Nov 17

What is a Sample Flip

by in Fundamentals, Music, Pro Tips

What is a sample flip?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

 

Final Arrangement

 

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

Dec 18

Drum N Bass Quads with Spinscott

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, Music, Pro Tips

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.  

 

Dec 18

“Lean On Me” The legendary drummer behind your favourite records

by in Drums, Interviews, Music, Pro Tips

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.

Dec 16

Ben Barter on Hybrid Drumming

by in Drums, Interviews, Music, Pro Tips

“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.

 

Aug 19

Patterns of Rhythm: Trapetón (Latin Trap)

by in Music

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.

Aug 07

The Breakdown: DJ Scratch’s 20 Best Samples and Beats

by in Music

To celebrate DJ Scratch’s 30-plus years in the rap game, Melodics Magazine culled through his massive discography and picked out 20 of his best samples and beats.

Throughout the 1990s, hip-hop developed a plethora of pioneering DJs who eventually stepped behind the turntables and became legendary producers. DJs like Pete Rock, Premier, Marley Marl, Jazzy Jeff, Kid Capri and the late Jam Master Jay are just some of the distinguished names who went from world-class DJs to influential producers without sacrificing one art form for another. In fact, both art forms are closely connected. In many creative situations, elements of DJing can be used for music production, too.

Nobody personifies this better than DJ Scratch, born George Spivey, a legendary DJ and a whiz kid on the turntables. The three-time Grammy nominees acrobatic skills on the 1’s and 2’s led him to win several DJ championship titles. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native is the 2010 Master of the Mix winner and was a three-time “Turntablist of the Year” honoree at the Global Spin Awards. And he’s a New Music Seminar Battle for World Supremacy DJ champion.

Scratch, who was a protege of the late Jam Master Jay, would eventually lend his turntable skills to EPMD and become their official DJ. After his stint with the iconic rap duo, Scratch would become one of the central figures of the 1990s East Coast hip-hop production era. He crafted stellar beats for Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, PMD, Das Efx, among many others.

Scratch is a master at sampling and taking unconventional sounds or vocals from rare vinyl LPs and turning them into musical gold.

“I always approach producing like how I approached DJing. I didn’t want to do what was popular…I always wanted to create something [different on the turntables],” he said in 2017. “If you really take a look at my discography, I didn’t sample stuff that everybody was sampling. In the ’80s, early ’90s, everybody sampled James Brown — everybody. And I was like, ‘we need to do something different.'”

Check out DJ Scratch’s 20 Best Samples and Beats below.

20. PMD – “I Saw It Cummin’

Original Sample: Ohio Players – “Funky Worm
Using one of West Coast hip-hop’s foundational samples, “Funky Worm” by the Ohio Players, DJ Scratch adds the twinkling Moog synthesizer to the slow-pounding beat. Along with the vocal samples from Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice” and Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline,” the song has a G-Funk feel but is still dripping with East Coast flavor.

19. DMX – “The Rain” (2003)
Original Sample: Greg Perry – “Will She Meet The Train In The Rain

Scratch went into his collection of 45s and pulled out this 1975 gem from soul singer Greg Perry. He used the entire song to craft DMX’s solemn song from his 2003 album, Grand Champ. From the flute and piano riffs to Perry’s monologue, to the funky bop, Scratch flipped something old to new again with his unique sampling skills.

18. Wu-Tang Clan – “Watch Yo Mouth
Original Sample: Lalo Schifrin – “More Plot” (1967)

Scratch grabbed the crackling snare from Iron Butterfly’s 1968 song “Get Out of My Life, Woman” but the haunting violin groove on the song is from Lalo Schifrin’s 1967 Mission Impossible score, which brilliantly sets the mood for Wu-Tang Clan’s menacing rhymes.

17. Das Efx – “Bad News” Featuring PMD
Original Sample: Power of Zeus – “The Sorcerer of Isis (The Ritual of the Mole)

Scratch used the monstrous drum and snare pattern featured at the beginning of Power of Zeus’ 1970 song “The Sorcerer of Isis (The Ritual of the Mole).” It’s a classic breakbeat that’s been used by many legendary DJs, including Pete Rock.

