could put a compressor on one pad and run my chops through this pad over here to pad 16 in group A. It’s just a whole nother work flow on that thing. That’s why I got the Maschine, to speed up my chopping. Because when I want to chop and get something going, and I don’t want to start in Reason, I’ll open Maschine and do it that way. And then I’ll export everything out of Maschine and drop it over into Reason. But regardless, I always finish everything in Reason. No matter where it starts, the final product is gonna go into Reason.

BeatTips: So if you have all of those slices on one pad, how do you take out, let’s say, just two or three that you want to use? Do you take them out and assign them to a different pad or what do you do?

Upright: Yep, yep! You can take ‘em out. So like if I have a little sound that I want to accentuate or do something to, flip it, reverse, whatever, you can just extract just that one sample and put it on another pad and do whatever you want to it.

BeatTips: Clearly, listening to your music, you use a combination of sample-based and non-sample-based approaches, but are you more of a sample-based beatmaker or non-sample-based? What do you consider yourself?

Upright: I consider myself…If I had to choose one, I’d say sample-based. If I couldn’t use any synths, I’d do my bass lines, grab a little piece and just make my bass lines like that.

BeatTips: So you’re probably more like a hybrid?

Upright: Hybrid! Definitely! Definitely!

BeatTips: About your drums, you mentioned that you sample them. Do you use sample packs as well or stock sounds from your gear?

Upright: No, I really don’t get into those kinds of sounds. I generally just keep it records because I want to have that grit, that grit sound that hip hop sound that you can only get from when your drums come off records. So that’s what I really, really want to have in my tracks. One example of what I had to do lately is, I sampled a kick and a snare from a break, then I chopped it up. Once I got it in the track, I realized the kick wasn’t cutting through like I wanted to. So what I did, I kept that kick there, but I blended in something that had some more high frequencies that could punch through, you know what I mean?

BeatTips: Right.

Upright: So it still had that underlying grit sound, but the kick was cutting through because of that little tiny layer that I had on top. So I do stuff like that. But really try to keep it vinyl-based drums. And there was one tip you gave on BeatTips that really took me to the next level, man. When you talked about sampling just stuff, you know you were talking about, take your microphone and hit on boxes and do this and that. And I hadn’t really considered that, man. That took me to a whole nother level. That helped me to really branch out, and see that there was more to defining your sound. You know, and how when you talked about how to make your snares. I read that, too on the BeatTips website, and I was like, 'Man, this is some really good stuff right here.'

BeatTips: Do you sample your drum sounds dry or do you EQ or amp them up in any way?

Upright: I sample them straight dry. I keep them where their way below clipping, way below being hot at all. So once their in there, and they sound good just like they are on the record, at that point I’ll EQ them and do different stuff to them. You know, maybe pitch them down, or depending on what it takes. You know, whatever it takes to get them to sound like my ear is feeling it should sound.

BeatTips: What’s the signal flow that you’re using when you sample?

Upright: Turntable going into a DJ mixer. It’s just a Numakr PT-200, nothing special, just a basic mixer. I think it’s their bottom of the line “cheapy” mixer.

BeatTips: From your Numark, where do you got to?

Upright: That runs into the computer interface and then straight into the computer…Then I sample it into either Reason or Maschine, either one of those.

BeatTips: What determines whether you’re going to sample using Reason or the Maschine?

Upright: Really, it’s just what I feel like, where I feel like I want to take it. Like, where my inspiration is feeling like I want to go. So if I feel like in Maschine...they have like different synths…so if I feel like I want to use a VST, I’ll go to Maschine because Reason doesn’t host VSTs…you know, Massive or whatever, Absynth, or something like that. But if I feel like I want to use some Reason synths, then I’ll go into Reason.

BeatTips: Tell me about your main creative influences. Be it music or any other creative art forms. Specifically, what and who are they, and how do you incorporate them into your music?

