Arranging and Performance

I wouldn’t say the standard, but [performance is] becoming an intricate part of hip-hop. Sampling is what created the genre. Sampling and rapping over music we really respected.”
Pete Rock, hip hop producer

Once you’ve selected your samples, it’s time to stitch them together in the arrangement process. Like any good song, your beat should be dynamic, possess a natural flow, and exhibit a balanced soundscape.

There are several things to consider when arranging your beat:

Structure:

Will your beat be built around a repeated verse and chorus? Or will you opt for something more fluid, where parts enter and leave over time? Either method is valid, but be sure to keep the structure interesting for the listener. Try to introduce a new element or change/remove an old one after every four bars. Drum fills are great way to break up monotonous drum loops.

Sonic positioning:

Every sample in your beat should inhabit an intentional sonic “space”. Think of your beat as a stage: Bring samples closer and farther by raising and lowering volume. Send samples to the left and right with panning. Filtering and reverb can help add depth to an otherwise “flat” beat.

Frequency balance:

Try to make a beat with a sample palette that extends across the entire frequency spectrum. Listen for overabundance or lack of a certain type of sound. A fat bass line with deep drums and a low synth will sound more balanced with some mid- and high-range samples in the mix.

With those attributes in mind, get to work arranging your samples. For some, this will involve dragging and dropping sound files with a mouse and DAW. Others – including myself – prefer to use controllers and keyboards for arrangement. I use the MPD 26 for its tactile, performance-based design.

Some beatmakers, such as Memorecks, use performance as a method of arrangement. The improvisational aspect of performance can lead to incredibly dynamic, natural-sounding beats at best, and sloppy, jumbled beats at worst (the example I’ve posted at the end of this is somewhere in between).

If you’re performing using an MPC or MPC-style controller, you’ll need to decide how to position your samples across the 16 pads. Your decision should be based off whether you use unassisted loops (samples that play repetitively without user input), or if you plan to play totally “live.” If you do play live – that is, without unassisted loops – you’ll have to choose between playing one- or two-handed drums. With the former technique, one hand will be devoted entirely to “drumming” while the other plays additional samples. Two-handed drumming splits both hands between drums and additional samples.

The example below is a rudimentary example of performing a beat live with one-handed drumming.

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What is Beatmaking?

If you listen to hip hop, electronic, pop, or even rock, you’ve probably heard a beat at some point. Not a beat in the basic nebulous sense of some sort of rhythmic pulse in the music, but rather in the form of programmed instrumentation.

Beatmaking can also be referred to as production, although that term encompasses many other styles of music creation and oversight that won’t be covered here. However, beatmaking is one of the key aspects of hip hop production, the genre that gave birth to the technique.

Beatmaking is an art empowered by technology. The first beatmakers were Djs in the 70s, who used two turntables in conjunction to create rudimentary collages of sound. With one turntable, the DJ would repeatedly play a basic drum loop – known also as a break – while using the other to scratch or layer additional sounds. This technique is demonstrated in the video below (do yourself a favor and skip through the first minute and a half in which the guy shamelessly promotes himself).

Through the 80s and 90s, beatmaking flourished as technology expanded. Samplers such as the MPC and Oberheim DPX 1 allowed for faster, more intuitive work. And the dawn of inexpensive home computing technology in the 90s opened up entirely new avenues for beatmaking, bringing the art to more eager hands than ever before.

Whereas traditional instrumental composition might be compared to sculpting or painting, in that the artist produces an original work out of raw materials – be it marble, or paint, or vibrations from a plucked string – beatmaking in its purest form is perhaps best compared to photography. Beatmakers, like photographers, draw from existing forms to create their art. As the photographer relies on his keen eye to recognize a suitable scene in the world around him, the beatmaker trusts his ear to pick out useable samples on another artist’s record. As Richard Schur said in Hip Hop Aesthetics and Contemporary African American Literature:

“Hip hop does not simply draw inspiration from a range of samples, but it layers these fragments into an artistic object. If sampling is the first level of hip hop aesthetics, how the pieces or elements fit together constitute the second level.”

Throughout the course of this blog series, I will teach you, my dear reader, with key strategies for beatmaking. I will also provide some tips for performing beats live using a controller or sampler. Get our your headphones and a dusty crate of vinyls; it’s time to make a beat.

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Digging for Samples

Sampling is kind of prehistoric, given the technology and the textures you can create.”

Macklemore

Before we plunge together into the heart of sampling technique, I should mention that this guide – which is far from comprehensive – makes two assumptions about the reader:

  • He/she owns a music workstation, MPC, or computer with a DAW

  • He/she has at least working knowledge of the chosen technology

With that said, we’re good to go.

Sampling is the heart of classic beatmaking, and has survived into many genres of modern music, utilized by artists as varied as Kanye West, Death Cab for Cutie, and Skrillex. In short, a sample is any sound taken from one recording and reused in a different song. This can be anything from an entire orchestral arrangement to a four-bar bass line to a single drum hit. More broadly, samples can include sounds recorded by the sampling artist, such as ambient crowd noise or the sound of keys jangling.

