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BeatTips Tutorials: Creating a Section Contrast

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An Example of How to Build a Section Contrast

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

I was asked by a BeatTips reader to give an example of how a “section contrast” (something I describe on page 129 in The BeatTips Manual) is done. Below is my answer.

What I discuss in that part of my book is how changes or “switch-ups” of sections (e.g. verse section, chorus section, etc.) can be created to show change, even though they’re still quite similar. These changes can be subtle and brief, or they can be quite noticeable and prolonged. In either case, a section contrast takes place when a section contrasts with another section but still moves with a similar movement, keeping the “color” and fullness of the section in tact while the “brightness” adjusts. In other words, even though a change actually takes place, everything sounds fluid like one balanced composite.

I’ve included a beat of mine to give you an example of how this works. In the beat below, the main section is built around a three-note violin riff—this riff is the heart of the entire track; I designed everything in deference to this riff. Then there’s an alternating three-note bass part or bass line. And there’s an electric guitar stab that lands on the “4”, the “8”, the “12”, the “16”, and so on (NOTICE: the clap is always on the “2”, the “4”, etc. But the guitar stab lands on every other clap).

After the main section, at the 0:20, I slip in a drum fill (a minor change in and of itself) to announce a change, but not to pull too far away. This change, which is a guitar riff that’s 3/4’s of a bar long, is used to show a contrast to what was already established in the main section—but notice that even though it’s a change, it moves with a similar feel with what has already been established. Think of adjusting the contrast on a photo, how just the right value of contrast gives the right balance to the entire image. Using this analogy, I see changes in a beat as degrees of brightness and color. Therefore, I’m always concerned with how to distinguish sounds and sections from one another while maintaining continuity. And often, it is the adjustment of “contrast”, that is to say, the level and type of change, that I focus on to make the color of one section less or more brighter.

This “section contrast” concept is not only my own way of approaching the “color” and feel of of a beat, it’s also my way of looking at how and when changes should (or shouldn’t) be added, and to what degree changes should be built out. Thus, for me, this concept plays a big role in how I compose my beats. And it applies to when I’m making a sample-based beat, just as much as it does when I’m making a synthetic-sounds-based (i.e. live instrumentation with synthetic sounds) beat.

*Beat Note: I played the violin, bass violin, and guitar parts on my Roland Fantom S88 keyboard workstation. Then I sampled everything—each phrase and riff separately—into my Akai MPC 4000. Then I used the MPC 4000 for my drums as well as to sequence everything. Thus, even though this is a *live instrumentation* joint, I still used the sampling approach and aesthetic to achieve the sound and feel that I wanted.

The music below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship

Sa’id – “Listen Up” (instrumental)

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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 the albums 'Soul Review' and 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual