‘Ain’t it funky?’ James Brown reckons, over the top of Clyde Stubblefield’s improvised pattern on the 1970 track ‘Funky Drummer’. And he’s right, it’s funky. So funky that this uncredited solo by Stubblefield went on to become a ubiquitous drum pattern in recorded music and what’s arguably hip-hop’s most definitive drum sample. A quick search of ‘Funky Drummer’ on whosampled.com returns a humble 1,441 results.
Stubblefield is untrained and self-taught. His early influences were the rhythms of industry in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where his dad worked in a steel mill. He put patterns to the sounds of his environment; train tracks, factories, washing machines. In his 1999 instructional DVD ‘Soul of the Funky Drummers’ Clyde acknowledges he can’t read music. If he felt it, he played it, and this ethos cemented his work with James Brown as the gold standard of funk drumming.
In this course ‘Ain’t It Funky’ we have taken aspects of Clyde’s style, those beats that feel ad-libbed and environmental – ghost notes, off-beat open hats, sly swung 16th notes – and created seven lessons that will leave you with a foundation for funk drumming. Each lesson we’ll encourage you to adapt to your own environment by introducing a small variation that significantly shifts the feel of the groove. To complete the course, you’ll bring those variations together and play them out in a complete song. If you can already hold down a basic rock beat then this course is for you. Once you’re confident with funk drums, you can pretty much add the hip-hop beat to your résumé, too.
Here’s how you’ll progress through the course:
The first lesson in the course, The Main Groove, lays out the bare bones of the song. You’re introduced to the snare, hat & kick patterns that will help anchor you during your practice.
In Hats Off you’ll get accustomed to shifting the open-hat.
Move Your Feet introduces a kick variation that tightens up the beat.
Do You Believe In Ghost Notes? You will after this 4th lesson. Add an off-beat snare to the pattern that will complement the kick.
Song Structurecombines the above variations into a structured order that will make up the bars of the final song you’ve been learning throughout the course.
OK, Give The Drummer Some. Play the entire song for the final lesson.
Congrats, you’re on your way to becoming a funky drummer 🥁
Ain’t It Funky
Expand on a basic Funk beat with a series of variations in the style of Clyde Stubblefield. The variations will focus on kick, snare, open hi-hat placements and tom fills. Structure what you’ve learned into a song format to complete the course. Open course in Melodics
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.
Vancouver electronic music duo Live Evil are back with their second Melodics lesson “Tell Me”. We are able to ask Matt Perry a few questions about the lesson and how Live Evil got started.
Where did the name ‘Live Evil’ originate? Is there a story behind it?
I was always fascinated with the Miles Davis album of this name and the trippy artwork on the cover, i’d even sampled it for a beat back in the day. The way its a reflection of the word LIVE fit what we were doing performance wise and as “The Freshest Live sets”. It was also a way to identify the projects sound and concept so as not to confuse it with the Freshest remixes and mix tapes we had been doing. I feel it gave us more direction too.
You guys started a series of Youtube videos called ‘The Freshest Live Set’ with your friends Seco and Rico Uno what was the inspiration behind starting these videos?
We all used to perform at shows. Sometimes 2 at a time. We had a gig at the 2011 Vancouver Red Bull Thre3style world finals opening for Peanut butter Wolf and wanted to put something together to really showcase what we could do. From there I came up with the idea to incorporate musical instruments in there too, it wasn’t happening much at the time and seemed like a waste to not utilize these synths I had, so from there it grew in to what we have done for the last 6? of them.
How did you guys first meet? How long was it until you collaborated?
We met in 2004. I was making rap beats and Marvel was DJing for a rap group I produced for.
When describing the Live Evil experience you guys said “We want to bring that feeling you get when you see a band perform, but in a DJ context. Lots of energy, a real performance with a sinister vibe.” Are able to elaborate on how you prepare for each set and how your performances have evolved?
We spend a lot of time breaking down songs we like into parts that we can remix, then start arranging them in a live performance rehearsal. These days, we are focusing more on breaking down our original productions and making our own songs. Remixing is super fun, but it has limitations, copyright wise 😉
Explain how you got involved with Melodics and what you guys like most about the software?
I met Melodics head honcho Sam Gribben through my Job, and he’s easily one of the best humans I know, he’s a visionary and I believe in what he’s doing with Melodics. What I like most is Melodics makes interacting with music fun and challenging for everyone from beginners to pro’s. Its inspiring to see how the lessons are broken down. Rap and Dance music is our generations Rock n Roll (to quote Kanye) and i think Melodics is a modern way to approach learning music and developing your rhythm.
How have you seen finger drumming develop as a whole over the past few years? Where do you see it going?
I have! It’s being adopted by most leading dj’s and its exciting. Its so much more than pushing buttons. If you are musical, its really remixing and performing music the way you want to hear it. There is so much more interaction, i’m totally inspired by all the new people picking it up, from dj’s to beat makers. So cool to see the combination of melody and rhythm and harmony all combined with Djing, because we have kinda seen Scratching go about as far as it could go. Its the future for sure!
