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On The Beat (Part 22)

Another selection of excellent drum patterns appear in this month's edition of the definitive beatbox programming series. Nigel Lord hands put a good beating.

While the record industry seems content to ignore music it can't categorise, MT's rhythm ace presents an eclectic selection of drum patterns in this month's beatbox programming feature.

FOLLOWING ON FROM last month's theme - or lack of it - of going through some of the patterns that didn't make it into specific episodes of On the Beat, here are a further selection. Having had a "Work in Progress" sign hung on them for anything up to 12 months, however, I think it's fair to say they've all reached a stage of refinement which makes them as good if not better than the patterns which were originally included. The only problem (if you can call it a problem) of including them now is that they're not so easy to pigeon hole.

Pattern 1 is a case in point. The contrasting elements of an on-the-beat/off-the-beat snare drum part, a "clockwork" sidestick and heavy two-note bass figure (comprising the low tom and the bass drum) conspire to make this a very insistent groove which would be well placed in a variety of situations ranging from jazz-funk to dance - even, perhaps, heavy(ish) rock, given the right choice of voices.

A delightfully simple pattern to program, the only point to watch out for is the closed hi-hat note between beats three and four of bars one and three. This has not, as you may have thought, been accidentally moved off the beat somewhere in the printing process, but is intended to represent a closed hi-hat stroke which shuts off the open beat immediately preceding it. You may have to experiment a little to get the right effect in terms of spacing, but you could always ask a drummer to show you how it's done - this is a technique they often employ as a means of accenting a particular beat in the bar.

Another fairly simple pattern, Pattern 2 relies on an interesting descending (in volume terms) hi-hat figure to create an unusual groove which could well be pressed into service as an intro to a more conventional rhythm track. If you've been following the series, you'll no doubt be familiar with this method of programming; if you haven't, simply divide up the available dynamic range of your machine to embrace the 14 different levels represented by the numbers inside the diamonds (14 = high, 1 = low). Make sure, however, that the last beat - beat one - is not set to zero.

As you're no doubt aware, since my lengthy investigation into Latin American styles, Paul Simon has taken it upon himself to see what Uncle Sam has been sitting on all these years south of the border. And so it is that a whole new audience has been introduced to the delights of South American rhythm. If you were one of those who found themselves beguiled by the sound of massed drums on that track, you might like to cast an eye over this month's example number three.

Basically, it's an example of what can be done when you fill most of the spaces in a four/four pattern. A fast, repeating snare line along with the hi-hat, side stick and four-on-the-floor bass drum create what is by any standards a pretty compelling rhythm. Further interest is created by the high and low bongo part divided neatly between two two-bar sections, and the tom-toms which are used to provide a little more depth and give the pattern something of a hypnotic feel. That said, these instruments need to be kept well down in the mix (if this is the desired effect), and where possible you should opt for deep, open-sounding voices. On the subject of voices, snare two, as you might imagine, needs to be fairly short and dry sounding; snare one, by contrast, should be somewhat heavier/longer with a more ambient feel to it.

In Pattern 1, I referred to the side stick part as being "clockwork" in feel and this is further exploited in example four. Like Pattern 1, this has the effect of producing a very insistent groove complemented by a fairly heavy bass drum line which drives it along nicely. The claves make a welcome programming return here too and help bring a lighter, more exotic flavour to the pattern. Needless to say they can, if desired, be replaced by any of the more delicate-sounding percussion instruments you may have at your disposal. Incidentally, the snare drum beats in bar four are not (at the stated tempo range) programmed as true flams but should, nevertheless, be positioned pretty close together (about a quarter of one of the grid divisions - in case it's difficult to see); each pair comprising a low then a medium dynamic note.

My love of the bongos as programmed percussion instruments crops up again in Pattern 5, but as you will hear, these in no way hijack the overall feel of the pattern - which, in fact, is anything but South American. Exactly what the feel is, however, is rather more difficult to determine. I'm afraid you have no choice but to program it into your machine and then decide if you like it. As you can see, it's quite straightforward, and comes with a built-in cadence at the end of bar four which can be programmed to occur at a musically useful position in the percussion track.

A couple of jazz patterns next: the first has a familiar, tight swing feel to it, the second steers us somewhere into (early) Level 42 country. Both Patterns 6 and 7 are programmed in triplet time, but that's just about all they have in common. Of the two, Pattern 6 is probably the more versatile, but personally, I prefer the pleasantly "off centre" feel of Pattern 7 which, as you will notice, is achieved without recourse to odd time signatures.

Other than a snare drum grace note in bar two of Pattern 6 (programmed such that it can just be heard over the level of the other instruments), there are no programming points worthy of note. However, as with most jazz rhythms, shorter, tighter voices should be selected in preference to longer, more ambient ones.

This month's final pattern provides us with proof yet again that the simplest and most straightforward rhythms can be transformed by the addition of a couple of extra percussion instruments. In this case the cabasa and the castanets work together to lift an otherwise unremarkable pattern to a position of considerably greater rhythmic interest. The cabasa, as is often the case, is programmed to fill in between the hi-hat beats and provide a nicely syncopated feel to the pattern. The castanets are there simply to help make this a rhythm you want to listen to rather than simply tap your foot to - which, come to think about it, is what this series is all about...

Series - "On The Beat"

Read the next part in this series:

All parts in this series:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 (Viewing) | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31 | Part 32 | Part 33 | Part 34 | Part 35

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P&R Audio PB40M

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Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Music Technology - Aug 1991

Feature by Nigel Lord

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> Patchwork

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