Old School Sampling Vs Modern Styles
When I started making my own beats about 10 years ago I was influenced by the Golden Age of Hip Hop. Producers like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Q-Tip, Easy Mo Bee, ect. were my idols. Those were the guys I grew up trying to emulate. When I was coming up the South really started influencing Hip Hop. It was around this time I heard my first DJ Screw and Swishahouse mixtapes. Everyone I knew practically wanted to hear stuff like that. I got criticized for being “Old-School”, “Underground”, even “LAME”.
This made me retreat further and made me a huge Hip Hop Purist. Shouting down and condemning people for “Giving up the culture”….
But I couldn’t help loving this new music as well and after much soul-searching I knew the reality and future was with this kind of music. So with that in mind I tried to create my Hip Hop Music from a place of blending classic with modern, taking what’s old and making it new. Preserving the culture and advancing it.
Sampling vs Composition...or both?
I started making music in my elementary school band by being a snare drummer. Later on, I started playing on keys and learning some music theory. Before really understanding music theory, all I did was sample. I understood the genius of chopping samples and rearranging them in a new order that made sense.
People used to hate that I sampled. They called it “Stealing” and “Untalented”, so I asked them to give me their guitars and I would give them FL Studio and in 3 weeks we would see if I could play something on the guitar and if they could make a bangin’ beat from sampling. No one took the challenge…
Sampling is an art form that is misunderstood. I know of some creative musicians who can play dozens of instruments, can compose beautiful songs, but cannot chop samples to save their life.
So when I decided early on that I wanted to combine modern with old school. What better way than to Chop samples then compose over them?
Before You Do This....
…YOU MUST LEARN MUSIC THEORY!
I cannot stress the importance of learning even just basic music theory. Learn your notes, scales, chords, chord progressions. Study the history of music going back hundreds of years to see why certain frequencies make us feel a certain way. This will give your beat game a major edge over the rest of your compatriot producers.
Music theory can also help your sampling game tremendously. You can learn more about pitch to automatically know what the pitch of your sample is. You can learn and memorize different BPMs and how it makes your body move, to make a rough estimate at tempo of sample. Also, once you learn pitch and tempo of sample it’s going to cut your time in half so you can spend most of your time creating instead of waiting!
Lesson: The Shaft Example
This lesson will show you how I went about going from sampling a song, to finding the notes and chords, to constructing a melody, and then finally building up the idea and beat.
Everyone knows of Issac Hayes “Shaft”, its a culturally phenomenon that has transcended generations through commercials, television, movies, and parody.
One reason why I always wanted to stay away from this as a sample. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE THIS SONG…but I’ve heard it too many times sampled and its one of my unwritten productions laws that I tend not to break…sometimes.
One day recently, I heard the song and I finally had to scratch the itch…I have to sample this, but make it completely different. Enter the tutorial….
Step 1: Choosing The Right Sample
You must choose your sample first…DUH! Decide what your going to sample and try to think of how you can chop it up and rearrange it. Will you pitch it up or down? Will you time-stretch it? All these factors have enormous impacts on how the finished instrumental will sound.
For this I decided I wanted to chop the horn stabs found at the later part of the song. I did not pitch or time stretch, I simply loaded up Slicex, chopped the sample and dragged the stabs into the step sequencer. I also took the famous hi hat pattern from the beginning. On one last note, usually I leave samples in Slicex but I didnt want sample memory messing with this project so I did this in a unorthodox way.
Step 2: What Are The Base Notes and Chords?
Once you have your sample you must determine what the notes and chords are. Without this you will be walking around in the dark not finding anything. I realize most people are not pitch-perfect, but you can enhance this skill by training your ear like I have. When I hear such a crystal clear note like the ones found in the horn stabs I can usually pinpoint with precision what the notes are.
If you find this difficult, its okay, we all been there. The tip I can give you is to load up your favorite piano VST and find the notes that way. Always use a piano, nothing else, this will give you clarity in finding the note.
Once you have found those base notes, you must determine what chords are being used. You may need to play around for a minute until you get this one right. Train your ears to hear what a Major and Minor chord sounds like, what are the subtle differences. Using this knowledge is very beneficial in determining what chords are being used.
It took me about 20 minutes to figure out that these chords were regular old 7’s….
Step 3: Finding The Right Melody
Your onto this part already?!? Great, the hard part is over now to the fun, exciting, creative stuff!
Once you have the knowledge of your notes and chords it’s time to let the music speak to your soul and tell you what it needs to thrive. Listen, and I mean listen to what you have, it will tell you. It might be telling you it needs a pizzicato arpeggiated in the background. It might tell you it needs Horns/Strings similar to this example. Whatever it is, listen to it and DO IT!
For this example, I was vibing out to the horn chops and I heard it tell me “Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dah….” I knew automatically what it meant and set out to do it immediately.
Step 4: Building The Beat and Idea
Once you have those elements, now it is your task to listen to what you have and build the idea from there. Use the same notes and scale you used before. You don’t have to be a damn mime, but you know what is being used and if you use that you won’t be going off course.
As you can tell from above, on top of the sample and Horn/Strings, I added drums, bassline, piano, bells, more strings, and a synth. Get it nice and full for the hook, but do not clutter the frequency range. Remember, you must have an artist on it at the end of the day.