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How do I make my track sound Middle Eastern?!
Old 5th October 2008
  #1
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How do I make my track sound Middle Eastern?!

I have this track that I'll be laying down with a band soon. It's a bit of a rollicking gospel bluesy sounding number. I have this vision for a cross between Led Zep and Middle Eastern vibe. But I've no idea how to achieve this kind of Eastern instrumentation and flavour.

Anyone done anything similar? Any tips?!
Old 5th October 2008
  #2
One obvious (and cliched) way is to use middle eastern scales. And you could use the kind of percussion that is often used in that music perhaps.
Old 5th October 2008
  #3
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weezul's Avatar
Phrygian Dominant..?, with added b5 is nice
Old 5th October 2008
  #4
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Hi Juicylime,

I like to use mountain dulcimers for that.

When I fret the middle string and let the bass and high strings drone, it creates a very cool non-western sounding vibe.

Kind of ironic, too, since the Appalachian dulcimer is as American as it gets...

http://www.mcspaddendulcimers.com/in...-15/sqst/2.htm

Cheers!

Old 5th October 2008
  #5
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Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

have it repeat the same melodic/rhythmic drone over and over for twenty plus minutes and you'll be close.
Old 5th October 2008
  #6
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Old 5th October 2008
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
One obvious (and cliched) way is to use middle eastern scales. And you could use the kind of percussion that is often used in that music perhaps.

Cliched? uh? The ONLY way you can make it middle eastern is to use middle eastern scales. Instrumentation is somewhat not relevant since much arabic percussion is african derived.... Yep - scales is the way....and interestingly much arabic music has haromic minor content - pretty much da blues !!
Old 5th October 2008
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
One obvious (and cliched) way is to use middle eastern scales. And you could use the kind of percussion that is often used in that music perhaps.
Recorded a lot of local music in the Arabian Gulf about 20 years ago ...

Agree with Dean ... its a bit cliched, but you can introduce some quarter-tone scales into the arrangement (although you may need to use musicians used to working with these if you want to get it right - quarter-tone scales are actually very precise - they might sound 'wierd' to our ears, but bad quarter-tones sound horrendous to ears used to the scales) ...

Also, for that ultimate down-home-middle-eastern mix, make it sound like its been recorded on a cheap cassette deck with cheap, plastic mics - dirty, very middle and spitty low highs, muddy bottom, no 'air' ... lean on the nasty parts of the eq spectrum where you'd usually tone it down for a mix ...

If you add local color instruments, like oud, nye (wooden flute), tabla, etc - record these together and don't worry too much about spill, its part of the 'authentic' feel ... If you can record these outdoors (or mix to sound like it is - very, very long delay with all the top end taken out - so much the better, especially the percussion ...

Actually, all of this is pretty cliched - musical arrangements and recording techniques have moved on a lot in the last 20 years in the middle east - but even modern Arabic music tracks seem to somehow still have some of the feel I'm describing ...

I suppose you could make the middle-eastern part a sort of 'atmospheric bed' layered under the western part of the arrangement - or incorporate it into the forward part of the mix ... however you see it .... there's many ways to go at the 'cross-culture' mix ...

... good luck ... Carter
Old 6th October 2008
  #9
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Renegade Prod's Avatar
 

Harmonic Minor Solo on an Ode
Old 6th October 2008
  #10
Old 6th October 2008
  #11
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Compress with hummus
Old 6th October 2008
  #12
Quote:
Cliched? uh? The ONLY way you can make it middle eastern is to use middle eastern scales. Instrumentation is somewhat not relevant since much arabic percussion is african derived.... Yep - scales is the way....and interestingly much arabic music has haromic minor content - pretty much da blues !!
Not that it still can't still be done well. The opening to Lebanese Blond by Theivery Corporation is a really cool use of it. Though I might give it an undeserved break because I link to a really cool visual in the Garden State movie, I dunno. It just would have a high cliche risk to do it in a western rock song in this day and age. It was fresh when The Beatles used Eastern sounds, but by now it's been kind of abused it seems to me. Though perhaps a lot of the youngsters out there now might not have those same associations some of us do of its 'abuse' in the 60s and 70s, assuming that you consider those uses to be abuses.

