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Rap & Hip Hop Building Blocks (a question for e-cue and others)
Old 21st October 2003
  #1
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Rap & Hip Hop Building Blocks (a question for e-cue and others)

This question is aimed at E-Cue and some of you other cats who are working at a higher level in the Rap / R & B / Hip Hop world.

Where are the top producers pulling their sounds from?

Commercial Sample Libraries?
Roland Groove Boxes?
Virus?
Vinyl?
Something not listed here?

I guess I am just curious as to if there are any common pieces that everyone loves or if everyone has a radically different approach.

I have been amazed, when I really listen to these tracks that it seems like there are very very FEW elements that compose the track. BUT, those elements are so SO fat with a PH. Does that phatness come from the mix alone? Or are they pulling from different sources?

Or, is it possible (GASP!!!!) that they are just better then I am?

Any thoughts would be appreciated. And while I am at it let me just say that ANY and ALL advice from those of you who are more established in this world are very kind and generous and we thank you for them.

Tunes out.
Old 21st October 2003
  #2
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MCal27's Avatar
well the Hip hop guys I've worked with, and when I've done Hip Hop tracks ( I started off as a turntablist in the late 80's) common items are:

Emu SP1200
Akai MPC 60 or 3000
Ensoniq ESQ1 (Timberlands bass machine alot of the time)
Emu Mo' Phatt
A tendancy towards ProTools rather than Logic or DP in my experience.
Various Analogue bits (minimoog etc.)

Basically anything with a crunchy fat sound with good bottom end.

The Plugsound Hip Hop plugin would be a good start. not for the construction kits which are abit lame.... but the drum hits are very nice indeed. plus it's cheap!!!

Oh and at least one Technics SL1210 for getting some nice Old School sample's into your rig..... remember clearance though lol

Al.
Old 21st October 2003
  #3
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My guess is:

Some have a few favorite killa samples that they use over and over (neptunes)

Some build the sounds themselves......laying several different samples to get a killa one......

....if you can get your head around the multing/mixing tricks described in other threads you can make any sound you want...

......monitoring...the old chestnut...if you can hear it, you can make it....

......sample CD's.........waste of time.......roll your own sounds

...experience.....the elusive ingredient.
Old 22nd October 2003
  #4
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tunesmith's Avatar
 

Can you point me towards the mult / mix discussions?
Old 22nd October 2003
  #5
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jazzius II's Avatar
 

just search for users: e-cue and thethrillfactor!
Old 22nd October 2003
  #6
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There's a couple guys out there doing custom libraries for the hiphop crowd. They generally charge like $250 and up for a zip full of MPC kits. I don't know who's currently on top. A few years ago it was a guy named Speedy. In general the sounds are pulled from sample CD's, romplers and sound effects CD's but are then compressed and EQ'd with some high end outboard (think Neve, Distressors, 1176's, etc.) and finally resampled into the MPC. Start building grooves with a kit built like that and you're slammin'.

Rob
Old 22nd October 2003
  #7
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warning: Hiphop blasphemy coming up!

To my ears, the MPC has got a very thin sound.....it's an old sound.....it doesn't sound modern, and you'd struggle to get a phat sound with it.......of course this could be corrected in the mix.........i'm sure 99.9% of the hiphop crowd would disagree.....
Old 22nd October 2003
  #8
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The greatest thing 'bout MPC (i've got 2000xl and now the 4000) is opeativity (when laying down beatz), and the WONDERFUL TIMING! ROCK SOLID! No software sequencer can compare (even Logic 6.x and PT 6.X are less solid sounding than MPC4000).


Tried other grooveboxes but none of them had the same steady timing, (I think that the core of the MPC code was written/programmed by Roger LINN )


Ciao.

Michele
Old 22nd October 2003
  #9
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Please don't take this as an endorsement or recommendation per se as I have not read it. Over the top marketing but this guy has written some good stuff for SOS and has a book in print. This hip hop book hints and being about the gear specifically and is pretty cheap. Let me know if you try it!


http://www.record-producer.com/hhs.cfm
Old 22nd October 2003
  #10
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MCal27's Avatar
[QUOTE]Originally posted by jazzius II
[B]warning: Hiphop blasphemy coming up!

