Category: 100-120 BPM

My New Cajón aka “Ass Box”

Via Wikipedia: A cajón (Spanish pronunciation: [ka’xon], ‘crate’, ‘drawer’, or ‘ass box’) is a kind of box drum played by slapping the front face (generally thin plywood) with the hands.

This year for my birthday, my wife gave me a card with a picture of a cajón inside of it. This is a drum that I’ve talked about getting for years, but never got around to buying for myself. Knowing that I’m very particular about the sound of my instruments, she figured it would be best to let me be the one to pick out the actual drum. This picture entitled me to one trip to my favorite place in the world, Guitar Center, where I could select the cajón of my choice.

Yesterday I went to cash in on my gift, strolling passed the kids shredding on 7 string Ibanez guitars and into the drum department, where there were three different cajóns waiting for me to sit on. Two of them were made by Meinl and the other was manufactured by the maker of my first “real” drumset, Pearl.

Pearl Jingle Cajón

I first tried out the least expensive of the bunch, the oak Meinl.. From the first slap, I could tell it wouldn’t make the cut. There was hardly any bass, let alone high end. It sounded just as the price tag suggested: cheap. It was then on to the priciest of the three, the bubinga Meinl. While this one had great low end and a cool pedal to control the wires inside of the box, it was still missing that “snap” I was looking for when playing the outer edges of the drum.

Finally, it was on to the Pearl Jingle cajón. After playing this box for ten seconds, I knew it was the clear winner. With deep, full bass frequencies and a crisp, high end “crack”, this drum possessed the full range of tone I was looking for. After a swift swipe of my wife’s credit card, I got the hell out of that godforsaken store and headed straight for my studio.

Loop #133

I must have skipped the Cajón 101 class at Berklee because honestly, I had no idea how you’re actually supposed to play one. I mean, it’s just a box that you sit on and slap with your hands… how hard can it be? After watching a few YouTube videos featuring cajón solos by Alex Acuña and Efrain Toro, I soon had enough technique to accurately translate the rhythms I heard in my head and perform them on the instrument (complete with the foot-on-the drum pitch bending). Today’s loop is just a two measure snippet from an entire session of Ass Box grooves, soon to be released by The Loop Loft.

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102 BPM

Drums Wide Open

Loop #132

This is what it sounds like when you take a drum groove with no muffling (even on the kick) and run it through a completely overdriven Brownface amp.

Not just for guitars

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108 BPM

That Great Gretsch Sound

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was fortunate enough to finally become the owner my dream jazz kit, a Gretsch USA Custom. After breaking open my piggy bank and selling 63% of my bone marrow, I finally had the sufficient funds to make the trek up to the wonderful Drum Center of Portsmouth and pick her up.

And why are these drums so great? Well, it’s all about the way they SOUND. They have a certain characteristic and tone that only Gretsch drums seem to possess. It’s that warm, round, and focused sound heard on so many of the classic jazz albums featuring Max Roach, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones and Art Blakey (just to name a few).

Max made me do it

Loop #130

Today’s loop is a two measure clip from a marathon jazz/funk extravaganza that took place shortly after setting up the new kit in the studio. You’ll notice the nice, open tone of the 18″ bass drum, along with some very melodic sounding toms. For mic placement, I just used the overheads and (a touch of the Beta 52A on the kick) to capture the natural sound of the kit. I also completely ripped off Bill Stewart’s signature fills. Look for more Gretsch based loops to come soon…

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105 BPM

Snap, Crackle & Pop

Loop #128

My studio has a time machine. Does yours? For today’s loop, I set the dial to 1964 and typed in “Destination: Stax Studios“. I was only there long enough to record a three minute session, overdub some tambourine and eat a pulled pork sandwich, but all in all, the trip was a success. With the vinyl master under one arm and a gallon of BBQ sauce under the other, I transported myself back to current day Boston, where I just finished digitizing the session for your pleasure. Subscribers, look for the rest of tracks in the upcoming April release of Gruss Loops.

snap, crackle, pop

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119 BPM

I’m Outta Here!

Well, not for good… but for the next week I’ll be spending the majority of my time sitting here and drinking this. Don’t look for any new loops to be posted on this site, but for some highly insightful, tequila-fueled rants and observations, be sure to keep up with me over on Twitter.

