Sep 19

Q&A With The 2018 Finger Drumming Champion

by in Interviews

When he was growing up in Tours, France, French-English hip-hop/electronic beatmaker, producer and finger drummer extraordinaire Beat Matazz dreamed of, much like his heroes AIR, being surrounded by analog synthesisers, sequencers, and drum machines. With time, as he fell in love with the music of Flying Lotus, Samiyam, Prefuse 73, James Blake, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Amon Tobin, caught their vibes, and began to build his own collection of customised studio gear and software. Electronic music production led him towards his current area of expertise: finger drumming.


Beat Matazz has been presenting his furiously funky finger drumming routines to live audiences since 2015, but earlier this year, he took things to a new level when he ousted all challengers to win the Sample Music Festival 2018 Finger Drumming Competition in Berlin with a ridiculous routine. Since then, he’s been building relationships with Herrmutt Lobby’s Playground App, Akai, and us here at Melodics. With an upcoming Melodics lesson based on his winning performance in the works, we spoke with him about finger drumming and his time at the competition. Check out his winning performance here (scroll to 2:33)

 

Could you talk a bit about your musical experiences before you started finger drumming?

I started out at age six as a classical percussionist, xylophone, marimba, and timbales. When I was a teenager, my teacher agreed to teach me drums as I wasn’t to keen on classical music. These experiences gave me the rhythmic skills to drum in many bands for many genres. I played pop, hip-hop, electro-funk, experimental, world music and even in a marching band.

 

How did you end up adding finger drumming to your skill set?

In parallel with drumming, I started using music software like Reason and Ableton to make music for fun. After years of composing, I became frustrated and bought my first Akai MPC500 [sampling workstation] off Leboncoin (the French version of Craiglist). Hardware-based beatmaking made sense to me, and a gigantic world opened up. It allowed me to link the unlimited creative paths afforded by software to a tactile instrument. I remember sampling George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ and thinking, “Oh my god this sounds like a perfect hip-hop instrumental!” At the time, I was attending an art school in Nantes. I was very focused on sound art and music. They kicked me out, which gave me the perfect opportunity to fully devote myself to music.


You discovered finger drumming by using the Akai MPC500. What was it about the process that inspired you to devote so much time to developing your skill-level?

I love the portability of pad controllers and the musical genres that rely on them. The research process you go through to create these very personal textures and sounds are very important to me. You can tune samples far more than you can tune a real snare drum. I can also put more of myself into the rhythms of the music by playing them. I love the trance state I enter when I’m in my home studio. Thanks to my previous drumming experience, and having created tracks with software, I already had the core skill sets. I just needed to combine them. I tweaked my finger positioning and started to work and play hard.

 

What sort of approach did you take when you started practicing your finger drumming?

I didn’t know what I was doing when I started. I’m very spontaneous when I create and have no habits. My approach is always the pursuit of pleasure, and feeling the desire to create. Since I started playing and making music, that hasn’t changed. My first sample mine was old vinyl I found in flea markets. Even the most shitty records sometimes have two chords that make my day. Fat basses are what I need to feel, so I got an old analog synth: the Korg MS-10 (plugged into the Korg SQ-10 sequencer). The people who designed that marvelous device where thirty years ahead of their time. It’s become a spine to my beats.

 

How did you transition into taking part in events like the SMF 2018 Finger Drumming Competition?

After spending years developing my techniques, I knew I had to make the world know what I’ve worked for. Last year, I won a battle in Paris at the Bataclan, a legendary 90s hip-hop venue. Being acknowledged by the hip-hop network changed how I looked at myself and my music. It also made me be more specific in my thinking around who would be hearing my music. Battle audiences know exactly why they’re at the end. Battling is so raw; you find out what the crowd thinks of you instantaneously.

 

What were your thoughts on the SMF 2018 Finger Drumming Competition in Berlin?

The skill level was very high in Berlin. The team was so nice and devoted, and so were the participants. When I was there, I understood that I had found my place. Geeks were able to scratch and jam for hours, with or without spectators. It was a space where musicians were speaking a common language, all with the feel of a real community, and the codes and sounds that quote the subculture. It was real and vibrant, and it felt so good to be part of that experience. The experience was great. We need to gather together and feel those vibes more often.

 

Stay tuned for a new Melodics lesson from Beats Matazz. Find out more about him here on YouTube or Facebook.

 

Apr 27

Top 5 Ableton Push Finger Drumming Videos

by in Interviews, Pro Tips

Since Launching its first piece of commercial software in 2001 Ableton the program has gone from strength to strength. While the production component of the software is huge so is its live performance capabilities. In 2012 the music tech world marveled at the Ableton Push the first controller specifically designed for Ableton. The result saw a 64 pad layout that would take live music performance to a whole new level. We countdown the Top 5 best Ableton Push performance videos online.

5. Gaston – With My Brain On Twist

The mysterious GASTON dropped this awesome finger drumming performance a few years back. Sadly he hasn’t uploaded anything since. Fingers crossed that he has something install for his Youtube subscribers in 2016.

4. Decap

Decap is a hip hop beat maker from San Francisco who is very good at what he does. A few years back Ableton asked Decap if he wanted to show off his Ableton Push finger drumming skills. The result involves an old school hip hop drum break and some lush synths.

3. Jeremy Ellis on Ableton Push

When you think of finger drumming it is hard not to think of Jeremy Ellis. The Roots member took the internet by storm when he dropped a series of  MASCHINE videos that went viral. Ellis also has applies his craft on other controllers from time to time. Check out this subtle but amazing performance from NAMM in 2013.

