Inspired by Burial's Beats
Although the unique aspect of the project was to create the sounds for the project purely from household objects, it was important to focus on a couple of specific musical genres to which the sample library would cater for.
By focusing on a couple of specific genres, the task of sourcing original sound sources and the techniques that would be used in processing those sounds would be easier to complete with a specific end goal and an overall plan of how the sounds would fit together.
The genres of music that I decided to focus on were ambient, dub and electronica. The focus on these genres would also influence many of the processing techniques that I would employ on the project with many artists in these genres being a direct influence on the sounds, loops and beats that I would create.
Many of the percussion loops that I would create would be influenced by genres such as hip hop and dub step. The main influences would help determine the types of sounds and rhythms of the loops as well as the actual techniques employed in the creation of those loops.
One of the biggest influences on the project in creating the rhythmic loops was an artist known as Burial.
Burial is a current Dub step producer creating a unique sound of his own, dispensing with conventional production techniques and processes in favour of a more unique approach to sound production.
Burial uses a wide array of Foley effects and found sounds to create his music which gives his recordings a unique individuality unlike any artists working within his genre. One of the most surprising aspects of Burial’s productions , however, is the techniques he uses to create his beats.
Rather than using a conventional sequencer or drum machine where beats are rigidly quantized to a grid, Burial separates each individual element that will make up his percussive kit and places each element into Sony Sound Forge without using a grid. This gives his rhythms a unique human feel where the rhythm has a natural swing and doesn’t conform to the regular 4/4 rhythms which are ubiquitous throughout most modern electronic productions.
It is this technique which I would adhere to throughout the process of creating percussive loops for the library.
Beat Creation in Reaper
The DAW I would be using to create percussive loops would be Reaper.
Reaper is a useful tool for this kind of work as files are easy to import, slice, edit and arrange. When selecting the loop function, the placement of each audio file can be changed in real time whilst editing and the loop will change as adjustments are made such as placing a snare hit in the 3rd beat of the bar instead of the 1st.
Any changes made in real time are reflected as the loop area repeats constantly. This technique can be time consuming and involves some meticulous editing with a fair degree of trial and error involved in creating a loop that reflects the genres that the library will cater for.
The first stage of creating a beat in Reaper, involved importing the WAV files of the original sound recordings from household objects which had been recorded in and exported from Audacity.
Various folders of all the Audacity Wav files had been created named and saved , making it clear what each sound recording was. This enabled me to know which sounds were suitable for kick, snare, hi hats and percussion. This careful labeling of folders, WAV files and storage of all files in the appropriate order was a practice that was essential to the organization of the project and one that particular attention was paid to.
ON opening a new project in Reaper, the project would be named, saved and 5to 6 Audacity WAV files would then be imported into the edit window within Reaper.
The imported files were selected on the basis that each one could produce or simulate all the elements similar to an acoustic or electronic drum kit (kick, snare, hats, and percussion). Once the files were selected and imported, they had to be heavily edited in order to cut them into one shot hits.
This process was repeated for every sound file imported into Reaper and the result would be 5 or 6 individual audio tracks each with its own individual one shot hits which were then arranged within a 2 bar or 4 bar loop or whichever size of loop suited the beats.
In this particular case, a simple 2 bar loop was set up within Reaper using the loop function. The first element to concentrate on was the kick sound. In real terms, this element was the sound of a fridge door being shut so the sound had to be processed in order to create a more convincing kick drum sound. It was at this stage that some effects processing was used on individual sounds to improve the sound quality.
For this kick drum, Reaper’s Rea EQ was inserted on the audio track and proved to be useful for sculpting better sounds from the original recordings. Some fairly extreme EQ settings were applied using this plug in with a 6db boost at around 80 to 100Hz, bringing about a solid low end thump which gave more weight to the original sound. The higher end frequencies above 1 KHz would also be attenuated to enhance the effects of the low end treatment further.
The Massey Limiter, well worth checking out
Most of the processing performed at this stage would be fairly extreme in most cases as the intention was to create unique sounds with their own individual character and an experimental edge was applied to much of the sound processing at this stage.
