This is going to be one of the hardest things to write. There is so much ground to cover, the groove is the biggest part of the beat.
Tools of the groove.
There is many choices when it comes to the groove, and the genre doesn’t limit it. You can go with live drums, drum machines, synths, loops, samplers and probably a million other ways.
First off doing live drums limits you a lot, this may be good, but thinking about the amount of money you need to invest along with learning the art of recording drums, and finding a place to put the drum kit, this is not the way to go, starting out making beats. Once you are established this however can be a good way to add some special flavor to your beats.
Drum Machines is a hardware unit with a number of pads, they are closed. There is no way to add your own drums, or anything else. You might think that the drums in it is enough, but you’ll be surprised how easy they get old.
Synths may have some drums in it and you can program some yourself. I find this a long way to go, programming drums take a lot time, for somebody how are used to programming synths, it’s probably easier, but it got a big drawback, you can only do synth drums, unless it’s a sampler playback synth you can use the samples in it, but then we are back to the issue with drum machines. Programmed synth drums it’s a nice addition to your arsenal, but not what i would recommend for somebody starting out.
Loops are easy to work with, it’s a good way to add extra drums, but they aren’t flexible enough to be your primary source of drums. However there are many good free loops out there, these can be nice to have and got some nice uses.
Samplers are, in my option, the best places to start. You can get a drum sampler, or a regular sampler. Regular samplers are not necessary less worth then drum samplers, the only real difference is that drum samplers are optimized for drums, some might have less features then a regular sampler. BPM, Battery, GURU and Maschine are some of the more popular drum samplers that got a good reputation among beatmakers. Cubase got GrooveAgent ONE, the other sequencers maybe got similar instruments, but i can’t remember. A good sampler can really help you, it usually get some drums in there, acoustic, electric and synthetic drums, they may allow you to slice and dice loops, these make all those loops worth while. Getting the right sampler for your rig is critical, do the research, demo it. Hardware and software are both good, it all depends, give it time, this is going to be the centerpiece off your beatmaking rig, so let it take it’s time, play with what you got until you find out what is missing and find the piece that got that.
Your best bet is to get all of them. You probably got a synth that can program some drum hits, loops are easy to find and the sampler can work as a drum machine. The problem with live drums are that many of us don’t have the room, but if you get the chance to use them on a track or two, i would grab it.
The groove can take many forms, there are many way of doing, not one of them are wrong, but there is a right way for every track. I can’t tell you if you are on the right track, but you’ll know it. However in order to find the right groove, you’ll need to know a bit about how other people have made their grooves, we normally don’t get an idea without associating it with somebody or at least a certain style, sometime you get the idea of mixing the different style. Here i’m gonna talk about the different styles and maybe mention a few of the people who made the styles, but don’t take this is straight facts, i have researched a lot of beats from each style in order to conclude what is common in each style, but i haven’t heard them all, so somethings may be missed.
Boom Bap are credited as the original form of hiphop. The idea behind it is simple, kick snare and hihat usually make up the groove. The form of these are simple, the kick snare pattern are usually just a kick snare kick kick snare (kick on 1 snare on 2 kick on 3 and 3,3 and snare 4). The hihat are a bit more loose, often done with no quantize. Don’t think that the simple stuff don’t hit anymore, sometimes simple is better. I am a big fan of boom bap rap, it’s really a lyricist genre, so if you got a track that require more then normal attention to the lyrics it’s a great choice, even with this need it can make great tracks, the simplicity of it grabs you if done right. The kick and snare are usually made by sampling drums of vinyl.
This is the style of Dr. Dre back in the 90’s this is the sound of N.W.A, Cube, Pac, Snoop and a lot of guys have taken it up later on, the name comes from the P-funk style beat and the Gangster lyrics. The drums are normally sampled acoustic funk style drums, the pattern is still a bit simple most of the time and the kick snare kick kick snare is still in use in some cases, hihat is often layer on top of the snare or kick, the snare pattern is often more complex then in Boom bap, the change from verse to hook is normally done with either a snare flam or a small roll leading up to a cymbal. The drums are often more processed in order to keep them clean, vinyl kits are uncommon but is still used. I be honest, i love the g-funk, i think it’s one of the better genres if you are into funky drums, there is still room for the rapper, but the drums are a bit more complex.