It doesn't have to necessarily use any eastern scales really. I've heard purely percussive stuff that you couldn't mistake as anything but eastern. I don't know though if you could work it into a rock song in such a way to have the same immediate recognition factor, and have it work in the song.
Old 6th October 2008
  #13
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You won't find middle eastern notes on western instruments.
Much of the eastern type music, ie chinese, japanese, indian, middle eastern, has half semitones.

I suggest you get read up on popular middle eastern instruments and find the sound you like. Learn to play it and take it from there.
Old 6th October 2008
  #14
You could certainly play them on guitar with bends. It would take some practice to get proficient at doing it really quickly, but you could do it. It might sound not unlike a Koto or something like that.
Old 6th October 2008
  #15
AB3
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LOL!!! Also eq with baba ganouj

Quote:
Originally Posted by IntenseJim View Post
Compress with hummus
Old 6th October 2008
  #16
We are about to go Zohan here I think...
Old 6th October 2008
  #17
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record some simple lines then use Melodyne for the 'in between' notes if you don't have the instruments or want to create something unusual/original
Old 6th October 2008
  #18
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Most people here already mentioned the scale and percussion. I would like to add the arangement/harmonization. The arangement in middle eastern music is very different compared to western music. It can sound very rich without the usual counterpoint techniques. Based on this, people who are used to middle eastern music, can even tell which region it comes from.

Cheers,

Farshad
Old 6th October 2008
  #19
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just blow up the mix.
Old 6th October 2008
  #20
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Sigma's Avatar
chick peas
Old 6th October 2008
  #21
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Instrumentation alone won't get you there. You can play pretty authentic-sounding middle eastern music on western instruments, or western music on middle eastern instruments. What matters is the music.

First, there is no harmony in middle eastern music. NO chords! Melodic instruments play single-note melodies, with no harmony or counterpoint. If there are multiple instruments, just double the melody line.

Second, don't worry about the quarter tones. Unless you REALLY understand the maqams (middle eastern scales), it'll just sound fake. Besides, many maqams don't have quarter tones. Harmonic minor works, and you can create "fake" middle eastern scales (aka piano maqams) by using three half-tone steps between some notes, rather than the maximum of two seen in the Ionian scale and its modes. The jump from the b6 to natural 7 in the harmonic minor scale is an example. For added flavor, use a b2 with a natural 7. Really faking it is better than fake faking it. Oh, and due to lack of harmony, this is really drone music. Steady bass notes help.

Third, and this is important... middle eastern rhythms do not swing. The rhythmic basis of blues, and virtually all American music, is the swing beat. It's that little anticipation beat before the real downbeat, and an emphasis on the backbeat - ting tinka ting tinka ting. Those anticipation beats don't exist in middle eastern music! Rather, you have a squarish rhythm with strictly defined syncopations. Read Jas's middle eastern rhythms for wonderful examples and instruction, with sound samples. If you don't get the rhythms right, it won't even sound middle eastern, much less authentic! But learn to play basic beladi, maqsum, saiidi, and ayub rhythms, and you can make a fundamentally Arabic sound - just as you can play blues on any rhythmic instrument just by swinging the beat. But don't let it become stiff or wooden! This is dance music!

For an example of this, listen to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", the zenith of pseudo-middle eastern rock music. Listen to how square Bonham's drum beat is, and how the guitar moves polyrhythmically against it. And listen to the exotic scale played on the mellotron - it's not a "middle eastern" scale, but it sounds really out there, which is strengthened by the functionally middle eastern rhythm the melody follows.

