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So how do you make electronic beats?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by inlimbo, Nov 26, 2005.

  1. macrumors 6502

    How do those electronic artists like aphex twin, squarepusher, modeselektor, bjork, (and now) radiohead make their beats? I assume that these artists don't just merely use samples like a lot of DJs but that they actually create their own beats using software. I love the compact (and often mind bending - see aphex twin above) sound of electronic beats and want to have a dabble with making my own beats. But I don't know where to begin :eek:

    I must confess my ignorence of digital music tools. I am very much an analogue musician - i have a guitar, a bass and a drum kit. I don't know or understand anything about protools etc... What (preferably free/cheap if at all possible) software do I need to get started? Im just looking to create something using my PB without having to buy any extra peripheral input devices etc..

    If you have some cool beats that you have programmed and would be great if you could post a link and tell me what u used to create them and how.

    I looked at Garbage Band but its looked very primative. Didn't seem that you could muck around that much with beats and looked as if you were constrained to 4/4 (and the mathematical derivatives thereof).
  2. macrumors 6502

    I would assume that most, if not all, of those artist use MIDI to create their 'beats'.

    Basically, MIDI is a protocol, or language, that controls MIDI-capable devices (predominantly synthesisers) - it is 'performance data', not audio. You can either record or step-write MIDI data and then use that data to trigger the synth/sampler.

    It makes so much more sense once you actually use it (if someone could post a picture of the Matrix edit window, that would probably aid this explanation). The most popular MIDI sequencer is Apple's own Logic Audio. The express version isn't too expensive and it comes with some half-decent software-synthesisers.

    If you simply want to create 'beats', you might want to take a look at iDrum. I've only ever seen other people use it, but they seem to be able to get good results quickly.
  3. macrumors 6502

    Ok, I found a Matrix Edit window from an older version of Logic.

    Each of those coloured bars represents a note. The length of the bar represents how long the note is held, and the colour represents how hard the note is hit. This is what I mean by 'performance data'.

    This data is then played back from left to right, at a specific tempo, and the data is fed through a synthesiser that interprets that data and plays back that data as audio.

    So, for example: at bar four, the synthesiser will get a message to say "play a short, hard C1". The synthesiser will then play back a 'short, hard C1' as best it can.

    Now, these coloured bars can be played back as almost any instrument. I could play this data back through a guitar patch, a bass patch, a piano patch, a horn patch, whatever.

    Now, let's say that each coloured bar represents a part of a drum kit. And let's say that the notes: C1 = Kick, F#1 = Crash, D1 = Snare. The first three coloured bars of this sequence could be read (and consequently played back) by a drum synthesiser as:

    Short, hard Kick
    Long, medium Crash
    Short, medium Snare

    But, like I said, this becomes so much more obvious when you're actually doing it.


    Attached Files:

  4. Moderator emeritus


    Some use MIDI, some use sample loops and some use live recordings to make their own samples, or more likely a combination of the three.

    What is unlikely is that "serious" artists like the ones you mention will simply grab a loop out of the garageband library unless they are being deliberately ironic.

    Some will use loop making tools like ReCycle and integrate them into Reason (which plays ReCycle loops natively), or into Logic/Cubase/Protools etc.

    I hear that Abelton's Live is also pretty cool for loop based music.

    I'm hearing a lot of combined loops in modern productions, often MIDI and audio combined.
  5. macrumors 68030


    Believe it or not, a lot of music producers still use hardware-based solutions for beat making. The Akai MPC 2000 is pretty standard in the world of hip-hop, and I believe Tom Jenkins (Squarepusher) did a lot of his early work on this type of box (not sure what he uses now).

    That being said, Ableton Live is a fantastic app for this type of thing, and a free demo is available on their site.
  6. macrumors 68000


    You might also search issues of Keyboard and EQ magazine(s) for articles about loop creation. They often interview artists and explore their techniques.

    I'm also a big fan of Reason and use it often when creating loops. Sometimes I use it in addition to samples I've lifted from vinyl or drum stuff I have in my gigastudio. It certainly has enough onboard capability to create loops that don't sound trite or prefab....I've got a few methods to get really cool results.

    hmmm, maybe we should start a Reason " tips and tricks" thread?
  7. macrumors 65816


    I'll second this method. You can get some really interesting results using the ReCycle/Reason combination, particularly if you mess around with the timing of the Rex file in Reason.

    It is also useful as you can ReWire Reason into Logic and control it from there.
  8. macrumors 6502

    Thanks guys. I have experienced these types of programs before like fruity loops (which I didn't like) but the programs you have suggested look a lot better. I guess i better get downloading some of these demos.

  9. macrumors 6502

    As a follow up Q:

    How do u rip a bass line or a vocal line from a mp3 as a sample? What programs can do this?
  10. macrumors 6502a


    You could use software with frecuency-splitting features. The only one I can remember right know is Adobe Audition (Windows only), but I am sure there are others that can do this (cubase, protools, maybe?).
    It's not magic though. You basically split the audio by frecuencies and extract the frecuency range in which your sample is "located". The problem is that there are probably other instruments or sounds that are within the same frecuency range. So it is very difficult to get just the sample you want.
  11. macrumors 68030


    And mp3 compression seems to make it even harder to isolate specific sounds.