Loop #125

As I pack my bags (and 30 SPF sunblock), I leave you with a loop inspired by this guy:

Funky hair. Funkier Beatz.

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104 BPM

Bring On The Soca

It’s another cold and snowy day in Boston. I love living in New England because I really get to experience all four seasons, but I also hate this time of year. Three months into winter, late February is when I usually start perusing various travel websites, looking for an escape from the daily routine of scraping ice off of my windshield.

I have a rather vivid imagination, so rather than dropping a few grand on a trip to the Caribbean, sometimes I’ll just crank up the heat in my studio to about 95°F, crack open a few Coronas, and play some grooves indigenous to tropical regions. Reggae, calypso, samba… anything to feel like I’m within a 500 mile radius of the equator. My wife doesn’t seem to agree that this is the same as lounging around in a beach chair, somewhere on a white sandy beach. My response to this is usually a snap of the fingers, and a request for more guacamole.

Traditional Soca Dancing - Thanks Google Images!

Loop #124

Today’s “take me away” groove is Soca. An offshoot of Calypso music, Soca originates from the islands of Tobago and Trinidad and is usually based around a heavy drum and percussion ostinato. Some examples of Soca grooves in popular music are Buster Poindexter’s 1987 hit, “Hot, Hot, Hot” and Kevin Lyttle’s “Turn Me On”. This particular loop is a four bar phrase consisting of just kick and snare. With an almost march-like quality, this groove makes for an ideal drum break on any Caribbean dance floor. Look for more Soca grooves in the upcoming and highly anticipated release of Gruss Loops Volume X.

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108 BPM

Brushing Up On The Funk

Such a pun-laden headline could only mean one thing: Another funk loop. And rather than picking up the sticks and burying the VU meters into the red, I decided to to go the subtle route and use brushes to lay down the back beat.

Jim Keltner - Master of brushes, forks and pens.
Jim Keltner - Master of brushes, forks and pens.

Loop #119

I’ll admit, I’m not breaking any new ground with today’s groove. Drummers like Steve Jordan, Jim Keltner, and even the guy from G. Love and Special Sauce have been incorporating brushes into funk and pop grooves for years. I am, however, providing you with two measures of pristinely-produced, wide open snare, right hand on the floor tom, brush-based goodness.

Enjoy.

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103 BPM

Rocking The EVOC

I had good intentions of recording a rather straight ahead, Gadd-esque linear drum loop. In fact, that’s pretty much what I had… before I reached for the vocoder:

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Old School Vocoder
Old School Vocoder

Loop #111

With a delay set to a dotted eighth note and the EVOC 20 filter (my SIGSALY is in the shop) heavy in the mix, I give you some tripped out, space funk.

The Settings
The Settings

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102 BPM

The Grinder

After putting my stomach and liver through “The Grinder” (aka Thanksgiving), I figured it would only be fair to do the same with my loops. Digging into some of the other new features in Logic 9, I discovered just what I was looking for: a virtual distortion pedal appropriately named “Grinder”.

Freshly Ground Beats
Freshly Ground Beats

Loop #110

Today’s loop takes what was once a pristinely recorded, 16th note-heavy funk groove and runs it through the digital equivalent of something you’d find behind your local meat counter. Pending any FDA recalls, this loop should be safe to consume, as long as it’s stored in a cool area and cooked thoroughly before serving.

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109 BPM

Save the Beat

I can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing tired, canned dance beats. I don’t even like dance music. But if I have to hear it while out in public, away from the safe confines of my iPod, I might as well try to improve the quality of the drum sounds. The world has been overrun by shitty producers with their 808 samples and re-mixed Ableton Live schlock. And don’t even get me started about the kitten DJs who spin said schlock.

Stop the madness.
Stop the madness.

Loop #108

How does one try to come up with fresh sounding dance loops? Start with something that sounds nothing like a cliché electronica beat. In this case, it’s using brushes to lay down the groove. Chopped up with a touch of gating, peppered with some growly floor toms and sautéd in some extra trashy hi hats, I give you my first dance loop intended to make this genre a little more palatable (especially when served alongside a $14 gin and tonic made by someone like this).

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118 BPM