So, who is Kate Bush? And why isn’t she widely recognised as a musical icon? You may know her track ‘Running Up That Hill’ in the Netflix hit, Stranger Things. But beyond that, we’ve unknowingly grown accustomed to the sounds she evolved and just how much her influence has broken boundaries for women in music.
Where it began.
Kate Bush is a singer, songwriter, and musician who has been captivating audiences with her unique style and cutting-edge sound since the 70s. By 17, Kate released a demo that landed the attention of EMI who took the plunge to sign Kate at a time when the British music industry was generally stagnant. Genres like progressive rock and experimental acts were being considered as a means of revitalising the industry — and it worked.
By ‘78, Kate was topping charts with her hit single “Wuthering Heights,” crowning her as the first female artist in the UK to reach number one with a self-written song. Her 4th studio album also broke records as she became the first female artist to reach number 1 in the album charts while achieving artistic independence in the process – an uncommon phenomenon in the 80s.
Powerful storytelling and the exploration of contentious themes over experimental sounds are only some of the traits embedded into Kate’s artistic identity. Her revolutionary use of the first digital keyboard sampling station, the Fairlight synthesiser, and the headset microphone onstage (a brand new invention at the time) show just how much Kate’s music was inspiring a fleet of kindred artists along the way.
Billie Eilish, FKA Twigs, Stevie Nicks, Grimes and Sia are just a few artists who evoke the unconventional spirit of Kate Bush in their work. Whether it’s her avant-garde and experimental production, distinguished stage presence or dramatic vocals, Kate’s influence in music extends beyond genre and decade.
37 years after its release, ‘Running Up That Hill’ has now been streamed almost 500 million times and featured in 2.7 million TikTok videos introducing a new legion of young devotees who have discovered the seminal artist for the first time. Despite never winning a grammy, you won’t find Kate begging for the limelight. Her influence speaks volumes about why she should be recognised as a force in the music industry. Her authenticity has proved how running up that hill isn’t too bad once you’re at the top.
We highly recommend checking out her work and exploring elements of her sound in your own music. You can learn ‘Running Up That Hill’ on keys, pads, and drums with Melodics. From VI VII i pop chord progressions, to unequivocally 80s drum rhythms and synths.
Play it today and experience the unique and magical world of Kate Bush for yourself.
This isn’t a slow clap, this is an iconic rhythm you’ve definitely heard before.
Today we’re going to talk about the Son Clave rhythm and what makes it so cool.
It’s a lopsided 5-beat rhythm but still feels completely natural and danceable in regular 4/4 – and its uniquely winding and hypnotic pulse has helped it conquer the world of contemporary music far beyond its Afro-Cuban roots.
The last 70 years of modern music has so ingrained the Son Clave beat into the sound on radio waves around the world, that it’s unlikely that many musicians who use it today would even realise its origin or wonder why they might have been drawn to using it. It has permeated everything from old school Rock’n’Roll like Bo Diddley, or Dr. John, to present day Hip Hop Snoop Dog, to R’n’B Beyoncé, Drake and so much more.
A Son Clave back beat is incredibly versatile in lots of different musical styles yet always gives a track a groove that stands out. If you feel you just can’t seem to break out of defaulting to four to the floor beats when you’re making music, then this odd numbered hypnotic 5-beat rhythm will freshen up the feel of your 4/4 beats.
So what is the Son Clave?
If you divide up two bars of 4/4 into its beats (“1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and…” and repeat this twice), only five of these notes are ever played or emphasized in a Son Clave beat – 3 long beats in the first bar, and 2 fast beats in the second bar.
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and | 1 and 2 and 3 and 4
Try count it, and clap the Son Clave over the top. (PRO-TIP:It can help to think of it as three slow, two fast beats: “slowwwww, slowwwww, slowwwww, fast-fast”)
Practice the Son Clave
Get started on learning this rhythm with Melodics’ lesson “Kala” (available for Pads or Drums) which uses the Son Clave as a perfect introduction to basic syncopation.
To see how versatile the Son Clave can be in modern musical contexts, listen to the kick drum, bass and piano rhythm in the iconic hit “Rosanna” by Toto. Frequently referenced as a prime example of a halftime or “purdie” shuffle it’s surprising to hear a Son Clave in there too!
You could even head in to Melodics to learn to play this song on Keys, Drums or Pads to get inspired with some fresh new rhythms you could use in your own music.
Popular songs are almost here. There’s no chance of pre-gig nerves, as the community response has been huge!
Here’s your sneak peek of what’s coming to Melodics 5th September 2022. Check out the buzz from the community, check out and decide which songs are yours to tackle first from launch.
Don’t take it from us — people are reacting to Melodics’ songs
The Songs Playlist
You know them, you’ve heard them on Spotify, and now you can learn to play them! From launch day, you can test your talents on any song in this playlist.
Each song is lovingly deconstructed into numerous lessons, across a variety of difficulties and skill sets, for MIDI keys, pads and drums. With the full force of Melodics backing it, you can get inside the music you love so you can learn every trick of the artists you admire.
