>Step by step

Build­ing a be­spoke drum groove from a clas­sic break­beat

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -

1 My project tempo is 174bpm. After load­ing a Sandy break into Sty­lus RMX, I drag the MIDI onto my ar­range­ment win­dow, and re­ar­range the notes to form a two-step DnB groove. This is du­pli­cated over four bars. I now have the free­dom to cre­ate a unique loop, but re­tain the break’s per­son­al­ity.

2 Now to re­move un­wanted fre­quen­cies. Us­ing a high-pass (ie, low­cut) fil­ter, I sweep away the break’s muddy 150-200Hz area; and a gen­tle dip at 600Hz erad­i­cates box­i­ness. I’m care­ful not to over­pro­cess the break, to keep it’s orig­i­nal char­ac­ter. I then sub­tly add at­tack and pull back sus­tain with SPL’s Tran­sient De­signer plugin.

3 I’m go­ing to layer sam­pled drum hits for mod­ern punch and def­i­ni­tion, us­ing Cubase’s speedy Sampler Track. After choos­ing a suit­able kick and snare, I’ve mir­rored the break’s hits with th­ese new sam­ples, and added an off­beat kick at the end of ev­ery four bars. Care­fully tweak­ing place­ment, pitch, length and ve­loc­ity helps merge the break and hits.

4 With the hits tuned and in place along­side the break, it’s time to beef them up with a bit of pro­cess­ing. On both the kick and snare, I’m com­press­ing with a gen­tle 1.3:1 Ra­tio, Thresh­old at -18dB, slow At­tack and mod­er­ate Re­lease. I also high-pass the kick and slightly boost at 100Hz for punch. A 600Hz dip and 5kHz lift adds clar­ity.

5 To bring out the snare’s ag­gres­sion, I’ve em­ployed SPL’s Tran­sient De­signer again; and a short re­verb from Val­hal­laPlate gives it width. Next, I low-cut at 100Hz to re­move ex­tra­ne­ous sub. Slight EQ boosts at 200Hz and 5kHz high­light this snare’s ‘crack’ re­gions. For bright­ness, I send the snare to a re­turn con­tain­ing a steep high-pass-fil­ter.

6 To add ex­cite­ment and fill in gaps be­tween my break and hits, I’ll add ac­com­pa­ny­ing per­cus­sive el­e­ments. I’ve cho­sen three pre-made loops: the first is a midrangey sliced break; the sec­ond is a sharp hi-hat loop that strength­ens the groove’s tran­sients; and the third is a per­cus­sive stab that sits back in the mix.

7 I’m happy with the beat, so it’s time to glue the in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments to­gether with pro­cess­ing. To set this up in Cubase, I add a Group Chan­nel track, then route the out­put of all drum tracks to this Group via the MixCon­sole. I now have com­plete con­trol over all of my drums with a sin­gle fader, and can process them as one.

8 For tone-shap­ing warmth and de­tail, I in­sert Slate Dig­i­tal’s Vir­tual Mix Rack on the drum bus. First, I drag in a CS-Lift and ap­ply small touches of Present high lift and Punchy low lift. Next, I call up two FG-N EQs, with slight boosts at 115Hz, 500kHz, 1.6kHz, 3.2kHz and 5.3kHz.

9 Sec­ond in the drum bus chain, I’ve used iZo­tope’s Al­loy 2’s Multi­band Tran­sient Shaper to em­pha­sise the snap of the drums. I in­crease the At­tack of the high and mid ar­eas up to 2.5, and low’s at­tack to 1.5. For sharp­ness, I’ll de­crease all three bands’ Sus­tain just a touch. Over in the EQ sec­tion, I ap­ply a +1dB high-shelf boost for a gen­tle touch of bright­ness.

10 After Al­loy 2, I’ve in­serted a com­pres­sor to meld the groove to­gether. I’ve cho­sen Na­tive In­stru­ments’ VC 160 for its clas­sic, punchy VCA sound. Its au­to­matic at­tack and re­lease times also give you two fewer things to worry about when work­ing quickly. Here, I’ve care­fully ad­justed Thresh­old and Com­pres­sion to dial in just the right amount of punch.

11 Brain­worx bx_dig­i­tal is my go-to plugin for drum bus width and sep­a­ra­tion. I set Mono Maker to around 120Hz, which re­moves any width be­low that fre­quency – this im­proves trans­la­tion on large club sys­tems. To spread out tops, I ad­just the Stereo sec­tion for a wide cym­bal sound, be­ing care­ful to keep the low-mid re­gions fairly cen­tred.

12 Lastly, I’ll max­imise the fat­ness of the drums. Us­ing CamelPhat, I’ll turn on the Dis­tor­tion, MM Fil­ter, Magic EQ, Com­pres­sor and Mas­ter sec­tions, ap­ply­ing very small amounts of each pro­ces­sor, which this al­lows me to push the drums with­out los­ing all-im­por­tant tran­sients and warmth.

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