Sep 29

Breaking down the rhythm of ‘Pyramid Song’ by Radiohead

by in Drums, Music Production, Pads

 
What’s going on with the strange rhythm of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song?

It feels like it stops and starts, and it’s hard to place the downbeat – Is it really in 4/4?



 

What time signature is Radiohead's 'Pyramid Song?'
1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3

The key is understanding its unique 2 bar rhythm, outlined by the piano, which consists of 2 dotted quarter notes, followed by a half note which carries across the bar, followed by 2 more dotted quarter notes.

It is also a heavily swung rhythm, which is something that might not be immediately apparent by listening to the unaccompanied piano.

If you break down each bar into 8th notes – it might be a little easier to understand. You can count it 3-3-4-3-3.


 
So if your mind has been melting while trying to internalise this weird rhythm while trying to learn Pyramid song in Melodics on Drums or Pads – this will help clear things up!

Sep 13

Guided Listening: The Art of Sampling

by in Guided Listening, Pads

Let’s talk about an essential tool in a producer’s toolkit: sampling.

Sampling is an iconic component of many different musical genres — especially in the worlds of hip-hop and electronic music, but increasingly in pop and rock. A sample can be a brief audio clip that is used as an instrument, a drum beat or “break” that provides the rhythmic foundation of a beat, or an entire audio passage that may serve as inspiration for the melodic and harmonic elements of a new song.

Sampling is ingrained in the culture of contemporary music, and our brand-new Songs catalog even contains a few excellent examples. We’ll run through a couple of iconic uses of samples, and share our guided listening playlist which compares the original side-by-side with the sample.


Here’s some examples.

Consider the song “Just a Friend” by Biz Markee. The characteristic piano melody in this late 1980s hip-hop hit, which is a sampling of Freddie Scott’s 1968 hit “(You) Got What I Need,” is instantly recognisable. Biz Markee cleverly transforms this soulful original, in which Freddie Scott sings about a woman who makes his life better, into an ironic story about his experiences with women.

Another example is “Avril 14th” (also available in our Songs catalog.) If you pay close attention to the piano melody at 1:38 when listening or practicing this piece, sped up (and pitch increased), you might recognise it as the sample used in “Blame Game” from Kanye West’s groundbreaking 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


The Art of Sampling Playlist

Check out this Spotify playlist that showcases a range of samples in popular music. Included are both the original samples, as well as the songs that sample them.

Some samples will be very obvious, and others might be a little harder to identify — see if you can spot them all!

 

Jun 13

The 3 Universal Components of Finger Drumming

by in Fundamentals, Pads

The ability to finger drum transforms a pad controller into an incredibly versatile instrument.

Instead of being limited to step sequencing or programming, the accomplished finger drummer unlocks the full range and expression available to musicians. The result is creative possibility shifting back into the producer’s hands.

Pads are such a unique and diverse instrument it can be overwhelming, and hard to know where to begin. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way!

First and foremost, let’s master the basics.


The 3 Universal Components of Finger Drumming

With MIDI pads, there are always three distinct components which all interact and amount to how you can play. Consider these when approaching your practice and performance on pads:

 

Component #1: Your controller’s layout (aka The Foundation)

Your layout is the physical arrangement of the pads and the selected samples assigned to each. The layout chosen will define the style of your performance.

The examples in this article will use a 4 x 4 pad, but there is a multitude of other pad arrangements available too. You can find smaller ones, such as 4 x 2 or even much larger arrangements as big as 8 x 8.

MIDI pad layouts

 

Component #2: The track’s rhythm (aka The Method)

The rhythmic information informs how to interact with your pads layout, in order to perform the desired sequence of beats and samples.

Further on in this article, we’ll run through some examples on how a 4 x 4 arrangement can have different samples assigned to the pads, depending on what you want to rhythmically play in a song.

 

Component #3: Your coordination (aka The Delivery)

This is the dexterous use of one’s hands and fingers and how they physically play the rhythm onto a layout.

This will determine if it will be best to use your right or left hand, as well as finger allocation for any given beat. It’s especially important to consider you coordination when you start incorporating multiple samples/using more pads in your performance.