You have both been on record discussing the growing Electronic Music scene in Vancouver. Dropping names like Pomo, Ekali, Pat Lok & U-Tern. If you could give someone three tracks to get an idea of the emerging sound of Vancouver what would they be?
These guys are all from the Chapel collective, which would be in my opinion the crew i’m checking for the most. But there is lots of great dance music coming out of Vancouver too with labels like “Mood Hut” and “1080p” The latter actually started by a Caniwi like myself
What does the rest of 2016 have install for Live Evil?
Planning a new performance video and an Ep for 2016. Definitely focussed on putting out more music!
What is the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring producers and DJ’s?
Find your sound, stick with it and go hard. Stay focussed and work hard, this game ain’t for the faint hearted
When asked in the past about what advice you would give to upcoming producers you said “Create something new every day, and release new material frequently to build a momentum and a following.” Are you able to give a bit more depth into these steps or add anything you’ve learned since?
One thing I would add to that is: be yourself and create authentically. Make the music that moves your soul, and avoid trying to force your art to fit a mold. Avoid people, situations and career paths that influence you to conform so much you lose your authentic voice.
How does the BOSS SP-202 Sampler, a Tape Deck and a HR16 Drum Machine fit in your production story? How have you grown equipment and sound wise since then?
Haha — the humble beginnings.
At the time, my workflow was to sequence drums on the HR-16, loop it, then trigger samples in realtime on the SP-202. I was 13, just starting out, and didn’t really understand MIDI at the time, so there was no quantization and everything had a really raw feel. There was no looping on my 4 track tape deck, so I had to make the whole beat in one take, part by part.
Once I started getting into the power of desktop computers for production, everything really changed. I started using Cool Edit Pro with a program called Tuareg (by Hammerhead). I would sequence the drums in Tuareg, load the drum stems into Cool Edit Pro, then copy and paste samples in time with the drums. People thought I was crazy for making beats this odd, complicated way, but I made some bangers and was able to capture the sound I wanted. After years of making beats this way, I got into Reason for a bit, then the MPC 4000 which was a game changer at the time. My main setup for a while was the MPC 4000 with some hardware sound modules.
Now my setup is really simple: Ableton Live 9, Push 2, NI Komplete Kontrol… and my newest addition – the Dave Smith Tetra. This setup allows me to work in the studio, and have a portable setup I can take anywhere with a backpack. As I expand as an artist, I continuously discover new ways to create in Ableton.
You performed an amazing video of your single “Feeling” for Ableton back in 2015. Explain the process of performing that video and how your relationship with Ableton began?
Push’s 64 pad mode was in beta at the time so coming from the 16, I had to learn a new skill before shooting. I wasn’t used to finger drumming with two hands. There was no quantization in my performance and the video was shot in one take, so I was forced to nail it all the way through with no mistakes. It was a lot of pressure, but I definitely grew from it.
Back in 2013 I did a YouTube video collaborating with Ski Beatz, while showing him Push. Ableton picked up the video on their site, and our relationship has continued to grow.
You’re first ever Melodics lesson teaches “Feeling” and how to perform it like you did in the Ableton video. What can Melodics users expect from this lesson? How will it help their skills?
If you want to learn or get better at finger drumming and performing live, practice is the key. I partnered with Melodics to put this lesson together because I feel its a great tool for artists to step up their performance skills and have a great time. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you get.
You took three years out of music between 2009-2011 to find yourself through spirituality and meditation. Out of this came the project ‘Omnilove’ which you have said “embodies the essence of what you are trying to communicate” Explain this process of taking a hiatus from music and how it has served you both personally and musically since your return in 2011?
That time was a strong wake up call. I dropped everything in my life to experience who I was on a deeper level. I was looking for my purpose. I hardly made any music during that time. This hiatus from music turned out to be revelatory. Because of it, I am definitely more focused. Coming through that helped me to create and hold a bigger vision for my life and art.
You mentioned in a previous interview it was the likes of Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre that made you begin your production journey in the 9th grade. What is it like years later producing a track that your influence Snoop Dogg was featured on called “The Weekend”? I can only imagine it must be quite surreal things coming together full circle like that.
Snoop is a legend – I’m honored to work with him. Doggystyle was the first tape I ever purchased, and one of my favorite albums of all time. It feels great to work with the people I’ve looked up to — then and now.
You have a drum pack online called ‘Drums That Knock’. This came about after being repeatedly asked how you get your drums to knock by your fans over the years. Outside of getting this pack are there any other production techniques you would suggest to get those drums cutting through the mix?
