· By Justin Vitale
Quick Sample Based Beat Making Walkthrough
1 Hour with the SP-404, Elektron M:S, Vinyl, SM58, and Zoom H8
In this 1 hour session my goal was to achieve the following workflow:
- Find samples from vinyl
- Create chops on the SP404-A
- Sample bass on the LoFi-12
- Sequence bass on the LoFI-12 from the Elektron M:S
- Sequence drums on the Elektron M:S
- Add vocals on top
- Create a multi-track Ableton project
Starting with vinyl, I listened to three tracks on one side before choosing a source. I couldn’t find any solo’d instruments so I used the Isolator on the SP404-A to cut the bass frequencies while I was recording the samples. This is to reduce the kick drum and snare from the sample so it doesn’t clash with the drums I will be adding later. I did not match the BPM of the song to the drum pattern I created although it was roughly in the ballpark. I tried using Delay on the samples and it worked effectively to obscure and color the BPM difference. I ended up with 8 chops in total and ended up using 6 in the final beat.
The AT-LP120 was connected by RCA to the SP404-A, which connected by RCA to dual ¼” into the Zoom H8 recorder, which then went by micro-usb to the laptop. From the Zoom H8, the headphone jack goes to the stereo and the line out goes to the iRig, which feeds into the iPhone camera.
While I was creating the chops I went back and forth turning on drum patterns on the Elektron M:S to test their playability and rhythm while trying to choose a BPM to work with. The BPM I ended up using was 86.
Once I was happy with the chops and rough drums I began to form a sequence to trigger the samples. It was only a starting point since adding bass would likely change the rhythm. I also went and found some new drum sounds since whatever was loaded when I turned on the Elektron was suited for a different style.
To get a bass sound, I wanted to try the LoFI-12’s 12bit sampling. At first I tried to use a cheap toy microphone into the line in but I was unable to get any sound, even when I turned the line in gain all the way up (at least I think I did - the LoFi-12 is a bit of a mess of buttons and LCD alphanumeric screen). I ended up sampling in a stock bass sound from the OP-1 which sounded surprisingly fatter than the original.
Once the bass sample was on the LoFi-12 I immediately hooked up the midi-in to the midi-out of the Elektron M:S. Luckily the midi configurations worked off the bat and I did not have to struggle with figuring out how to change the midi channel on the LoFi-12 - it is still a new piece of hardware for me.
By live quantized playing on the Elektron sequence pads I recorded a simple line and tweaked the drum pattern a little bit further. Once I was happy, I set up my Ableton project to track 3 instruments simultaneously - the SP404-A, LoFi-12, and Elektron M:S. The SP and Elektron are both stereo outputs (if you use reverb or delay on the Elektron at least). This required a total of 5 inputs but I used the stereo ⅛” input of the Zoom to reduce it to 4 inputs.
I had the Elektron M:S clock synced to Ableton so when I pressed play or record on the computer - the M:S would start playing in time with Ableton.
When I hit record I let the bass and drums play 1 measure of the progression before I began playing and recording the live triggered samples on the SP404-A. I do this so I can listen and feel the rhythm before starting to play as opposed to rushing to start in sync once I hit the record button. Going off the preliminary riff I had made earlier, I ended up letting the samples play out more instead of sharp staccato phrasing.
After a few alternating phrases, I ended up with an A section that was about 01m20s. Since my goal was to only achieve this workflow and not create a full song - I stopped working on the instrumental here and began to write lyrics.
I started to rap last year after getting fed up with my singing and wanting to try something different. Up until today I was mostly using a random phrase generator and stringing together words, combinations, and adding my own interpretation. Today I wanted to try writing strictly from my head and not relying on any other reference or tool.
The beginning came quick but I struggled for a while trying to make it to the drum break at the end of the beat. I almost gave up and was tempted to just do an instrumental but a 5 minute break helped and when I sat back down the rest came.
At the end my multi-track session had the following:
- Flattened stereo drum track from the Elektron M:S (while I could have tracked in each drum hit separately by utilizing the clock sync and muting all other tracks - this was a quick exercise and I didn’t care to take the time for this)
- Stereo track from the SP-404
- Mono track from the LoFi-12
- Mono vocal track from the SM58
I then mixed these 4 tracks using a combination of UAD, FabFilter, and Arturia VST’s. Mastering was done again by UAD, Fabfilter, and this time Izotope.
The video was created by filming one long take and cuts quickly between the various stages of the process.
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