The most important thing with coordination is to plan ahead. Your positioning may change depending on the pad layout so work out which pads you need throughout a song, and position yourself comfortably so that each pad is easily within reach.

Let’s explore the interrelationship between these three core components to see how more complex layouts can unlock more rhythmical possibilities for you, but may also require more advanced coordination techniques and dexterity.

If we show you an example of how to play the same song five different ways, you might better understand how you could too can approach learning to play pads, and increase your skill and coordination along the way.


 

First Performance

First Performance

This first performance shows all of the three finger drumming components presented in their most basic form: There is one sample (i.e. the whole track), so the layout assigned this to just one pad, played on the first beat with one finger.


 

Second Performance

Second performance

Making it a little more complicated — we’ve chopped the first performance track into four.

The layout assigns four samples, over four different pads, with each sample being played over a half note. In terms of coordination, this layout and rhythm is simple enough that as few as one index finger can still play all the samples in succession.


 

Third Performance

Third Performance

Let’s increase the complexity of the coordination, and bring in some more fingers to play the drum groove over a backing! We’ve separated the kick and the snare rhythm for the groove, from the melody/bassline/hi-hats backing. One pad triggers that melody/bassline/hi-hats backing track; and one pad is assigned each for kick and snare samples.

As the backing track plays the full duration, the separately played kick and snare drums need to do the job of keeping the percussive rhythm in time with the hi-hat subdivisions. Index fingers on alternating hands play the kick and snare pattern; with the backing track being triggered by the middle finger on the first beat (along with the kick), and playing the full length of the track.

Separating the backing from the beat components lets you focus on and experiment with variations on the beat. Having a more complex layout (assigning more samples to different pads, for instance with additional drum samples) gives you more options rhythmically, but by the same virtue requires you to be more confident with keeping time. This third performance further illustrates this flexibility, by showing a slightly different drum beat than the first and second performances.


 

Fourth Performance

Fourth Performance

We’ve now broken out the full drum kit (kick, snare and the hi-hat) to their own assigned pads; and chopped the baseline + melody backing into four additional samples (assigned to four different pads to trigger).

This means that we have to trigger the backing track samples every second beat; whilst also playing every component of the drum beat. Note from the video how the finger used to trigger the kick starts with the thumb, but plays the last three beats instead with the middle finger.

This performance shows you that chopping the backing tracks differently whilst still playing the drum beats on time can lend a syncopated air if done right.


 

Fifth Performance

Fifth performance

This is the most complex performance layout chosen for this exercise – although unlike the fourth performance, we will only be using the index and middle fingers of each hand, with no switching fingers for different beats.

We’ve broken out the kick, snare and hi-hats for the drum beats; and similarly separated the backing track’s melody from its bass track, in three different samples.

Each pad sample needs to be triggered on different beats in the measure, with different frequency depending on the sample – Note how the layout helps with this, by focusing on playing ergonomics for both the left and right hands.

The interplay between the melody backing, and bassline creates a new challenge to play in conjunction with a separate drum groove. Nevertheless, the degree of coordination required to play the rhythm does allow you far greater rhythmic and melodic freedom in your performance – once your skill-level is there.

This layout approach would be ideal for exploring sample chopping, and mix-matching different backing sections to compose new tracks with in the future as you get more confident in your playing ability.


 

Conclusion

These performances show you five different ways to perform the same song live, using a different layout for each. Each performance gradually increases from fundamental to a more complex layout, with the rhythm and coordination skill required becoming more advanced.

When you’re approaching finger drumming, samples and layouts, consider how much rhythmical freedom you require in your performance, and your confidence in layout-making and coordination. You can adapt any or all of these three areas accordingly in your own playing, or use Melodics step-by-step structure and multi-difficulty lessons to gradually increase this complexity for you.

By splitting the backing track(s) out from the percussion tracks, you can see that there is more rhythmical freedom for your playing.

Putting backing tracks to one side, if you would like to focus on upskilling your drum groove playing, we highly recommend you start with the Melodics’ course on Mirrored Layout for pads.

This will help you master the art of finger drumming, and you will be much more confident to explore the advanced world of playing with backings, sample chopping, and layout-making.