Some techniques that work well are a mixture of compression, saturation, pitching and crafting the transients. I use a lot of soft limiting (but never letting the signal clip). My advice to sound designers is to take some time and mess around with plugins. Use your ears. Try boosting, cutting, distorting, shaping, layering. Try things that seem unorthodox – create a sound that is unique and never been done before.
How did you get involved with Melodics? In what ways do you think Melodics will help the next batch of producers and beatmakers?
When I started performing, I specifically remember wishing for an app that would help me practice finger drumming, but I couldn’t find anything like it. Recently abuddy of mine introduced me to Melodics and I checked it out and thought it was dope. I really appreciate what Melodics is putting out there. This is a great tool allowing producers and performers to get good fast with structured lessons.
You are a massive Ableton and Ableton Push advocate, with this combination giving you a live performance element now. Are you able to talk about how this has helped your performance skills and how the art of finger drumming ties into this?
Before Push came out in 2013 I thought of myself more as a producer than a performer. After rocking Push for just a few months, I shifted towards crafting live performances because I realized its always been natural to me to perform. Freed from the computer screen, Push becomes an instrument and it’s a matter of mastering that instrument.
What does the rest of 2016 have install for Decap?
I’ll continue to release new music every month. I have a couple secret projects in the works. I might drop another drum kit ondrumsthatknock.com … we’ll see ;).
If you were stranded on an island for a year and could only bring three records with you what would they be?
Apologies for the radio silence on the blog! The last half of May & the beginning of June have been bananas for us here at Melodics HQ, and we have a whooooole lot to share with you. Let’s get it.
Up first: New Lessons
Tha Trickaz – Bless That
Already huge in the French Bass Music community and on YouTube, Cat-masked producers Tha Trickaz were kind enough to bless us with a suite of lessons covering their absolute monster tune “Bless that”. Starting easy, and building up to a total playthrough of the track, including frantic Hi Hats and sneaky triplet fills, this lesson is super fun and very challenging to play.
Check the boys themselves perfecting the advanced version of the lesson 😀
Buddy Peace – Desert Burner
The master makes his return with his second Melodics lesson “Desert Burner”. A rolling, up-tempo break with plenty of hat-clamps, this one requires fast (and accurate) fingers, and has been one of the most popular lessons since release.
Beat Drop – Stank Jam
A massive lesson from our friends at Beat Drop, based on their hit sample pack. The advanced version of this lesson will have you all over the controller, running the bass, drums, and multiple leads.
New features & optimisations
A bunch has gone in the last couple of weeks, including updated pad lighting for devices, end-of-lesson recommendations have been tweaked to better target where in the grades you’re playing, levelling & progress has been changed slightly to give you a better idea of how you’re progressing, and playing in Practice Mode now counts towards your daily practice goal time!
And the big announcement is…
Coming tomorrow There will be a post here on the blog, and across all of our social channels. Stay tuned!
And of course, the post title is a reference to indisputably one of the greatest album covers ever produced:
At only 20 years of age Butch Serianni also known as OddKidOut is the youngest person ever to release a lesson on Melodics. A drummer since age six and beat maker since his early teens the Philadelphia based producer has gone from strength to strength.
Showcasing his beat making talents on Instagram over a year ago has seen OddKidOut earn 65,000 followers and a feature on the websites main channel. This week OddKidOut was kind enough to discuss with us his influences, beat making process and of course his fresh new lessons ‘Amore’ now available on Melodics.
The city of Philadelphia where you are from has been a big influence on your sound and upbringing. You have previously said how the ‘In the pocket Philly soul groove is what makes you feel truly at home’. Are you able to provide some song examples for people unfamiliar with the sound?
Of course, literally any Root’s album is exactly what I’m referring to. QuestLove is one of the people who opened me up to the natural swing. If you listen to the way he drums, specifically on one of the Root’s less popular side projects called “Dilla Joints”, you can hear how he sways the beat behind the metronome but still holds time based on feel. Speaking of Dilla, most of his beats emulate the same formula. Usually the hi-hat and snare will be pushed slightly back or forward, and the kick will be almost exactly on time. It creates a natural feel, instead of a quantized, robotic groove.
Your name ‘OddKidOut’ has been integral in building your fanbase. You have said you wanted it to build a community for people who feel different from the crowd and eradicate them from being stereotyped as ‘weird’. What made you want to take this approach and how does it relate to your own personal story?
Well growing up, I was always very sociable and had a lot of friends, but I always felt like I wanted to do something different. I played every sport and lived like a normal kid, but it wasn’t where my heart belonged. And this feeling is still inside me as a 20 year old in college. I don’t really care about going out to parties, or getting drunk on the weekends. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, but for me I just felt like I would much rather spend my time being creative and innovative. I still have a very large group of friends, an amazing girlfriend, and I definitely go out from time to time. But I felt like the odd one out because no one else wanted to hop in the studio and be creative on a Friday night. And what always irked me was that the social construct trains us to look at the small amount of individuals who actually do worthwhile things as outcasts, or “not as cool” because they don’t conform to what the norm is considered. I want to eradicate that because it’s bullshit.
