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Samplephonics: 808s hidden production secrets.

September 30, 2016 Leave a comment

Samplephonics has the hook up …

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Whether you are using the real thing, one-shot drum samples or the Samplephonics 808 virtual instrument, there is more to the classic drum machine than meets the eye. In this post, we unearth some of the 808’s hidden production secrets.

1. USE THE BASS DRUM AS A SUB BASS

Probably the least secret of all the TR-808’s ‘hidden’ features is the ease with which its Bass Drum sound can be pressed into service as sub bass instrument – it’s just a sine wave with a pitch envelope, after all. Set the hardness of the attack with the Tone control, the length of the note with the Decay, and pitch it up and down to ‘program’ a bassline using your DAW’s automation system.

2. AMBIENT COWBELL FX

Arguably the most instantly recognisable of all its voices, the crazy TR-808 Cowbell played a major part in defining the beats of countless old-skool RnB and hip-hop cuts. Although it carries too many stylistic connotations to be used ‘as is’ in most modern productions, drenching it in cavernous reverb and/or delay can turn it into a beautiful, frequency rich sound effect.

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3. TUNED PERCUSSION

The 808’s Toms and Congas come in High, Mid and Low versions, giving you three distinct notes to play with. For more complex melodic parts, however, simply automate their Tuning (pitch) controls in your sampler. Try to restrict each of the three samples to as short a range of pitches as possible to maintain their sonic integrity, though.

4. DUB-STYLE CYMBAL FX

The longest sound in the 808’s arsenal (almost five seconds at maximum Decay) and bursting with scintillating high frequencies, the Cymbal makes great fodder for dubbed-out filter feedback delay effects. Shove it through a suitably equipped delay plugin (Audio Damage Dubstation or Soundtoys EchoBoy, for example), crank the feedback up to ‘freeze’ the cymbal, then play with the filters in real time to manipulate the resulting ‘wash’ of sound. Insert a limiter first, though, as the volume will quickly get out of hand!

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5. TRIGGER OUT PERCUSSION

Each of the TR-808’s three trigger outputs delivers a series of 20ms pulses following the Cowbell, Handclap or Accent patters, that can be used to fire off other drum machines, synths and sequencers via their CV/Gate inputs. Obviously, such functionality isn’t necessary with your software 808 emulation, but the sound of the trigger out signal itself works as a great glitchy percussion hit, as used most famously (and frequently!) by Egyptian Lover. To work it into your tracks, hunt down a sample of it and add it to your 808 sampler patch.

6. THE LOW TOM KICK DRUM

The 808 Bass Drum is one of the greatest sounds in electronic music, but you don’t have to limit yourself to it when programming authentic 808 kick parts. Pitched down, the Low Tom serves as a fine alternative, offering a subtly different tone that can work well on its own, or as a second, distinct voice for ghost notes or simple note-to-note variation.

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7. SNARE RIENFORCEMENT

Although the 808 Snare Drum is a fantastic, characterful option when you don’t need a great deal of power in your backbeat, its lack of weight could reasonably be considered a downside in most other settings. Bolster that notoriously thin sound by layering a Tom or Conga under it, carefully tuned and with a short Decay – instant body and depth!

8. IT’S NOT JUST FOR DRUM KIT PARTS

Like any drum machine, the 808 is primarily thought of and employed as a source of kick/snare/hi-hat patterns, but even if you’ve already got your main drum kit together via other means, keep it in mind as a generator of complimentary ‘Latin’ percussion parts. The Conga, Cowbell, Claves and Maracas sounds sit together beautifully and are ideal for adding a bright, funky top end layer to any drum track.

 

More on the Samplephonics blog…

8 things you didn’t know you could do with an 808

Advice on making better beats

October 20, 2011 10 comments

Advice on making better beats

Strangely enough, most of these thoughts DO NOT center on buying more equipment, better sounds or taking lessons.

I don’t believe you get better by making more beats either. I see advice like “Just keep making beetz and you’ll get better”

In the beginning, it’s mostly about technical concernsHow Do I…?

Eventually, it’s about Control. You want creative freedom to do what you want in the way you want to. You want what fits your style.

A better MIDI controller/keyboard/DAW.  A Simpler work flow. A more organized system of production.

After control comes the quest to control your creativity. You want to understand WHY you get the results you do and even what went wrong when you don’t.

Is it tied to your mood? Your focus? Some cosmic…energy or synergy?  Why were those last 4 beats usable, but today I just made okay stuff?

Let’s go back and answer some early questions and see what bubbles up.

What helped yall to make better beats?

1. Putting your ego aside that you don’t know everything. Lots of producers make consistently “good” beats and think they suddenly know it all. That causes them to stop progressing. Even when every beat is ‘excellent’, you can still continue learning/improving.

2. When you listen and adjust to feedback. What’s the point of asking for opinions if you are already convinced that you are the best you can be. There needs to be a balance between pleasing yourself and pleasing others. Avoid making beats that you don’t like, but you think others might. (mostly) Avoid making beats that are fun to make or nice to listen to. You want to create music that is usable in whatever context you are aiming for.

3. Stop building beats/songs/tracks around drum kits and sounds. Ideas and concepts make memorable records. When you merge a mood to the music, you have something special.

4. Aim for the top. Accept that your career is what happens AFTER you make a hot beat. When rappers begin to think about performing in front of a large audience, they make different rhymes/music. When rappers think about standing in an office pitching their music, suddenly a lot of things that seemed cool in the studio or on their profile page are no longer good enough. Imagine that THIS RECORD/THAT BEAT. That union of rapper to your music is supposed to make it happen. Are you turning out the kind of music someone (rapper + label) can bank it all on?

5. Focus on learning what you need to know. And knowing it WHEN you NEED to know it. Lots of cats try to master aspects of the production chain when they only need a working knowledge. I see cats trying to find DA BEST EQ and learn EVERYTHING about EQ when they need to only understand the basics of mixing and what EQ is for. It’s better to grasp what it’s for as opposed to using it on EVERYTHING because you keep reading that it’s the answer to HOTT BEETZ (along with over-used compression). Why are you studying the intricacies of Publishing when you still haven’t learned how to deliver a finished track in the proper format(s)?

6. Sharing them with the intended audience and seeing what happens. My girl loves my beats. So do my homies. The local rappers aint really feeling them. They mostly say They Aiiight. Do I need to step it up?

And when did you realize that your beats were starting to sound good?

1. When people wanted to use them for records.
2. When people are willing to pay for my time and talent. I would start charging for beats when people ask “How much do you charge for beats?”
3. When people started calling the room with all my equipment in it- a studio.
4. When I started wanting to share my music with rappers and NOT with other beatmakers.
5. When people began to imagine known rappers over my beats “You should give this to…”
6. When my music stopped sounding like beats and started sounding like the instrumentals to records.
7. When people began hearing my beats and asked questions. How did youWhat did you
8. When I began to answer those questions without naming drum machines, synthesizers, DAWs or samples.

I don’t believe you get better by making more beats either. I see advice like “Just keep making beetz and you’ll get better”
So what’s the friggin answer, Griffin?!

Look outward for the reality, look inward to make reality real.

Mighty Zen of you.

Sometimes. Would it be clearer if I said develop the YOU and YOUr music will improve?

Still too hard to understand.

How about “Make music as an exercise in self-expression. Take inspiration from everything around you and NOT just what you hope to gain from the exploitation of your art.”

Okay.