3 posts categorized "Using the Akai S950"

December 30, 2010

DJ Premier and Pete Rock "Reminisce" Over "Memory Lane" and Other Classics

Two of the Most Important Beatmaking Pioneers Trade Stories About Some of their Most Acclaimed Production


In this gem of an interview (1-hr long), Pete Rock and DJ Premier drop a number of jewels. Using a format whereby each pioneer is handed a physical copy of a single or album that they produced and/or worked on, the interview (reportedly taped in Japan), makes for a very open, impromptu-like conversation, in which little-known and unknown details inevitably spill out from both beat icons.

For instance, Premier discusses the last minute magic that resulted in Biggie’s “Unbelievable,” revealing a small detail about is beatmaking process. He also stresses how limited sampling time forces the mind to be more creative. A point which I strongly agree. Having used the E-Mu SP 1200 and the Akai S950 (still a major piece in my current setup), I can attest that limited sampling time does indeed compel you to think more about the different ways in which you can rework a sample as well as how to sketch out unique drum patterns.

Of course, Pete Rock also chimes in with a number of great stories and details of his own. He's especially animated when discussing his days as a beatmaker in his parents' basement, offering a window into how he managed his production output. Along with Premier, PR makes a strong plea for Nas to do a an Illmatic sequel. He even goes so far as to warn Nas to “do it before it’s too late.” A warning I agree with.

Finally, both Premier and Pete Rock indirectly raise up a very important factor that's often overlooked these days: the proximity connection (chemistry). As both share stories of rappers routinely coming over to their homes in the prime of their careers, it becomes clear that the proximity connection—the chemistry that can only develop when beatmakers and rappers are in the same studio environment together—was a major contributing factor to their success.

Although some beatmakers still maintain that “come-over-to-the-crib/studio” tradition today (here, Marco Polo and Statik Selektah immediately come to mind), for the most part, that in-studio, proximity connection created chemistry is mostly gone. Considering this fact, one would have to say that the resulting disconnection caused by a decline of beatmakers and rappers working more closely together has, at least in some ways, contributed to a "different"—not entirely lower—grade of hip hop/rap music. Still, I see a revival of this factor. And hopefully, this Premier and Pete Rock sitdown will go a long way in helping to speed up this revival.

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

Sitdown With DJ Premier & Pete Rock

Sitdown With DJ Premier & Pete Rock from DJPremierBlog on Vimeo.

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

December 02, 2010

Drum Fills (aka Drum Rolls) Require Different Focus in Beatmaking

Understanding the Fundamentals of Drum Rolls in the Beatmaking Process


In beatmaking, there is perhaps no "artificial" sound event that can be made to sound more natural or more ridiculous than the ubiquitous drum fill (commonly known in beatmaking as a drum roll). Part of the reason is because some beatmakers recognize that Drum fills come in an assorted variety; while others inaccurately assume that all drum fills are pretty much the same.

But all drum fills are certainly not the same. Indeed, there's the standard classic rock drum fill, where there's a straight-forward progression from snare, to tom-toms, to floor tom. There's the Southern Bounce drum fill, where the snare fill is augmented by heavy syncopation. There's also the "sweep" drum fill (a type of drum fill native to beatmaking) which is more of section change than drum fill. Most beatmakers develop their style of drum fills based on some sort of combination of the drum fill types I just described. However, if you listen closely to how different beatmakers use drum fill, you will notice an interesting variation there as well.

Drum fills can be used for a number of reasons. They can be used to setup impending changes in a beat. They can be used to highlight specific events in a beat. They can be used to temper the pace (tempo) of a beat. They can be used to resolve and/or add tension to your music. Drum fills can even be used to shield and/or cover up unwanted sounds and loop glitches. They can even be used simply as a "filler element" when you've exhausted ideas for a dope groove that could stand just something a little extra.

Since drum rolls come in a variety of styles and can be used in so many ways, it's important to know several things about creating drum fills in the beatmaking process. First, although some may swear by the time correct, whenever you want to create the most basic, standard, garden variety drum fill—that is, something like the classic rock style—, I recommend turning off the timing correct (if applicable to your gear) and/or any quantizing value (if applicable to your gear) before you begin. Since it's a simple drum roll style, you can really make it sound more natural without the note correction of your sequencer.

Second, whenever you go for the Southern Bounce drum fill sound, it's best to keep the timing correct on. Moreover, it's a good idea to adjust the value to between 1/8, 1/16 (TRPLT), and 1/32, depending on your use of this style of drum fill. The thing to keep in mind here is: The more "stutter movement" that you want to create within the fill, the more adjustments you may want to make with varying time correction values as well as the note repeat function (if applicable to your gear).

Finally, it's important to remember that when creating drum fills in the beatmaking process, mismatched drum fill timbres (sounds) almost always undermine the overall sound and texture of your music. Therefore, when creating drum fills, be careful of the "velocity nuance" (tonal feeling generated by velocity) that is created when you play snares and toms in progression and in a rapid succession. In fact, when making drum rolls, I recommend turning off the default velocity level (if applicable to your gear) and playing the drum fill with velocity levels that match the pressure of your pad hits. If you're not using drum pads, but instead, drawing in your drum hits in a software program, a good thing to do is to alternate the velocity levels of the beginning, middle, and end of the drum fill hits by a level that looks like an arc—that is to say, from low, to highest, back to low.

Editor's Note. Initially, this article appeared with the prominent use of the term "drum roll(s). A regular—very educated—BeatTips.com commenter, i the t, reminded me that drum "fill" is the term commonly used among traditional drummers. Therefore, so that we may all avoid confusion in the future, I've made the decision to defer to the drum "fill" term (the correct term for the drum activity being described in this article), even though among beatmakers the term drum "roll" is often used. —Sa'id

November 26, 2010

MusicStudy: Gang Starr - "Moment of Truth"

For the Most Part, It All Comes Back to How You Flip the Break


Before I even knew what beatmaking was, the very first hip hop/rap song that got me interested in the ways in which beats where "put together" was Gang Starr's "Words I Manifest." I didn't know how DJ Premier did what he did on that song, but when I heard it, I knew (in hindsight) that he, and the art form that he was helping to pioneer, would be big (to say the least) one day.

Fast forward about a decade later, and what I felt (what I knew) came to fruition. And of the many heatrock beats that Premier has made over the years, the new Gang Starr stand out for me is the incredibly moving and honest "Moment of Truth."

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Gang Starr - "Moment of Truth"

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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