To my ears, the MPC has got a very thin sound.....it's an old sound.....it doesn't sound modern, and you'd struggle to get a phat sound with it.......of course this could be corrected in the mix.........






The MPC60's seem to be the most popular with guys who want the phatest sound... its 12bit so its pretty crunchy. The 2000 is just the S3000 sampling front-end.. and the 4000 is from the Z4/Z8 so again.. not phat to my ears...

None hold a candle to an SP1200 though.... Old Skool in a box!!!! lol

Al.
Old 22nd October 2003
  #11
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Most are still using MPC's (some 4000's, but mostly pre 4K's) and Keyboards like the Triton and a gang of synth modules.

Jermaine Dupre uses one of the Roland Groove Boxes for his hi hats everytime. Timbaland still uses his ASR-10, but has some new kind of system that he's very secretive about. I suspect gigasampler. The Neptunes get a lot of their sound from the Korg 01/W. Craig and Nisan use EMU synth modules and the Motif. Will.I.Am does a lot of programing in pro tools. He'll nudge things around millisecond by millisecond until he's comfortable with the groove. With Will, if it sounds like a mistake, it was intentional.

I guess it just depends on the producer.
Old 23rd October 2003
  #12
j.m
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o.k., considering myself as a hip hop cat I would like to give some insight to my latest working "mode".

most work is done with the "motif" - nice machine, has a lot of different sounds where I can just switch through.

Some cats are always on the hunt for samples and searching there vinyl collections for good breaks and usable samples.
Which I think is a good thing, but depends on what you do with it after finding it. There's where the seperation of the wheat from the chaff takes place.
Many cats just do a little "speeding-up" or "pitch-shifting" and than they think there job is done, a little bit of "drums" - perfect.
Very boring!!!!

The art is how you treat your samples. What you do, to make it a song, to give it a feel/vibe, however you want to call it and to give a kind of new twist which makes the song interesting.

I, for myself don't use samples in the "classic" meaning - simply because I don't have a collection and didn't started out of DJ-enviroment!!!
(Simple as that - and I don't believe in that whole "hip hop must be samples from records S**T - because I think it's just a lame excuse from the ones, who are too stupid to use a keyboard and learn about composition)
The ONLY right way is what suits your working "ethic" the best.....
It's all about creativity, not the tools.
A good craftsman can operate with every tool you gave him, a bad won't even be able to pull it off with the best tools available.

And between the decision of buying a whole new vinyl-collection/turntables/etc. and buying some synths/PC/sequencer/etc. instead, I thought it would be the better way for me, to learn the whole ****.
And I didn't regret it a minute!!!


Soooo......

to make a long story somewhat short!!
As more as I'm dealing with "beat-making/producing" I can imagine why Timbaland is so secretive about his setup, because there is nothing much to it.
It's mostly all about creativity, but if people think he's got some little "magic" going on, then it's easier to compete 'cause they're chasing after their erreneous belief.
No defamation intended here, 'cause no matter what he uses, he's just DOPE!

The most important thing I've learned is "Sounddesign" there is where you seperates from the rest!!!
For the start my motif and his factory presets where good enough to learn composition/beatmaking, but everything you do, is kinda like familiar! No, wonder, because the most sounddesign on synths, etc. is done by "copying sounds from famous songs".

So it's very important to start learning those synths and develop some interesting presets.
Lately I have revitalized my AN1x, and when you get into this little machine - just PHatt!!
Yeah, a moog or andromeda would be nice (heard and played them by myself) but sometimes you gotta work with what you have.
And you would be stunned how analog the AN1x can sound if run him through a TubePreamp and afterwards through Phaser.
PHatt with a double PH!!

Aaaahh!!! A hint! - Yeah that's pretty the most fun part about it!
It's where the engineering comes into the game!
Make it sound good!!!
Effects, effects, effects. Everything allowed, nothing forbidden.
Turn it, twist it, pitch it, everything is imaginable.
There comes the blessing of the digital world.
Record short samples of melodies, resample them, put them into a sampler, work with the filters, apply some effects again, etc., etc.

For drums, lately I use a lot of sample CD's, because the standard drum-setups on my motif are crap, but again just as a starting point.
The quality of the recorded drums are somewhat more "pro" than what I could achieve at home.
"Battery" software drum-sampler from Native Instruments is just a blaze. Layering drum sound and working with the envelopes, is where you get the good results.