You are the co-creator of #FACTInstaBeats hashtag which has an Instagram phenomenon for beat makers to get exposure. How did the idea come about and how did you get it off the ground with FACT Magazine?
So after about 2 months of posting my videos, I received a DM from Fact Magazine from a guy named Max Schiano. He essentially told me he had an idea to create a hashtag for Instagram beat makers where we could all share and feature each other. Together we came up with the #FACTInstaBeats hashtag and we both began working to promote the tag. Fast forward almost a year and now it has over 10,000 uses. The greatest part about the hashtag is featuring other artists. I will go through the hashtag, pick my favorite video of that week, and write a little bio and send it over to Fact. When they post it, the videos usually get over 20,000 views and to see how happy it makes the person who I’ve posted brings me so much joy. I love helping out other people who deserve the recognition.
You stated in an Instagram interview that you used the format you learnt for drums and transferred it to the pad controller. Was this an easy transition? How long did it take to adjust and to begin churning out the beats you wanted?
It was actually a really easy transition. I was always the kid who obsessively tapped on his desk during class and was constantly smacking items around to make different sounds. Even when I would walk, I would be snapping my fingers to the beat of my footsteps. Everything for me is rhythmic. So as soon as I got my Maschine, it was pretty much a go. What has been a struggle for me, though, is learning how to split my fingers up. I often play with my fingers together to emulate drum sticks, but I’m now training myself to split my fingers to utilize more pads at once.
Talk about the importance of the track ‘All Good’ by J Dilla and how it has influenced your musical development? Is this your favorite Dilla joint of all time? Man, this beat honestly means the world to me. It’s impossible for me to say it’s my favorite Dilla beat of all time, but it’s certainly in the top 5. It was so impactful because at the time when I first heard it, I had never listened to music like that before. I distinctively remember hearing it…my mom and I were driving to a gig I had in Delaware (I was still too young to drive) and I had randomly purchased the “Yancey Boys – Instrumental” album before the drive. I plugged my iPod in to the aux chord and played through the album, amazed the entire time, but really was blown away by “All Good”. Even my mom was like, “Woah, what is this, it’s beautiful”. The way Dilla samples the horns and then fits the beat behind it, ah it’s so simple yet so powerful. That’s what inspires me the most about Dilla; using so little to make so much. And when your mom is vibing to a hip-hop beat, you know it must be really special.
You have described live instrumentation as being ‘A natural feeling and connection between the mind, the soul, an instrument. Some of that gets lost behind the quantization of computers’ Are you able to explain this quote in more depth? How has live instrumentation/finger drumming helped with your music production skills and beat making?
Being a drummer, I was born in to the world of live music before I knew anything about electronic music. So my understanding of music is rooted in natural grooves. I feel like now a days, a lot of music that is popular sounds like it was gestated from a computer and has no real soul, no feeling of a few people in a room making sounds that are not exactly on beat, but in beat on their own. Again, everything has it’s own place and can flourish, but I just like to produce music that is one take, so as to capture that raw groove.
Tell us about your track Amore and what Melodics users can expect to learn by going through your lessons?
Amore is a love song that was inspired by my girlfriend, Addie Jonas. So users can expect to be learning a song that has a lot of emotion and a lot of passion infused into it. Speaking from a technical side, the users will explore how strings can be utilized in hiphop beats, and can also analyze how I orchestrate my drum patterns. From the kick drum, to the snare and hi-hat, each section will be split up and broken down so that the users can see where things such as open hi-hat’s should occur, or how the snare should be placed in reference with the metronome.
What was it about Melodics that inspired you to want to get involved? How do you think Melodics helps beat makers?
The thing I love most about Melodics is the fact that it teaches. As a producer who is self taught, I always found myself watching videos of Dilla, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, just to study what they were doing on their MPC’s and then I would go and adapt my own rendition of it. But with Melodics, the capability to see exactly just what the beat maker is doing is light years better and is set up in a way that is informative and educational. There aren’t an abundance of sources that educate beat makers, so Melodics is definitely doing something special. And to be one of those artists that gets to contribute is an honor.
You were featured on Instagram’s main account which you said was one of the coolest things to happen in your young career thus far. Are you able to explain this story and the impact that it has had so far ?
Yeah, so a worker at Instagram, Alex Suskind, runs the Music channel for Instagram. He sent me an email and basically told me that he loved my videos and wanted to feature me on @Music’s page. So that in itself was a huge honor and I was so excited, but about 3 months later, I received another email saying that the editor of the main account for Instagram wanted to feature me as well on the main channel. And when I got that email I was smiling from ear to ear. I’m very, very thankful to Instagram and everything they have done for me. They’ve given me a huge audience (the video they posted received over 4 million views) and have been nothing but extremely helpful and nice throughout the whole process. I’m hoping to stop by their headquarters when I’m in California this summer!
