Tag Archives: beats

I take it back like Spinal Tap…

Hey hombres,

I haven’t blogged on this site for a long arse time.  I make no excuses nor apologies – I’m just really sorry it’s because I’ve been blogging on my artist page at:

I don’t know why I’ve decided to resurrect this blog for the moment, but why the hell not, really?

A good friend of mine won a remix competition today.  His name is Renz and he can be found here.  The competition was for a relatively well-known rapper in Australia called Seven.  And, even tho the global audience probably has no idea who I’m talking about, Renz was up against some very stiff competition including Rob Shaker, C1 and Megatroid.  But he won and more power to him I reckon.

Here’s the remix:

Anyways, have a listen to the song and drop him a line at – he’s a charming chap and he has beats for days, weeks, months, years…


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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Audio production, Hip Hop, Production


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Crazy people on my album recording session.

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you… 10 points if your brain read that in Timbaland’s voice. But, yeah, I’ve been away from the blog for a while.  I had a good reason (or more than one, actually).

I’ve been trying to pull together a bunch of loose ends for my album.  As of yesterday, the final guest vocal had been recorded and the first four tracks had entered the mixing stage.  I have a few minor adjustments to make for the remaining tracks to bring them up to mix readiness and then it’s on like Donkey Kong.  And Donkey Kong was one on arse monkey fucker.

In addition to getting the album together I’ve been constructing an interactive Flash animation for some promo materials.  That has slowly been doing my head in but it’s damn near ready now.  Which brings me to the topic of crazy people – no, really.  You see, if you’re anything like me then you won’t be able to resist reading the comments on various blog posts that you happen across.  Sometimes I skim the post and meticulously read the comments.  It’s a glaring fault in my character. However, you can’t really blame me when it’s possible to stumble across intellectual gems such as the comment below (I was looking for some random shit to do with ActionScript 2):

m polson Dec 10, 2009 at 7:05 pm

a university and or others thought they could use the flash cordinate and ora carttession cordinate systems and by using vowifi and bluetooth cell phones manipulate sound and to stream imiages with cell phones by actionscript and flash cordinate systems by pointing a cell phone at ur headf will u sleep and using angles and xyz from base puter could stream imiages back to cell phone and stream it at ur head is it possable hell yes it is and by accessing directorys and altering the sound onfourier transform actionscripts and using symmetrics of cell phones could stream dangerous radio waves to streaming the same way

I’m betting that the “m” in this dude’s name stands for “mind”.  Or maybe “machine” because I think this was generated by a bot.  But that just makes it even more stupid.

Seriously though, these sorts of barely literate, paranoid and borderline psychotic ramblings are EVERYWHERE on the internet.  People are seriously fucked in the head.

On a side note, here’s a flick from a recent show in Perth. Image

Odette Mercy belts it out @ The Bakery.  This girl can sing soooo nice.




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“Walk” by FG – A New Track.

the walking vest

This is a a "walking vest" apparently.  WTF is a walking vest?

Hi folks,

Here’s a track I was working on for a project (not my “Making Space” album) that, in the end, just didn’t fit with the other tracks in the project.  I kind of like the beat though, so I’ve thrown it up on SoundCloud for folks to check out.  Hope you like it.   The working title of the song was “Walk” because it sounds a bit like the music in my brain whenever I’m walking somewhere.


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Posted by on August 8, 2011 in Hip Hop, Production, soul


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Top Tip! Chopping Samples 101

Photo of my Akai MPC2000XL SE 2 (Midi Sequence...

The MPC2000XL SE2 - Possibly the ugliest MPC ever made.

Hi folks,

If you’re hip hop producer then slicing/chopping samples is your bread and butter (unless you produce for L’il Wayne, in which case brutally destroying the soul of any presets on your synthesiser will be the order of the day).  However, it is often an area of production that is overlooked by beginning producers.  Most of us begin our foray into production by finding loops, looping them and then putting drums on top.  To be honest, while the techniques and skills become more refined and complex – making hip hop music

doesn’t really move too far away from this basic premise.  Learning to chop loops effectively is crucial to advancing beyond this basic stage.

The run-through I’m going to give you can apply to any software or hardware tools you use for beat-making but I’ll generally refer to using the MPC2000XL if necessary.

Firstly, we need to grasp a bit of basic music theory.

Modern Western music overwhelmingly adheres to a 4/4 time signature.  If you listen to a piece of modern pop music, for example, you can count along with it to the beat – 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.  If the beat is a standard four to the floor rock, disco or dance beat this will follow a kick, snare, kick, snare pattern.  Regardless of where the drum hits fall (or even if there are no drums at all) it should be fairly intuitive to count 1, 2, 3, 4 in time with the music.  If it isn’t intuitive then you may well be listening to a song that follows a different time signature (uncommon in pop, hip hop, dance, dnb etc but much more common in jazz, folk and solo instrumental music).