This isn’t just a “one and done”. More songs will continue to be added to our catalog regularly.
If you want to learn to play your favourite song by your favourite artist or band, then contribute your flavour to the full alphabet of musical soup — from Arctic Monkeys to Warren Zevon (and many more), the request line is open and awaiting your call.
Don’t forget! For current subscribers and those who subscribe before Melodics September launch – you’ll get access to songs first with a free upgrade to your plan. There’s no time like the present to knuckle down and get your skills polished off!
Otherwise, songs will also be available to new subscribers to Melodics from September as a part of a new premium subscription package.
Music theory is a way of describing the things in music that different people, in different cultural contexts have found to sound good to them. We believe that music doesn’t flow from theory – theory flows from music.
From traditional and folk styles of music right up to the contemporary — none have ever required theory. Notation does not necessitate beautiful music creation (and nor does it prevent you from learning to play the popular music you love) — but it can still facilitate it in certain circumstances if needed.
So why was sheet music a thing?
Before recorded music or digital technologies, sheet music was a standardised way to precisely describe, and communicate complex musical ideas from a composer’s mind, to the musicians who would be able to play it exactly as it was imagined. Without notation, the world’s most acclaimed classical composers — Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and everyone else — would have had no voice, and their music would have died with them.
Notation in a way, was the precursor to recorded music as we know it. Common use of sheet notation in the music industry progressed into 20th century pop with famous session bands like the Wrecking Crew smash out hit-after-Motown-hit; being able to rapidly learn several new songs every session and execute a top of the pops hit on the spot with minimal practice. This made fluency in site-reading notation a real skill to have.
When isn’t sheet music really needed in contemporary times?
For every Wrecking Crew session muso in 1960s , there are thousands more musicians around the world making music without ever needing to read the stave. Elton John himself learned by ear first, long before he ever went on to study theory. Legends like Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Prince and even Dave Brubeck never learned how to read music at all. From Vanessa Carlton’s “Thousand Miles”, Outkast’s “Roses”, Alicia Keys “Fallin’” to Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” — it would be unreal to think they were composed and learned with sheet notation.
You might need to read music if you ever think you’ll be doing a “reading gig” — that is if you need to play music exactly as it has been composed, where it is too complex or lengthy to memorise. This is of course ever-present in Classical, and also in some Jazz, Musical Theatre and Cinema settings.
Although understanding the background principles of how to read music is fairly straightforward — It’s a lot of work to be able to read music fluently and at a professional level. For many, the hard slog to get the degree of fluency required for this might put you off, but many musicians are instead adept at being able to figure out, and play by ear, and confident enough to add impromptu creative flair when playing and recording.
Do you need to read music? No. But you might wish to really be fluent site reading in some particular instances. It depends what your musical goals are, but it’s important to remember that one of the reasons most people don’t succeed with an instrument is because they don’t practice – not their grasp of theory!
You can absolutely learn theory by playing – and it will make so much more sense when you learn it from a real-life playing context, rather than it being a key that unlocks certain music for you. When an audience is listening, they can’t tell your site-reading ability, but they can hear your skill and confidence – so get out there, have fun and play!
What’s our most precious resource and something you can only spend once?
If you didn’t guess already, the answer is time. It’s rather ironic, that given its fleeting nature, we still tend to spend our time quite casually…
A lack-of-time, however, is the #1 reason people give for abandoning their dreams of learning or mastering an instrument. And yet time is the one thing guaranteed it will take to get there!
In reality though, life is filled with plenty of high-priority things — so in our quest for finding that perfect balance, we say that even 5 minutes of music every now and again is better than never at all.
So in the spirit of prime numbers, here’s 7 things the time impaired can do in Melodics that’ll fit in and around just about any other life commitments, ready any time you find yourself with a spare moment or three.
1. Do a quick session with one of our Daily Warmups or workout exercises.
The point of these isn’t about learning anything specific, or playing the notes right as you’re not playing a whole lesson or course. The main thing here is that you’re using your brain differently than you do at other points of your daily life.
You’re limbering up, building your muscle memory and dexterity. You’re just passively getting used to being confident on your instrument, and importantly: you can stop doing a warmup just as easily as it is to start one: whenever you feel like it.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but playing a lesson a few grades too hard for you means that your expectations really aren’t going to have you beating yourself up about the inevitable score! Even for seemingly impossibly fast songs, you can slow the track down using Practice Mode to a point where it’s playable.
So what’s the point of this then?
It’s amazing how much simply getting the lay of the land helps set a benchmark for future attempts and how you improve with time. You don’t even have to complete a lesson to benefit from this.
Use the filter settings to search by lesson grade, and pick something a couple of grades higher than where you’d comfortably sit. Give it a quick crack!
3. Jam over a track on a lesson you’ve nearly or recently completed.
Look for the unlocked Playground Mode icon on any lesson’s completion screen.
Heaps of musicians record themselves jamming, or free-playing over their compositions to get creative, listen back and evaluate their playing, or to find some sweet-sounding gems they might save for a rainy day.
