October 28, 2007

Open Thread...

by Chris Randall

Sorry for the lack of posting, but I spent Friday literally ankle-deep head-first in a hole in the ground digging out tiny rocks with a screwdriver in the high desert. I spent Saturday recovering from Friday, and now I'm spending Sunday discovering that absolutely nothing of note happened in the music industry on Friday or Saturday.

So, open thread today, and hopefully someone on YouTube will do something musically stupid that we can all laugh about Monday morning. Subject for today, swing and "groove" in dance music, and the utter lack thereof in the vast majority of it. If you're wondering why your progressive house track, which is essentially the same as that other fellow's, isn't selling as well as his, you need look no further than the swing slider in your DAW. And maybe scoot that first foot a little bit to the right as well. Presto. Hit. Make sure to give me points on the mechanicals.



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Oct.28.2007 @ 1:43 PM
A "Big Boom" is also very important in dance music. The following link contains 17 videos full of tips and tricks, done by DiamondDave103's long lost brother who's got 20 years in this business!

link [www.expertvillage.co...]">link [www.expertvillage.co...]



Oct.28.2007 @ 2:39 PM
I heard someone say once too much swing on a rap beat will make it sound like it's straight out of a Monday after school special.

Oct.28.2007 @ 3:52 PM
i am literally terrified of trying to shuffle or swing when programming music. i don't know why this is, but i'd rather just not do it and claim that i am very influenced by Dopplereffekt.

Oct.28.2007 @ 4:21 PM
Chris Randall
As soon as that guy said "insulation out the wing-wang..." I couldn't smack the "Home" button on my browser fast enough. So I don't know if it got funny or not. He bears a striking resemblance to a drum tech, though.

As far as being terrified to use swing, that's just silly. You're not gonna break anything. Since it's not obvious if you don't know it, here's a simple thing to try:

1: Make a drum pattern that has a closed hat on every 16th note, a foot on 1, 2, 3, and 4, and a snare on 2 and 4.

2: Grab the hi-hat part, and open up your quantizing panel (whatever DAW you use). Obviously, you want to start at a 16th note basis. Just move the swing slider a little to the right (or up, depending on your DAW) and re-quantize the part, and listen. You'll quickly hear what's going on.

Note that swing doesn't affect quarter or eighth notes, so your foot and snare are completely unharmed. But the loping pattern of the hi-hat changes the feel drastically. Almost everything I record I do with a bit of swing. Using Cubase's measurements, the minimum I'll use will be about 11%, and the maximum I generally use is 34%. In Logic-speak, this would be 55% to around 65%.

Note that when you're using swing, the parts that are swinging will find your delays disagreeable if you're using dotted eights, eights, or sixteens. So a little bit of pre-planning with your sends is in order. Also, long snare rolls sound pretty lame with swing, so you generally want to quantize those to straight time.

As for moving the first foot in a single measure pattern (I sometimes do this to the bass as well) a little bit late, this gives the overall... uh... bump that people describe using the catch-all term "funk." I don't mean LATE late. Just a few milliseconds. You can grab a P-Funk song that has four-on-the-floor feet, and look at the difference in time between 1>2 and 4>1 in a sample editor and see what I'm talking about here. Most good funk bands were late on the one, but P-Funk takes it to a completely ridiculous level, which is why they're the funkiest of all.

But it's a simple trick that can be applied to most anything.



Oct.28.2007 @ 4:33 PM
I might have to take a look at it again. I tried adding swing automatically in logic once, and whatever it did really felt pretty random and scattered, not like a cohesive or natural swing at all.

Oct.28.2007 @ 4:49 PM
mike kiraly
As a Logic user, their pre-defined swing templates have always left me a little underwhelmed. They never seem to impart the feel I am looking for.

But I did find a great method for my workflow and maybe another Logic user will find this useful: early on in the project, I open an instance of Ultrabeat, which has a useful variable swing knob, and adjust a straight 16th note hi-hat pattern to taste. Then, I drag the midi region from Ultrabeat to Logic and use it as a groove template. It allows me to effecitively audition the feel of the swing beforehand. Oddly enough, I would have thought that I would have found an ideal swing percentage that always made me happy, but it seems to change project-to-project.

Another tip I learned from reading a BT interview (yes, I know he can sound pompous in music-tech interviews, but he usually gives out one or two good tips) - he talked about how he likes to put different swing amounts on different instruments based on frequency ranges, i.e. swinging basslines harder than drum parts. I like to experiment with different settings for different instruments and see when they compliment each other.

One other thing I regularly do to make my dance tracks swing - program the kicks and snare, but then set up a mic and record the hi-hat live. I am not a great drummer, but that helps the situation. The contrast between the rigidity of programed beats and sloppy hats makes it just a bit funkier.