The other Sample-Library-CD's, hhhmmmm.
- If they are about some good "classic" synth wave-forms,
which you could load into a sampler and edit them,
it would be o.k.
- If you need some interesting/good orchestral stuff,
that also would be hard for you to pull it off at home, also o.k.

- but the most other Libraries are just crap if you want to be innovative.
You have to look at it very pragmatic, if those people would be innovative/creative enough to pull of some good sound for the Libraries,
they would rather make records!!!
They reference also like the synth-sounddesigners on existing material.
So, you will always sound dated/heard before.

As for sequencing I use Cubase SX and the timing is rock-solid.

The whole MPC "legend" for the most part I think is a holy crap.

The MPC is a nice thingy when it comes to timing, and if you don't want to be dependent on a Computer-Setup.
Soundwise I don't think it puts a remarkable stamp on a track!!
Crap in, Crap out, goes the saying.

That's the hint to the groove, you are not dependent on an explizit machine/setup to make it bounce or groove.
The main trick is "as always" the arrangement!
There is, where you can make the most damage.
The drums, percussion, melodies, sounds, have to perfectly complement each other.

Experiment, experiment, experiment!!!!
Try it, you have nothing to loose and everything to win.
( A very special personal hint/note, I would like to give from my personal experiences and I've read an Interview with Will.I.Am, where he shares the same knowledge. )

D_o A L_o_t_s O_f EXPERIMENTS!!! (Because they tend to cause a lot of F*ck-Ups and there is where you get the best and most interesting results. And sometimes they just give you a creative idea to work with.
This where I learned the most!!!

And everything what makes some sort of "noize" can be abused to making music, it doesn't have to be any "special" brand on it!!
Learn your tools and try to really get the most out of it.


Other than that it's just a gusto thing!
No long ago I've learned a nice saying, that changed my thinking a lot. Now I look a the things from a different perspective.
It hope I get it right on english.

It goes like: "Flavour/Gusto" originates from two things - Experience and Memory!!
That says it all, because that's my main "weapon" - my Flavour.
All my decisions about production are based on it.

So you should train that as much as you can, buy listening, listening, listening and memorizing.

Hhhhmmm, it ended a little bit longer than I expected, but I hope I could contribute a little knowledge and insight to my working "mode".

Cheers j.m
Old 26th January 2004
  #13
Here for the gear
 

Thanks J.M!

I've been producing for quite a while now but it's always good to hear where people are coming from, to be reminded of certain things & pick up tips. I've hardly spent time in the studio with other producers or engineers. I always had to read up, experiment & ask people when I bump into them. I dont come from an engineers background. Engineering/mixing is something that I'm learning gradually. I agree with pretty much everything J.M has mentioned. I remember years ago when I done a few tracks on a JV80(which I still have) & an Atari running Cubase & still got label interest. I didnt even know what a compressor was a the time. There are some fantastic tools on the market & collecting more & more gear can even be an additional hobby but as long as people remember it's what's in your head that's more important. A good test would be to try & make a track using as little gear as possible to get an initial idea down. Worry about the sonics later.

I hate to sound like anyone's Dad but if you're like me & spend most of your life in the studio, then make sure you get some excercise (to get blood quicker to the brain) and good food down you. Not too much junk food though, I mean good brain food! Try not to get too stoned either if you like a smoke or a drink, it could drag projects out.
Then put some of J.M's advice into pratiice!

I've been using Logic & my keyboard for years to program drums & have been trying out the MPC1000. I have to say I'm definately gonna buy one. It's so easy to drag n' drop from your hard drive to the MPC (remember it doesn't have to be typical percussion sounds-try anything!) It's easier to express yourself on the pads & grooves nicer than my the sequencer on my Mac (except if you use your computer to slave the MPC-it seems to straighten out the groove which is annoying. Use the MPC as the master or record it to audio without syncing).

Anyway, I'm feeling tired so I'm gonna stop here.
Old 27th January 2004
  #14
Gear Head
 

I am definitely not a pro, but I work on a lot of hip hop these days and I have managed to use the MPC as nothing more than a scratch pad these days.