2. Rodi Kirk Performs ‘Underwater’

At number two is another Ableton branded performance featuring the talented Rodi Kirk.  Shot in hipster nirvana this video has it all from summer camp vibes to random bonfires adjacent to a ping pong table. It’s hard not to get lost in visuals and performance.

1. Mad Zach Ableton Performance Video

Producer and finger drummer Mad Zach was heavily featured in the launch of Ableton Push particularly in his appearance in this performance video. Mad Zach is able to play a multitude of different sounds and vibes in a short amount of time, in a video that I am sure helped contribute to a lot of Ableton Push sales. Shout also to the sweeping camera work in this video.

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Honorable Mentions

Yashar Gasanov has a few Ableton Push videos out and was clearly influenced by the style and feel of the original videos. In this video he plays his own composition in an abandoned warehouse. The incorporation of him playing Push and singing reward this video with an honorable mention.

Our boi Jeff Tunque played this chopped and sampled track Vide on his Ableton Push this year. If you have not seen this guys stuff yet then I suggest you get onto it. He is a very skilled and talented finger drummer, producer and DJ.

Apr 27

Top 5 Akai Finger Drumming Videos

by in Fundamentals, Pro Tips

Akai are the O.G’s of the Pad Controller game bringing to the market the original MPC way back in 1988. The device is quite simply iconic and has been used by some of the all time greats such as Madlib, Kanye West, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and the late J Dilla. The 4×4 pad layout makes Akai products ideal for finger drumming with their devices being present in some great performances.

5. Finger Drumming In The Office On An Akai MPD218

Starting things off with a dope video from our office as our Designer and resident finger drummer takes on one of our Thugli – Overtime lessons on an MPC218. Check out this short clip and watch out for the ‘Woo’

4. David ‘Fingers’ Haynes Making It Look Easy

Their are many great finger drummers on the internet however David Haynes is among the best. His technique and relaxed hands can be make some of the most complex arrangements look easy.

3. Spinscott playing Jungle beats live

180 BPM with one-shot samples and no loops? No problem! The immensely skilled Spinscott has carved niche following on social media with his breath taking MPC performances. Spinscott also has a range of lessons now available to learn on Melodics.

2. You are now listening to araabMUZIK impersonating Skrillex with only an MPC

Probably the most high profile ‘finger drummer’ in the world araabMUZIK is an absolute beast on the pads. Back in 2011 he absolutely went in and provided a live finger drumming impersonation of Skrillex. The Warsaw were astounded and with many claiming it to be the greatest musical performance Poland has ever seen.

1. Beats By J Black breaking necks with his skills on the MPC

Atlanta based beat maker ‘Beats By J Black’ has been having an incredible 2016 already and is on the verge of blowing up. His finger drumming videos on him playing his flipped beats on his collection of MPC’s are the reason why. Always with a smile on his face and impeccable timing make sure to check out his channel and watch this space.


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Apr 27

Top 5 Maschine Finger Drumming Videos

by in Fundamentals, Pro Tips

Maschine is the flagship device for Native Instruments and has sold millions of units worldwide. The 4×4 pad layout reminiscent of the MPC is sleak, modern and a common item in many producers studios around the world. Maschine has also been featured in numerous finger drumming videos on the web. Lets check out our top five.

5. Tim Kroker Drum Solo on Maschine

Tim Kroker has been a professional drummer for 25 years. So the transition into finger drumming on Maschine was relatively easy. Check out his drum solo video as well as some of the other work he has done at events such as the Sample Music Festival.

4. David “Fingers” Haynes vs Maschine

David “Fingers” Haynes is a Grammy nominated drummer who like Tim Kroker has taken to finger drumming. Currently living in Berlin David continues to refine his path and pull of patterns on the pads imitated by very few. In this video he lives up to his nickname “Fingers”.

3. Strofik – The Maestro of Maschine

Strofik is an Melbourne based finger drummer and DJ who has produced some incredible finger drumming videos over the past year. What sets him a part from the previous videos is the way he can finger drum his entire set via Maschine. Have a look at Strofik doing what he does best in this 15 minute live finger drumming set.

2. Emiliano Torquati

What is harder than finger drumming on one Maschine? How about two Maschines? Emiliano Torquati is able to do just that. Playing the drums with his right hand and a range of samples with his left he is able to create a truly unforgettable performance worthy of our number two spot.

1. Jeremy Ellis performs on Maschine Mikro

For our number one spot we could not go past the O.G Maschine performance video. Jeremy Ellis captivated many in the music production world when he released this video on Maschine Mikro back in 2011. If you have not seen it yet prepared to be blown away.

Had to be number 1. The video that opened many peoples eyes to finger drumming as a whole. Jeremy Ellis.

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Honorable Mentions

Thought our Dubstep Office Sessions video deserved and honorable mention. This lesson has proved to be very popular on Melodics, and we hope this video is part of the reason why.

Native Instruments have a lot of my fans. However this video takes the cake. Watch as Dominik Petzold takes you through a typical day in his life. That includes finger drumming on his Maschine while on the toilet, at the beach and brushing his teeth.

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Apr 08

Justin Aswell on The Importance Of Daily Practice For Finger Drumming & Production

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, New Lesson Tuesdays

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!

Follow Justin Aswell:
Youtube Instagram Facebook Twitter Soundcloud

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