16. Busta Rhymes – “We Could Take It Outside
Original Sample: Henry Mancini – “The Windmills of Your Mind
DJ Scratch and Busta Rhymes have created a plethora of classic bangers together. This is one of many featured on this list. In addition to cutting up Run-DMC’s vocals from “Beats to the Rhymes,” Scratch looped Mancini’s tranquil piano to set the mood.

15. Beanie Sigel – “Purple Rain” (Feat. Bun B)

Original Sample: The Dramatics – “In the Rain
The piano riff and guitar lick from the Dramatics classic soul ballad are placed perfectly on Beanie Sigel’s solemn ode about lean addiction.

14. Talib Kweli – “Shock Body
Original Sample: Gaspare “Gap” Mangione – “Boys With Toys

DJ Scratch is very precise when it comes to sampling. In this instance, he sampled the dramatic horns from “Boys With Toys,” which effectively gives the song a sense of urgency for the listener to pay attention to Kweli’s impactful lyrics.

13. Will Smith – “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” (DJ Scratch Remix)
Original Sample: Stephanie Mills – “Put Your Body in It
While Scratch is mostly known as a producer, he’s also a great remixer as well. Will Smith’s 1997 song was already a club hit, but Scratch flipped it and turned it into an ‘80s skating rink jam. By slowing down the funky instrumental on Mills’ 1979 song, he turned Will’s track into an ‘80s version of “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll.”

12. Q-Tip – “N.T.” (Featuring Busta Rhymes)
Original Sample: Brethren – “Outside Love by Brethren

Once again, Scratch used a familiar breakbeat and flipped it on its ear. There’s also a piano sample on here that we cannot place, but it fits perfectly on this head-nodding track.

11. Flipmode Squad – “Everybody on the Line Outside
Original Sample: Tangerine Dream – “Impressions of the Sorcerer

When it comes to sampling, Scratch is not afraid to use music from rare recordings. For this Flipmode banger, he used the synths stabs from Tangerine Dream’s 1977 song. It’s a small sample but effective.

10. 50 Cent – “I’m a Hustler
Original Sample: Barry White – “Mellow Mood (Pt. 1)
Once again, when Scratch uses a sample it’s for a purpose. Much like the title of Barry White’s song, the orchestral sample sets the mood for Fif’s urgent lyrics of getting rich or die trying.

9. LL Cool J – “Ill Bomb”
Original Sample: David Porter – “I’m Afraid the Masquerade Is Over
David Porter’s tickling piano groove was most famously sampled on The Notorious B.I.G.’s classic 1994 song “Who Shot Ya.” But Scratch went a different route with Porter’s soulful tune. The ingenious producer took a snippet of the horn riff (heard midway in the song) and Porter’s vocals to create a definitive East Coast banger for Uncle L.

8. Busta Rhymes – “Do the Bus a Bus
Original Sample: Jimmy Spicer – “The Bubble Bunch

Scratch sampled some classic ‘80s songs for Busta Rhymes’ head-nodding track. He took the computer blips and funky groove from Spicer’s 1982 jam to lay the foundation. And if you listen closely, there are interpolations of Malcolm McLaren’s 1982 songs “Buffalo Gals” and “Zulu’s on a Time Bomb” in there as well. This is a complete ‘80s to ‘90s party jam.

7. Pharoahe Monch – “Intro
Original Sample: Oliver Nelson – “Blues and the Abstract Truth

Scratch flipped Oliver Nelson’s jazzy trumpet blasts for Monch’s fiery manifesto on “Intro” from his 1999 album, Internal Affairs.

6. EPMD – “Funky Piano
Original Sample: Albert King – “I’ll Play the Blues for You

During his stint with EPMD, DJ Scratch produced some great songs for the iconic rap duo. This is one of them. There are a plethora of samples on here. He sampled King’s guitar riffs, James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and Chuck D vocals from “Timebomb,” among others. Scratch also cut up Trouble Funk’s “Pump Me Up” as well.

5. Sadat X – “Maybe It’s Me” (Featuring Dres)
Original Sample: Unknown

There’s no sample on here, but the beat is fantastic. Scratch most likely used an AKAI MPC2000XL to sequence a piano groove that sounds as if he sampled an old piano riff from a vintage jazz album. It’s quite impressive.