Nearly anything can be a sample, and an individual sample can be used in a variety of ways. Some beats – and many classic beats – are made of nothing but samples, while modern beats in particular tend to integrate samples with live instruments.

The act of finding samples is called “digging,” as it originally required beatmakers to dig through record crates (many beatmakers still prefer the sound of vinyl and relish trips to bargin bins at local music shops). The key to digging is knowing what type of sound you’re seeking, what role the sample will fulfill, or both. Role and type go hand-in-hand – a four-bar loop of raw drums will probably make a great percussive element – but any type of sample can defy its traditional role through careful implementation. Those four bars of drums, for instance, could be pitch-shifted and transformed into a melody part. A vocal melody might be modified in such a way that it becomes a bass line.

Below are some songs in which I’ve identified samples to fulfill archetypical roles:

Drums

Queen – Another One Bites the Dust

At 1:46 the bass and guitar drop away to reveal totally isolated drums – a beatmakers best friend. Either chop individual hits up and rearrange them, or use the sample as-is.

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)

This great Beatles tune opens with crisp drums backed by crowd noise. In opposition to the previous example, the ambient noise provides the drums with great texture. Chop ‘em up or slow ‘em down.

Bass

B.B. King – Is You Is, or Is You Ain’t My Baby

The first four bars of this song contain great bass and piano. To snag the bass, use a low-pass filter with a low cutoff. For a short, tinkling piano melody, use a high-pass filter with a high cutoff.

Melody

Michael Buble – Feeling Good

The intro to this song features an almost-accapella performance by Buble. Sample each word individually, rearrange the melody and filter to your hearts content. The string swells starting at 0:36 could also make great texture samples.

Texture

Frank Sinatra – My Funny Valentine

There are a couple good isolated string swells in the beginning of this track that could be manipulated in any number of ways to provide great texture.

A word of warning when using samples: In many cases, the use of samples is not strictly legal. If you’re a bedroom producer and not charging money for your tracks, you’re protected. I cannot, however, offer legal counsel to those looking to sell sample-based beats. Be careful.

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Why Fellowship is Important for Christians

For Joey Smart, an Ohio University junior, he found himself struggling to keep practicing his Christian faith while on campus.

“Back at home we would go to mass every sunday, but now I only go a couple of times a year while I’m at college,” Smart said. “I still go because I think that keeping the relationship with God is important.”

Having fellowship is important to many people, including me. When I came to OU, it was a struggle finding people who had the same values I did, or if they didn’t, finding people who I could share my struggles in the walk of faith.

Many students at Ohio University who wanted to find fellowship joined organizations such as Cru, Young Life, or even Kappa Phi, a Christian sisterhood, to find people who they can go to and hold each other accountable in their faith.

For one, it was a decision that she wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world, even though it took some major persuasion.

“My friend suggested Kappa Phi and after some heavy prompting I gave in,” said Jayme Pollock, an Ohio University senior. “It was a great decision and rejuvenated my walk with Christ. He showed me I could find good fellowship even in college and reaffirmed my faith.”

One other way Christians find fellowship is going to retreats: a place where people go to have fellowship with one another and foster friendships while learning Scriptures in order to

A retreat is a place where Christians can go and “rejuvenate” from the stresses of the world. They come to worship, fellowship and most importantly, replenish their faith with God. Usually, the retreats have time where Christians or other religious sects can pray to their deities in order to reconnect.

Ever since I was a kid, I went to retreats and found myself in a place where it’s safe to talk about my struggles without the fear of getting judged for it.

According to the Canon Beach Christian Conference Center, retreats are important because the whole “body” of Christ can feel refreshed. http://www.cbcc.net/retreats/resources/benefits-of-a-retreat/

Though there are different levels of activeness people can have regarding religious practices, and retreats are one of them. According to Metamorpha, it’s sometimes a time where people can find direction in their spiritual journey when they feel lost or confused. http://metamorpha.com/retreats/

Now, I’ve personally been a counselor for these retreats for a little over six years. Every year, I find young Christians wanting more information or wanting more time to find out if their faith is truly theirs. I find that fulfilling in a way that is serving them and at the same time, testing my own strength in my Christian faith.

Regardless, fellowship is a way of holding each other accountable as well as having some fun in the process. People are not meant to wander alone or to be alone. Perhaps that is why fellowship is important. Because, we are never truly alone in our struggles, rather, there are people out there that genuinely care.

Watch what some kids did at a retreat back at the Korean Central Presbyterian Church of Cleveland.

In the end, no matter what level of activeness a Christian is taking, there is one reminder that is always constant.

“I will always be one of God’s children,” Smart said.

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The dark side of music festivals

steve-aoki-at-republic-live-featured
(Via theuntz.com)

As ravers prepare for EDM festivals-to-come like the Electric Daisy Carnival and TomorrowWorld, some very real threats in the form of drug abuse has begun to threaten the future of these weekend-long dance parties.

