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Developing the drums and bass

From: Remixing Techniques: Arranging and Song Form

Video: Developing the drums and bass

One of my philosophies when it comes to building remix arrangements for full vocal remixes, either radio or club, is that the arrangement should almost be able to stand on its own, with drums, bass, and vocals. Let me elaborate on this concept for a moment, because it may offer you a different perspective on creating drum and bass parts. The drum and bass parts of an arrangement are what I consider to be foundational parts of the arrangement, and I typically spend the most amount of time at this juncture of the arranging process.

Developing the drums and bass

One of my philosophies when it comes to building remix arrangements for full vocal remixes, either radio or club, is that the arrangement should almost be able to stand on its own, with drums, bass, and vocals. Let me elaborate on this concept for a moment, because it may offer you a different perspective on creating drum and bass parts. The drum and bass parts of an arrangement are what I consider to be foundational parts of the arrangement, and I typically spend the most amount of time at this juncture of the arranging process.

So we have our sketch bass and sketch piano here occupying a 16-bar verse here. I will mute the piano. I'll keep the chords just in case I forget what I played, but I do remember them. And I have a bassline here that just covers the verse, so I will need to address the chorus, but before I do any of that, I need to build up the drums little bit. So I'll import some drum loops, and these are from my private library: Josh Harris drums volume 1 and a kick drum.

Copy them so that everything lives in the same audio folder, and I will assign them to a new track. I'll move the move bass down here. You'll notice as I begin to build the arrangement, I like to view my arrangement vocals, drums, bass, keyboards, guitars, all the way up to the master fader. That's just my personal preference. But I do believe that it is important to keep the arrangement window organized by instrument groups. So whether you like drums, guitars, vocals, bass, it doesn't really matter. But it's a little bit challenging when you're looking into Pro Tools session, or any session in any DAW, and you have a kick drum next to a lead vocal next to a snare drum next to a keyboard part.

It's very difficult to navigate through 10, 15, 20, 30 tracks when it's presented in that way. So before I listen to the other loops, let's take a look at the kick drum, because the kick drum is one of the most important pieces that I'm about to add. I'll mute out these other loops, but we'll listen to those in a few minutes. And here I have just a kick drum sample, what I call a single shot. (music playing) A nice healthy kick. (music playing) Now if I listen to the beat of my rmx loops-- (music playing) --the first rmx loop really is dictating the kick drum pattern.

The second one is a little bit of just layering. So let's zoom in on this and take a look at what's happening, because what I'm about to is take this kick drum and edit it to match the kick drum pattern of the rmx 1 loop. In other words, I'm going to create a kick layer. Now, you could do certainly do this by programming with MIDI, but I happen to be very comfortable programming drums in this manner, and I think it's important to let everyone see how you can cut and paste audio and "program audio" in the same way that you would MIDI.

So we've got our kick on the downbeat, and I'll shorten the grid denomination so I can easily move this kick drum around. And let's take a listen to the kick in the rmx loop. (music playing) So we can see there's another beat right there. (music playing) Let's bring this kick in. Unmute it. (music playing) So I'm simply going to copy and paste this kick drum so that it lands where the kick drum in the rmx 1 loop lands and see how this blend works.

(music playing) And that's a snare, so I don't need it there. (music playing) So that's working, but this kick right here is a little bit loud. So let's simply lower the volume here in the clip window and take a listen now. (music playing) That's a little too much. Let's return it to normal. It's actually the second kick here that I'd like to lower, so that the kick drum that I'm cutting up and pasting here with this single shot matches the dynamics of the kick in the rmx 1 loop.

(music playing) That's nice. That's a little bit more in line with the rmx 1 loop. So now let's copy this kick drum over and repeat the process for the next measure. Let's just take a listen, double-check and make sure the pattern hasn't changed. (music playing) Oops! That's too much, going back here. (music playing) A slightly busier pattern over here in the second half of this four-bar loop, and let's just take a listen.

(music playing) I'm just going to highlight these couple of kick hits within these four kick hits, punctuation of sorts, and this takes me up to measure three. So very quickly I can just highlight this as a two-bar phrase, and let's go back to a full-measure grid so that I'm not highlighting the incorrect length of the region. This is what I want, a four-bar loop. We'll take a listen. (music playing) And I like that.

So now what I'll do is consolidate all of these clips so that they're one continuous clip. There we go. Much easier to work with, visually, when copying and pasting. So now I will paste this kick drum all the way through the arrangement, shrink the screen down. Let's just listen to this kick drum underneath the two loops. (music playing) It's sounding good except I need to go back and fix something.

I'm going to undo this, because it's not exactly as I'm hearing it in my head. So let's zoom back in on the area here and take another look at this kick drum. And again, as I mentioned at the top of this movie, I spend the most amount of time during this process. You get your drums right, you get your bass right, and the rest of the track will take care of itself. So I'm not a fan of what's happening here on this second kick drum, so let's get down here to a finer grid. (music playing) What I really want is just a repetition of this one bar. So let's take a listen.

(music playing) And I will let these extra kick drums here just be flourishes that blend with my kick layer. Reconsolidate this and repaste. Shrink everything down. (music playing) And we'll go right up to verse 1. (music playing) Excellent! Let's take a listen to some of these loops that I've brought in, and I'll move them over to start at measure 7.

Let's go back and change the grid. (music playing) Now I like part of that. It's a little too much going on for me. So what I'll do is I'll do a quick edit, and I will keep a percentage of this loop. This clap over here is a little much, so let's take the first bar and just paste it, and take a listen to this.

(song playing) The triangle that's hitting on the downbeat is a little much as well. So let's take half of the bar. Do a quick copy and paste and listen. (song playing) Excellent! That shaker pattern is nice. It pulses the track. And before I leave this area let's consolidate this so that it is also a four-bar loop and go ahead and paste this throughout the song.

(music playing) Let's quickly take a listen to these other loops that are in here. (music playing) And that's a little bit much. (music playing) I do like that. I'll probably edit it. Let's take a listen to loop four.

(music playing) Perhaps I'll save that later for an intro loop of sorts. (music playing) And it's not appropriate for the style of the track. (music playing) That's also not feeling appropriate to me for the style of the track. So, right now loop three feels like the best candidate. (music playing) I'll think about putting that in the chorus, so let's go up to the chorus and just take a listen.

(song playing) Okay. So let's move this to measure 23. (song playing) I like that. We'll paste that the length of the chorus, which I believe is 16 bars. (music playing) No, it's only 8 bars in the first chorus.

(music playing) Excellent! Moving my bass right below my last drum loop, and I'm going to now create a duplicate bass track using the same sound, but I'm putting it on a different track. So let's label this bass 1, and I'll explain why I'm doing this in a moment, and just copy the plugin over to the next track.

(music playing) Same sound. (music playing) So we have different chord changes for the chorus. So let's quickly take a listen to this 8-bar chorus and see what may or may not work. (music playing) Okay. So I've an idea of what I'm going to play in, so I'll just go ahead and play it in, and again keeping with the R&B vibe, I want the bassline to bounce a little bit and I want to honor what the background vocals are doing. But before I play that in, I'd like to hear the last bar of the verse bass. So we unmute that.

(music playing) And that's not quite right, so undo that, one more time. (music playing) That should work. Let's quantize those notes and scope it out, trim up the one bar pre-roll and trim off the last. Now let's just take a listen.

(music playing) That works for me. That's keeping this as a perfect 8-bar loop, and there we go. Some of you may already approach this part of your ranging in this manner.

But for those of you who do not, I highly encourage you to take time to craft the drum and bass parts, because so much of building out the remainder of the arrangement will stem from creating a great groove.

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This video is part of

Image for Remixing Techniques: Arranging and Song Form
Remixing Techniques: Arranging and Song Form

31 video lessons · 5680 viewers

Josh Harris
Author

 
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  1. 2m 59s
    1. Welcome
      1m 17s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      23s
    3. Why did we record this course in four different DAWs?
      49s
    4. Using the exercise files
      30s
  2. 4m 58s
    1. A general overview of musical arranging
      2m 4s
    2. An overview of remix arranging
      1m 34s
    3. An overview of radio and club arranging
      1m 20s
  3. 51m 30s
    1. Referencing the original or demo version of the song
      3m 2s
    2. Listening to stems and deciding on the musical direction
      4m 36s
    3. Creating a sketch arrangement
      8m 36s
    4. Developing the drums and bass
      13m 31s
    5. Adding synths
      8m 43s
    6. Adding guitars
      7m 49s
    7. Arranging the rest of the song
      5m 13s
  4. 51m 54s
    1. Referencing the original or demo version of the song
      5m 7s
    2. Listening to stems and deciding on the musical direction
      3m 42s
    3. Time stretching stems and creating a sketch arrangement
      11m 18s
    4. Developing the drums and bass
      11m 10s
    5. Adding synths
      10m 30s
    6. Working from the hype backwards
      4m 27s
    7. Arranging the rest of the song
      5m 40s
  5. 18m 31s
    1. Trimming down the club version
      3m 32s
    2. Identifying arrangement changes within the body of the song
      9m 44s
    3. Listening through the final arrangement
      5m 15s
  6. 19m 38s
    1. Adding a vocoder
      5m 36s
    2. Adding filtered delays to vocals
      7m 42s
    3. Adding drum fills
      6m 20s
  7. 14m 48s
    1. Listening through the final radio mix
      4m 12s
    2. Listening through the final club mix
      6m 47s
    3. Listening through the final radio edit
      3m 49s
  8. 38s
    1. Final thoughts and next steps
      38s

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