4. Swizz Beatz – “Echo” (Featuring Nas)
Original Sample: The New Birth – “Echoes on My Mind

Scratch sampled the tranquil guitars and soulful hahs and woos from the New Birth song, while Swizzy and Nas Escobar deliver their introspective New York street stories.

3. Busta Rhymes – “Gimme Me Some More”
Original Sample: Bernard Herrmann – “Psycho Theme”

Here’s another classic from Scratch and Bussa-Buss. The creative producer looped a snippet of Herrmann’s orchestral violins, which pierces through the chaotic production. And like the title of Herrmann’s song, Busta goes lyrically psycho on the track.

 

2. EPMD – “I’m Mad” (DJ Scratch Jazz Remix)
Original Sample: Soho – “Hot Music (Jazz Mix)

This is, arguably, one of DJ Scratch’s greatest beats in his discography. The catchy piano riff heard throughout is from Soho’s classic b-boy jam “Hot Music (Jazz Mix),” which is a sample from Wynton Marsalis’ 1986 song “Skain’s Domain.”

1. Busta Rhymes – “New York Shit”
Original Sample: The S.S.O. Orchestra – “Faded Lady

S.S.O. Orchestra’s 1976 soul tune “Faded Lady” has been sampled multiple times in hip-hop – most notably by Diamond D on his 1992 song “I Went for Mine – and Scratch looped the breakbeat brilliantly for Bussa-Buss’ New York anthem “New York Shit.”

Oct 05

What is Minimal Music?

by in Fundamentals, Music

by Benjamin Keith

Throughout the past century of music, there has been a huge amount of change. Movements have come and gone, while technology has given people access to the immense diversity of music. When you step back and look at some of the biggest changes, minimalism stands out as one of the most impactful. Minimalism in western music, which sprouted in the mid-20th century, can be found today everywhere from electronic dance music to the orchestra.

Within Melodics, you might have come across the term ‘minimal’ or ‘minimalism’. Maybe you’ve heard these terms used when describing a dance track or a piece of art. Maybe this is totally new to you. Either way, it can be tricky pinpointing what people actually mean by this. Does a piece of music need to include minimal content, structure, or have a short duration, in order to be considered minimalist? Does minimalism make the music simple?

Let’s first acknowledge that minimalist music can have many different definitions. Among them is that minimalist music uses limited musical materials. I once had an acclaimed professor of music history at my college describe minimalism as music where ‘all the voices are immediately apparent.’  While most definitions like these aren’t necessarily wrong, they don’t get the full picture either. Music from oft labeled ‘minimalist’ composers, like John Adams or Steve Reich, is richly orchestrated, deep, and full of motion and change. On the other hand, when you’re spinning tracks by Plastikman you’ll hear just a synth and kick repeat the same couple notes for several minutes at a time. So if minimalism can range from the club to the orchestra, and from 50 instrumentalists to 2 – 3 synths, what else can we use to describe minimalism other than ‘limited musical material’?

One of the most important elements frequently left out when talking about minimalist music is the concept of process. Often times, it doesn’t matter how many voices are active. What’s more interesting is how they’re changing. In minimalism the excitement comes from the discovery of process. One voice can split into two or three. A synth’s tone can slowly evolve over the course of 10 minutes to a steady beat. Minimalism is best enjoyed when you discover the pattern, or the ‘rule’ behind how changes in the music are made.

Still feeling a little fuzzy on minimalism? Dive into our keys course on Minimal MusicYou’ll have the opportunity to experience some of these ideas first hand.

For your listening pleasure, here’s some amazing examples of minimalist ideas in music:

Piano Phase – Steve Reich

In this piece two pianos play the exact same melody, but one is played slightly faster than the other resulting in some really interesting patterns.

In C – Terry Riley

Another staple of early minimalism, a group of pianists play to a pulse, each repeating a set of predetermined patterns, but moving through them at different times. Want more?

Laurie Spiegel – Drums

Using pulses from a synthesizer, a series of rhythms fade in and out producing new grooves and syncopated patterns all while maintaining the same tempo.

Take a look at our new course focusing on Minimal Music!

