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286 - Behind the Beats


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#1 Speekless

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 06:02 AM

Hey all,

A bunch of people have asked me about the arp thing i used on my beat (http://soundcloud.co...tions-speekless), so I figured it would be a good occasion to start the Behind the Beats thread for this week.

I won't tell you with which soft synth I used but I'll tell you how to recreate it with any synth that has PWM and a bit of modulation capabilities.
Not that I want to be obscure about it, but I think it will be much more interesting and helpful if you just grab your favorite synth and follow along. :) If you really want to know you can always PM me!

K, so here we go:


The Synth

Oscillator is PWM waveform with medium pulse width. Playing with the modulation on the pulse width is key, gives some very interesting effects, among others that more chorussy, "real synth"-like effect. You can modulate with anything but I used an LFO (sawtooth down, once a bar)

The Amp envelope is nothing crazy, tiny bit of attack, short decay and release.

Now this is the cool trick:
What you want is to have the filter kick in right after you press the key, so that it's just enough to get the transient and harmonics through but closes down to a lower frequency soon after. So basically set your filter envelope with a tiny bit of attack, like 1-3msec, and short decay (around 200msec). Set all params to your liking, then lower the frequency of the filter, turn up the envelope amount and play with it until it sounds right. You want to play around with the filter and see where it sounds best. As with all synths, proper filter frequency and resonance is key.

I added some Chorus/Ensemble effect to beef up the PWM a bit, it gives this "polyphonic" flavor to it.
And then some Stereo Delay, 1/16th which adds some space to it.



The Arpeggiator
(if you don't have an arpeggiator you could draw it in with midi, but it's nice to be able to play it "live")

Simply an up/down pattern, tempo-synced to 1/32nd. The Arp is just doing octaves, but it's doing the full range (6 octaves) and in my beat I release the key after about 3 or 4. In the second part you can hear it continuing when I'm holding that pentatonic scale


That's about it! Any questions just shoot!
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#2 Speekless

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 08:03 AM

Yo I'll re-iterate my comment: if anyone thinks it's inappropriate to post this stuff here please let me know, I'll move it to the crates. From the other thread it was my understanding that pretty much everybody was cool for doing a weekly behind the beat thread, but if some of the members aren't up for it , please speak up.

#3 arX

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 08:15 AM

Nice one, a good idea this for each battle, to compliment the main thead. And I was among those who asked you about your arpped sound so cheers for the breakown. (For a minute there I thought you miraculously sourced the sound out of the sample!)

Need to go play with it now. Thanks again.

#4 sft

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 12:58 PM

Cheers for the breakdown Speekless. Might give this a go next round.

#5 arX

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 01:09 AM

Bass patch used in my 286:

http://www.mediafire...9paj251hkc7sbpc

(If you don't have Kontakt, you can download the free player.)

#6 Speekless

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 02:03 PM

Thx for sharing arX! Gonna give that a listen in a bit.

Hey SFT, I'm curious to hear more about your "drum foundation" philosophy if you feel like sharing! Workflow-wise, does that also mean you start with the drums first, or at least get a rhythmic base going as soon as possible?

I've noticed, for instance with your Girl from Ipanema flip, that your drums center around the snare a lot. The snare is real steady and the stuff around moves more, am I hearing this right and did u actually build the drums that way?

#7 sft

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 09:42 PM

Yeah very much @ both your points. Some times I'll play the snare in different spots but more often than not its on the 2 and 4 and everything else moves around it. And you're right, I usually start with the drums. I just find it helps frame the rest of the beat much easier rather than playing the samples over a metronome. As I mentioned in a comment on SC the analogy is of a house where the drums are the walls and everything else is like the interior design which need to be decorated according to how the walls are positioned. The only thing about following this method is if the walls are constantly built the same way you'll have the same looking house where the interior design is always limited to the same position of the walls i.e. you develop a recognizable yet monotonous sound. I try to break out of this method every now and then. On the other hand Im not gonna try push the bounds of creativity for the sake of being creative if it sounds wack. I would rather listen to a beat that has that 'Dilla' swing all day which may be considered 'unoriginal' rather than listen to some really abstract and extremely creative piece of music that just sounds wack to me. Different strokes for different folks tho I guess.