So mix it up! Don’t feel that using Melodics is all about practise, learning or getting feedback on your ability. It’s really important to just be playing music for the sheer joy of it — and prove to yourself and no-one else that you’ve got a couple of tricks in the bag.
Playground Mode is the perfect way to remove all script, structure and rules and just play whatever you feel like. And the cool thing is you can record and listen back to your last attempt.
You unlock this mode on any lesson you’ve already passed (i.e. getting 1-star or more on it), so check it out!
It’s easy to get caught up in doing something new — but what about those lessons you probably did ages ago and passed? We’re not A+ passed — we mean the stuff you might’ve just scraped by on… But we bet you’d totally smash them out of the park if you tried them again now.
Go on, let’s put a bow on some of those 1- or 2-star lessons with a 3-star performance (or… more?), and show us all that progress you’ve made!
Use the search filter to browse by 1- or 2- stars to find a good lesson.
Remember when you’d spend hours agonising over creating that perfect compilation? Choosing songs to fit on 23-minutes a side, whilst perfectly capturing every nuance of your personality, every agonizing detail of your teenage complexity?
Yeah, na, me neither. These days it’s done in a heartbeat on Spotify anyway. And you can do this in Melodics too: just think of the favourites button as a hot-key for your personal Top 25 (PRO TIP: it doesn’t have to be at your normal workstation, you could even download the Melodics iPad app and make a playlist from anywhere you feel like!)
So one of the best ways you can make your practices faster and more productive is removing the obstacles and being prepared!
Do yourself a favour, and pick some favourites now for practising another time!
Lessons and courses are all divided up into component steps.
Not only is it not required for you to complete the lot in one sitting, rather, it’s often better to just stop after the first step, and come back to continue or redo the rest at a later date. Think of it less like a marathon, and more of an enjoyable hike — you’ll still end up going the same distance either way. And hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day…
That’s right, we’re telling you not to finish a lesson — just do the first step.
Spreading lessons out over time helps build habits better — it reinforces repeated behaviour with multi-session structure, rather than 1-offs, doesn’t overload your brain or drain you of energy, and above all bite-sized pieces makes the prospect of success easier to achieve and less labourious.
Hands up if when you think about practising, you tend to focus on the effort of setting up instead: clearing off your desk, opening up the app, plugging your instrument in and turning it on, thinking about what genre you want to play, scrolling through and previewing endless lessons? It’s a motivation killer! Remember what we said about 5 minutes every now and then is better than never at all? Let’s make sure then that it’s time well spent: fun, simple and effective.
So here’s something different: you can still play in Melodics without even plugging an instrument in! Regardless of whether you play keys, pads or drums, or what your favourite genre is: rhythm, timing, and dexterity are universal traits foundational to musical confidence (so it’s not just ‘ok’ to try play a different instrument or genre when you’re practising — it’s great for you!)
1) Open up the Melodics app;
2) Choose any simple and easy lesson (tip: browse by low grade), and;
3) Use your laptop’s keyboard or the onscreen UI if you’re on iPad.
Here’s some handpicked lessons you can do on a computer keyboard or iPad UI:
A sample flip is a production technique beatmakers use to create an instrumental or a backing track for a vocalist. Whether you’re working on a hip-hop, house, techno or RnB track, there are various approaches to flipping a sample. Some of them are universal, and some of them are genre-specific. We are going to focus on a traditional hip-hop sample flipping technique, which you can apply to any composition style you want.
This technique is sample chopping, or ‘chop the sample’. First, we have to find a sample. For this example, we are going to use one sample source, a stereo audio file. The sample we have chosen is from ‘Reflections’ by Albert Jones. We used Tracklib to source the sample: an online record store where anyone can clear samples affordably and fast. Released in 1973, ‘Reflections’ is a soul/RnB track. It has big drum fills, gritty organ, amazing backing vocals and some beautiful melodic information that I want to showcase in the beat.
You can access it for free using this link or if you are already a Tracklib user, head directly here.
There are many ways you can chop or cut a sample. You can chop random events from the song, cut bigger chunks like a 2 bar loop, or layer events from other parts of the song over the 2 bar loop. The limit here is your imagination. We are going to chop the sample by even 1/4 notes. To find the 1/4 notes, count along to the song, the 1/4 notes are the 1,2,3,4 count of each bar. The snare drum lands on the 2nd and 4th beat of each bar.
Bigger chops, like a 2 bar loop, keep the feel of the song intact in the sample. When you chop the sample shorter, 1/8th or 1/16th notes, the feel becomes more muted. However, you can use those shorter chops to push and pull against the rhythm of the sampled song, and create your own feel.
Begin by giving the song you’re sampling from a close listen. Keeping your eyes closed may be helpful, as you’re trying to get as deep inside the track as possible to find out which parts stand out. Look for a section that speaks to you, and reminds you of the goosebumps feeling that always draws you back to music.
During the early years of hip-hop, DJs focused on playing breakbeats from records for the dancefloor. The breakbeats in songs were what excited the crowd and made them get down to the music. Correctly looping and chopping beats is the foundation of sample chopping. It is your duty as a beatmaker to convey the excitement, emotion and feeling you hear to the listener. Sometimes the goosebump moment comes from something unexpected in the music. It could be a crack in an emotional vocal, an out of tune bass note, atmospheric reverb, an overly keen saxophone phrase, or a breath.