This was an opportunity within the project to get creative and apply some knowledge gained from audio signal processing techniques and apply the knowledge to achieve the sounds I had envisaged from the start of the project.
Dynamics processing is generally used to control problems where possible, such as , removing problem frequencies or controlling transient peaks on an audio recording by applying compression.
This use of dynamics is prevalent throughout music production and is standard practice in many production tasks. In the case of this project, however, dynamics processing would be applied in an extreme manner where the processes involved were designed to create particular effects such as heavy compression, extreme EQing and extreme filtering of frequencies to help create different sound effects and textures.
Many of the effects I was aiming to create would be in keeping with the aesthetic nature of the musical genres I aimed to cater for with the sample library.
Early hip hop production techniques and the sounds gleaned from those early productions would be an influence on the sounds that I would be attempting to create for the library.
As mentioned in the review, the nature of those sounds had elements of distortion in them, mainly due to the fact that a machine such as the E MU SP1200 employed 12 bit digital audio which would introduce degradation in audio quality from the original samples. This sound became attractive to the artists and the audience alike and I would intend to recreate these types of sounds for some aspects of the library.
To recreate these sounds, heavy compression would be applied to individual elements such as the snare hit in a loop and in other cases, the compressor plug in would be applied over the master buss within Reaper and Pro Tools.
An example of this can be shown in creating one of the processed loops named rolling thunder. Much of the processing for this loop was performed in Pro Tools with the basic editing done in Reaper, rendered as a WAV file and imported into Pro Tools for further editing and processing. The main loop was imported into Pro Tools with some other WAV files comprising of kick and snare hits (individual one shot hits).
These were then placed in conjunction with the main loop to augment it adding some emphasis on different parts of the beat, changing the overall accent of the loop. These individual elements would then be processed separately using software RTAS plug ins.
Processing Tools Pro Tools
The software plug ins within Pro Tools were important in helping to create the sounds for the library. One of the most useful was the Vt3 EQ plug in by Massey. This EQ processor was extremely effective in shaping snare hits, adding a degree of coloration and character to the sound which helped the percussive snare sound in a loop stand out.
PSP vintage warmer classic plug in
By using this plug in and setting the treble control ¾ of the way round whilst reducing the level of the bass control, it was possible to recreate the sound of a snare rim shot sound, much like the kind heard on many Dub Reggae productions.
Using Pro Tools Audio suite to process one small region , meant that individual percussive hits could be processed separately, adding some variation to a percussive loop and retaining a more natural feel to the loop.
There were several other processes involved in creating unique sounds and another plug in that proved useful was another Massey plug in, the CT4 compressor. This plug in was simple to use and flexible in the functions that it could be used for. For the Rolling Thunder loop processing, the CT4 was deployed as a conventional compressor, controlling some of the extreme transients taming the overall level of the loop.
The next processor in the chain was the PSP Vintage warmer. This plug in can be used subtly to provide gentle compression with some coloration to the sound or can be pushed in an extreme fashion where characteristics such as tape saturation, valve distortion and even overdrive effects can be emulated.
The secret weapon for the vintage warmer is the drive control which can be tweaked to add the appropriate amount of distortion artifacts.
The frequencies affected by the saturation effects can also be controlled so it is possible to roll off the amount of low frequency content being affected whilst boosting the higher frequency ranges above 1 KHz which proved to be effective on entire drum loops as well as on individual elements such as snare hits or high end percussion loops.
The vintage warmers flexibility in creating subtle effects through to extreme distortion as well as its ability to cut or boost those effects at various frequencies made it a useful tool in the processing stage and was essential in helping to emulate some of the sounds from the early hardware samplers from the earliest hip hop productions.
Although the signal chain just mentioned would be fairly standard in the drum loop processing tasks, more unconventional processes would be applied to basic drum loops to create more interesting and unusual rhythmic loops. Some of the effects use at this stage would include reverb, delay, modulation effects, extreme EQ, filtering and glitch plug ins which create random and interesting results.
next post will go into the more extreme processing,peace papas