Upright: I listen to, man, it’s a lot of stuff. A lot of my influence comes from what’s there on the record. But a lot of times, you know, I’ll just vibe on what other people are doing and just kind of let that spark my creativity. Because I feel like…If you separate yourself from what people are doing, then you really can’t grow as an artist. And that’s really what I feel like. So basically, it’s a community. So if you’re part of a community, the community sparks everybody. You spark off one another. That’s like big for me. Like, if you have an artist over here, and he’s creating by himself, you know, his stuff will be dope. But if you have five guys, and they’re really learning, and these five guys are kind of sparking each other, I feel like their art will go to a whole nother level, you know, than just the one dude by himself, you know what I mean. Because he knows only the techniques that he knows. And so you got these five dudes who know…You got five vibes, and five vibes are thinking five different ways. And so, you put all those methods together and all those guys will go to another level.

BeatTips: I completely understand. It’s similar to how bebop developed in jazz.

Upright: Yeah.

BeatTips: From the beginning, like when you first started, did you understand that beatmaking was an art form, or was it something you came to learn recently?

Upright: I do understand it’s an art form. Recently, I’ve come to learn that, within the past, let’s say…and I know it’s cliché to say, but Dilla, the Donuts album. Because that, for me, you know he was doing some pretty crazy stuff on there. And that’s when my mind kind of clicked. I mean, I know there’s a whole spew of people that have been doing stuff like that and being creative and being artistic before that. But when I heard that—and I’m not a huge Dilla fan—when I heard the Donuts album, I was like, 'Man, I can listen to this and really appreciate it for what it is.' It doesn’t have to have an MC on it. And I’m not in love with every track on there, but you know, that’s when I realized…there’s a lot of creativity in the expression just within the beat by itself.

BeatTips: Do you mix your own beats?

Upright: Yep.

BeatTips: What do you use?

Upright: I do everything right there in Reason. Reason 6 has that SSL 9000 emulator in there. So basically, it’s like a replica of the SSL 9000 mixing board. So I got real comfortable using that, man. And that’s where I mixed down everything.

BeatTips: Do you save a level of creativity for the mixing process?

Upright: Definitely! Definitely! Definitely! And to me, mixing is like real subjective. It’s like, one person my think, you know, “Your hi-hats are a little too loud.” But for me, I want them to really cut your ears in a certain section. And that’s the subjective part of mixing. Once you figure out what you’re doing, as far as mixing down your tracks, you can really put your touch or your creativity or your stamp, your signature, on the mixing process.

BeatTips: How did you find out about The BeatTips Community, and what made you join TBC?

Upright: I found about The BeatTips Community through Saint Joe. I was checking out his website…He had a list of websites that he likes, you know. And it had BeatTips there, and I hit it. And ever sense, man, it’s just been one of my favorites.

BeatTips: I appreciate that. And what made you ultimately join TBC?

Upright: Man, the level of insight, especially you. The way you break down your analysis; your perception of beatmaking, it’s just like you want to be around that, man.

BeatTips: And what was cool is that you joined TBC recently, and then you won the first battle of the new year. And you see how our battles get. So I definitely want to congratulate you on that again. And for your winning beat, “Bear Fruit,” that was a formidable composition. So tell me how that beat came about.

Upright: Basically, I got this old 45. Let me—I have the 45 right here. It’s Lee Davis, and it’s either “Two Ships Passing in the Night”…or “Everybody;” so it’s one of those two. I can’t remember, but there was an organ on there. So I got that organ and then…I chopped it up and laid those chops down. And then from there, I got the drums off a record and then laid the drums down. And I was doing that in the Maschine. And that bass line, I got that from Massive, that’s a Native Instruments synth.

BeatTips: You’re saying the bass parts? Because you played the bass line, right? Or was that whole bass line a phrase that you sampled?

Upright: No, no! I played that on the MIDI keyboard from Massive, the synth, Massive. So once I had those couple elements right there, I threw it over into Reason. And I started working from there. I sampled a shekere, well, I call it a cabasa, you know, it’s got the little beads on it. So I sampled that and then a couple of things, like a knock. And I layered the knock with the snare. And just kept building it...basically, adding little elements and tightening up the mix. And it was a wrap.

BeatTips: Coming back to your process, it sounds like you use the Maschine now to get your ideas going and to develop the main framework of where you want to go.