The release of your Within EP has been a success. What did you learn from the project and what do you want to do even better for your next body of work?
WITHIN EP was a learning experience for me. To be honest, it was much more successful than I had anticipated it to be. I was really hoping to get at least 20,000 downloads by a few months, but I ended up getting 50,000 in the first day and 500,000 in the first week. It really blew my mind. It was a great first release because it was very introspective and kind of carved a path for my career to build upon. Now that my audience understands who I am more clearly, I think that future releases will make more sense. That being said, I want to capture a different vibe for my next project; my debut album. I want the focus to be more on music that is appealable to all genres. I don’t necessarily mean pop, but I want to create songs that make you bob your head rather than make you think. That being said, I’m happy that the EP was the way it was, and I’m really excited to share a more brighter side of myself on the next project!
OddKidOut’s brand new lesson ‘Amore’ is now available on Melodics. As a special offer users can access these lessons through using the promo code ‘OKO-MELODICS’. If you have not downloaded already feel free to do so with this link. Finally check out the trailer video below to get a feel for these lessons.
Justin Aswell is a Finger Drummer, DJ, Producer, MC, Record/Mix/Master and teacher at Dubspot. His skills on the pads can be seen in his awesome Youtube videos that he began posting way back in 2006. Since then he has appeared on Native Instruments and Dubspot displaying his finger drumming prowess. While indeed talented there is a strong regimented work ethic behind Aswell’s success. We were lucky enough to talk with Justin about his practice process. The following is a must read for any beginning or aspiring producers.
You are well know online for your finger drumming skills. What got you into finger drumming and inspired you to post your performances online?
Well I’ve always been a drummer at heart. I was always banging on pots and beating rhythms on tables since I can remember. I played drums throughout my youth and when I eventually got a sampler it only made sense. Here’s this thing with drums loaded on it and I can tap out patterns like I would anything else. I didn’t really know I was doing something different for a long time. I’d been finger drumming for many years before I ever uploaded a video. It wasn’t even really planned out honestly. My roommate at the time bought a new camera and wanted to record something. I was already practicing and he just started filming. We uploaded it to YouTube and at the time there weren’t many MPC videos at all. It started picking up speed and before we knew it, it had made the YouTube home page.
What was it about Melodics that made you want to get involved? What do you like most about the app?
I was tagged by several of my friends in a video review done by DJcityTV on YouTube.I remember as soon as I saw it I knew I had to be involved. Ever since the days of Guitar Hero and Rockband I’d dreamed of an application like this. I’m really surprised it took this long for someone to create it! My favorite thing about the app is how well it shows wether you’re dragging or rushing particular rhythms. That’s always been a concern of mine. Sometimes you know you’re off but you just can’t figure out how to correct the problem.
You have released three lessons this week based around daily practice. They are called ‘8 on a hand’,’16 note accent’ and ‘Bucks’. Are you able to give a bit of detail as to what each exercise help users with?
Anyone that’s been in a marching band will recognize these to some degree. These are classics in the Drumline world. I’ve adapted them to make more sense in the finger drumming context. 8 on a hand is meant as an initial warm up and should played focusing on being relaxed and playing even. Bucks will get us accustomed to playing doubles and triples evenly. 16 note accent is both for technique and for a rhythmic understanding of the 16th note grid. This understanding will help to give the player a better ability to express rhythms on the fly.
You’ve previously stated that you believe that practicing five minutes a day, seven days a week is more effective than practicing once a week, for 35 minutes. Are you able to give insight into why this is the case?
Absolutely! Each day you don’t practice is an exponential loss. You lose more and more each day you don’t practice consecutively. I like to think of each day as stacking time towards improvement. If you practice back to back days you’re not going to lose any of the time you put the previous day. You may even find you’ve GAINED time by using consistency in your favor. This is called the compound effect. And the sooner you start using it, the bigger the gain!
How can becoming a better finger drummer help a producer or DJ get better at their craft?
Creativity is all about capturing moments. Ideas come and go very quickly. Have the ability to just play what’s in your head instantly without deliberation allows the artist to capitalize on ideas with ease. I’ve had so many people tell me “I just can’t get the rhythms I hear out of my head” over the years. It’s never the serious finger drummers.
Have you always been a naturally gifted finger drummer? How did your practice routines help with your development?
I don’t really buy into the idea of “naturally gifted” honestly. I think people may be naturally inclined or drawn to certain skills but it takes work to get good. I often say the only way to get good is to be bad for a real long time. I still feel I have tons of work even at the skill level I’m at currently. That’s why I still utilize things like Melodics in my arsenal of improvement. I practice constantly. I’m always tapping. My practice routine is my development. I wouldn’t be answering these questions had I not implemented them.
You have made videos with the likes of Dubspot and are very in involved in teaching music in particular finger drumming. Do you have any examples of how finger drumming has evolved since you have been involved with it?
