You've got the beat, you've got the beat!
June 8, 2004 5:13 PM   Subscribe

There's a certain kind of very fast but largely unrhythmic IDM beat. I've heard it for example in Aphex Twin - Girl Boy song, and some µ-Ziq. It's a kind of highly cut up, apid, sometimes somewhat tonal skittering drum programming that sounds like it would be unbelievably slow to put together in a sequencer. I get the sense think such a distinct sound is associated with certain equipment or techique, anyone have any ideas?
posted by abcde to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
sounds like you're talking about a sample that's either been time-stretched (pitch is preserved, sample is lengthened), pitched down (thus making it slower and longer) or possibly ran through a granular synthesizer.

if you're just talking about glitchy drum beats, those are oft programmed by hand.
posted by fishfucker at 5:21 PM on June 8, 2004

Could you link to a sample? Do you mean something like this?
posted by sad_otter at 5:48 PM on June 8, 2004

As far as the percussion in Girl/Boy song goes, I think it's done by hand.

If you had a framework loop to work with, and just made changes to that, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think it was done by hand. That's just my unprofessional opinion, however, from the amount of amateur sample work I've done for myself, just goofing around.
posted by angry modem at 6:15 PM on June 8, 2004

Best answer: typically, it;s a combination of a lot of things, the most common being the following:

By Hand: time-consuming but accurate. take a drum loop, cut it into individual slices (ie, snare, hi-hat, kick drum, etc), rearrange in a sequencer like Cubase or a tracker such as Modplug or Jeskola Buzz, usually include some other effects on some or all of the hits. retriggering (repeating a sample at a specified fractions of a beat) is used in conjunction with this, and gets that fast repitition of individual sounds that's associated with this genre. Really not as unrealistic to accomplish by hand as one might think, depending on how well you know your tools.

Via Effects: there are a lot of free or commercial VST effect plugins, such as Supatrigga, Cold Cutter, and Buffer Override that can help automate the process of slicing-and-rearranging a drum pattern, usually with the aid of probability-based parameters (ie, 0-100% chance of retriggering or doubling the speed of any given hit)

Custom patches: a lot of IDM musicians build their own patches in programs like Max/MSP, Reaktor, Pure Data, and Csound (among others), allowing one to create a looping tool with controls over pretty much any aspect of the loop (playback speed, offset from the begining of the sample, retirgger, pitch shifting, note delay, etc.)

A lot of this beat work is based on probabilities or random elements, so a particular song file might play back differently every time it's played. depending on your sequencer, you can often control these random parameters on the fly when playing live, making the beat rearranging responsive to live input.
posted by cathodeheart at 7:24 PM on June 8, 2004

not really my kind of music, so i may be thinking of the wrong type of sound... but there are plugins that function sort of as a sequencer inside the sequencer. in the mini-sequencer you basically take a regular drumloop (that you made yourself, or sampled from elsewhere) and then it gets cut up into a grid of, for instance, 32 or 64 parts. you can then randomly reorganize them either by hand or through various "randomize" type functions... by reusing all these different little bits and moving them around you can make skittering drumsounds relatively quickly. but as with most other things -- if it sounds fantastic and unique, it was probably a pain in the ass to put together.

(on preview, cathodeheart beat me to it)

another approach is running the drums through a module (software or hardware) that lets you alter the sound coming through in real time using mouse or finger movement, somewhat like scratching vinyl. i don't know how commonly this is done.
posted by edlundart at 7:26 PM on June 8, 2004

Listening to girl-boy now - I'm pretty sure it's all hand done - I know RDJ has used software such as Supercollider in the past, but the majority of the percussion on girl-boy sounds hand done to me. Could really be either though.
posted by soplerfo at 9:21 AM on June 9, 2004

The by hand method can be made easier by creating "palettes" of varying note lengths. I've reproduced this effect by creating loops of notes ranging from 1/2-1/128. 1/128th notes give that "broken sampler" sound. 1/64th note should be found on most sequencers if you can't get 1/128th.

1/2, 1/4 loops are usually one full measure long. 1/8,1/16 would be a half measure loop. 1/32-1/128 would be 1/4 measure( one beat ). Then I'd just copy and paste seemingly randomly from my pallette track(muted) to a different track and draw velocity/pan ramps until it sounds skittery enough.

jMax is a Java based MAX/Msp substitue to create your own devices. Bram's Bouncing Ball Delay VST could possibly be helpful. destroyFX's buffer overide VST is way glitchy.
posted by mnology at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2004

A friend of mine uses a randomizer in Fruityloops; not sure exactly what his technique is, though.
posted by Tlogmer at 4:42 PM on June 9, 2004

Ah, right; the arpeggiator.
posted by Tlogmer at 4:42 PM on June 9, 2004

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