Upright: Definitely! I start a framework in Maschine, then shoot it over into to Reason and work out the rest of it there, you know, maybe add a few instruments.

BeatTips: Now, is that “Bear Fruit” beat an old beat or a recent beat?

Upright: Nah, I made it for that [BeatTips.com] beat battle.

BeatTips: Was it a late night joint or day time?

Upright: That was a late night joint, man, sure was.

Below is "Bear Fruit," the beat Upright won the January, 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle with.

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

"Bear Fruit" (prod. by Upright)

*To hear more of Upright's music, check out his SoundCloud page at: soundcloud.com/upright

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

February 07, 2012

BeatTips.com Beat Battle, January 2012 Winner Announced

Upright Edges Out Uhohbeats in Tightly Contested Battle


The winner: Upright - "Bear Fruit"

Here's the January, 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle breakdown. You can also read it in TBC at: Winner of the January 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle Is...
And you can hear all of the beats for January 2012's battle here: BeatTips.com Beat Battle, January 2012

Upright - "Bear Fruit"

One of the most sinister, all-around dope beats that I’ve ever heard… It’s dark, eery, rambunctious, and hypnotic. It’s mysterious and yet hauntingly familiar. This beat makes a powerful statement…

The first thing that hit me about this masterfully crafted beat was the swing. On my first listen, of course I heard the bass part (I address that below), but it was the swing of this joint that grabbed me. Not only could I feel the swing, I could hear it. It tumbled and shuffled along with an emphatic, menacing, decadent arrogance (and, man, how hip hop is that?); I felt like it was taunting me and daring me to try to rhyme to it… Excellent room for various rap styles.

And dig the arrangement of this joint:
Two slow-dragging harmony lines that feature a progression that dissolves more than anything else; combined with warped, wavy, wobbling bass stabs—absolutely fantastic! Then the drumwork is flawless, no missteps whatsoever. Each sound—from the silhouette-heavy hi-hat to the tuck-punch snare to the straight forward and clear kick—is a spot-on match for the feel created by the aforementioned harmony chords and bass part arrangement. The tom fill, which is totally unexpected, works as a magnetic change that keeps the listener—more importantly, the lyricist—on his or her toes. I dig the use of toms in any capacity, and Upright’s choice to let their velocity speak rather than tuck them in the mix demonstrates his deep understanding of a drum element many beatmakers often get wrong. Finally, the placement and limited occurrence of the open hi-hat shows great discipline on your part. As I listened to and studied this beat, I wondered if you at first had the open hi-hat running more regularly throughout. If you did, your removal of it exemplifies another important quality of a master beatmaker—knowing how to revise, i.e. knowing what to remove and where and when to remove it.

One more thing: That “Something terrible has happened” vocal sample at the :41 mark is just a beautiful touch.

2nd Place:
Uhohbeats - "Lost in My Own Mind"

First impressions: All around good feeling soulful beat with extraordinarily tight construction. Uhoh, this level of construction has become a staple feature of your beats. I should add that with this beat, your understanding of how to flip and merge different parts of the primary source material has greatly improved (and note, your skill with this was already on an advanced level before).

This beat conveys a sure-minded composition. In that I mean, you fully committed to the direction that you wanted to go in. There are no wasted parts or changes that don’t belong. Instead, everything works; every element flows (effortlessly) with the next. The drums are sick (as usual). The salt-n-pepper shaker hi-hat pattern is perfect—it’s velvet hardcore brush taps give the framework a dope shuffle. Then, on the main breakdown, the hi-hat pattern switches up to a sparse staccato pattern—brilliant programming!

This beat battled it out for first place—for four days straight! It’s a perfect beat in every way…. Just as I did with Upright’s beat, I considered everything from which rappers would sound dope on it, to what feeling it conveyed, to the nature of the composition; I even considered what type of episode of the shows “Entourage” and “Californication” this beat would serve as a perfect ending for! In the end, it came down to feeling. One beat was smooth, sharp, and deadly; the other was raw, sharp, and deadly. In other words, they were both sharp and deadly, but the raw slightly edged out the smooth.