We get samples from everywhere... cd's, vinyl, movies, whatever.. it doesnt matter to me either way.
We edit everything in Nuendo, than rewire Live 3.0 for all of our loops. That works best for me when im time stretching.

The best software I have been using is SampleTank 2XL, Trilogy, Stylus, and Battery. I have managed to get just about everything I need out of them. I also play with reason, but that is just to put down an idea. Some sounds are usable,but i get a lot more out of the other VSTi's.

again Im not a pro, but ppl have been feeling our sound and its been keeping me busy.

hope you find YOU.. thats all that matters

-Mo
Old 28th January 2004
  #15
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XHipHop's Avatar
So many horrible sounding beats make it on commercial radio... (at least in the philly/nyc area...coughtYoungGunzcough) so make sure you concentrate your effort on making the vocals KILLER if you're going to be tracking them.

Don't worry about what everyone else is using and just carve your own niche and come up with your own sound. I just mixed a beat made on FRUITY LOOPS that someone brought me and other than a lot of eqing, it sounded really good and he got a lot out of that software. If you're good, you can make a good beat out of any box (at least that's my opinion).
Old 29th January 2004
  #16
Gear Head
 

hip hop drums

I think the toughest sounding kicks and snares are from sampling other hip hop records. Its like a collected library handed down from generation to generation and the sounds are tweaked every time they are resampled, eq'd compressed added to and mastered. I can rightfully see how one would get angry/sued over sampling an entire drum track/pattern, but mixing and matching individual hits seems like fair game to me.

Unless you want your hihats to sound like Mobb Deep I wouldn't recommend sampling hi hats off other hip hop records.
Old 29th January 2004
  #17
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I dunno if samples are really being handed down as much as they used to be. These days, sadly, I see more and more people using stock samples. The triton samples, for example, are all over the radio.

One of the things that's holding back the groups like Anticon, the Def Jux label, etc is that they never seem to program a simple drumbeat to serve as a solid backbone for the song.

Listen to Dre, Em, 50, Jay Z, Storch, etc.
*boom* *pstk* *boom boom* *pstk*

Listen to El-P, Aesop Rock, Blockhead, Tami Simon, etc
*budda-bummmp* *cstk* *[cluster**** of kicks]* *pittypum* *[dull hit]*

It's not something that's easy to dance to. Might be cool if you are b boying, but if the regular people can't dance to it, it's not getting mainstream club air-play. I'd love to hear some of the 'underground acts' dumb their drums down patternwise and let the rest of the track breath a little.
Old 30th January 2004
  #18
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smoothmoniker's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by e-cue

Listen to Dre, Em, 50, Jay Z, Storch, etc.
*boom* *pstk* *boom boom* *pstk*

Listen to El-P, Aesop Rock, Blockhead, Tami Simon, etc
*budda-bummmp* *cstk* *[cluster**** of kicks]* *pittypum* *[dull hit]*
That's easily the best drum takedown I've ever seen. How do you notate a cluster****?

-sm
Old 7th May 2005
  #19
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Sorry I'm late on this one, but I think that it's worth noting, since I've been making beats almost as long as Dre has. ;-)

The ASR-10 is the best sampler to use period. If you're an east coast type a cat or like to sample. I started in the late 80s with a mirage and I love ensoniq's.

MPC if your not too synth smart and want to use something easy, also an SP-1200 is even easier, but sounds horrible to me. If you want the MPC sound, but want more than 1 bank, look at a used s3000xl. Sounds identical to an MPC with the same exciter built in.

If your tired of messing with storage like zips and and floppies, get Logic Pro. EXS is better than the ASR to me, different sound, but very simple to program, and more flexibility!

I've pretty much stopped using all my gear but Logic and that's my secret weapon.

If you want some good keyboard sounds, I really like my FantomS or X. The motif is really limited on factory sounds, but the sounds really cut through the mix. I've had mine for about 3-4 years, I still use the guitars and drums sometimes. Proteus 2000 is still a workhorse, Mophatt, the usuals.

The more gear you get the less music you make so if your just starting out, learn one board, make sure it's flexible (not an MPC) and learn all of the functions. Make sure that if you pick up a used ASR-10, don't plan on sequencing with it, the timing sucks, and the polyphony is very limited if your building a lot of drums, that's where the MPC comes in.