The first thing which stands out as chop-worthy on ‘Reflections’ is it’s very emotive intro-section. A quick online search reveals that the sample has already been used by Mary J. Blige (through Tracklib). However, you can quickly turn the disappointment of a previously used sample into a competitive drive. The challenge becomes flipping the sample in a new direction. Let’s take the intro and chop it into 1/4 notes.
I’ve used Ableton Live’s sampler instrument to chop the sample manually, in real-time. That way, as I play the pads sequentially on my computer, every hit of a pad will create a new slice. As I am chopping, I am also listening out of any pads that grab my attention. In Live, if you hear something you are vibing, you can start looping it in then and there.
Now it’s time to look beyond the intro.
The first verse has some great vocal moments. The bass is hot and a little bit out of tune, the guitar is similar but sonically perfect (gritty, dry, beautiful mid-range), and the drums have great mid-range in the kick, a nice dry snare, and 16th note hi-hats. All of these elements will work in the beat, so let’s chop the first verse into 1/4 notes.
The first note of the chorus is magical. Something is calling out in it. Is it the bass performance, the background vocals, or the air in the beat? Perhaps it’s the vibraphone reminding me of a Dilla beat? It’s still a mystery as to whether we’ll use it in the final beat, but let’s try to remember that feeling when we make decisions about what to chop. We’ll cut the chorus into 1/4 notes.
Once you’ve chopped your sample, it pays to zoom in on each chop. You do this to make sure they’re cut as close to 1/4 notes as they can be. If you want, you can leave the chops loose with time before or after the cut, but the tighter you chop to the original 1/4 note tempo, the more control you’ll have when you play them back. You can adjust the start and endpoints of the chops by your ears or eye. Trimming by ear is closer to the experience you’d have using classic machines such as the SP1200, ASR 10 or MPC3000 sampler, as none of them had a waveform display. When you trim by ear, there is more chance of a happy accident, and the chop might “feel” nicer in the beat. Trimming by eye will give you a tighter, more quantized chop.
Laying the groundwork, introducing the beat.
On our 8×8 Push controller, we now have 64 chops to use for our beat. A simple approach would be to play back a row of pads, 4 or 8 pads sequentially. The intro to the original song is perfect for this. This progression is a |I / / / |ii / / / |iii / / / |ii / / / | progression, a fairly common progression in soul/R’n’B. The ii and the iii chords are minor chords, so they build tension and suspense really well. Let’s loop up one bar, the iii chord. This is going to be our intro.
This loop feels so good it could be our main loop for the song. Still, we want to go deeper, not just do the obvious, and showcase some chopping skills. This section is our intro setup, where we play the loop out so the listener can catch the vibe of the original song. The chop here 1/4 notes makes for this sequence | hit | hi-hat | piano | hi-hat |. Chopping the iii chord section is good because the vocal sounds like it is circling back on itself, which creates the illusion of an infinite loop. Speeding up the chop also makes the flow/rhythm of the sample change subtly, adding a nice swing.
Rearranging the puzzle pieces, finding the main loop.
If you play across all the pads, you’ll be surprised by what jumps out as potentially usable for the main loop. Start by playing the pads as ¼ notes, and letting the sample play out between hits. After that, try different combos of pads.
When a beat is chopped up evenly, you can find some really cool patterns. Try 4 pads sequentially [1,2,3,4], 4 pads reversed [4,3,2,1], 4 pads flipped [1,4,3,2], and 4 pads diagonally [A1,B2,C3,D4]. Then, try 8th notes. In this instance, this doesn’t work so well with 1/4 note chops, but it works really well with the intro chops.
This part of the process can feel like musical Tetris. A random order of pads leads me to this pattern.
The minor chords create suspense, and the chops of the vocals and organ generate tension. I took notes on where the drum fills were on the pads, so I am going to use them to expand the loop from 1 bar to 2 or 4 bars with fills. As luck would have it, we already have some good drum fills within our existing chops.
Bring in the drums
Now we have our main loop ready; we can dig for some one-shot drum samples to overlay on top of it. I selected my drum samples from STLNDRMS – All Of The Drums. The kick I’ve chosen has a good mid-range punch and a sub-note on it. The snare is crunchy, with aggressive mid-range distortion, and the hi-hats are very clean. I also selected a handclap to layer on the snare for extra snap.
I want my drums to have a little swing/rub. To give them this, I push and pull on every second hi-hat. It’s subtle, but it creates a cool feeling.
Bring In The Bass
I have chosen an 808 drum machine kick for my bass and mapped across the Push in the standard chromatic layout. I added saturation to it to bring out the upper harmonics in the sample. This helps us hear the pitch of the note. It also makes it audible on smaller speakers. The bassline outlines the harmonic chord progression and works alongside the kick drum pattern.