Hopefully this is helpful.
Old 6th October 2008
  #22
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layer in some strings in Phrygian mode
Old 6th October 2008
  #23
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in my view it depends on whether you want to hint at the middle eastern thing or something further... my taste says going further will sound like a rotten cliche...

sometimes one instrument alone from the tradition will evoke hints to the listener... this is a common trick in documentary film music

so, i suggest using a dumbek (google if you don't know), and maybe (but only maybe) some turkish tambourine -- it will allow you to stay western on top but it'll give your groove a hint of the sound and, possibly, the swing that will evoke what you're looking for... and, don't overdo it...

good luck
Old 7th October 2008
  #24
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Oud player here

Hi there,

I agree with a lot of the comments on this thread. Arabic music in general has very few chords. Mostly single note melodies. Arabic percussion will definitely help (darbakeh.. daff... finger cymbals, etc). And an oud will also certainly help. Click here below for an oud sample.

Oud & Flamenco Samples

Hope that helps.
Old 7th October 2008
  #25
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mdjice's Avatar
 

or you could use RA
Old 7th October 2008
  #26
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Svens's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by WildCowboys View Post
just blow up the mix.
Dude, that made me laugh!
Old 7th October 2008
  #27
Old 7th October 2008
  #28
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Harmonic minor is your easiest bet , 'A' Harmonic minor is A,B,C,D,E,F,G# and A in 1 oct, but don't start the scale from 'A' start it from E the V chord, so now it reads E,F,G#,A,B,C and D .....

It's important to listen to how they trill in Arabic music to make it sound authentic , along with the above scale you can throw in Eb leading back to E , Bb momentarily to create extra tension , and the 6th C# to pass to D , all of these notes will add additional Arabic Spice , for you to pratice the scale just create an E drone tone and start playing the basic scale , also listen to Arabic music for the flavor, trills,slides,slurs,bends etc , so just by listening you are learning .....

A couple of examples i did in Logic, just using Logic instruments .....The 1'st mp3 is free form and the next mp3 has a beat .......
Attached Files

Arabic Example 1.mp3 (380.0 KB, 511 views)

Arabic Example with Beat 1.mp3 (380.0 KB, 485 views)

Old 7th October 2008
  #29
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kludge's Avatar
 

I'd actually disagree about using an oud on most tracks. It's a delicate-sounding instrument with little midrange, and has a very hard time punching through other instruments, especially midrange-heavy electric guitars. If you want an oud-like sound and are looking for an instrument, try a cumbus (pronounced "joombush") instead. It's a modern (20th century) Turkish folk instrument that is basically a cross between a fretless twelve-string guitar and a resonator banjo. The double-course fretless strings give you that slinky melody sound, but the resonator banjo structure makes the tone much more aggressive. And they're CHEAP - under $200!

Middle eastern percussion instruments can help, but only if you actually stick with middle eastern rhythms. Doumbek is great, but it's a lot harder to play than it looks. Riq (middle eastern tambourine) is even harder! Another cheap trick for semi-authentic middle eastern percussion is to get a couple of cheap Remo frame drums ($20-40 each), and overdub several for your basic rhythm pattern. A lot of traditional music consists of several tars (frame drums) keeping the main beat, with just one or two doumbeks. Americans jamming middle eastern music rarely sound right, because you'll see ten doumbeks and no tars at all... the music turns into a big thuddy mess. Imagine a band with ten lead guitars and no bass!

At any rate, a proper middle eastern rhythm played on a conga is going to sound more authentic than a plain rock groove played on a doumbek.

And as others have said, this is all a question of how much "middle eastern" you want to add. If you're already starting with a strong R&B rhythm basis, you're kinda stuck. You might as well just toss in a couple of harmonic minor or phrygian mode licks on a lead guitar and call it good. If you want real fusion, you're going to have to address the underlying rhythms, abolish harmony, and look at the scales used across the entire song.
Old 7th October 2008
  #30
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soundbarnfool's Avatar
 

Hire some middle eastern musicians.
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