With our special INPUT: Drum Production Masterclass coming up, a common theme at Liveschool lately has been “Listen to the drums on this…” and as soon as it starts, there goes another afternoon.
Here’s just a small sample of what some of our favourite producers have shared. Sometimes it’s the sounds, sometimes it’s all about the playing, but all of it is going in the bank…
Michael Di Francesco (Touch Sensitive / Van She)
The Time – 777-9311 (Warner Bros. Records, 1982)
Prince was a master at making the LinnDrum drum machine talk. I think the best beats are the ones that are instantly recognisable and make people feel sexy – Salt and pepper “push it” for example, this track by ‘The Time’ has that same effect. Prince produced this track and in it he uses 32nd notes on the hi-hats, a pattern you’re probably more familiar with being used in modern hip hop and trap – it’s rare to hear 32nd hi-hats used outside of those genres. Another classic example of 32nd hi-hats is the Class Action remake of the Patrick Adams tune “Weekend”.
Blawan – Peaches (Clone Basement Series, 2011)
I love a lot of the percussive sounds and samples that Blawan uses…he creates really cool grooves/rhythms. This track ‘Peaches (Freestone)’ is my favourite of his, I love it when the extra syncopated kick/tom hits drop at 1:31 ! I absolutely love all of the rhythmic elements going on in this section, especially the rhythm of that gritty lo fi shaker against that kick groove.
Alex F. (HVCK / Untzz Twelve Inch)
Pender Street Steppers – Opening Up (Moodhut Records, 2013)
These drums are alive! Fantastic use of a percussion sample and the 707 machine sounds together, the lack of groove in the machine really accents the wonky rhythm of the percussion, the addition of the tape hiss really rounds out a great sounding kit.
George Nicholas (Seekae / Cliques)
Cut Hands – Black Mamba (Very Friendly Records, 2013)
I like how unpredictable this track is – just when you feel like you have picked the rhythm, it changes. Also the drum sounds are incredible.
Francis Xavier (Motorik Records)
The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up (XL Recordings, 1997)
Neil Mclennan engineered this track to perfection seamlessly blending multiple loop samples, snares and kicks into one amazingly processed bus group. It’s crazy because the drums are so live and organic yet with a modern punch but still dynamic. I was lucky to get hold of the drums individually, they were heavily compressed, and some heavily distorted but somehow worked together as a group. The sub kicks are cleverly compressed, pitched and punchy and fit perfectly in the mix which is why this track sounds killer on club and festival systems.
Steve Reich – Clapping Music (1972)
When my high-school music teacher introduced us to this piece it changed the way I think about music. In “clapping music” a simple pattern meets a simple rule and generates more music than the pattern would on it’s own. The animation in this video helps to understand the technique: the two players have the same pattern – one keeps repeating it and the other shifts the pattern one step to the left. It’s a great example of how systems or limitations can create complexity.
Yama Indra (Gloves)
Idris Muhammad – Could Heaven Ever Be Live This (Kudu Records, 1977)
Love this track, but it’s all about the first 20 seconds really – the phaser on the crash cymbals, the reverb / panning on the toms and of course the incredible touch of the player behind the kit – that’s Idris Muhammad on the drums. Another reason this track came to mind is that it doesn’t feature any snares or claps – instead relying on using a tom drum on the 2 and 4 beats where the snare would usually be, giving the 2 and 4 much more bass emphasis than is usually found in disco music, while maintaining the backbeat feel.
The mix aside, I love tracks like this that kick it off with all-guns-blazing introductions, this one in particular is quite complex. It’s something often overlooked in modern music – the power of “the intro”. People often don’t dedicate enough time to making their introduction incredible, which is more relevant than ever in modern music when you consider the average listener’s attention span. Apparently one quarter of all listens on Spotify are skipped within the first 5 seconds…write an intro like this and you’ll never fall into the skipped-in-the-first-5-seconds pile.
Thomas McAlister (Alba)
Mestre Geraldo – Mistura No. 1 (Ôba Records, 1977)
If you’re at all drawn towards live percussion I strongly suggest tracking this record down. Deep deep grooves and great percussion micro melodies. This is pure Brazilian techno – there’s subby hits, hissy shakers, cyclic patterns and some snappy drops (check 5:12). I’ve been trying to edit this track for years, but I think it’s best left alone.
Adam B (Wordlife)
Boys Noize – My Head (Para One Remix) (BoysNoize Records, 2008)
These drums somehow do everything. They are light and fast, yet also tough. They have many hits yet create a simple groove. They are all electronic sounding but don’t all sound like they come from a Roland TR – 909. They are driving but the song still has groove.
There aren’t many different sounds used but there is never a lack of sonic interest. Blew my mind when I first tried to replicate this sound.
Mark Smith (Gardland / Hunter Gatherer)
Dresvn – Millions of Trees (Sued Records, 2013)
Josh Panakera-Molony (Setwun)
Cinematic Orchestra – Flight
Drummer Luke Flowers takes the lead in this outstanding piece from Cinematic Orchestra’s album ‘Every Day’. An incredibly tight 7/8 feel featuring an onslaught of snare work. I particularly love all the ride sections in this track. (1:40 / 4:08). The syncopated hi hat pedal flawlessly keeps time while Flowers loosens the feel of groove. Controlled snare rolls fall into perfectly executed cymbal hits, catching the most minute accents which complement the rest of the band.
This song has me furiously air drumming (clearly out of time) whenever it comes on.
Want to learn more about drums?
We’re running a Drum Production Masterclass on August 30th 2014, with seven forward thinking producers and industry professionals sharing their proven techniques and opening up in audience Q&As – more info here.
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