Bring in the piano
I wanted to add one more live element to the beat, so I decided on piano. This gives the sample a strong chordal structure, and it’s good to have one consistent chordal instrument happening in the song that will mesh all the sample chops together. The chord is a Dmin7 then up a tone to Emin7. I used the Arturia Piano V and went for a dry, studio sounding piano. I tracked the left and right-hand parts separately as I can’t fit a 3-octave range on the Push at the same time.
As I track the intro, verse buildup and verse, I have to automate the tempo so that the slower intro samples fit nicely. The increase in tempo gives the beat some organic movement, which an instrumental locked to one speed wouldn’t achieve. I also filtered the sample in the verses to give the drums and bass some breathing space, just in case this beat ends up being sent to a vocalist.
Create A Live Performance Layout
To create a live performance layout, I have bounced out the original sample layered with the bass and the piano. It was going to be physically impossible to play all the parts simultaneously. This lets me play the sample chops with my left hand and the drums with my right hand. After workshopping different options and layouts, I have come up with a strong layout, and colour coded it so I can remember where the sections and samples are.
I have kept the sample chops to the same length as in my original beat because I like the way it feels when I manually play them. It also means I can get a bit of that rub feel happening, by stretching the time between the samples and the drums.
I bounced all the samples out of my original session and re-organised them in a new drum rack. Bouncing them out of the original session with all the track EQ and master buss plugins on them means that my live performance layout will sound mixed and consistent over any PA speakers.
Get even more:
Access the sample for free from Tracklib – click here
Try out the Melodics lessons that feature this content – click here
Hi there! I’m Spinscott, and I am a lifelong drummer, DJ, and music fanatic that has been obsessed with Jungle & Drum n Bass (DnB) music for over 20 years. During this time, I’ve always thought of DnB as a “Producers Genre”. What I mean by this phrase is that while every style of music involves levels of creativity and updates/changes to the sound, DnB just seems to evolve and push limits at an accelerated rate. In my opinion, it would be challenging to identify another genre of music that has more sub-genres, sub-sub-genres, spinoffs, clones, and variations to its sound while simultaneously retaining a listener base for just about all of its prior forms. Even with the common appearance of elements such as classic breaks like Amens (nod to my favorite genre, JUNGLE!), Think, Apache, bass (808, Reese, reverse, etc), and wonderfully recycled pads & vocal clips…, there is always an inherent drive to push limits and experiment with new applications of rhythm and sound.
In addition to the music itself, many forms of DnB are about creating and manipulating energy for the listeners and people’s moves on the dance floor. Relying on much more than just a “drop”, many producers strive to maintain a flow of energy and impact at the track level, and throughout an entire set or performance. Certainly these elements exist in other DJ related music genres, but they are quite prominent in DnB. As a “producer’s genre”, there is often a competitive and perfectionist nature that comes with making the music, with intense focus on not just the finished product, but on precision of rhythms, varying dominance in the mix, high sound quality and fidelity (sometimes lo-fi is preferred of course!), and endless new ways of using samples and new or classic effects.
While there are countless rhythms utilized in the production of DnB , with new ones evolving and emerging constantly, there are certain primary rhythms that lay a foundation for the genre as a whole. To be clear, I’m speaking of the rhythms themselves, not the sounds, because in production there is an unlimited array of drum sounds that can be substituted or layered into the same rhythms. Bringing things back to a fundamental level, I’ve broken down three essential rhythm variations into steps that will enable people to play them live as real-time performances, while learning how to differentiate between the beats. The nature of these beats originates from the methodology of splitting up a break phrase and using various start points, as has traditionally been done using sequences or partial sequences. As a drummer, I’ve always programmed the sampler using single notes, or “one shots”, and play them like one would play bongos or other hand drums. This enables real-time variations and freestyling that breaks the boundaries of using pre-defined sequences of notes.
The DnB Quads course that I have created with Melodics, focuses on three rhythms (or beats) containing Kick+Snare+Hat+Bass sounds. These beats likely have a variety of names in the industry, but I have always referred to them as “The Forward“, “The Step Back“, and “The Stomper“, so those are the names I’ve chosen to accompany the DnB Quads lessons.
Utilizing 16 pads on the standard sampler/drum machine layout split into four quadrants, the beats are played sequentially through each quadrant, with bar one in Quad 1, bar two in Quad 2, and so forth, repeating the cycle. One of the reasons I constructed the lessons in this manner is so that the player can concentrate on the rhythm, while the base notes change during each run.
Unless you’re the type of crate digger that actually reads the back of records, or like me had a subscription to Modern Drummer magazine during your teens, you might not know the name James Gadson. But you will definitely know his music.
That’s because Gadson has been making people move since the ‘60s as a drummer on upwards of 300 gold records. He’s played for everyone from Bill Withers to Paul McCartney to Herbie Hancock to Roy Ayers to freakin’ Jimmy Barnes (!). He also played on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and on a rare Pharoah Sanders album where every song is surprisingly less than ten minutes long. The number, variety and importance of the releases Gadson has been involved in is just staggering.