When sampling, you will generally sample from tracks that follow a 4/4 signature.  There are no rules, of course.  You may sample from songs in any time signature but this is something to be avoided UNTIL you have grasped the basics of chopping samples – otherwise you’re probably going to make your life difficult.

Given that most beginning producers start by layering sampled loops (basslines, keys, drums etc) it is good to get in the habit of continuing to grab loops.  When you chop samples, you might only use a small portion of a loop or a number of loops but beginning with a loop will help you maintain the integrity of your rhythm.  As you become more experienced, you will grab small bits and pieces of loops at odd time signatures as you will be more familiar with the rhythmic progressions that you are seeking.

Once you have your loop, you will want to divide it according to the beats.  If you have one bar, you should be able to count 4 beats, 2 bars will have 8 beats, 4 will have 16 beats etc etc.  You can divide these loops into sections of any length you desire, depending on how complex you want to be in constructing a new progression from the slices.  I tend to divide/chop the loop into half-beat/half-count sections.  If you need a longer section in your progression, you can simply line up two or more successive slices.

On the MPC2000XL, the above process is done by slicing the sample into ZONES.  Each sample can be divided into a maximum of 16 ZONES which are then assigned to separate pads on the MPC to be played in any order and at any tempo you so desire.  In Logic, you could slice a loop into 4, 8, 16, 32 equal length regions and physically rearrange them on a track or create a new EXS sampler instrument from them and use your MIDI controller keyboard to replay them.  Every major beat-making approach will allow for some variation of this method.

So what are the benefits?

1. You will no longer be tied to the same unchanging progression of the original loop. 

Assuming that you are using something like the MPC2000xl which has 96 points per quantize (96 discrete points from which a sample may play per beat), then any 4 bars could have (2.09227899 × 1013) x 1536 possible arrangements of those 16 sections.  That’s a big number.

2. You will no longer be tied to the same tempo.

Sure, you always have the option to pitch/time shift your original loop but the outcome of this is usually pretty bad.  With the new slices, you can arrange them then adjust the tempo (faster) and they will overlap but otherwise retain their original playback pitch and quality.  Alternatively, you can pitch down samples and increase their length to create slower tempo arrangements or pitch up and create faster arrangements.

3.  You can introduce organic shuffle/swing rhythms. 

In a 4/4 rhythm the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th count is called the ‘downbeat’.  The point in between each count is called an ‘upbeat‘.  If you were to count out “1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a” in time to a loop, the ‘and a’ would fall on the ‘upbeat’.  Swing or shuffle (they are the same thing) is created by moving the upbeat forward or backward in time (called ‘pushing or pulling’).  If we were to use the ‘and a’ example again, the ‘an’ would be about 50% swing the ‘d a’ part would be 60% to 70% swing.

When you adjust the tempo of your arranged progression, you will be pushing the upbeat of each slice (it will fall closer to the next downbeat than in the original sample).  This gives you numerous options for adjusting the groove of a song.

4. You can modify the pitch of individual parts of the sample.

This can be supremely useful when you are trying to change the tone or tension and release of a progression.  Minor chords can be shifted to major chords or you could pitch down the underlying movement of the sample a full octave whilst playing the melodic parts over the top at their ordinary pitch.

In short, by learning the basic 16 part chopping approach you open entirely new avenues for production that straight looping could never provide.



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The Perfection of Imperfection.

Akai EX85P... mmm.

Hi folks,

The advent of digital recording and the unrelenting pressure of pop music has ushered in an age of super-clean recordings. For the most part, this makes me sad. I tend to comfort myself by going on eBay.

I’m a fan of eBay. I can frequently be found scouring various lists on the hunt for audio gear of all types. Generally I buy obscure, unknown bits and pieces just to see what they sound like. Rarely do I bother bidding on well-known kit because the savings to be had are pretty slim – you just can’t get a TR808 for $250. Everybody knows that.

Most recently I picked up an Akai EX85P parametric equalizer for about AU$50. I’d never run across one before but it looked interesting. It’s a circa 1990 model of prosumer gear with all the classic beige and red design elements that old school MPC users can’t help but love. Aside from it’s appearance and what I could read from the screen, I knew nothing else about it. However, I’m yet to buy a bit of gear that I haven’t put to good use so I figured it was worth a bid. And, lo and behold, it’s an absolute cracker of an EQ.

The specs are as follows:

  • Mono, 6.5mm balanced ins and outs (hence prosumer)
  • High and low shelving (40hz and 12000hz respectively) with +/- 18db
  • Two sweepable mids ranging from 100Hz to 8000Hz (with considerable overlap) at +/- 18db
  • Adjustable Q for each mid frequency band (the Q factor isn’t listed but it seems to be about 6 to .7)
  • It has a footswitch input too, but I haven’t got a pedal for it and, moreover, I can’t see what it would do except engage and disengage the effects bypass.

