Programming authentic samba beats in MIDI
Grab your best feather head-dress – we’re taking a trip to Brazil!
Having previously served as Editor of drummer’s bible Rhythm as well as Computer
Music, Ronan is clearly the right man for this particular gig. He’s been playing drums for over 30 years and making music with computers since the 90s.
Probably the most well known of all Brazilian dance music styles, samba as we now know it came into being through the arrival of West African slaves in Brazil, and the subsequent merging of the two countries’ religious and musical traditions.
Today, samba is, of course, associated with the spectacular Brazilian carnival, where percussion ensembles – known as bateria – march along blasting out the infectious, repetitive rhythms of the batucada samba subgenre, sounding out with its unmistakable swing, somewhere between a 6/8 triplet feel and regular 2/4 time.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you the fundamentals of putting together a small samba bateria in software. I’m using Ableton Live’s Latin Percussion Pack for demonstration purposes, and to keep things simple, the samba I’m programming here is a very basic one, missing many of the instrumental elements that you might find in the real thing – pandeiro, repique, cuica, whistles, etc.
All the parts I’ve created were originally recorded live using a MIDI pad controller, with gentle iterative quantise only applied where necessary to correct minor mistakes. When programming samba – or any other Latin style – snapping to grid is a no-no if you want to retain that essential live feel.