Technique - Beat Dissected

sponsored by: Wave DNA

Belleville Techno

In the latest instalment of Beat Dissected, we return to the Motor City for a lesson in subtly efficient grooves and effective sound processing.

Beat Dissected is a regular series in which we deconstruct drum patterns, showing you how to recreate them in any DAW. Just copy our grid in your own software to recreate the loop.

Here’s the beat we’re building today:

To download the samples for this beat, click here. The samples are provided on a completely royalty-free basis. They may not be sold or given away, either in whole or in part.

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(Note that we use the convention where 50% swing is straight timing. For a thorough explanation of swing, see our Passing Notes feature on the subject.)

  • SPEC

  • tempo

    120—125bpm
  • swing

    55—60%
  • sounds

    100% TR-909 samples

Step 1

The kick is a bog-standard four-to-the-floor pattern as you’d probably expect, but it forms the basis for the groove and helps contribute to the overall tonality of the beat. The 909 kick is pitched quite low here, and we’ve run it into SoundToys’ Decapitator to add a little distortion and make the sound darker. We’ll also apply a small amount of Lexicon reverb to the drum sub-mix in order to add extra depth and character.

In this beat we’re sticking to Roland TR-909 samples. The traditional Detroit approach would probably be to use a real TR-909 or something like a Roland R-8 with the optional 909 expansion card; if you have access to either of those options you can certainly use them, taking advantage of the internal sequencer and using the individual outputs to process specific sounds independently.

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Step 2

We’ve tuned our 909 clap sample down a couple of steps. If you’re working with the original you don’t have this option, but it’s one of the advantages of using samples. Decapitator is once again employed to make the sound slightly dirtier (you could just as easily use any distortion plugin, a tape emulator or an overdriven channel on an analogue mixer for a truly authentic late 80s sound). We’ve rolled off the higher frequencies with an EQ to give the clap a darker sound, and run it through a subtle reverb to extend the decay and add ambience. The pattern itself is, once again, about as simple as it gets.

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Step 3

step 3

The open hi-hats are once again very simple (are you beginning to see a pattern emerging?) but this time we’ve used a very light chorus effect to give a little more movement and depth to the bog standard 909 hat sound. In the second bar we’ve included a double hit – this is a classic Detroit programming trick, and one which you can really go to town with over the course of a full arrangement. Rather than simply letting the beat loop indefinitely, double up on the occasional hit or mute a sound now and then. The subtle variations will keep the beat interesting over the course of the whole track.

 

Step 4

The final step is the killer blow which adds the bulk of the character and ties everything together. Because we’re working with samples, we have the luxury of using two closed hat sounds with subtly different characteristics. If you were using a real 909 you’d have to track one closed hat and then the other separately, with appropriate settings and processing. Instead, we can use two copies of the same sound. The first hat (we’ll call it the closed hat) has a faster attack. It plays mainly on offbeats. The second hat (we’ll call it the mid hat) has a much softer attack, sounding almost like a shaker.

Up until now we haven’t included any velocity variations in the basic rhythmic framework of kick, clap and open hat. Here we change things up, varying the velocity of the hi-hat hits to let the groove breathe. Likewise, most of our hits up to this point have fallen on eighth notes. The 16th-note pattern of the hats means that our 16th-note swing setting will really start to take effect here. We want to go just far enough to add a loose groove to the beat and move it away from rigid straight timing, but not so far that things begin to sound sloppy. 55-60% is a good starting point, but you can adjust to suit the rest of your track. Like the vast majority of early techno beats, this one’s all about efficiency of groove and simple, cohesive processing. It’s a lesson in adopting the mantra of less is more.

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To download the samples for this beat, click here. The samples are provided on a completely royalty-free basis. They may not be sold or given away, either in whole or in part.

Wave DNABeat Dissected is brought to you by WaveDNA, makers of Liquid Rhythm, a wild beat generator, sequencer and software MIDI controller that provides instant access to quadrillions of rhythmic patterns.  http://www.wavedna.com/product-information/

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  • Date: 18th July 2014