Pro­gram­ming au­then­tic samba beats in MIDI

Grab your best feather head-dress – we’re tak­ing a trip to Brazil!

Computer Music - - Video - Ro­nan Mac­don­ald

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.

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