Cre­ative cow­bell ad­ven­tures

Here we’ll trans­form the clas­sic 808 cow­bell sound into an ex­tended, pitch-ma­nip­u­lated riff, drenched in ef­fects for a com­pletely new sound

Future Music - - FEATURE -

All of the TR-808’s drum sounds are iconic, of course, but aside from the thun­der­ous kick, one stands out: that cow­bell! Sound­ing ab­so­lutely noth­ing like a tra­di­tional cow­bell, this syn­the­sized hit has a ring­ing, nasal tim­bre that you ei­ther love or hate.

Its tonal na­ture makes it a great can­di­date for all man­ner of pro­cess­ing – tune it to an ap­pro­pri­ate pitch and use it as the ba­sis of a sam­pled riff; drench it in end­less am­bi­ence to fill out space be­hind a dry rhythm track; or wildly au­to­mate pitch changes for techno-style trip­pi­ness.

In this first ex­am­ple, we’ve pro­grammed a rhyth­mic 16th-note pat­tern to em­u­late se­quenced 808 steps. To give this recog­nis­able hit some char­ac­ter, we’ve pitched down cer­tain fre­quen­cies by an oc­tave, widened the sound, then as­signed fil­ter cut­off to ve­loc­ity for muf­fling move­ment.

To de­sign a tonal FX bed, we take one single cow­bell hit and swamp it in an alien space cour­tesy of Even­tide’s weird ’n’ won­der­ful Black­hole re­verb. That plugin is do­ing the heavy lift­ing, ob­vi­ously, but you can still de­ci­pher the original cow­bell sam­ple’s key and tim­bre within the ef­fect – a nifty way to put your own spin on a recog­nis­able sound.

Fi­nally, we’ve used an 808 cow­bell sam­ple as a tonal note to cre­ate a sim­ple one-bar riff. We’ve du­pli­cated our MIDI notes to span two oc­taves for uni­son den­sity. Cre­ative dis­tor­tion, plate re­verb and dark de­lay re­peats dis­guise the original sam­ple, and we can play with amp de­cay and re­lease pa­ram­e­ters to evolve the riff.

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