Overall, it’s pretty standard in terms of features. However, the amount of boost/cut is pretty substantial and it can really have an enourmous impact on the shape of the sound. I haven’t put it on any tracks yet but I’ve been having a great time doing super-resonant filter sweeps on everything from synth lines to dodgey mariachi records. Good fun.

Many years ago I also bought a mono Ashly peak limiter/compressor for something like $40. Again, information on these units is thin on the ground. In short, it is simply not pro-grade gear. That said though, I’ve used this compressor on numerous recordings in the signal chain of numerous instruments and vocals and it is a lovely bit of kit. The design doesn’t allow you to set a threshold (a true peak limiter), which means you have to drive a signal hard into it before it starts to operate. However you can adjust attack, release and ratio settings (the ratios are all pretty intense) and you can adjust the level of output. The thing I love about this compressor, though, is not it’s features nor even it’s intended sound. Rather, I love it’s terrible design flaws and angry grittiness.

Since owning the unit, I’ve discovered that the manufacturers made a terrible mistake when they put it together. They used a kind of foam to line the top and bottom plate of the casing which worked fine for a year or two before age and heat began to make it disintegrate. Consequently particles of foam would build up on the circuitry causing the various transisters and op-amps to overheat and, essentially, malfunction. As a result, the unit I now own (though cleared of any residual foam lining) generates considerable harmonic distortion which, although far below “hi fi” standards let alone “pro audio” is not entirely unpleasant when used in certain circumstances.

Of late, I’ve been running the compressor as a parallel compression unit, driven very hard and then filtered and layered with clean vocal recordings to generate a gritty low end warmth. It’s pretty solid on live bass, too, particularly if you’re using a DI approach.

So, what’s my point? Well, just this – sometimes the best tones you can create don’t come from ultra-high end, super-clean studio gear. Sometimes, you’ll only achieve your own brand of perfection if you let the imperfections run wild for a while.

Any of you have stories about temperamental or downright lo-fi gear that has made you smile?



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Ultimate beat making machine: Computer or Mac-based?

FL Studio

Image via Wikipedia


Hi folks,

Over my years as a hip hop producer, I’ve frequently been asked by people looking to get into beat-making: what gear should I get to start making music?  Being the helpful chap that I am, I always try to steer them in the right direction but, the truth is, it’s a very difficult question to answer.  Of course, the simple response is this: any set up that lets you make the music that you want at a quality that is acceptable.  Unfortunately, the simple answer isn’t very helpful.  So, I’ve decided to put up a series of blog posts that might help people make an informed decision.

The Context

In the world of hip hop production there are two separate paradigms – the MPC-based production set up and the PC/Mac-based production set up.  Due to the fact that the MPC is really nothing more than a relatively sophisticated sampler/sequencer, MPC-based producers usually find themselves using a computer for some stages of their production process (tracking and mixing, mostly).  Computer-based users have the potential to work completely “inside-the-box” but many will find themselves sending their mixes outboard for one reason or another – increased character, decreased “digitalness” or just the increased functionality of outboard gear.


I won’t get into a dispute whether Mac is better than PC (I use a Mac for my mixing tasks) as it all comes down to personal preference and the both have their pros and cons.  Regardless of which system you use you’re going to need three things:

1. A quality audio interface

2. Flexible and functional software

3. Reliable foldback/monitoring (sorry, folks, headphones just won’t cut it)

Let’s start with the audio interface.  Most hip hop production can be done with an audio interface that has as little as a stereo/two mono inputs and a stereo output.  This will allow you to input signals from a variety of sources.  For added flexibility, you will want an interface that has mic level inputs (some interfaces have multi-purpose inputs).  Any mic level inputs should have a phantom power option as well so that you can use condensor microphones to record sound.

The other thing to consider is the way in which the interface connects to the computer.  The two most common (and cheapest) forms of connection are through Firewire (IEEE1394 on PC) and USB.  Either of these options is acceptable.  Firewire is faster than USB2.0 but newer USB3.0 interfaces are lighting quick too.  Interfaces that run only two ins and two outs should not suffer under the USB2.0 standard, though.  Cards with more ins and outs (6 I/O or more) are going to be pushing the USB format to the max.

Lastly, you may want to consider an interface with MIDI in/out.  This is not crucial though.  Standalone MIDI interfaces are cheap and, in my experience, work better than MIDI systems tacked on to audio interfaces.

As for software, there are so many options that covering them all is an impossible task.  The big names in the game are as follows: Logic 9 (Mac only at the moment); Cubase which is stable and useful for the vast majority of plugins from version 3 onwards; FL Studio, which has a unique take on the production workflow but is extremely powerful when used properly; and, Ableton which is an excellent performance-styled program but not quite as sophisticated as the others.

I’ll leave the issue of monitoring solutions until the next post.




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Remix! Mei Swan – Love Guts (FG Remix)

Hi folks,

Here’s a little remix I did for Mei Swan.  You can check her stuff out here.



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