Usually Im quite lazy with the drumming and play out a 4 or 8 bar drum loop and just loop it for the entire beat with a few little variations here and there so Im usually quite appreciative when I hear beats that have put in a bit of effort in to the drumming/percussions.

#8 OSŲ

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 12:48 AM

top notch mates

#9 Speekless

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 07:37 AM

Word! Reason I asked is because I find it fascinating how I end up with different results when I focus on different aspects from the start on. To follow your great analogy, until recently my focus has never really been on creating a solid house, as much as experimenting with different base plans, construction materials, techniques etc... I might not actually bring in any rhythm or even tempo until very late in that process, might focus just on on melody or harmony, or on collaging samples freely of any tempo, on anything really. It's fascinating how this all yields very different yet distinct results depending on what you start with. The problem with that is… you might not end up with a Hip-Hop beat lol..

I've been trying to find a balance in that, it's really cool and fun to experiment and all, but at the same I find my foundation gets a bit shaky or undefined sometimes, I need more structure. I couldn't agree with you more on what to a great extent defines a recognizable sound,and you've definitely achieved that.
I'm still looking for mine, I'd like to have a more distinct and solid feel to my beats without compromising the very free way of composing that I have. I like to play out a lot of stuff live, I like to use no quantizing, I like using the inspiration of the moment, I like stuff that is very free and open-ended… but if I only follow my instincts like that, I usually end up with some formless bullsh* that was fun to make, but not really to listen to… lol. We need something to grasp.

These beat battles have forced me to give more of a defined, solid structure + I have less time to do so. It's great because it's a way for me to get more uniformity in my sound, I gotta get to the point. Obviously in Hip-Hop, the rhythm and groove are paramount so it's very important to focus on that and get that foundation down as soon as possible. To me it's just amazing how whole genres get defined like that. Music is all the same but with different conventions or cultural elements.

I guess my challenge for the coming months will be to find my sound, the "structure" i work with, find a good balance between solid foundation and free form, see how I can play with the boundaries of "genre" to get my own style across.

Anyway.. drifting :) I'm getting too philosophical lol... But a very inspiring discussion I think!


#10 sft

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 11:47 AM

Haha i like philosophical. Im a nerd at heart.

Good discussion bruh. Looking forward to seeing how you shape your sound over the coming battles.

#11 Cise2

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 01:51 PM

Haha i like philosophical. Im a nerd at heart.

Good discussion bruh. Looking forward to seeing how you shape your sound over the coming battles.

Haha i like philosophical. Im a nerd at heart.

Good discussion bruh. Looking forward to seeing how you shape your sound over the coming battles.

i guess were all are haha. anyways, about your house philosophy, thats a great analogy, yet i prefer to start off with the sample, i simply hear the finished result in my head, and strive to achieve what i hear. and lately ive been watching alot of drummer interviews, lessons, etc, and it made me think different, i try moving everything back and forth, so basically, i end up with something solid, yet easy and feathery stuff. i try to understand what i do rather than just doin stuff and by mistake achieve something good. say if you play the basic 4 beat rhytm, you can play the melody a bit early, and it sounds lazy, draggy, or right on the beats, so it sounds sharp, or a bit late, so it sounds faster. anyways i got no idea what i've just written, cuz im in the zone right now haha. peace!

#12 steezo

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 03:12 PM

i guess were all are haha. anyways, about your house philosophy, thats a great analogy, yet i prefer to start off with the sample, i simply hear the finished result in my head, and strive to achieve what i hear. and lately ive been watching alot of drummer interviews, lessons, etc, and it made me think different, i try moving everything back and forth, so basically, i end up with something solid, yet easy and feathery stuff. i try to understand what i do rather than just doin stuff and by mistake achieve something good. say if you play the basic 4 beat rhytm, you can play the melody a bit early, and it sounds lazy, draggy, or right on the beats, so it sounds sharp, or a bit late, so it sounds faster. anyways i got no idea what i've just written, cuz im in the zone right now haha. peace!


Aight. Adding to that analogy. Back in the day I listened to a lot of my favorite albums, trying to realize what makes them great. When I listened to "The Main Ingredient" and sort of analyzed it, I realized, that it always builds on the same Foundations sonically as well as creatively: Dope, warm drums, programmed in a relaxed swing - mostly chopped up breaks. Solid Bassline - either played or filtered to accompany the main sample or to contrast it. Some cuts - most of them taken from the Marley Marl Juice Crew album. Thats about it for the foundation of the house.