I would say if someone was just starting out, 2 pieces of gear that would go a long way would be an ASR-10 and a Proteus 2000, and a computer to sequence. Sure the P2K has been used a lot, but you can program 4 out of the 12 banks of sounds. Do the math 12x128 sounds!

BTW, El-P Aesop Rock Anticon etc.. is some of the worst crap that I've ever heard! I wish they would keep touring in Europe or wherever and quit coming to Colorado!!

Peace out,

BaseJase
ILLYnoise
Old 7th May 2005
  #20
to me the most creative hip-hop out there is madlib/quasimoto/madvillany...
he finds the most obscure ****, puts it all together, never any generic stock crap drumhits.

and i had an ensoniq ASR-10 for about 4 years and then the motherboard blew up on me. I would look for an MPC, much more stable and they are still in business.
Old 7th May 2005
  #21
I do a lot of mixing mastering for madlib/quasimoto... all he uses is a $300 SP-303, a roland vs-880... and a lot of vinyl, analog keys, african percussion, upright bass, etc. Samples are all off the sp-303... he loves to prove he doesn't need the cliche tools of hip hop (MPC etc). Like someone mentioned earlier it's the timing... b/c when you mix, you can get things to crack the right way if you know what you're doing. It's all about the feel, the space between the 16th notes. Try dragging your high hats, try conflicting straight and swing, play your kick track by hand so it's not too quantized. Chop the samples so that there's a little rough edge of air before the hit, or a little leftover tambourine rattle before the hit. Really, really minute changes make a huge difference in the quality of the track... you want people going "f*ck! how does it do that?"
Old 7th May 2005
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by e-cue
Jermaine Dupre uses one of the Roland Groove Boxes for his hi hats everytime.
Maybe a new thing? Every time I do a session with jermaine it's an original MPC60 wiith the 300 memory upgrade. I know because they are almost impossible to rent in LA and its a lot of ork to find one. I also know because of how easily they crash if they are being sent beat clock. I did a session with him wher Roland came and brought in a roland box for him to try out (there was an issue because e assumed they were jsut givng it to him, and they assumed the opposite). Maybe he is using it now for hihats? It wasn't too long ago though (the 7up flava in ya ear commercial).

Every producer I work with has a stock set of sounds they have collected through other people. They use them to death, then decide they need new sounds, find some new ones and repeat/rinse. But I have yet to see anyone using stock libraries (that isn't to say the sounds they end up with didn't originat from stock libraries).
Old 7th May 2005
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonnyclueless
Maybe a new thing? Every time I do a session with jermaine it's an original MPC60 wiith the 300 memory upgrade.
Time for another one of those GS beer-a-thons at the Blue Chip (Eh, EngEars, Stealth, Doug? etc).


Actually (see orginally post date) an older thing for me- but still post Da Brat/Kris Kross. I haven't worked with JD since some Janet record that escapes me, but I'm sure he's changed what he does. At the time, he would start a beat with that groovebox unit (hat's only) and build from there. I could be wrong, but if memory serves, he'd quantize at double speed so the unit would better catch a groove. He'd also rent practically every keyboard & drum machine he could get his hands on, at the time when the budgets flowed like milk & honey. I haven't seen/worked with an MPC-60 or SP-1200 in years.

I'm running into a LOT more softsynth stuff these days, specifically REASON[3]. One of the main issues I run into with reason is that people export the samples too hot, and the kicks & snares are flat lined. There's a time & a place for that, but most of the time it sounds plan sh¡tty, not lo fi'ed and vibey. Some of the sampletank2 stuff is drop-your-pants-and-watch-a-rocket-shoot-out-good for urban music.

It's funny about the sample library thing though. When the first Triton's came out, I ran it through a Finalizer and sampled every drum hit off it and passed it out to some of the indie-rap based cats in LA & NY. About a year ago they came full circle when I started trading them "back" from people and realizing they were the same crap/stock samples from years back. Actually, it got me using LOFI again. Circle of life.

My library of samples is so big these days that I'm convinced that an angel gets it wings everytime I sample something new.