According to this article from The New York Times on last year’s fest season, “at least seven young people attending dance events around the country have died after exhibiting symptoms consistent with overdoses from MDMA and other so-called party drugs, often called ecstasy or molly.”

Although one key focus of the issue may be in stopping the apparent drug abuse found at many music festivals in general, these deaths take a toll on the health of the festival itself by driving away possible investors. Sponsorship and advertising bring the potential for a fest to draw a huge crowd with a big-name star, but these become harder to secure if a company is too afraid of drawing a negative image to sign on.

Even so, some suggest that other factors, or other drugs, may have more to do with the mortality rate. In an opinion piece for the Huffington Post, Meghan Ralston points to other common issues that often plague fest-goers, like heat exhaustion coupled with alcohol consumption, as playing a part that festival organizers have not been quick to acknowledge. “The potentially harmful consequences of alcohol and other drug use aren’t going to change until and unless festival organizers start doing some very basic things. But many won’t — because the fear of being perceived as ‘helping’ people who use drugs at their events is so great,” Ralston said.

Experiencing a fest for the first time is akin to a unique form of culture shock. As festivals force people to go off the grid, with cell phone reception (or power) usually dying by the second night of the event for those without a way to charge, it seems fair to assume that this can provoke a denial of the real-world pressures to be accountable or responsible for what one ingests.

Although it may be hard to ever ban drug abuse in a system that promotes the freedom it tends to provide those who pay to come, something must be done if this forms of artistic expression is meant to last.

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Is Religion Considered a Prejudice?

Prejudice against certain beliefs have some people ruffled.

In the growing and changing times, many claim the Church must adapt in order to accept a larger number of people who may not necessarily fit into a certain “vision” of what the Church should be like.

For some, Ohio University’s campus is a place where it seems to be very open and accepting of others’ beliefs.

Image

 

Galbreath Chapel (Photo | Hannah Yang)

 

“There are a lot of people who are very accepting of others regardless of religion,” said Megan Stickney, an Ohio University freshman. “But just like anywhere, there are some people who aren’t. I think most people refrain from using it as a point of judgment or cause to distance themselves from others.”

However, some claim Christianity is a form of prejudice against those who may not follow the exact teachings of Scripture. Homosexuality is viewed as a sin within the Church, however, times have changed. Even Pope Francis claims that the 

Point is, isn’t it important to avoid branding religion as a prejudice? Faith should be a personal experience rather than a conformation of certain values and principles. Although, many seem to take things a step further such as the Westboro Baptist Church, a congregation known for picketing military funerals and believe that God is punishing America for homosexuals. It’s almost certain, that the concept of faith can fuel adversity if taken in the wrong course of action. http://www.godhatesfags.com/schedule.html Especially when reading the schedule they created in order to get their point across. 
 
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/29/pope-francis-on-gays-who-am-i-to-judge/ In this CNN blog is pointing out the religious leader Pope Francis claims the Church cannot judge those who are homosexuals, rather that Christians should embrace others and accept them as they are. If the leader of the Church is willing to go forward in its teachings and adapt to the changing views on love, then why are some so keen in keeping things as they are?
 
Religion as a prejudice, seems very much so, a constant battle of religion and acceptance.
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Finding Faith in College

Sometimes, finding faith in college can come in unexpected ways.

I grew up in a Christian home and so, religion was always a part of my life. However, I never expected it to be something that would mean much more to me as soon as I dove into the life of a college student. I found myself always seeking to find answers for things that I cannot explain.

When I went to church back home, I always volunteered for Youth Group. I’ve led praise team through singing and I’ve always wondered, would I have became a Christian if it weren’t for my parents who gave me that opportunity when I was a child?

Faith is a subjective thing once you think about it. You don’t have to believe in the same things in order to believe in something that isn’t exactly the easiest thing to talk about. More often than not, some students actually end up not following a certain faith when they’re in college.

http://thepost.ohiou.edu/content/finding-faith At Ohio University, many students are trying to figure out who they are and what their quips about faith is. Because of this, many are finding the need to express themselves through religion or even debate what the idea of religion is to them personally.

According to an article from USA Today, it appears that students are divided when it comes to whatever particular level of activeness they choose to take regarding religious practices. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/26/college-students-god-religion/2875627/

One such student is Jayme Pollock, an Ohio University student who found God through finding fellowship through student organizations on campus, such as Kappa Phi, a sisterhood service organization. Her walk in faith was at question when she first entered college and had to make the decision to keep up with practicing Christianity on her own.

“I thought I had my own faith until I got to school and realized a lot of my views came from my parents and peers at home,” Pollock said. “It was a great decision and rejuvenated my walk with Christ,” she said. “He showed me I could find good fellowship even in college and reaffirmed my faith. I think it’s important to find your own faith or lack thereof in college.”

 

Syndey Reck, is an Ohio University student who found her faith in college.  She now leads YoungLife, a student organization. Photo | Hannah Yang

Syndey Reck, is an Ohio University student who found her faith in college. She now leads YoungLife, a student organization. Photo | Hannah Yang

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