For this loop I decided to take the opposite approach to producing. The “Costanza Method” of recording, if you will. As I’m sure most of you already know, effects and audio processing are typically applied during the mixing process, after all of the tracks are recorded. However, for this session, I applied a variety of sonic sculpting tools to the master bus BEFORE recording a single note. Sure, I checked the levels to make sure everything was copacetic, but I wanted this random stack of effects to play a leading role in the creation of my loop.
What you hear in the mp3 below is the exact same thing I heard in my headphones as I was recording and ultimately, dictated what I played. The signal chain; absurd amounts of compression->massive Whitesnake-style reverb->super fast and tight gating->crazy stereo delay with pitch-shifting.
What sounds like a pretty busy groove (and a bad acid trip from the 80’s), is really just me playing a very minimal 4 bar phrase with a tom fill at the end. It’s the 16th note delay that fills up the rest of the track, precisely bouncing around the stereo spectrum due to the abundance of gating applied to the entire track. Had no gates been used, this loop would be messier than a groupie at a Monsters of Rock festival.
I’m not even sure if Trent Reznor drinks coffee (he strikes me as the type that might consume it by the gallon), but assuming that he did, and that he happened to spill that coffee all over his console while mixing some drum tracks, I think the end result might sound something like this. Angry, yet precise, odd meter drumming crushed all of the way down to 5 bits. Black. No Sugar.
For today’s first loop request, I make my foray into the grimey world of Dubstep. A half time feel with some extra thick bass and a crunchy, gated snare, it sits right in the 139 BPM sweet spot of your garage. I’ll be including the rest of the loops from this session in Volume 7.
When I heard the heater click on in my house today, I knew it was finally time to play my Eckerman frame drum. You see, this particular drum has a calfskin head and during the more humid months of the year, the head loosens so much that the drum is practically unplayable. Now, with the air crisp and dry, and my furnace cranking out some heat, the drum has naturally tightened up to its optimal tuning range.
For today’s loop, I used a brush-in-the-left-hand technique that I learned while studying with Jamey Haddad. This allows me to achieve a high pitched, snare-like effect with one hand while pulling out the lower bass frequencies with the other. This groove is a pretty straight forward 4/4 pulse but I also recorded a bunch of South Indian inspired beats for the subscribers. Ta Di Gi Na Thom anyone?
This all changed last weekend. While perusing my local drum shop, a certain blonde snare drum caught my eye. With its beautifully lacquered maple finish and it’s fine, handcrafted construction, this 6″ x 14″ Pork Pie drum beckoned to me as I walked up to the snare section.
Nicknamed “Curly” (after the type of maple used for the shell), it was soon apparent that it sounded just as good as it looked. Tuned up high, it provided a “crack” that sounded like a .357 Mangnum and then, with a few counter-clockwise turns with a drum key, it produced a deep, round “thunk” that even Russ Kunkel would find satisfying.
After playing the snare for a few minutes, I realized I wasn’t going to be leaving the drum shop alone. Twenty minutes later I was back in my studio with my new “main” snare drum firmly placed between my legs.
After all of this talk about how great my new snare sounds, do you think I’d let you actually hear what it truly sounds like? Of course not. Today’s loop takes a bit of syncopation, a nice amount of space, and a ton of AutoFilter to make a funk groove into something just a bit different.
Every other pop song I was used to hearing at that point in my life had nice, steady backbeats on 2 and 4, along with plentiful amounts of reverb. This song, however, didn’t follow that particular rhythmic formula. In an effort to fuck with every nine year trying to air drum along in his mom’s car, Mick Fleetwood decided to only play the snare on “two” and add some offbeat tom shit at the end of each measure. It’s only in the chorus that he straightens it and lets the kids rock along.
In the spirit of confusing the hell out of young musicians everywhere, here’s a loop that takes the snare backbeat and displaces it by one eighth note. You might recall that I did this in the past with a more fusion oriented groove. This time, the confusion rocks a little harder.
I’m not done with the cowbell grooves. Like I mentioned before, I think it’s time to bring one of my favorite percussive accessories back into the limelight. Rather than go the straight quarter note, “Don’t Fear the Reaper” route, I’ve went ahead and approached it from a polyrhythmic angle. In this case, a 3 against 4 phrasing over the course of a four bar groove (not to be confused with a hemiola).
To make such an academic rhythm accessible to the masses, I overdubbed some sixteenth note shaker to help keep things flowing on the dance floor. What good is a dance beat if it doesn’t make you want to grind up against a drunken stranger?
All day long, I’ve been reading news articles and blogs about the untimely death of legendary movie director and writer, John Hughes. Rather than write my own post about how much his movies influenced my early life (along with my entire generation), I decided to honor him musically.
I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to the man responsible for movies such as Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club than some full on 80’s loops. In order to achieve this classic, Reagan-era drum sound, I decided to go for a heavily gated-reverb effect on both the kick and snare. I also drank an entire case of New Coke during the recording session. Throw in some Simple Minds, Mel Gaynor type patterns and you’ve got yourself a soundtrack to a party that could only end like this: