Nature Designs New Fruit

Five years ago, today, I released my first beat tape, Fade Off The Bigs. Two-hundred and thirty four beats, thirteen albums, a dozen or so guitar solos later, and we are offering a retrospective of the ongoing Ananalog beat project. The download is free. Included is one favorite beat off all twelve Mediavuelta and MFSP albums, plus a thirteenth off the upcoming Mediavuelta project.

Thank you to everyone who has listened and supported so far.

What I like about beatmaking is that everyone seems to go about it differently. Everyone bends their equipment to do what they want in a different way. You can make bullshit music, but if the beat comes out decent, it doesn’t matter how you got there. I want to comment on my process for anyone who might be interested. I came to beatmaking from deejaying and collecting music, so my beats have relied on samples and loops. I sample music I’ve purchased, and I don’t fuck around with pirated downloads or streaming. The format – third hand vinyl, CDs, digital Bandcamp files – doesn’t matter.

Mostly, I start with Traktor, the old, two track, iPad version; simplistic but super-intuitive looping. My iPad is old enough that I can’t run the second version of the program. I’ll experiment, blending parts from two different songs. Sometimes, you get a great loop right away, sometimes you have to try dozens of combinations. You get to know your music better digging for loops, gaining bonus fluency for future deejay work. I’ll EQ, filter, and use effects on the loops to get them to cooperate. Drum machines are either treated as loops and recorded by ear onto a 404 pad, or I’ll record and process them separately, and load them into Traktor.

Then, I record the loop into my Roland SP-404SX. The SP doesn’t have a waveform editor, so you have to record by ear. You can trim tracks using clunky, arbitrarily metered methods, but ultimately, only your ear will tell you if you got it correct. I record all the parts onto the SP’s twelve pads, then play it live into the DAW. You can hear minor timing mistakes in several of my beats, and I usually need a couple dozen takes to get it correct. The parts are recorded live, because the pattern sequencer on the 404 is crap. Like a jalopy MPC sequencer. The pads also suck. They feel like the old Tiger Electronics games from 1994. I’ve come up with a handful of techniques to avoid loops running out of phase. Ultimately, you need to rely on your ears to succeed with an SP-404. After the beat is recorded and I’ve slapped it with a few tape saturation, amp, compression, EQ type of plugins, I’ll overdub guitar or synth parts.

So the signal chain is: iPad Traktor Uno; SP-404SX; PreSonus Bluetube for grittness; Behringer USB mixer; NASA PC running Reaper. Something like that. I have an Eventide Mixing Link that occasionally makes an appearance.

I listen to Pete Rock, Premier, Madlib, DJ Harrison, Ohbliv, Makaya McCraven, Jansport J, Karriem Riggins, MNDSGN. They’re all better at this than I am.

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