    Many dance and rap hits have acapella versions (vocals only) that are released on vinyl for DJs. Search the web for DJ record stores to find these.
  12. macrumors newbie


    I'll third the Reason Method.
    Although ProTools also handles MIDI and it does have very nice beatmapping and loop tools, they are not the sharpest in version 6.9. Version 7 has improvements for MIDI, but I have not tried them out yet.
    IMO, you should go reason. You can do everything by clicking around, too. Reason is a bit daunting at first and not my strong area, but there is a lot of support for it around and it is probably the most powerful tool to handle MIDI and to make beats.
  13. macrumors 65816


    I second...

    I use Glaresoft's iDrum, and it's a breeze. I can't speak about the other software, but I can tell you that iDrum will get you started quickly, and it comes with a lot of pre-packaged drum sounds. Plus it lets you use pretty much any .wav or .aiff file as a drum sound. For the price (around $50 USD, I think) it's definitely worth the money.
  14. macrumors 6502

    Thought I might re-birth this thread.

    I looking at getting a drum machine but I don't know where to start. Want something along the lines of what I said above. There are a heap on ebay. I don't know/understand the differences between them. Can u help me out? And when they say 'analogue' drum machine they just when it has that 'old school' electro drum sound?

    I like the look of the Vintage Roland TR606 Analog Drum Machine and the BOSS DR 660 ELECTRIC DRUM MACHINE. These are apparently used by guys like aphex twin, NIN, squarepusher etc...

    Roland drum machines on ebay

    Boss drum machines on ebay
  15. macrumors 68030


    Personally, I wouldn't buy a hardware "drum machine" these days. Software + a midi controller will give you much more flexibility. iDrum + Trigger Finger is a pretty economical way to go.
  16. macrumors 601


    it's difficult to say without knowing how you like to work. i did my first programming on some roland drum machine in the 80's (can't even remember the model number) and that's the way that stuck. it worked a lot like the Redrum drum machine in Reason, so that's what i use now.

    imo, the way one works is a personal thing and, because different pieces demand different kinds of workflow, not all pieces work for all methods. best advice is to try a few machines to see which you like.
  17. macrumors 65816


    If you really want that Squarepusher/Autechre sound and have a lot of time on your hands, look at Max/MSP by Cycling '74. It is basically a visual programming language that you can configure how you see fit. For instance you can create your own sequencer that is controlled by an algorithm which may have it's individual variables controlled by a control interface such as the Korg MicroKontrol. Sim Gishel off the album Confield is controlled in this way.

    For instance you could also use Max/MSP to control the length, speed, loop start and end, etc. of various individual sound clips, while creating the various sound clips in real-time by a synthesizer that you built yourself. You can plug in distortion, delay, panning effects, granular synthesis, filtering, etc. and control all of the parameters of each in real-time. The real trick to all of this is first learning the language, then learning how to make something that is aesthetically pleasing.

    I just whipped together a Max/MSP patch really quick just to show you what you can do in 10 mins (that is when you get used to the program). If anyone knows where i can host either a short 5.6mb or the larger 30something mb file, let me know and i will be happy to share. Edit: now i have a 470kb .zip file with a compressed version, if someone could host that.
  18. macrumors 6502

    I think that is what Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead uses to feed his guitar through to create some amazing sounds. Listen to live versions of "Go To Sleep" and "Backdrifters".
  19. macrumors 6502a

    Learn C and C++, get to grips with MatLab, and you can work in the industry making these weird or wonderful sounds. I hope that explains.
  20. macrumors 6502

    Lol! I used Matlab at uni. But it was for a subject called Financial Econometrics :D
  21. macrumors Core


    I love my Roland R-8, it maybe 16 years old now but to come up with drum lines it's a doddle.
    I do occasionally use it as a sound module via triggers and a Kat midiKITI Pro.
    But I also use the midiKITI to trigger softsynth percussion.
  22. macrumors Core

    Aphex Twin created a lot of little effects boxes to manipulate sounds.
    I think I'm right in saying he tried to build a sampler when he was at school. It didn't work very well, it just produce noise. But he loved the sounds and used it to create stuff that hadn't really been heard before.

    Trying to recreate some of his sounds via software would be pretty difficult as digital stuff is pretty poor at recreating analogue sounds.
    Compare a real TB-303 to a soft 303 and you'll know what I mean.
  23. macrumors 6502


    if you cant get a kick you like...find a record with a good kick and sample it!
  24. Moderator emeritus


  25. macrumors 6502

    Why make em when you can take em: Just Joking.

    samples from Aphex Twin:


    Listening to these samples, the drums sound like sped up samples.

    I used to have a sampler on my DJ mixer.
    I would take an RNB or Jazz record that's supposed to be played at 33rpm and play it at 45rpm, sample a bar, loop it, run that thru a wah pedal into the computer.

    I have a bunch of these loop's I made on DAT, but my DAT machine is busted.

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