Gadson’s path to becoming one of the most vital session drummers in the history of pop music is a serendipitous one rather than a master plan. Born and raised in Kansas City, despite his musician father’s hopes that he wouldn’t follow in his footsteps, Gadson’s first involvement in music was forming doo wop band The Carpets with his brother. As lead singer and songwriter, Gadson’s first focus in music was on songcraft holistically, an ethos which would go on to influence his drumming in later years.
After releasing a few songs and auditioning for some key RnB labels, The Carpets’ success was ultimately stifled by their location (not LA), so Gadson up and left for a stint in the Air Force. When he returned to Kansas, he started playing the drums purely out of necessity, joining his brother’s jazz band as the drummer simply because it was the only position available.
Despite never before playing behind a kit, and playing left handed on a right handed setup, it all came pretty naturally. “I didn’t have any knowledge of left handed guys moving stuff over,” he tells Melodics. “So I’d just sit down and play it the way it was and learn.”
Gadson saw himself merely as “a jazz guy” when he eventually made the move to LA in 1966, but his thirst to play would land him drumming behind RnB guitarist Charles Wright. It was somewhat of a challenge considering he didn’t even know how to play RnB, or how to stay locked in a groove rhythmically and, at first, it didn’t go well. “He fired me 5 times!” Gadson remembers. His response was to simply keep at it. “You got to practice basics, 1 2 3 4, timing, so you can be in control of it.”
Mastering timing with intent on playing around with it, rather than just presenting it like a metronome, would define his playing style and not coincidentally a lot of pop music from then on.
Wright Sounds became the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band and one of the most in demand funk/soul bands in LA during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many years later, the band would be sampled by artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Mos Def, N.W.A. and Madlib. From here Gadson became Bill Withers’ drummer during his most commercially successful period and performed the title track on Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album I Want You, my favourite Marvin track and low-key a proto-house track when you look at it from a certain point of view.
The ‘70s and ‘80s were a lock for Gadson, when any genre with the dancefloor or groove in mind found him. There was disco with Diana Ross, boogie with Cheryl Lynn and slow jams with Patrice Rushen. He’s stayed busy in these genres while never being restricted to them. He played on a bunch of Beck albums (even the sad one), a Jaime Liddell album and also produced a UB40 album, which is pretty buzzy.
In the 21st century he has been tapped for albums by shiny pop stars like Justin Timberlake (FutureLoveSexSounds) and Lana Del Rey (Paradise / Born To Die), while collaborating with more classic RnB leaning artists like D’Angelo.
The story of Gadson’s involvement in D’Angelo’s Sugah Daddy is a kind of metaphor for his career and playing style. Unaware he was being recorded, Gadson was drumming and clapping with his hands on his knees – a habit that many drummers have without realising. D’Angelo immediately asked to use the recording of these clapping sounds and they became the basis for a highlight on an album we’d been waiting 15 years for from soul and RnB’s most important figure since Marvin Gaye himself. “I just started playing something… whatever I did, I don’t know what I did… (D’Angelo asked) ‘Mr Gadson, can I use that?’”
James Gadson is not bothered with what he plays, how he plays it or the level of recognition he gets for it. His discography is proof that all he really wants is to make people move and have fun.
“Hybrid Drumming is basically using half an acoustic drum kit and half electronic drums at the same time.” explains drummer Ben Barter. A Los Angeles-based New Zealander, Barter is the tour drummer for Lorde and has performed with acts such as Broods, Jarryd James, Passion Pit, and Katelyn Tarver. He’s also worked as a session drummer, most notably with producers Tommy English and Joel Little (a Grammy Award winner), playing on songs by artists including K.flay and Kacey Musgraves in the process. Recently, Barter created a set of virtual lessons for Melodics based around the “Hybrid Drumming” concept, an approach which is fast becoming the norm.
“You can put triggers onto your acoustic drums so that when you hit them, they trigger an electronic sample,” Barter continues. “The idea is to make the live drums stay true to the original production of the record, especially if it’s a more programmed song with sample elements and drum machine parts. Then the acoustic drums add the excitement and punch under the electronic elements.” Given how common a heavily produced recording sound has become within contemporary pop, R&B, dance, and rap, and the ravenous audience demand for live performances by artists from within these genres, Barter’s approach makes a lot of sense. However, it’s not without its rigours.
“Some of the challenges are playing parts that aren’t written for a traditional drummer to play,” he explains. It can be a bit of a mind-bender working then out. The other big one is the technical side to having a bunch of electronic pads that are triggered by vibrations. They can often misfire, causing all sorts of chaos. I have to make lots of little adjustments to the settings to stop that from happening.”
The virtual drums course Barter created for Melodics is divided into six lessons. On a collective level, they are designed to teach you how samples can be incorporated into a Hybrid Drumming setup, before continuing to develop your hand independence as a drummer, and teaching you how to find creative solutions to shifting samples from their traditional positions. Helpfully, Barter has provided a few notes for us each of the lessons.
