3 Tracks that Beatmakers Should Listen To and Analyze
|By DAVE WALKER (IMPERIAL)|
It’s been said before that in order to make good music, you need to listen to good music. As a beatmaker, you always want to surround yourself with inspiration and be an active listener. Production analysis is a valuable tool, as it provides the answers to many of your questions, and inspiration for future projects. If you spot a production technique purely through listening, you are gaining a valuable insight into the producer’s world, which will enable you to hone your own skills.
The 3 tracks I have selected offer different lessons. Whilst there are many things that could be said from a production perspective on each of these tracks, I have picked out some key lessons from each track that I think are of value to all beatmakers.
The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Mr J Medeiros – “Pale Blue Dot 20syl Remix” ft. Shad (Pale Dot Blue EP)
If you haven’t heard of Mr J Medeiros, Shad or 20syl, do yourself a favor and check them out ASAP. Mr J has been a favourite emcee of mine for a little while now. He is one half of group The Procussions (Stro Elliot, the other half, mainly handles production duties). The good news for Pro’s fans is they are currently working on a new album that they hope to drop in early 2013. It’s powered by an indiegogo campaign, so support if you can. Both members of The Procussions have worked with 20syl (French producer/DJ/Emcee for Hocus Pocus and C2C) before and this remix shows off why he is worthy of all the plaudits he gets. 20syl combines sampled and non-sampled elements with ease. On the track presented below, notice how the sampled ‘chorus’ vocals harmonise with the sung vocals in the chorus and also carry their own hook. Through additional synth parts, filtering and drops in the drum pattern, the track keeps rolling and has a good dynamic ebb and flow. Also, peep how the arrangement is quite dense during the verses, but through good use of panning and EQ, no parts are competing for space in the mix.
Pep Love – “Hip Hop My Friend (Rigmarole)”
Pep Love has given us the one of the greatest Hip Hop tracks of 2012. The beat, the concept, and the production are flawless, and it encapsulate all that is good about hip hop and music in general. Produced by Scandal Beats, this track shows him to be a producer with an ear for a sample. Whatever your view on whether or not you should chop samples, re-arrange them, process them, detune them, etc., you have to admire how this track has been put together. The simplicity of the instrumental is a good reminder of the less is more philosophy in beatmaking. There can be a danger of over-complicating a beat and not leaving enough space for an emcee or even a hook. Too many chops can lead to a disjointed instrumental with no sense of groove or hook. Here, the drum programming works immaculately with the sample and the additional bassline is blended nicely with the sample. To achieve this, the slope of the high-pass filter applied to the sample is extremely important. A steep slope (36/48db per octave) will clean up the low end without affecting too much around the set cut-off point. Around 150Hz is a good starting point. Sometimes it pays to keep it simple.
Oddisee – “Let it Go (People Hear What They See)”
Anything Oddisee touches turns to gold! (Furthermore, the whole Mellow Music Group team are producing quality hip hop and are well worth following.) Oddisee, with a long list of production credits has already established himself as a heavyweight in the beatmaking arena. “Let It Go” is reminiscent of Isaacs Hayes’ 1971 theme tune for Shaft, as it builds from 16th note hi-hats and wah guitar, albeit at a slower tempo. Oddisee seamlessly combines samples with recorded instrumental parts, in fact, so much so, that it’s hard in places to pin point what is a sample and what is an original recording. The use of instrumentalists is something he has been focusing on recently in his production. He is both a beatmaker’s beatmaker and a traditional producer’s, producer. The inspiring lesson from Oddisee’s production is to break out of the bedroom with your MPC/Maschine/Logic/FLStudio and meet musicians who play physical instruments. Indeed, Oddisee reminds us of the importance of learning microphone technique—choice, position and placement; learning about acoustics and reflections; and learning about music theory. (The BeatTips Manual includes a great part on music theory.) Of course, all of this learning takes time, and it is not always practical or appropriate on every beat to add recorded musicians. However, writing music with other musicians will stretch and challenge you and you will be a more rounded producer for it.Articles, Beatmaking Education, Beatmaking Themes, Theories, and Concepts, BeatTips MusicStudy, Hip Hop Production Techniques, Hip Hop/Rap Music Education, How to Make Beats, Making Beats