3rd Place:
BrandonF42088 - "RobinJonez"

This is slick-funk, 2am, slow-roast shit. (Damn if it didn’t taunt me into rhymin’.) So subtle, so smooth. I really dig this soulful, spine-crawling type of beatwork. It offers great space for dope lyrical word play and inspired flow. Another thing that I really like about this beat is that you immediately get it; you immediately knod your head to it; it sticks with you.

Segundo Award for Consistency and Contribution

DC - "Gorge"
Your beats have their own distinct sound, style, and quality to them. And with this beat, you demonstrate how to be creative while staying squarely in your own zone. I dig the drums, especially the heavy rolls. And the change at the :57 mark gave this joint a dimension of urgency.

I get the feeling that you’ve moved into a creative space where you deliberately make beats that can be used both as stand-alone instrumentals and for rappers. No doubt this is due to your burgeoning success on the licensing market. Only thing that I would caution is that as you do gain more success in licensing, do not forget about making joints specifically for cats to rap to. Your arsenal is deep and always polished; I’d hate to see your sound lose some of its hunger and rawness.

The DJ Pas Rhyme Award for the Beat that Made Me Write a Rhyme to It (All New Award!)

DJ Pas – “Light Pas"

Immediately drew me in. Halfway through my first listen, I stopped the beat, began it again, and started writing a rhyme to it. I dig the break; I dig the simplicity of it; I dig how the drums trail the sample, how they’re not locked completely on top. That style is reminiscent of Marley Marl’s early drumwork.

Because I was so inspired to immediately write a rhyme to this joint, I had to create a new award and name it in your honor.

Get Paid With Heart Award for the #1 Crossover Joint that Still Pays Homage to the Beatmaking Craft
There’s a tie: between Castro Beats – “Daggers” and Influence1210 – “Getting It Together”

Castro Beats - "Daggers"

Castro, you’re quite the methodicalist. I hear a focused experimentation in all of your beats. This is good because even with all of your experimentation, there are always signs that you know where you’re trying to go with a particular beat. On this beat, there are a collage of different things happening. In a fundamental way, this beat puts you in the mind of a Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad beat. Only your construction here works in some of today’s synth themes; and it does so in a way that gives this beat a decadent balance. This beat is certainly not for a weak lyricist or a rapper with a shallow voice. It’s imposing and the balance of sounds gives it a weight that only the most self-assured and lyrically agile rapper could handle. (Ay, yo, wait a minute. I should rock on this beat, come to think of it…)

Influence1210 – “Getting It Together”
Influence1210, your musicality is immediately and absolutely apparent. In fact, this is a brilliant piece of work; I was immensely impressed. However, this joint doesn’t fall squarely in the hip hop/rap side of things. Could someone rap over it? Certainly. But it has a more “urban dance/pop” feel to it. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. Like I said, this beat is superb. For its design and scope, it’s everything it should be. But for me, it even goes beyond that because it doesn’t just mimic an urban dance tune, it delivers a unique punch and feel, something that certainly pays homage to the art of beatmaking.

TBC Most Improved Award
Honorable Mentions:

SC-Beatz – “The Street Tip”
Again SC you return with a beat that showcases your usual shine and polish. However, the transition at the :56 mark takes this beat to new heights of SC-Beatz-craftsmanship. To be certain, this is more of an orchestral style composition. But it doesn’t have the clunkiness or coldness that you often find with that style.

One thing I should point out is that this beat is so grand that it would be better served for a film score. As a beat to rhyme to? Not so much.

Krazyfingaz – “Asylum”
Solid. This was some gothic, netherworld shit with a boom-bap underpinning. This beat has a lot of angst to it, which is good because it gives it an edge. The drums keep the sound scope together.

Greenmonstermuzik – “If You See Me”
Nice flip of a well-known classic song. The embellishments are dope; drums dope; and the bounce on this joint is crazy. Ghostface would destroy this beat!

Jtnonefive – “Crazy”
This beat displays a RZA, Wu-Tang Clan influence. The framework locks in from go! Get a rapper on with a devastating flow and you’ll have an ill song.