Drumline: I was looking at locking in with a complex backing track, so playing a simple beat with a few off notes over the top of a drumline style beat on the track. Getting your stuff locked in with everything else going on is vital to making the whole show sound tight and punchy. It’s easy to be in your own world during a show thinking you sound great, but when there is other percussion on backing tracks, you’ll sometimes need to adjust your feel to match what else is going on.
Rollers: This one is about helping your kick foot really lock in with your hi-hat rhythm. It’s about playing quicker straight 16ths on the hi-hat, with a slightly complex locked pattern underneath. We also practice switching back and forth with a slower section to help you make those transitions smoothly. Practising the switch between fast to slow parts is important as it’s easy to get carried away in the energy of a big part, but you need to be able to control that quickly so that energy doesn’t run over into a quieter chill part if need be.
Discuss: I was looking at playing a faster 16th note hi-hat in a disco type rhythm, then a section with an open/closed hi-hat pattern. I find that when I play live, it can be handy in bringing extra energy to a chorus, etc. Playing hh patterns which open and close in electronic music can have a human touch which is nice but sometimes you need them to be really tight and consistent. So working out how much to open the hats is vital, you often don’t need to open them a lot for a tight, controlled hi-hat pattern.
Left Over: Here, we’re playing extra rhythm parts with your left hand. I always have a bunch of samples to my left, which I’ll play as I’m holding down the main pattern with my right hand and the kick drum. This is basically just independence; being able to separate your limbs to do different parts is a key to hybrid drumming. Being able to cover more parts and take elements of the tracks will make you a valuable asset for artists.
Diving Bells: This is a slow, simple beat. You really have to listen to the rest of the track to properly sit back and get it feeling nice. There are also some basic offbeat elements, which need to fit in smoothly with the slower tempo. Everyone has got a different feel, it’s really the beauty of summers, but often you need to be able to match what’s on the record. Playing along to different genres of music helps this a lot. And really listening to where top drummers place their notes has helped me a lot, being able to play the simplest beat and make it feel really good to me is one of the most important but underrated attributes a drummer can have.
Poppin’: Poppin’ is a kick pattern I find myself using on about 30% of the songs I play. It can be tricky to get it sounding smooth. It can often sound quite robotic, so it needs a very slight swing. In the lesson, you learn to play it over two different hi-hat patterns, which will help you with independence and tightness. Try experimenting placing the off note beat before the snare just slightly before and after the beat. You can get a feel of what suits the song and can get a little bounce going which people will respond to. I think one of my main roles as a drummer is to get the crowd moving; it’s amazing how easy a well-executed simple beat can do this.
Alongside developing our Hybrid Drumming course, Barter has been working with Germany electronic drum company Gewa to develop a new drum kit and module called the G9. He’s also been recording an EP of kooky disco songs inspired by ORM and Patrick Cowley under the alias BB Normal.
If you’ve ever bobbed your head or wiggled your hips to the remix of Post Malone’s “Rockstar featuring Ozuna or Farruko’s “Krippy Krush (Remix)” featuring Nicki Minaj, 21 Savage and Travis Scott, then you, my dear friend, have been hit by Trapeton (aka Latin Trap aka Trap en Español) fever. This latest international pop music craze—blending elements of Reggaeton, hip-hop and even its kissing cousin, Afrobeat—is blowing up all over streaming, especially YouTube and Spotify.
At its core, Latin Trap, as it’s most widely known in English-speaking countries, is what happens when you fuse Reggaetón with Trap music. On one side of the equation you have Reggaetón, a blend of Caribbean dancehall, Latin rhythms and hip-hop, while on the other end you have Trap music, a form of hip-hop that originated in the American Southern states as a sound that combines brass, triangle, loud kicks, snappy snares, low-end 808 bass samples, and most notably—aggressive triplet hi-hats. With the two genres combined and paired with a bravado-fueled artist singing and/or rapping in Spanish over the sparse beat, you have an infectious melody.
The artist most closely linked with Latin Trap’s blazing success is Puerto-Rican born Bad Bunny, who has a rhythmic cadence and low, slow slurring vocals that put him in a class with the Migos and Future from Atlanta. Hailed as the King of Latin Trap, he’s steadily been one of Youtube’s Top 10 Most Viewed artists and has done major collabs with chart-topping pop acts like Cardi B, Drake, Will Smith, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. His artistry has a dual nature, where he’s boasting on one track and then goes all emo on the next, he’s also as comfortable flowing over a trap beat as he is traditional Reggaeton. Considering Latin Trap has its roots in Reggaeton, his ability to ride both rhythms makes perfect sense.
What is Reggaetón?
Latin Trap is often viewed as the resurgence of Reggaetón, though the two styles are somewhat distinct. Today’s Reggaeton sounds like DJ Snake’s banger “Taki Taki” featuring Cardi B, Ozuna and Selena Gomez, as well as Justin Bieber on “Despacito” with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, or J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente,” featuring Beyonce—a little bit pop and a little bit Moombahton, a mix of house music and reggaeton, and a little bit dembow. Dembow is a riddim built from dancehall artist Shabba Rank’s 1990 hit song, “Dem Bow,” produced by reggae and dancehall producer, Bobby Digital, who earned his name for being one of the first in his genre to experiment with digital rhythms. A riddim is Jamaican for the rhythm that accompanies a track and is stripped of its original vocals so that it can be used by other artists.
