With the toms on my bebop-sized kit (18″ kick, 12″ tom & 14″ floor tom) cranked up high, this four bar loop is a somewhat hypnotic, tribal pattern ending with four 16th note flams on the snare (with the strainer turned off).
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.
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).
Here’s my loop response from the following request:
“I’d like something that can go behind a slow acoustic guitar without taking over.”
I immediately thought of Russ Kunkel’s brush-ballad playing from those early 1970’s James Taylor records. I tuned the snare down nice and low, kept the groove nice and simple and rounded things out with a bit of reverb.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, I just upgraded my studio to Logic 9 and have been busy checking out all of its new features. From a user interface point of view, not much has changed. It still looks and feels much like its predecessor, but there are some new editing tools that peaked my interest as a drummer. Specifically, Flex Time and the drum replacement/doubling tool.
I decided to test out the Flex Time tool by playing a straight pop beat to see how well it picked up the transients. It did a rather remarkable job of latching onto every percussive attack. So good, in fact, it took everthing I played and easily (almost too easily) lined everything up in perfectly quantized 16th notes. Yep, it sucked the Gruss right out of it… but then it begged for some electronic layering to keep the kids happy on the dance floor. So, with the drum replacer (Apple’s own version of Drumagog) I doubled several tracks with an extra-beefy kick and a heavily-gated snare.
The result? I’m still not sure exactly… but if The Postal Service was around in the 80’s and they were asked to write the theme music to Miami Vice, I’m pretty sure Logic 9 would have come in handy.
In my quest to tame the overly-live tracking room in my new house, I bit the bullet and trekked out to my local Guitar Center to find a solution. I figured I could pick up a few of those foam panels and line the walls of my studio on the cheap. I mean, how expensive could foam be?
According to the ponytailed sales guy in the pro audio department, I needed to cover my walls with Auralex foam. He said these foam panels were the “Rolls Royce of acoustical treatments” and were priced accordingly. Not wanting to suffer in that godforsaken store any longer than necessary, I took his word for it and handed over my Amex. Several hundred dollars later, I walked out with a box full of luxury foam.
The panels came with tubes of permanent adhesive for mounting the foam on the wall. Since I’ll soon be moving the studio into the carriage house, I knew I didn’t want to be gluing the overpriced panels directly to the wall. My ingenious solution? Plywood and Velcro. I headed out to Home Depot and had the lumber department cut eight pieces of plywood into 1′ x 6′ sections. I then mounted the 1′ x 1′ Auralex panels directly to the plywood with industrial strength Velcro strips.
With three foam panels on each sheet of plywood, I was able to easily move the acoustical treatment around the room until I got the sound I desired. Along with LENRD bass traps in the corners of the room, I soon had a room that sounded more like The Hit Factory and less like a garage. The harsh, high frequencies coming off of the cymbals were no longer an issue and the low end from the kick and floor tom seemed more controlled and punchy. Maybe the guy with the ponytail was right?
Today’s loop is the first from my “acoustically controlled” studio. In this uptempo, pop-rock groove, you’ll notice things sound a bit tighter and more focused than the past few loops. All thanks to some really expensive foam. And Velcro. Lots of Velcro.
Before “Lust for Life” was pimped out as the jingle for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (as well as being covered by Mötley Crüe, Tom Jones and, I shit you not, Bruce Willis), it was one of the classic punk/pop anthems to emerge from the late 1970’s. With thunderous, hypnotic drums and two guitars doubling the bass line, it’s one of those tracks that barrels forward like a locomotive controlled by Billy Mays (if train engineers weren’t required to take drug tests).
Today’s loop takes a cue from Hunt Sales’ original drum groove (one that, apparently, makes you want to spend a week in a 8’x10′ room and eat from buffets), and tightens things up just a bit. Less slosh on the hats and some snappy bass drum will let you go ahead and create your own radio-friendly variation to cash in on. Oh wait, The Strokes and Jet beat you to it.
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:
It’s almost as if it were a sign from God. I was driving around earlier today, trying to think of something interesting to record and desperately scanning the FM dial for some inspiration. Then, out of nowhere, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Well, a ton of bricks drenched in obscene amounts of reverb.
“Is This Love” by Whitesnake. One of the penultimate power ballads of the 80’s, this particular track took “big drum sounds” to another level. I mean, just listen to that snare drum! I remember being 10 years old, sitting in my bedroom, trying to make my Ludwig Acrolite sound like that. Why wouldn’t it decay for twelve seconds after I hit it?? Did I need special heads? Finally, two decades later, armed with a bunch of mics and a plethora of plugins, I set out to achieve the Tommy Aldridge sound that had eluded me in my childhood.
For today’s loop, I set my kit up in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, taking advantage of it’s natural “big room sound”. I also placed a few ambient mics (wireless, of course) on two nearby satellites to help capture the overall “vibe”. All the while, a scantily clad Tawny Kitaen frolicked on top of my two 24″ kick drums. Just another day in the studio.
Ever have one of those days where you get a song stuck in your head and you can’t get it out… no matter what? You’re not even sure where or when you heard it. It might have been playing on the alarm radio when you woke up or maybe it was blasting from a car next to you at a red light. You can’t remember the source… but your brain seems to think that it’s a great idea to play it over and over and over. It can be a highly frustrating experience. One that I’ve been plagued with today.
Today’s loop is the result of having Oukast’s“Hey Ya!” stuck in my head for the past seven hours. It’s a great song the first nine times you hear it… but I’ll admit, it wears a bit thin after hour five. Much like holding your breath when you have the hiccups, I thought if I just played some drums it would eventually go away. No such luck…. All I ended up with was a beat that sounded just like it and some pissed off neighbors.