As far as my staring point of making beats is concerned, I started with drums back in the days, too. But this hindered me a lot in the process of making the actual beat. Everything sounded primo-ish, cause the focus was on the drums all the time and I had problems to really fill the bars up. Also, some times a nice snare can sound bad if it doesn't work with the sample.

At some point, I just started to chop up a sample, if I found one and played with that like 15 minutes and then laid that down. Btw, I usually try to stay away from just chopping a sample in it's original structure and then just retrigger the hits, cause that bores me to death. Except the fact, if I found something that is just beautiful as is and I want to keep it that way.

So I chop a sample up, play with it a lot, then record that to a metronome, adjust the tempo or arrangement of the chops and then I start looking for drums. If I need some very natural and musical drums - like, if you have a soulful or jazzy/acoustic sample, I tend to dig through my breaks collection while the beat is playing - (try that with an MPC!). It's a bit similar to how a DJ would approach such a Task - that's probably one reason, why many DJs are also good producers. I get a feel very quickly, if the drums fit or don't - even if the tempo isn't right yet. If nothing works, I try using some Live Drums from Kontakt. Then I chop that Break up, but might only keep maybe one element like a Hihat or snare or kick and replace or layer certain elements. Every single Kit is custom made for each beat!

Next, I record a drum pattern to the chops. I'm very focused and absolutely perfectionistic about this. For starters, I usually just put a snare on the 2 and 4 and some generic 8th Hihats to have a grid. But then I'm really, really focussing on the Kick. The Pattern as well as the swing and Timing. If you don't nail that shit, your beat is like only 50 % nice. The pattern has to be perfect to me. No more then 3-4 Kicks between a snare and the pattern has got to be predictable to the point where it's getting hypnotic. At this point, the Hihats and Snare swing and velocity are being tweaked too. Sometimes I don't quantize at all - if I want a loose feel.

From that point on, I go back and forth between the sample, the drum pattern and the mixing.

Then I add more elements. At this stage the whole beat is still 4-8 Bars only. I program everything in these 4-8 Bars, so that when I am done, this is actually the chorus. So everything is working together. After that I start arranging, taking stuff out, making little Breaks and all that subtle stuff that adds to the flavor.

As far as 286 is concerned, the 2nd Part of that Track was created first. I just wanted to use the sample with the choir and wanted to create a dope bassline - which kinda based on whats within the sample, but be more dominant. Also I wanted a dope break and a knocking snare with a dope reverb. This was done relatively quickly. The bass was a bit tricky in terms of melody and rhythm. You need to get your 32's on for this kinda stuff.

The 1st Part Beat was tough. Took like 12 hours - no shit. The harpsichord melody was chopped and heavily processed, so that each hit was long enough. If you go back to the original, it's off the quiet section with the little solo. That was pitched down, chopped, EQed, delayed with one tube saturated delay and a normal clean delay, I think, to make it longer and get the room right. This took like forever. Next, I struggled with the bass - not with the melody - that took like 3 minutes. I am talking about controlling it. With bass you often come across this problem where you have 2 different bass notes at same velocity, where one's frequency responce feels like 3 times as loud - I ran into that problem. Usually you solve this problem, by turning down the velocity for this note. But in my case, the synth Plugin was not responding to velocity. So I had to sample the bass, chop it, reprogram that back in and manually turn down the Volume on each hit. Then it worked.

I did the Mobb Deep Remix of "Survival of the Fittest" with that 1 Beat of the Track after that and tweaked the it - speeded it up (original was too slow in retrospect, but I wanted the delays to have room to cut through and breathe), did some cleaning (Multiband stuff) and was kinda happy with that. Sound a little bit colder now, but I don't wanna go back

Funny Side note: this was the first time ever, that my neighbor was disturbing me while mixing, cause the shit just drove her crazy cause the whole room underneath her was shaking. Loved it ;)

PEACE. See you next round. ;)
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#13 Obi-Dan-Kenobi

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Posted 03 September 2012 - 02:35 AM

Word! Reason I asked is because I find it fascinating how I end up with different results when I focus on different aspects from the start on. To follow your great analogy, until recently my focus has never really been on creating a solid house, as much as experimenting with different base plans, construction materials, techniques etc... I might not actually bring in any rhythm or even tempo until very late in that process, might focus just on on melody or harmony, or on collaging samples freely of any tempo, on anything really. It's fascinating how this all yields very different yet distinct results depending on what you start with. The problem with that is… you might not end up with a Hip-Hop beat lol..