The dembow riddim, with its pulsating drum machine sounds, became the backbone of the Reggaeton sound. Reggaeton is said to have formulated in the early 90s in San Juan, Puerto Rico when DJ Playero put out mixtapes featuring Spanish freestyle raps over hip-hop and reggae fusions. At the time, Reggaeton was mainly underground because its themes were too aggressive or vulgar for radio play. There was also the musical collective, The Noise, consisting of a band of rappers, DJs and producers, including DJ Nelson, DJ Negro and Ivy Queen who were doing their part to bring Reggaeton out of the streets of San Juan and onto the mainstage.
But the most widely known Reggaeton artist, who is also known as the King of Reggaeton today is Daddy Yankee, who got his start on one of DJ Playero’s mixtapes that were recorded in a small studio back in 1991. Daddy Yankee would later go on to craft an explosive international Reggaeton hit in 2004 called “Gasolina,” featuring a catchy chorus and the dembow banging beat, that was said to definitively put the genre on the international music map.
In the 90s, there was another branch of Reggaeton emerging from Panama, led by El General, whose 1988 release of “Estas Buena,” a Spanish-language cover of Shabba Rank’s “Dem Bow,” sounded just like it came out of the Jamaican dancehall. El General found success with another track, “Tu Pun Pun,” that received American airplay, riding on the wave of the dancehall popularity of the time. He also experienced some cross-over love when he was featured on a pop music hit with C&C Music Factory. Some music critics call El General the father of Reggaeton, but others argue that his music was more Reggae en Español, because it was just Spanish-language Reggae, while Reggaetón has more of a kinship with hip-hop. This is one of the main reasons that Latin Trap is said to have its roots in Reggaetón music, especially since many Latin Trap artists ride the fence of both genres—hip-hop and reggae.
The early-to-mid aughts also gave birth to a Reggaeton movement within New York City, with rapper Noreaga’s release of “Oye Mi Canto,” in 2004 featuring reggaeton artists Gem Star, Daddy Yankee and Big Mato, as well as New-York based sister-twin duo Nina Sky. Nore and Nina Sky, with their Puerto Rican roots, fused the music of their native land with the hip-hop they grew up within NYC.
What is Trap?
Trap music originated in Atlanta in the early aughts. With this musical style, it’s like, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Some wonder whether the genre rose from its lyrical content or from its musical style—rapid-fire hi-hats and pared-down drum patterns programmed on the Roland 808, with pitchy resampled funk or hip-hop samples. Rapper T.I. claims to have coined the term when he released his seminal hip-hop album Trap Muzik, with trap being a reference for a place where drugs are sold and the content of the album centering around that lifestyle.
Other music critics suggest that trap music is really all about the sound, which can be credited to producer Lex Luger, who started out making beats on Fruity Loops featuring hard-hitting 808 kicks, spooky synthesizers and crisp snare drums creating a boombastic orchestral blast. His sound cemented its place in hip-hop with Atlanta-based rapper Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard in da Paint,” single off the album of the same name released in 2010. Around the same time, producer Shawty Redd was also in Atlanta creating dope-boy music with Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane, also signaling the birth of trap, as these productions featured a multilayered, drum-laden style while the rappers’ lyrical content focused on life in the drug game.
Today’s Trap music has elevated itself to pop music status, with artists like Migos, Future and 2 Chainz crossing over into the mainstream, yet continuing the tradition of trap music from both a content and musical perspective.
What is Latin Trap (Trapeton)?
The worlds in which Latin Trap and American Trap converge is most notably when artists collab, but it’s also in the way the Roland 808 drum patterns sound, along with how the vocals flow in triplets, where you have three notes—either in a word or phrase—cascading over one beat. The triplet flow is also known as the Migos flow, the Versace flow, and the infamous mumble rap. But where mumble rappers and Trapeton artists diverge is where songs are sung either in all Spanish or bilingual style and the rhythm contains Latin flavor and elements of the dembow riddim most closely tied back to Reggaeton.
Latin Trap came about as the convergence of Spanish-language remixes of trap club bangers and Reggaeton artists gravitating toward a more hip-hop influenced sound. Besides Bad Bunny, artists like Ozuna, Farruko, Messiah and De La Ghetto are leading Latin Trap’s assault on the mainstream.
In this track “La Ocasión,” featuring Latin Trap and Reggaeton all-stars De La Ghetto, Arcangel, Ozuna, Anuel Aa, Dj Luian, Mambo Kingz, you can hear the influence of Trap—the staccato triplet rhyme flow, the punchy vocal ad-libs, the lo-fi bass, the crazy skittering hihats and the snappy snares—in an ominous orchestration.
Usually, a wave of music lasts about a good decade. Latin Trap is now just a little bit over 10, but hip-hop has lived long past 30. If the current focus on Latin-inspired music on the global stage is any indication of the genre’s long-lasting success, then Latin Trap just may go on to live as long as its hip-hop brother.