Today Danny J Lewis takes a look at how one of the biggest tunes of 2012 so far, Need In Me by Flashmob, uses swing to get the dancefloor moving.
This post was originally published in DJ Magazine’s free online edition DJ Weekly issue 108
“The current crop of house tunes doing the business all seem to have some kind of 90s influence going on. Whether it’s the sounds, textures, approach to vocals or the beat programming there is something there that has echoes of the past, from that ‘golden’ era of music production. The essence of this style is in old school hardware; in those days there was no ‘in the box’, everything was recorded in a studio. Now the key drum machine of that era was the Roland TR909, a drum machine that used a combination of synthesis and lofi sampling to create its beats. The beats were often programmed with something called ‘swing’ and for many this was a mysterious way to add a unique feel to the rhythm; few actually understood what was happening on a technical level. Today of course information is more easily accessible and most educated producers will know exactly what’s going on with the timing.
If you’re in the dark though, have no fear, this article and accompanying video are here to shed some light on the proceedings. So what’s the deal with swing? It’s all about the even numbers in the 16th grid. Positions 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 all move to the right, playing later in the grid. The odd numbers stay in exactly the same place. It’s the combination of normal gap followed by bigger gap that adds the slightly lurching timing that makes most people wiggle just a little bit more on the dance floor. Interestingly if you swing enough certain positions will hit the very same point as the triplet grid – the classic 90s house grid. It’s worth a shot switching to this grid too but we’d only recommend it if you are a more advanced programmer. Beginners who try triplet grids often end up fighting against it – don’t say we didn’t warn you!
So watch the video, see swing in action and then have a think about applying it to your own productions. It’s not just for beats either, try a sprinkling of swing on baselines, keyboard riffs and vocal stabs; we’re pretty sure you’ll love it!”
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Hi. This is Danny Lewis, also known as Enzyme Black; I’m a Course Developer and Tutor, here at PointBlank Online. You’re watching, Production Analysis.
The Flashmob’s ‘Need in Me’, big tune with a lot of DJ’s at the moment, this is on Defected Records. The key thing this particular track is it’s got that real throwback to the 90s vibe which is very popular at the moment. The key elements are the base line, which for me, is reminiscent of Robin S, ‘Show Me Love’. The main focus of the video this week is the drums, getting the texture, the programming right. I’ve also got a little section where we’re going to integrate the baseline, and I’m going to show you the base patch that I’ve created in Operator.
To work out what’s happening with the beats; I’ve got the hats and clap in isolation, in an audio clip. This is just one bar at the moment, but I want to draw your attention to the wave form, and the things that you can see. It’s actually quite easy to read this wave form. We’ve got the closed hats here, which are the shorter ones. There is an open hat, which is longer here, and a denser sound. There’s a clap with multiple hits, one after another. You can see these closed hats, again here, so quiet and slightly louder. The key thing here is the timing; the beats are swinging. What is swing? Take a look at the grid over here. Also, you see down at the bottom right-hand side it says, 16, so this is 16 subdivisions in the bar. This particular closed hat is slightly later. The swing is coming from that fact, so this is the even numbered 16th positions are playing later. You can see that over here, as well.
What I’ve done is transcribed this rhythm into the actual programming. This is on a 909 Drum Kit, the classic 90s house drum kit. I’ve got the sounds programmed, and you can see there are different colours representing the different levels. We’ve got different levels of velocity to replicate the programming with the quiet and slightly louder closed hats. What I’m going to do is take off the kick that I’ve programmed. Let’s take a listen, and I’ll show you the whole concept of swing. We’re going to take it straight then we’re going to add the swing back. This is with the swing, same concept as the original. What I’m going to do is use Command+U to quantize to straight 16ths. This is going to be a subtle difference, see if you can hear it. I’m going to undo. Watch the position of these even numbered 16ths, for example, this one where the cursor is. Can you see it’s moved later? We’ve got a nice bouncy swing when you take a listen to that. Let me bring the kick in for reference.
The Flashmob track, in fact, when the kick first comes in, has an extra kick here, so it sounds something like this. If we want it to replicate that precisely, we do that. This little section here has been, just to show you the programming, the velocities are the low, and then some of these are higher, so we’re replicating what’s happening in the actual original audio.
For context, I’ve created a baseline using Operator. I’ve taken the original Flashmob music and EQ’ed the lows and EQ’ed the highs out, so that I’ve got this. That’s just to cover that kind of mid-base texture. Here’s the baseline, let me show you the notes. The base patch that I created, you can see here in Operator, this is the first oscillator here, the second, and third. This is running in the FM algorithm, you can see it’s an FM sound. If you want to learn more about that FM stuff, we’ve got the Sound Design course in Ableton Live, which covers it in great detail. The Ableton Operator is the base here, 3 oscillators. This is running through an EQ, just scooping out a little bit of muddiness. Then a little bit of compression over at the very end.
What I’m going to do to finish off the video is focus on the additional texturing that’s going on with the drums so you can see what’s really adding the kind of finishing touches to what you’re actually hearing. You’re going to solo the drums. Let’s take a look at the clap. The clap, I’ve added some brightness, so there’s an EQ just lifting it 10k. This is running through a reverb, and then we’ve got a simple delay. What I’m going to do, I’m just going to show you, I’m going to select all of these, right- click, and group them together, and I can bypass them all together, here we go. Let me solo the clap. That’s before the processing, and afterwards. It adds a real nice, professional, polished sheen to the sound. The high hats on the original, these had reverb, so this is running through a reverb. I’ll take this off; together.
This is what’s going on here, this is adding this kind of little extra dimension to the beats. Just to finish off, what I want to do is show you something that you might want to consider doing. A little of the old 90s tracks, they’re just kind of had a rough, kind of nice extra texture to them. This isn’t in the Flashmob tune. It’s a really nice polished contemporary production, but I just want to show you a little spin on this. If we go to the audio effects, and we go to the saturator, which is one of my favourite live effects, and we crank up the drive, have a listen to the texture. As we crank up the drive, you get this crunchy, heavy sound; you can of course over do it. Let’s listen to this on its own. Really heavy, crunchy, almost tape-driven kind of sound to it.
I hope you enjoyed that latest production of Analysis Video. If you’re interested in the track, check out www.Defected.com. Also of course, the PointBlank Online website, if you’re interested in learning more about this kind of subject. After the break, we’ve got some information about the one- to-one feedback that we have at PointBlank Online, with our students.
At PointBlank Online, you’ve got 2 methods of interaction with your tutor. Firstly, you’ve got the weekly Online Mastersclass, which is in real time. Then also, we’ve got feedback on your assignments, and that’s known as DVR.
The Online Masterclass is a 1-hour session you get with your tutor every week. You can ask questions about the lesson content. You get instant feedback, and also, demonstrations on-the-fly, from their computer desktop, with our streaming technology.
DVR stands for direct video response, and the concept is really simple: You upload your Ableton, Logic, or Qbase project file to your tutor; he downloads it, and then pushes Record on the screen-capturing software and evaluates your work, basically giving you one-to-one feedback. You see all of the mouse movements and any parameter changes made by your tutor. It’s kind of like sitting in the studio, over their shoulder, watching what they’re doing whilst they work. We have found the DVR process is truly revolutionized the way that we teach you online, and the results speak for themselves.
Book your place in the course now, by visiting PointBlankOnline.net.