Jerz-E-Ric – “By Any Means”

This beat has a stadium-level weight to it, a sound and feel that would serve well even a less experienced MC. Decent, polished construction from start to finish. But two notes that I want to make: (1) This beat sounds “safe”, it’s like a run of the mill “beat battle” beat, the kind you regularly hear on the live beat battle and beat showcase circuits. Not necessarily any flaws, but on the other hand, there aren’t any chances being taken here, which ultimately leaves the beat less interesting and soulless. (For comparison, check Castro’s beat. It’s interesting, it’s pushing towards its own uniqueness.) And (2) Although this beat does stand on its own merits, particularly with the inclusion of the guitar work, it exemplifies the Just Blaze-bread “big drums” style and sound.

Mike Millz (The Beatsmith) – “Midnight Madness”
Nice mood and sound scope. This joint is laid back, too laid back. It has no “teeth” to it. The kick is dramatically understated; if it had been more forceful or even louder in the mix, the entire beat would have presented differently. Also, the snare sounds like it wants to be opened up and let out.

MelloKid – “ K echo”
Straight forward boom bap. The Bass part is one event/note too many. Stay out of your own way with one too many bass-stabs. The drums are on point, but let the drum framework and the main sample work for you.

Chazz Sweet – “Indian Girl”
The sitar pokes out at you too much, if you’re considering this beat for a rapper. But for background in a movie, for example an establishing shot for a locale switch, sure, this beat works great. Also, the overall structure of this beat echoes a Dr. Dre/Mike Elizondo number. But their production always has a very tight rhythm to it, and it never carries needless embellishments.

Your synth work (chords) are very much on point! As a beat for a film score, “Indian Girl” is excellent as is. But as a beat for a rhyme, the sitar is not needed; in fact, it doesn’t help at all.

(With regard to the sitar “poking out”, listen to 2 Legit Productions beat, “Long Haul”. Notice how subdued the guitar is.)

The Beat Pharmacy – “Valley of Centuries”
Drums are dope, nice sound to them. Overall, the beat is decent (transitions are excellent), but it doesn’t grab you. And like several other beats in this battle, this joint might be better suited for a film/television score. If you already haven’t, you should look into licensing.

Donproductionsbeatz – “Nightmare”
First impression: It sounds like a “beat battle” beat—the kind you routinely hear now in on the live beat battle circuit. In particular, I hear the bright, “big drums” trend that’s beginning to dominate the live beat showcase circuit.

There’s room enough for a rapper to do something with this joint. But it comes off as if the idea of a rapper on it was a second thought to you. Also, even though this beat is fairly decent, it appears that you’ve either lost or abandoned the soulful quality that used to figure into your beats. Don P, that’s not a good thing... In fact, this beat sounds labored, not so much natural and distinctly original, more like an attempt at an well-established template. Although you’re able to pull it off to a commendable degree (I’m sure there will be those who dig this joint), it sounds more manufactured than created.

Final thoughts.

This was by far the hardest BeatTips.com Beat Battle to judge… The celebration of the art of beatmaking was so much in effect that it was difficult for me to pick one clear winner. In previous battles, contention for the top spot typically came down to a choice of two. But in this battle, on my initial passes through everyone’s beats, there were at least five beats in contention for the top spot. (The range of beats was incredibly encouraging to hear!) This is a major testament to the level and quality of our community. I’m convinced that in the near future, our battle will be the most important and sought after online.

Finally, I want to welcome all of the new members to TBC! Our ranks are growing, we’re getting stronger, and our collective voice is going to make a difference…watch!

One more note: The BeatTips.com Beat Battle is for BeatTips.com subscribers and TBC members only. If you have not subscribed to BeatTips.com, please do so before the next battle begins. You can subscribe to BeatTips.com by clicking on the “Get email updates” button near the top right, just beneath the menu bar. TBC members who are not subscribed to BeatTips.com will not be able to participate in future BeatTips.com Beat Battles.

The February BeatTips.com Beat Battle will begin on Friday, February 17, 2012!!!

Congratulations to Upright
Upright email me at: [email]beattips@gmail.com[/email], include your full name and complete address for where you’d like your book delivered. Also, include a pic so I can feature you on the home page of BeatTips.com, and a phone number to where you can be reached at for your interview feature.