Dec 02

An Interview With Asadi

by in Interviews, Music, Pro Tips

To start off, describe yourself in three words?

Persian Trap Music

You are well known for the amazing finger drumming videos you do on Maschine. When did you first purchase Maschine. What inspired you to make this purchase?

I first purchased Maschine when I was 16. I knew about it for a while before I got it, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it when I saw it in person.

Did finger drumming come naturally to you? What is your musical background?

It didn’t come naturally. I mean I had a sense of rhythm because I’ve messed around on the drums and percussion here and there, but hard work and dedication were the two things that got me to where I am today.

The lesson you have made is called “PTM Level 1”. Tell us about the Persian Trap sound and how it is connected to your roots. Where do you see this genre going in the future?

The Persian Trap sound is how I bring culture to Trap. I think culture, Persian or not, is such a vital thing to have in music. There is such a strong culture behind Persian music that puts non Persians in a new world when experiencing it. And I put my heart and soul into bringing this same cultural feeling to modern trap music.

Can you explain what Melodics users can look forward learning to in your new lesson?

I hope those who strive to be where I am today get inspired to work their butt off in melodics. If I had such a tool to start from, I’d be on it 24/7. Melodics is literally guitar hero for beat pads, but you’re learning and getting more skilled the entire time.

What made you want to get involved with Melodics?

The simplicity of the interface, the quality of the website, and the passionate people that make up the company is what made me want to get involved.

In mid 2016 some of your work went viral. Including a video of you mashing up the Spongebob Squarepants theme with Kanye West’s ‘I Love Kanye’, and making a trap remix out of the Rugrats theme song. Where did you get the inspiration for these ideas? How has it affected your career since?

It’s crazy how viral these videos went. I just love making music, even if it’s some dumb mashup. People know I’m doing these things for fun. It has definitely been a journey since Spongebob Kanye. I’m just glad people were actually taking the time to check out my real music.

Name your three biggest artistic influences?

Mura Masa, Travis Scott, Shahram Nazeri

What advice would you give to someone who has just started producing music?

Just. Keep. Producing.

What does 2017 have install for ASADI?

2017 is going to be crazy. I have many songs to release along with festival shows all around the map. 2017 is by far going to be the best year yet.

Sep 09

An Interview With 69 Beats – How He Went From A Melodics Student To A National Champion

by in Melodics, Music, New Lesson Tuesdays

Polish DJ 69Beats won this years Red Bull Thre3style Poland Championship with an incredible set that involved classic turntablism, live remixing, tone play and finger drumming. While only young he has been in the game for a long time rocking shows and Festivals in Poland since 2008. Late last year 69Beats became a Melodics user and immediately captured our attention with a series of videos he put out on social media. We wanted to speak with him about his DJ journey so far and how Melodics has helped him improve his craft a long the way.

When did you start Djing? What/who inspired you to begin?

I started learning in 2006. Although the music was always in my life – my mom and older brother play the piano, dad plays the guitar and I finished musical school playing piano as well – the DJing came into my life with a total impulse. Even though I loved to party I never thought about DJing. But one day I went to a party at my friends house and her brother was a DJ. When she showed me his room with all the DJ gear standing there I was like… dang… that’s something I want to learn. Like the love at first sight. It didn’t even cross my mind that I could do this for a living someday, I just wanted to learn this.

How did you discover Melodics and what made you download the app?
I was into the fingerdrumming for quite some time before discovering Melodics, but didn’t have the gear to learn it properly. I just had some samples loaded into my DVS and was trying to come up with my own patterns that worked for me at the parties. And when Melodics came out I happened upon the video of Eskei83 where he played one of the basic lessons. And again I was like – I need to have this! I’m totally into the video games and apps that make a real challenge, and this challenge is measurable. Melodics has it all – the fun, the challenge, and on top of all – you learn a real thing, not only score points for hitting the right buttons on your gaming controller.