Finger drumming is still very new to the scene. There aren’t any rules you know? The major difference I see would be how many people are out doing it now. When I first started posting videos there were only a handful of people posting content online. Now there’s a new video by a new artist daily. There’s groups that have a finger drummer in the line up. It’s really on the verge of blowing up. It’s super exciting to see.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting out and is wanting to become as good as you are?
Start practicing now. Practice often. Make a lot of music. Collaborate with diverse artists. Play shows. Play lots of shows. Post your progress online. Analyze your progress. Focus on both strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be overwhelmed by what you don’t know. Be excited there’s so much to learn. Stay consistent. Don’t stop.
What does 2016 have install for Justin Aswell in terms of music?
I’ve got a collaborative record with my dear friend Andy The Doorbum coming out in May on Fake Four Records. I’ve got a handful of records I’m executive producing. I’m traveling all over and taking up residencies in cities to do as much collaborative work as possible. 2016 is a year of fearless collaboration.
Justin Aswell has released some new practice exercises on Melodics this week that cover the ‘8 on a hand’ , ‘Bucks’ and ’16 note accent’ exercises he uses daily. While playing the hard lessons is awesome building a rhythmic foundation through daily practice will solidify your skills.
So try out these new lessons and start your daily practice today!
Mark de Clive-Lowe has been involved in music from the age of four. Since then he has gone on to live in some of the world’s biggest musical capitals. Whether it be London’s West End , New York or his current home in Los Angeles, Mark has used each pit stop to refine and at times revisit his craft. This week the New Zealand artist was able to answer a few questions about some of his career highlights so far and his creative approach.
You grew up in good old Auckland NZ and started played piano at 4 years old. In your teen years you became influenced by hip hop and started trying to make your own beats. However you would go on to sell all your looping equipment as you did not see the point of making ‘loops’. How did this affect your musical development and what happened next?
You’ve done your research! I was making beats when I was 14 and didn’t really know what I was doing. I remember waking up one day and thinking that making all these loops wasn’t really fulfilling me. That was my cue to get back to just the piano and Miles and Trane records. Ten years later and the opposite happened – I totally shelved my jazz and piano side and went full force into the beats, remixing and production world. Much for the same reason. Now it’s all come together as one story.
Music has taken you around the world and you have been able to experience many different scenes. Are you able to describe in one sentence how each of these locations has shaped your musical journey?
Auckland – Was where I grew up for the most part. My first experiences playing with other musicians and exploring my own taste. Of particular influence from there were Nathan Haines, Manuel Bundy and back during my round one of early-teen years beat making there was the whole Voodoo Rhyme Syndicate that I was part of along with a lot of great Auckland-based hip hop and R&B/dance artists. We were all influenced by different aspects of US and UK music culture and it was pretty special to be able to incubate those influences so far from those epicenters – it allowed me to be free of any creative expectation but still be inspired by it.
Tokyo – I have a lot of family in Japan, but most pivotally, I spent my last year of high school there. My Buddhist priest homestay host father was a jazz head through and through and we’d go out most nights to check out some incredible live music – often touring international artists, sometimes local artists – which was hugely inspirational to me. I got to see the working musician lifestyle first hand and fell in love with it. I went back to NZ after that year and fairly promptly dropped out of law school in favor of the minstrel life!
West London – In the mid to late 90s I drew a lot of inspiration from the UK’s jungle movement especially. 4Hero’s “Loveless” was a seminal piece of music for me – I’d never heard anything quite like it – and I was regularly consuming the latest jungle and drum’n’bass 12s that would land at the local record store in Auckland. By the time I got to London in 1998 that movement was at its peak and what became the West London broken beat was forming. That whole community blew my mind. They were taking the entire history of everything I loved – soul, jazz, funk, house, jungle, breaks, afro carribean and afrobeat, and creating a new form from all those influences. I quickly became a core member of the movement collaborating with artists who I consider to be some of the most creative anywhere – IG Culture, Restless Soul, Dego, Bugz in the Attic – it was an amazing time. I evolved as a musician and producer there, and really developed my live show concepts touring Europe almost every week.
Los Angeles – I’d visited LA a few times touring before relocating there and was hearing a lot of great music coming from there too – early Sa-Ra demos, J*Davey, Blu and the whole Sound in Color camp – it was like a version of the West London scene but half a world away. When the opportunity came to move there it felt like the right thing to do. A decade in London was plenty for me and it was the right time to start a whole new chapter. LA has been most pivotal for me in that it reconnected me with my jazz roots. I hadn’t played the acoustic piano or a jazz gig in over a decade having been so deeply in the beat scene in the UK. In LA I was able to find my love for the piano again and bring everything together, full circle so to speak. Now the music is riding this line right in between jazz and beats, live musicians and sampling/live programming – really fusing the worlds that I grew up on.