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."

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."

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 16, 2010

BeatTips Beat Battle July 2010 Winner: SC

SC Holds Off Challenge From Returning Multiple Winner Jooneydubzbeatz; TBC Continues To Rise

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

Here's my breakdown of the most recent BeatTips Beat Battle.

1st place:
SC - "Baby Don't Question Me"

Aw, man is it hard to make a hardcore "beat" that doubles up as an ice cold "R&B" banger. But damn if our fellow TBC member, SC, didn't create such a thing with this here.

Listen, this beat is a creature. The sliding clap; the brushing percussion—whispering tambourine on quarter notes; a stirring, milky-smooth bass part; chorus changes with a balanced sound palate... man, listen: All export work. While it rumbles with feeling, it's anchored by a deceptively hard "knock."

And as most hard core beats benefit from a "rawness," this joint's polish—and master craftsmanship—puts it over the top. No doubt, the arrangement is meticulous, but you don't hear it. True pros make everything sound natural, as if this was already a classic song that SC simply submitted without the vocals.

SC, I continue to be impressed by your work. I'm glad that you've found the center and essence of your style, sound, and approach. It has allowed you to move more freely and create and better encompass all of your musical influences.

2nd Place:
JooneydubzBeatz - "I'm Leaving"

Jooney, you almost pulled it off. You almost came back from a self-imposed sabbatical and won the crown. Either way, though, this beat was a gem. (One of my favorite beats from anybody in a long while.) The core groove (sequence) was solid, as is always the case with your style. Plus, the joint is an excellent lesson in restraint—just letting the track ride with the dominance of the primary sample. The changes you worked in were minimal, which is most appropriate for such a soulful track. Finally, like SC, this beat was envisioned more for a vocalist (i.e. rapper) than for merely a beat battle. That's precisely why it's dope; you can "hear" a song already.

P.S., if you haven't found anybody (worthy) to rhyme on this joint, LET ME AT IT, SON, word up. —Sa'id

3rd Place:
DC - "Monsieur"

All right, all right, I get it, dC, you're flexing, showing your all around skills. Show off! Ha... But for real, this joint is deceptively intense. In the hands of a VERY skilled rapper, I can imagine a rather engaging story rhyme. On the other hand, I can imagine this as the theme music to a Truffaut (French filmaker) film. That much range in one beat is hard to pull off, my man. Props!

Editor's note: You can read the rest of the awards, Honorable Mentions, and notes here in the TBC here: BeatTips Beat Battle July Breakdown

You can hear all of the entries for the July battle here: BeatTips Beat Battle July Official Entries

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

Your email address:

  • Donate Sidebar

  • BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers

  • Build Your Skills

  • Top 5 Myths About Sampling and Copyright Law

    "Sampling is piracy."
    WRONG! Piracy describes the wholesale, verbatim copying and distribution of copyrighted works. That is not sampling; that's something entirely different.
    Read more

    "You can legally sample and use any recording up to 1, 2, 3, or 4 seconds."
    WRONG! Under existing copyright law, there is no clear, predetermined length (amount in seconds) that is “legally” permissible to sample.
    Read more

    "If you use samples on a free mixtape, it’s perfectly O.K."
    WRONG! A free mixtape does NOT permit you to use samples from copyrighted recordings without the permission of the copyright holders.
    Read more

    "Sampling is easy; there’s nothing to it. Anyone can do it well."
    WRONG! Sampling is an art form that requires technical skill, imagination, and artistic understanding.
    Read more

    "Sampling involves the use of pre-recorded songs only."
    WRONG! While the art of sampling is most commonly understood to include the use of pre-recorded songs (traditionally from vinyl records), source material for sampling includes any recorded sound or sound that can be recorded.
    Read more

  • BeatTips
    Essential Listening

    BeatTips.com is a website dedicated to music education, research, and scholarship. All the music (or music videos) provided on this site is (are) for the purposes of teaching, scholarship, research, and criticism only! NOTE: Under U.S. Code, Section 107 “Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use” of the Copyright Act of1976: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." (U.S. Code)