This is the style of RZA, anybody that have read my previous blogs knows i’m a big fan of RZA (check the little trivia in the end of each blog). I must admit that RZA is on my number one spot of beat makers. There is no other name for the style, since some people don’t see it as a style in it self, but rather a variation of boom bap rap, i think it deserves it’s own name, so it now have. The most defining characteristic of it is off beat drums, not so much you hear it as off beat, but really close to it, the vinyl kits of boom bap is also a big part of it. Other then that there isn’t much to it, you can go with the classic boom bap pattern or a more complicated one. There are a few methods to create this pattern, you can use the swing on a quantizer or use a groove template, however to get the right feel you at least a bit of non-quantizing in the template, i usually go with between a half and a fourth of the distance between notes, depending on how off i want it to be, a harder way, is to turn quantizing on and just hit out the pattern, if it’s to off or on beat go in at move the notes till you hear something you like.
This is not the lil jon crunck stuff, but the sound of UGK and slim thug. I have not found any certain pattern that can be called a standard, but there are certain drums, heavy percussion patterns and 808s belong here, even though the 808 have been in use in almost all style, this is the first place where it was seen as a pillar of the music. Some dirty south beats build upon gongs and other percussion. Unlike Boom Bap and partly G-funk vinyl kits are very rare in this style of beats. I will admit that this is not a style i like to work in, while i enjoy a lot of dirty south music, i don’t make much of it myself.
Crunck and electronica rap
This is two separate styles but on the groove side they sound pretty much the same to me, lil jon is a big player in the crunck game, Kid Cudi comes to mind as a part of the new kind of electronica rap, while that isn’t a official name of style, i think it’s fitting since it’s a mix of the two genres. I’m not very into this, a few crunck songs are in my collection, but it’s not a lot, so i may have missed a few elements, but here are the basics. Both styles relays a lot on analog synth drums, other then that we are talking claps and the infamous snaps, hats are often electronic messes of sounds and blips and blops are not uncommon here, the pattern are often tight and always on beat. The 808 drums are really the major building stone here and it’s uncommon to hear a 808 free track in these styles, other then that there is not much i can say about these styles.
Making your own style?
Of course if you make boom bap rap, you make boom bap rap, nothing wrong with it. In the end it’s all about what you want to make, however it’s important to note that there are very few rules when it comes to the groove of hiphop, you can do ultra tight beats with the drums totally on point or go shoalin style on them and do a slobby mix, you can chop up drum loops, put g-funk style rolls in the end of dirty south pattern, use 808 in boom bap, or borrow patterns and sounds from other genres, nothing is of limits as long as the rapper can spit to it. I have never been one to stick to a style, i make what i want to make, and while there are some trades running 90 % of my beats, they may not be in the next one i make, i may decide it’s time to make a electronica style beat and leave my boom bap and shoalin style on the shelf for that one, i don’t think so, but if i wake up one day and decide to do it, i’m gonna do it. My point, mix and match take the drums to the place where you want them, don’t think “i need to make a dirty south pattern for this beat”, think “i want to make a dirty south pattern for this beat” even if the rest of it sounds like G-funk, you make the rules, these styles are just guidepoints, that you can follow if you want people to think “ahh G-funk” as soon as the drums come on.
Alright that’s it for this time, it was a hard blog to write and it’s nowhere near a complete guide through the universe of the groove, but it should give you some pointers as to how to go about it if you are new to the groove. I plan on writing a part 2 sometime in the future, but for now this is all i have to say about the groove.
A little trivia
Ok i promise this is going to be the last RZA trivia for a while, but RZA currently uses a MV-8800 and is very happy with it.
Peace out for know