In 2003 you said you had a ‘Jazz Epiphany with a drum machine in Budapest’. Describe this story and what you learned from this epiphany?
Up until that moment I would always pre-program my beats for live shows. The MPC3000 was the heart of my rig and I’d change patterns or say, mute the kick, live, but for the most part it was pre-programmed and I’d be playing keys live over the top. This one time in Hungary, we performed the whole set – including the encore – in the main set. I’d planned on there not being an encore. When the time came though, the crowd insisted on more, the promoter insisted on more, and I felt like I didn’t really have much choice in the matter. I remember walking back on stage and looking at the MPC thinking, “dammit. I guess I’m going to have to program a beat live right now!”. I was nervous for sure. Something I’d never done before and had no idea how it would turn out. I hit record on the MPC and started banging out beats. It was a complete epiphany. The whole spirit of improvisation and spontaneity that I had grown up with in a jazz context now became apparent to me in a whole different setting. From that day on, every gig was programmed on the fly from scratch. Often with no preconceived notions. It was never like performing a routine – it was about using the drum machine as a creative instrument and improvising grooves and ideas that could be sequenced on the fly live on stage.
In a previous interview you described a funny story about your first visit to South Africa, and how you ended up playing a live set on National TV during prime time. Are you able to give a bit of background into this story?
I do remember my very first show in SA – I’d just stepped off the plane and was so hype to be there. For years I’d heard how soulful house was on a whole other level in SA and how the audiences went nuts for it all the time. I was doing a full live production live remixing set and tore into it, tempo wise at a similar bpm to how I was playing peak time sets in Europe around this time – starting around 122 bpm and building up to 130 or so. The frustrating thing was that I could tell that the set just wasn’t connecting with the audience and I couldn’t understand why. The support DJ after me got on when I was done and dropped a jam at about 110 bpm and suddenly the whole room was in the pocket. That was a huge epiphany. In SA, they like their jams slower! My next set I started at 100 bpm and peaked at 122 and had the whole club entranced the whole way. It was great too, because even though the context was house music, when you slow it down, the music has so much more room to breathe. As soon as you get into the mid 120s, it’s mostly the kick and off beat hats that are driving everything. It was great to get away from that and remind myself of the beauty of being outside the box.
I was asked to do a live remix set on national TV on that first SA tour – that was kind of mind blowing. A 2 hr set, live on TV, with no ads, on a Friday night! SA just has a whole other culture when it comes to soulful music. I really can’t wait to get back there again.
How did you get involved with Melodics? What about Melodics do you think benefits its users from a production and live performance standpoint?
Sam hit me up really early in the conceptualising process knowing my interests in both pads as a musical interface and music education in general. I’m big on empowering creative and sharing process. There’s no need to hide any special tricks from the next enthusiast because we’re all going to use the same equipment or interfaces in a different way. Melodics can give the committed student more confidence when it comes to rhythm and the language and conversation that the different parts of a drum kit or beat have with each other. Especially for producers who step sequence or draw in drum programming it helps them work infinitely faster and have a more direct connection between the idea in their brain and the reality coming out of the speakers.
You are releasing your second lesson called ‘The Ummm’ on Melodics this week what can users expect from this lesson?
The idea of ‘The Ummm’ was to take a classic Native Tongues style hip hop vibe but push it up to a dancefloor tempo, bridging those different worlds. I wanted to make sure there was both a rhythmic and harmonic vibe to it so it’s a combination of beat and Rhodes sample. I wanted to use as few elements as possible to create something that sounds pretty complete already. Often simplicity is where the beauty of a vibe is!
Describe your workflow and creative process when it comes to production? What equipment do you use?
I like to start from different places – sometimes I’ll be sitting at the piano composing in a more traditional way; other times I’ll start on the drum machine banging out a rhythm idea; or playing around with harmonies on the Rhodes; sometimes I’ll be chopping up a sample and finding the inspiration there. For the most part though, it is important to me to have fundamental rhythmic, melodic and harmonic elements in any one track so that it has identifiable signature elements – to the point that you could play the same signature elements on a piano or a guitar and the track would be recognisable without any of the production or electronic elements.
Some of my favorite workhorses at the moment are: NI Maschine, Ableton, Logic, NI Komplete, Arturia collection, Fender Rhodes, Roland Juno 6, Korg KP3+… I love analog synths too – can’t wait to get my hands on a new Dave Smith Prophet keyboard.
What advice would you give to someone who has just seen one of your performances or songs and decides they want to be a DJ and producer just like you?
Practice. That’s the only way to be able to execute anything live. So yeah, diligence goes a long, long way. Also to be open to a diverse range of music. If you primarily make house music and you want to find your own sound, then the last thing you should be listening to is house music. The more diverse a range of musical stimuli you have, the wider range of influences and inspirations are there to be drawn from. I’m also a big proponent of understanding music theory – music is sonic mathematics, and the more you understand the rules and formulas that make up the language, the more empowered you are when you create.
