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Natural Selection: Timing Correct & Quantization


Specific Instances Where I Rely On Timing Correct

By Amir Said (Sa’id)

I regularly receive emails and private messages over at the BeatTips Community concerning Timing Correct and Quantization. Well, my direct, short, non-politically correct response: Leave timing correct alone (as much as you can) and learn how to play (program) most of your drum parts with the Timing Correct off. However, most beatmakers will inevitably want to push the envelope with drum programming, so I have to acknowledge that. Therefore, here, I’ll outline the four occasions wherein I typically use timing correct.

(1) when I’m creating “stutter snares” (think down south sound)

(2) when I want to create intricate drum rolls.

(3) when I want to manipulate quick hi-hats or “reggae-style” syncopated hi-hat patterns.

(4) when I want to create bass (kick) drum build-ups.

Here, I should mention that when it comes to swing and feel, I almost never use timing correct or quantization. I like to play my drum patterns out as live (natural) as possible, which means without the timing correct “correcting” my feel and sense of rhythm. Some people try to achieve “swing” through timing correct and quantization, (which if you think about it, is actually counterproductive). I, however, opt to create swing in a much more natural manner, primarily through how I use percussion and multiple hi-hats and rides within my drum frameworks.

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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

  • i the t

    i use quantize for –
    unison riffs that include several instruments playing the same thing and also anything with a looped drum break or chopped up and reconstituted sections of breaks.
    being as i mainly use cubase at the moment, if i manually play in a pattern (keys, b-line or melody), i won’t quantize the whole track but will go in and edit the timing of individual notes to taste using the key editor.
    if i’m doing 140bpm stuff i just quantize in straight 16’s to remove all humanity from the equation.
    on the subject, some Dilla beats for instance are unquantized to the point of comedic effect! it’s like he’s deliberately trying to make it sound like a novice drummer who has trouble holding steady time with the level of drag and push he affects.

  • i the t,
    Great comments!
    One of the things that I really wanted to get across was that the use of timing correct and quantization is a fluid concept. Far too many beatmakers set the timing correct to a specific value and never consider changing it, or even not using it.
    And I know exactly what you mean about some of J Dilla’s unquantized beats, (can’t say that I always like that particular sound). You know, The RZA also does a lot of his drumwork without leaning on the quantize function. In fact, I was told by True Master that RZA used to deliberately play many of his drum patterns straight thru, no quantize.
    Do you plan on sticking with Cubase, or are you considering making a change?

  • i the t

    ah, that explains the rza’s sound…
    so there’s no strict tempo throughout then ? no use getting any such wu acapellas then !
    i will probably stay on software EMPI’s for the while until i get a bigger house as the kids have taken up my studio room for the minute !
    my s3000xl and it’s hardware friends have been consigned to the basement i’m afraid. do you think it will ever be worth anything in future in terms of antique investment ?

  • I the t,
    I’m sure RZA also makes adjustments with tempo as well.
    Ha… your kids have taken over your studio room! Hey, man, that’s the beauty of life. Gives you motivation to get a bigger house, so you can lose yourself in a monster-size music room…
    As for your S3000xl, I would never sell it! For sure that’s a great investment. I don’t know anybody who still has one.

  • part with your illusions, When they are gone you may still exist

  • I did have fun, and I worked on it a little more one week night.
    I’ll tell ya if you ever have a baby, get a walker, Sadie has one and that’s what allowed me to do some work, she zipped back and forth around my feet while I painted!!!