I've been trying to find a balance in that, it's really cool and fun to experiment and all, but at the same I find my foundation gets a bit shaky or undefined sometimes, I need more structure. I couldn't agree with you more on what to a great extent defines a recognizable sound,and you've definitely achieved that.
I'm still looking for mine, I'd like to have a more distinct and solid feel to my beats without compromising the very free way of composing that I have. I like to play out a lot of stuff live, I like to use no quantizing, I like using the inspiration of the moment, I like stuff that is very free and open-ended… but if I only follow my instincts like that, I usually end up with some formless bullsh* that was fun to make, but not really to listen to… lol. We need something to grasp.

These beat battles have forced me to give more of a defined, solid structure + I have less time to do so. It's great because it's a way for me to get more uniformity in my sound, I gotta get to the point. Obviously in Hip-Hop, the rhythm and groove are paramount so it's very important to focus on that and get that foundation down as soon as possible. To me it's just amazing how whole genres get defined like that. Music is all the same but with different conventions or cultural elements.

I guess my challenge for the coming months will be to find my sound, the "structure" i work with, find a good balance between solid foundation and free form, see how I can play with the boundaries of "genre" to get my own style across.

Anyway.. drifting :) I'm getting too philosophical lol... But a very inspiring discussion I think!

God that sounds so much like me that was a bit freaky ha ha!! says it all, I recommend reading this in the morning set me up for the day :D

#14 ras dude

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 07:19 AM

So Ive been on the stbb soundcloud recently and couldnt help but notice that there are people who post tracks that are non related to the beat battles/ or the flips. They get in the way of checking out the other submitted beats. Find them and destroy them please.

#15 steezo

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 01:40 PM

So Ive been on the stbb soundcloud recently and couldnt help but notice that there are people who post tracks that are non related to the beat battles/ or the flips. They get in the way of checking out the other submitted beats. Find them and destroy them please.


I don't think this is so bad, if you really got dope beat and want to draw some attention to it. I could upload a murderous beat and would get like 3 comments tops and like 5 plays. If i'd present that to the STBB I'd know at least some dudes would check it out - I think that's the reason why people do this. ;) Can it be that there are no MC's active on soundcloud. I only got a request once from a guy who I wasn't really feeling - so I didn't respond to him only to find out accidentally that he just jacked my beat and recorded something to it. Besides that, I never get requests. So either my shit's crazy whack or Rappers don't check for beats on soundcloud.

#16 Obi-Dan-Kenobi

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 02:47 PM

I don't think this is so bad, if you really got dope beat and want to draw some attention to it. I could upload a murderous beat and would get like 3 comments tops and like 5 plays. If i'd present that to the STBB I'd know at least some dudes would check it out - I think that's the reason why people do this. ;) Can it be that there are no MC's active on soundcloud. I only got a request once from a guy who I wasn't really feeling - so I didn't respond to him only to find out accidentally that he just jacked my beat and recorded something to it. Besides that, I never get requests. So either my shit's crazy whack or Rappers don't check for beats on soundcloud.

Shit I emcee but I can't answer that(not the whackness cos they ain't) and your right same shit happens to me 14 - 15 plays I don't look for beat I guess cos I make my own but I can't speak for anyone else. So Mr steezo wanna cook me a beat up (monster hard) say 2x 16 bars, you feel it ya feel it if not Oh well. I found out Nella raps aswell, you heard that beat him and Areou have done ? worth checking. The boy has skills!!

#17 steezo

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 02:22 PM

I'll let you know, if I think I got something "monster hard" at hand (no homo) :D for you to spit over, mayn. PEACE

#18 Obi-Dan-Kenobi

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 11:44 PM

I'll let you know, if I think I got something "monster hard" at hand (no homo) :D for you to spit over, mayn. PEACE

:lol: Cool see what happens Mayne!!




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