“Hip Hops the love of his life yeah that’s apparent / Jazz gave the piano life it’s so exquisite” – Describe how these bars from John Robinson on your song ‘The Mission’ describes your career so far and your album/club nights ‘CHURCH’?
JR really nailed it with his verses telling the story of my musical journey thus far – he’s an amazing MC like that. Hip hop has been at the core for a long time – I’ve always resonated with it and especially in my formative early teen years in NZ, it was everything. I love the whole concept of 90s hip hop production too – sampling the history and flipping it into a whole new context. The mash up before that even became a term. I had a funny relationship with the piano growing up – my dad forced me to take lessons from a very young age so I felt like I never chose the instrument myself. It wasn’t really until I connected with jazz music that the piano started to become my own instrument and not just the one I was told to play.
CHURCH is all about sharing my whole journey with the audience – from the jazz club to the banging dancefloor, blurring the lines between live musicians and electronics, improvised moments and live sampling and remixing – one minute we could be in a jazz groove, the next in a deep Detroit techno-meets-afrobeat vibe. That freedom.
Make sure to try out Mark de Clive Lowe’s new lesson ‘The Ummm’ this week and also follow his work on his website and social channels ->
The legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff shares an inspiring Hip Hop instrumental called “Don‘t Forget” as his debut Melodics lesson. This instrumental was also used as the fourth track on Dayne Jordan’s debut album ‘Memoirs of Dayne Jordan.’
Like what you hear? Learn to play this beat made with one of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s drum kits from his personal collection today! Also check the trailer video we have put together for this lesson featuring some wise words from the man himself.
There is more insight to come as we have an in depth interview from Jazzy Jeff, hopefully arriving next week. So keep an eye out for that.
Our finger drumming video of the week comes from the super talented BeatsByJBlack who flipped our Tall Black Guy lesson in Melodics. This kid is an up and comer so make sure to check out his Instagram page.
Finally the team are loving watching all your performance vids on social so keep them coming. Just post your video with the hashtag #melodics and we will find and regram / share them on our social channels
We have a laid-back jazz infused hip hop lesson called ‘Vib’ now available on Melodics. The samples for Vib come from the Smokers Unite sample pack on the Loopmasters website and can be downloaded for your own productions.
To mark this release the team has decided to do something a little different and have made a list of some of our favourite laid-back hip hop tracks.
1) MF Doom – Saffron Original Sample:Sade – Kiss Of Life
Starting off the list is the one and only MF Doom. The masked emcee has rapped over many amazing productions in his career. The track ‘Saffron’ contains a Sade sample and some Special Herbs for Metal Fingers himself.
2) Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y) Original Sample:Tom Scott – Today (Featuring The California Dreamers)
The legendary combination of Pete Rock and CL Smooth released two albums and an EP in the heart of Hip Hop’s golden era. The sampled horn for ‘T.R.OY’ is arguably its most iconic element.
3) Souls Of Mischief – 93 til Infinity Original Sample:Billy Cobham – Heather
‘Yeah, this is how we chill from 93 ’til’.. The lyrics to the hook say it all. The original sample is sped up significantly, most likely on a SP-1200. This was common on jazz samples at the time because the SP-1200 did not have much sample time.
4) Nas – Still Dreaming (Featuring Kanye West & Chrisette Michele) Original Sample:Diana Ross – The Interim
One of my favourite tracks from Nas’ Hip Hop Is Dead album. The verse and hook from Kanye West sit beautifully with Chrisette Michele’s vocals. Oh and how can we forget that Diana Ross sample capping off a truly beautiful track.
6) The Herbaliser – A Mother For Your Mind Original Sample:Roy Budd – The Car Chase
A hip hop duo out of South London. They are renown for there jazz influenced productions. Other notable career accomplishments include making the soundtrack for the movie ‘Snatch’.
7) Nightmares on Wax – Les Nuits Original Sample Of The Bass Line:Quincy Jones – Summer In The City
Sampling one of the most heavily sampled tracks of all time Leeds producer Nightmares On Wax put together this song back in 1999. As the video suggests this song is perfect for going on long scooter rides and singing in a laundromat.
Flying Lotus is no stranger to the experimental. His adventurous productions have made him a household name amongst beat makers around the world. Tea Leaf Dancers utilises a Free Design sample and has sultry vocals from British songtress Andreya Triana.
10) Apollo Brown – Blue Ruby Original Sample: Unknown
Our final beat is a pure instrumental from Detroit based Apollo Brown. Apollo was fired from his office job in 2009 and gave himself one year to make it as a producer. Three months later after the release of his first LP ‘Clouds’ he was signed to Mello Music Group.
So what do you think of our list? Is there something that we missed? If so let us know in the comments.
Next week we have some more lessons from our growing team of Melodics Artists. You will have to wait and see who it is. But I can promise that it will be ‘Massive’!