Home > Drew Spence > Drum Works II: The Ideology of Loops

Drum Works II: The Ideology of Loops

Taken from Producer’s Edge Digital magazine issue 04 Teddy Riley

Drum Works II:

The Ideology of Loops

Vitals on Vinyl

We’d have to go way back in time to capture the frame of mind of a producer in the age when rap music production was a Sampling Sport. Vinyl was king.  You were supposed to dig for everything; your music, your hook, your bassline and your Drum Work. An isolated drumloop was a precious find and the library of ‘Most Used Breaks’ was a studio staple. Who didn’t have a track using “Impeach the President”?

It was about chopping that first drum roll as the record starts or a brief skip at the end of a bridge into single hits to make your own drum kits. That also led to tracks with an assortment of sounds that never gelled into a cohesive drum set. The drumloop was still the prefect foundation as you were guaranteed a range of drum hits that sounded right together.

As Rap rolled into a commercial juggernaut, legal concerns pushed the producer towards more original composition to avoid the entanglements and expenses of sample clearance. The style switches up. Floor friendly bangas are the quest of the day and the funkalocious break beat loop is no longer the ultimate find. You would think the change over would retire the drumloop for the time being, but instead it has re-inserted itself as the workflow starting point. Legally, the phrase Royalty-Free has opened the doors to new avenues of percussive exploration and exploitation. Everyone’s selling drum loops y’all.

Dumber Drums

Commercial libraries had a terrible start. Rap music wasn’t viable enough to warrant a serious nod so most packages were created using a borrowed Rock and Roll drummer and asking him to do his best rap-beat impersonation. As the genre grew,  a proper focus on the gear and the tools used in hip hop production led to a more authentic sound. The sampler and drum machine were integrated. This was combined with a larger pool of ‘hit records’ to emulate- as trends or styles emerged giving the sound designers a more defined path to follow.

Fast forward to now. Among the many choices of sounds, sources, tones and workflows, your Drum Works will most likely be a tentative truce between letting your tools influence your sonic footprint and letting your producer’s ear create the final sound. It’s the difference between being a hack and hacking your way through your production tasks. How much help is too much help? Where’s the me in all these loops?

Good question. What are you adding creatively to your own music? Once you add something from someone else your music becomes a collaboration. If you played in a band would you say this is my song? Our song? A song? The song? A band leader doesn’t play anything; he conducts. When you use a heavy amount of loops, you are working with a composition as a whole. It’s a collage built on and around the contributions of others.

Wheel Real Reel

Why reinvent the wheel or push your energies into skills that are non essential?
Some artists want TOTAL control over their music- and make a complete contribution to its creation. I must make everything, play everything… When you use a loop (AS IS) you’re pretty much saying this person/band/company IS BETTER than me at a) Sound Design b) Programming c) Performing/playing etc…No matter how you slice it, it says someone did/does something better than you. And the true question is what’s wrong with that? Is my production for the satisfaction of ego or am I truly trying to express an emotion and share my creative vision? When does collaboration become a bad thing?

Are you cheating yourself out of a creative contribution?
Sometimes, it depends on what I’m working on/towards. I have worked on projects using drumming styles I can’t play or naturally program. Loops work. I don’t play Congas/Bongos. Loops work. I don’t own a marimba, tambourines, djembe or shakers…or a cowbell. Loops work.

I have a ton of Drum machines, MIDI controllers, Electronic Drum kit, Zendrum, drum modules, sequencers and samplers and I still find times when a drumloop is the only answer… Sometimes familiarity is a key ingredient.

There are unique sonic qualities to a drum loop or breakbeat. And although you can do a lot to make artificial vinylized loops– there comes a point when NOT using a loop could feel like taking a short cut.

See you in the lab.

Drew Spence

Categories: Drew Spence
  1. September 27, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Great post!! thanks for sharing with us!!

  1. February 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm

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