Lastly - I love pushing the snare back off the quarter note kicks. If done wrong, it creates a flammy mess, but if done right, it gives the groove a laidback feel but (conversely) makes the kick seem more driven.


Oct.28.2007 @ 5:09 PM
Chris Randall
I do that as well, different swing on different parts. I tend to do percolating synth stuff at a lower swing, because it sounds a little gay when you amp it up on that kind of shit. I always do the bass at a higher amount, and the drums will fall somewhere in between, depending on what I'm trying to accomplish. Doing everything to the same exact quantization and swing is a recipe for mentronomic, boring shit, IMO.



Oct.29.2007 @ 12:59 AM
BT doesn't swing basslines harder than drum parts. He swings high frequencies harder than lower frequencies. I've got it in a book somewhere with examples of how he does it. It includes exact numbers of samples for the offsets. He also time corrects everything to unreal note values (sub 128th notes). He's insane.

All cuban music and pretty much anything else I've ever heard that makes you want to dance.. really dance, has the bassline and/or other parts playing early. Take "James Brown - Payback" or "Kool and the Gang - Hollywood Swinging" for example. They've got a boom-wha-boom---boom-wha-boom kind of pattern where where the "wha" is coming in early just before the next kick (or there's a double kick with the first one coming in just ahead of the 2's and 4's). This, by the way, is a form of syncopation and NOT swing. It's almost the opposite of jazz "swing" with parts usually played late. The cuban influence is so infused in pop music now that it sounds cheesy if the vocals don't come in ahead of the beat. Stevie's Innervisions is pure cuban/brazilian rhythms with early basslines and vocals and wicked cool cross-rhythms.

Any house track that doesn't suck has this kind of syncopated pattern where the claps, hi-hats, congas or whatever coming in just ahead of the 2's and 4's. You get the boom sh-boom boom sh-boom pattern going. It's THE distinguishing feature between house and techno/trance which have the claps dead on the 2's and 4's. The early notes really help to propel the groove forward. Reversed hi-hats or sci-fi bleeps are really cool here when they lead right into the transient of the next kick.

The swing slider is not actually swinging anything! It's syncopating it by shifting one part, early or late, against the rhythm of another part. however, swing involves altering both the position AND length of notes. With real musicians, this is highly tempo variant and they will swing it hard at low tempos with the first eighth note extremely long and the second eighth shortened to a snappy 16th, played late. At high tempos .. say 200bpm, the swing is straightened to pretty much even eighths because the notes are just flying by too quickly to play it swung. Drum and Bass is a little different here due to the precision editing that allows for 128th notes or whatever.

Portishead is a band that swings it hard at slow tempos.. horns that go.. boooo.. bip...boooo bip.. that's swing. Reggae swings it hard because it's also at a slow tempo. Dance music is highly SYNCOPATED but does not usually swing. Although a swing of 1.25:1 or so can sound pretty good around 120bpm.

Tunes played straight can still be syncopated by accenting beats, which is the other form of syncopation. Ragtime is the perfect example of that.. it's straight time but, on the piano, the right hand is delayed by a half beat from what the left is playing. Same thing with a lot of old folk songs.

Jazz often has that triplet kind of thing where the first note is almost a dotted eighth and then two or three short notes (spaaaang-spang-a-lang on the ride cymbal.) That's jazz style swing. Incidentally, musicians usually synchronize their grooves by lining up the shorter of the two eighth notes. Singers in jazz often sing late which makes the vocals sound more laidback despite the high tempos.

What's much more exciting is cross-rhythm where you're playing stuff in different time signatures over each other (think african drumming). The simplest would be a 2 beat pattern and a 3 beat pattern played over each other. The perfect example of cross-rhythm is hip-hop.. lay down a beat and then the rapper sings in an entirely different rhythm.

Take 4/4 loop 6 bars long time and a 3/4 loop 8 bars long played together and you get pure techno. I know for sure one of Booka Shade's big hits last year (Mandarin Girl?) has a loop that is both in a different time signature and delayed by a half beat.

A really great explanation of swing, syncopation and cross-rhythm is howard goodall's bbc series "how music works" part 2 - rhythm. Look for it on the google.

Syncopate EVERYTHING around the kicks, especially the 2's and 4's and use whatever note value is appropriate to the part. Swing eighth notes by lengthening the first eighth and shortening the second after you apply the syncopation with the "swing slider", anything else is either going by too fast or too slow usually. You can apply further syncopation by accenting the beats without moving anything.



Oct.29.2007 @ 1:18 AM
Chris Randall
Okay, somebody drank coffee right before bed.



Oct.29.2007 @ 1:46 AM
I can type at 130 wpm :P

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