Back in 2015 you sent through to us a video of you playing Funk Bass on Melodics. How long did it take you to learn to play that lesson?
I enjoyed this lesson so much that when I started it I just couldn’t stop, but it was also very exhausting for my head. Spinscott has very cool patterns, they might seem really hard to learn for the first time, but they are also very smart, so when you learn it for the first time f.e. with Funk Bass, the other Spinscotts lessons aren’t that hard to play. So Funk Bass was the first one of his lessons for me and it took me like 2 or 3 days to get to 3 stars

What is the best thing about learning with Melodics so far?
>The best thing for me is that skills aquired with it can be easly used in real DJing environment – in the club, during a performance etc. – Melodics helps a lot with exploring your own creativity and building self confidence on the pads.

You entered and won the Red Bull Thre3style Poland this year. Was this your first time entering this competition? How did Melodics help with your preparations

Actually that was my second attempt at RB3S. First time was in 2015 and it didn’t really play out as I planned. When Melodics came out it was a total game changer for me. I left all other training for a few weeks just to play it. I wanted my Thre3style set to be as versatile as possible and there were no better way to gain necessary skill on the pads than Melodics.

Talk us through your winning set. There is so much going in terms of creativity. How long did it take you to put it all together and what was your creative process?

So as I said I entered Thre3style in 2015, but everything was happening really fast then and there was not much time for preparations. I didn’t make it to the Polish final, but took a lesson and decided to start preparations for 2016 since the moment I dropped out. I began to write down every single idea for routines that I came up with. Whether it was using a short single sample or creating some long transitions – I was writing down everything. Then I was testing all those ideas at home and finally if they felt good – I tried them in the clubs. So when RB3S 2016 was announced I just opened up my notebook, chose the best routines and started wondering what will be the best way to build a set with them. I didn’t have a problem with building a 15 minute set. My problem was fitting all my ideas into the 15 minutes so it won’t go any longer

You have The Red Bull Thre3style World Finals coming up in Chile later this year. How are you feeling before this event and what can we expect to see more of from you performance wise?

I feel very motivated and just can’t wait too perform before the Thre3style community again. To be true I don’t even know what can I expect from myself. I’m the type of guy that changes everything till the very last moment, so it can be everything. For now I’m focusing on my basic technique, so I hope that my sets on the finals will be more “clear”. What else will happen? I guess we’ll have to wait till December

Any words you want to give to all the Melodics users out there?
Sure! Always have fun with Melodics, don’t give up, don’t underestimate yourself and don’t underestimate Melodics itself. It’s a powerfull tool that can make a huge difference in your performances. Don’t be afraid to use the skill gained with Melodics at your gigs it really works. And remember that everybody loves skillful fingers.

Jul 22

Five Modern Funk Artists To Listen To

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, Music, Pro Tips

This week Melodics released some brand new Modern Funk lessons. To commemorate this we have decided provide our list of five modern funk artists to listen to this week. Let us know if we missed anyone and who you have been

Sven Atterton

This United Kingdom multi-instrumentalist released his first full length project “The Cove” back in 2015. It sold out quickly and led to much critical acclaim. Expect beautiful synths, slapping bass in his soothing instrumentals.

Psychic Mirrors

The six-piece Miami band got together in 2010, releasing a couple of records on their own Cosmic Chronic label. Since then they have gone on to release a few more big projects most notably their Nature of Evil album. Check out one of their most notable cuts “Charlene” that will give your body moving.

Tuxedo

Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One make up Tuxedo. Started way back in 2006 when the two exchanged mixtapes with each other, the duo have gone on to release a full EP back in 2015 via Stones Throw. The production and Hawthornes vocals compliment each other perfectly.

Dam Funk

Another Stone Throw don Dam Funk has been in the game since 1988. Producing his unique style of funk for the likes of Mack 10 MC Eiht in the 1990’s. However after seeing other artists get gold plaques all around him he decided to go ‘full funk’. In 2006 he launched Funkmosphere Records and a couple years later he dropped his first LP with Stones Throw. Things have been good since with Dam collaborating and performing with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Flying Lotus.

Brian Ellis

Brian Ellis is a multi-instrumentalist Brian Ellis hails from Escondido, Californian. His Reflection EP was held in high esteem and dubbed one of the most modern funk projects of the year. The EP includes a cameo from West Coast electro pioneer and super freak, the Egyptian Lover, and showcases Brian’s one-of-a-kind musical witchcraft.

Like what you have heard? Try learning the elements of modern funk today with our brand new lessons.