Now, where's Thrill with that New York perspective?
Old 7th May 2005
  #24
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studiogeek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by e-cue
Timbaland still uses his ASR-10, but has some new kind of system that he's very secretive about. I suspect gigasampler.
I guess it just depends on the producer.
Yes, Timbaband is (or at least was) in fact using Gigasampler. Last time I saw him he had it running on a PC laptop with several large hard drives. This was over 1 year ago.
studiogeek
Old 7th May 2005
  #25
no ssl yet
Guest
I"m with E on the sampletank2xl

I do nothing but urban music, and my last investment was a M-audio 88 key controller. So this is indicative of the direction it's moving for me. I 've been borrowing MPC 4k's for some time and may get one. But I think softsynths/mpc 2k go a long way these days. If only I had an easy way to transfer samples from my Mac to MPC I'd own the world (of sounds)

Mach5 for life over here

Hey E I dont love Sampletank enough to be talking drop pants rocket stuff though LOL must be a Cali thang (But I get your point).
Old 7th May 2005
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by yeloocproducer
I do a lot of mixing mastering for madlib/quasimoto... all he uses is a $300 SP-303, a roland vs-880... and a lot of vinyl, analog keys, african percussion, upright bass, etc. Samples are all off the sp-303... he loves to prove he doesn't need the cliche tools of hip hop (MPC etc). Like someone mentioned earlier it's the timing... b/c when you mix, you can get things to crack the right way if you know what you're doing. It's all about the feel, the space between the 16th notes. Try dragging your high hats, try conflicting straight and swing, play your kick track by hand so it's not too quantized. Chop the samples so that there's a little rough edge of air before the hit, or a little leftover tambourine rattle before the hit. Really, really minute changes make a huge difference in the quality of the track... you want people going "f*ck! how does it do that?"
VS-880? I thought he was using tape?
Old 7th May 2005
  #27
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e-cue's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by no ssl yet
Hey E I dont love Sampletank enough to be talking drop pants rocket stuff though LOL must be a Cali thang (But I get your point).
Sampletank is sortah lack luster sonically to me, but Sampletank2 has given me some really great chubby-worthy material. We actually did an overdub not too long ago with it for a bridge part on a Mellotron track (originally tracked with a REAL Mellotron at Metropolis UK) and it was practically seamless. Typically, I don't look at soft synth stuff for realism, but for synthetic non-organic sounds, so it really stuck out to me and it seems to do both well. Of course, it depends on the driver/player. I'm seeing a lot more gear-crutch producers these days. They've got a mountain of sh¡t and make tracks that sound like something off a Fresh Prince of Bellar segway while some cat with an Mbox loaded with softsynths, a CD-r full of samples, and a vision makes platinum in a coach seat on a plane.

Sometimes I wonder if it even matters. Today, it seems like as long as you have that sh¡tass 909 clap on 2 & 4 on your record 5db too loud, then you are radio worthy (if that's what you are looking for).

Mach5 is another one I'm keeping an eye on. The thought of importing all my giga-library stuff into it and using it like Gigasampler is very intriguing, but I just don't know much about that stuff on the production side of things. I don't know any keyboard or softsynth stuff that can do "real" bass sounds, other than gigastudio. That comes up time to time on R&B ballad stuff. Anyone found any keyboard or softsynth stuff that can pass as 'real' bass?

Btw, last I heard Dr Dre was taking trumpet lessons.
Old 8th May 2005
  #28
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illynoise's Avatar
 

Last time I used Reason, maybe version 1.5 or so, it was horrible. Mainly the bouncing function, sounded really bad. Is that fixed yet?

BaseJase
ILLYnoise
Old 8th May 2005
  #29
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Circuitt's Avatar
 

Spectrasonics trilogy?
Old 8th May 2005
  #30
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Stick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by e-cue
Anyone found any keyboard or softsynth stuff that can pass as 'real' bass?
Yeah, another vote for Trilogy... ya gotta dig in past the main presests and run a few different tracks alongside with the various add ons... pops, mutes, slides, etc. if you really want it to sound real soloed out. The only place I can really tell the differnce in the track is the way bass players slide between notes... it's not really a full slide, but it's a connection.

Maybe off the hip hop topic, but I've used the the Trilogy acoustic upright a couple times in settings where one shouldn't be using a softsynth... i.e. a bluegrass track with 2 guitars, 3 part harmony, and my "fake" bass. It's pretty convincing.
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