Breaking the beat
a tutorial on not copypasting
I'm doing this tutorial because I've seen a lot of newbies try on breakcore not knowing how to start or simply thinking the genre is as easy as putting an amen loop through dblue Glitch's random mode and thinking that that sounds cool.
I'm not just doing this tutorial on breakcore though (especially as I have a hard time working with the more complex time signature stuff myself), these kinds of tricks can really be applied to anything with breaks in it and these tricks can be put on any break. These tricks can be for people who wanna do breakcore or IDM or simply wanna spice up their drum and bass/breakbeat tracks with some cool fills or just do the drums slightly more complex than usual.
Generally, when it comes to this type of drums, put effort into them. Don't just copy a beat and then cover it up with glitch plugins, as it doesn't soud as good as if you do it yourself. You're just doing your music a disservice by not making sure yourself that the beat is good. Effort will always outshine copy-pasting and dblue Glitch can't write good beats. I'm also not saying Glitch is a bad plugin, I use it lots, it's just that it can't do all the awesome stuff you gotta do manually, at least not as precise or as funky. If you're having a section with this type of beat, try making the loop as long as the section, if not, then at least half as long. Cutting corners is all right, but a varied beat is much more fun listening to.
Now, apply all these tricks tastefully. They will sound like shit if you just make every drum in the entire beat have at least one glitch or effect. Basically, for the listener to take in the badass pitched snare you put on beat 8, the snares on beat 2, 4, and 6 should probably just be regular snares, because otherwise the pitched snare would just be the normality and not as cool. Remember that you can only sound crazy when you keep changing the definition of normal.
That said, don't be subtle with your sounds. If you only do subtle glitches and small changes to a regular beat, that will just sound dull in the end, as the human ear usually only really listens to what's the most in your face at the moment.
And just be creative. I give a lot of tips out in this tutorial, but you should try to find some way of your own to make your beats sound awesome rather than just relying on what I have to say. Remember that your own way is always the best way to do things and the only thing this tutorial is for is to help you find that way, not make you detour into my way.
So here's a fairly standard amen I put up as a reference template to everything I'm going to talk about. Amens usually go "kick-hat-snare-tika-tika-kick-snare-hat". This one's only different in that the second kick is gone and the snare comes in a half-beat earlier, followed by a tika-tika.
Generally, to do basic, funky syncopation, I always think of beats in sections. Generally, you have your kick, your snare and your tika-tika sections and those can pretty much go anywhere in the sequencer, as long as they don't overlap, of course.
A general rule to think of, though is to displace them at either where they usually are in a regular breakbeat or a halfbeat before or after. This is really funky, but it can get kinda dull if you stay at this level of syncopation.
I'd also recommend not starting a bar with a snare as it really messes up the rhythm for the listener. Silence might also be awkward but it can be made to work slightly better.
Try to remember that the best type of beats do repeat one part but in a different way, making the mutation of this beat catchy as hell. Kind of the same as lead melodies in other types of music.
If your beat has a lot of half-beat pauses between these parts and feel weird (in a bad way) because of it, try interjecting hi-hats and half-tikas in those empty spots, just to keep it rolling. That silence can be good at times, though, at it's unnatural and really catches the attention of the listener.
Okay, stutter glitches are repeating a note. Just repeat it.
There, you have your stutter.
To try to be a bit more complex, try turning down the quantize (if you have that on) and do your stutters faster. These can give a lot of texture to an otherwise far from glitchy section, even in small doses.
However, stutter glitches can sound quite harsh if you do the fast ones, so a good idea can be to give them a bit of an attack by bringing down the velocity of the first notes.
This is also an awesome way to transition into another bar or anything, really.
Pitching is great, I love to play with pitch. Just repitching a few snares of a loop can take it from something dull and generic to dynamic and cool.
In FL studio, all you need to do to change the pitch of a note is to click on the topdown bar most likely saying "velocity" right now and select "note fine pitch". This way, you can set the pitch of a note just like you would set the velocity on it.
Remember that you're not trying to stay in scale here, so any pattern really goes. I've found that slight pitches work the best as extreme ones just get hard to hear that they're the same sound (which also can be cool at times).
In FL Studio, you can also perform a bend note by putting two notes at the same time, double-clicking one and selecting "slide". This will make the other note slide to it for the duration of the slide note's length. These are better as extremes as they can be a bit too subtle. I don't use them too much but they're cool to whip out on occation.
To gate a note, decrease the length of it so it cuts off before the sound ends or a new drum comes in. This sounds really odd and if your drums were really relentless before, this counters that and really makes the listener keep his/her interest.
Panning is a simple effect that can catch the listener's attention really easy. If you're gonna use it, be extreme because a lot of the time, subtle panning just can't be heard.
To get the pan of a note, just select it in the topdown bar, just like pitch.
As I said, this is extreme so don't overuse it or it will get kind of annoying.
If you wanna make good beats, always try to combine these rather than just let them play on their own. All of these glitches have been played to death so to keep your edge, try going at least one step beyond and combine two or three at once.
Gated stutters can sound awesome because they keep the artificiality of the gating and the freezing feel of the stutters.
Pitch rolls are probably the best way to use pitch. Slow pitch rolls are a great fill and fast ones sound far from drums, almost like an oscillator sync synth.
Now I might get flack for this homegrown version of music theory, but I like to think in numbers when I make rhythms.
Now, if you work in 4/4, try to think in other numbers than 4, as that will probably just make you keep doing the same old breakbeat or house pattern.
If you think in polyrhythms, such as 3 or 5, maybe even 7, and base parts of your patterns around that, making cool beats is pretty easy.
An important thing to note is that these polyrhythms should probably be quit before they finish, as they finish at very different timings than your regular 4/4.
There's also the idea of going off time. Now, you amy think I'm crazy because I mean, if it's not in time it's just chaos, but if you limit the out of time elements to one bar or one beat, they will be much more controllable and also a great way to break out of the same old boring amen loop, lest you don't overdo it.
Stutter glitches sound epic out of time. To do an especially cool stutter glitch out of time, turn on the arpeggiator for when a long note of a trum hit is playing, then modulate the arpeggiation time. This sounds awesome.
Comb filtering is a sweet glitch effect which you can achieve by just cranking a delay unit to max value or slightly lower, depending on the tone you wanna get. It can muddy up the beat so I wouldn't recommend using it for the entire duration of it.
Putting in granulizing effects, such as slowdowns or grain stops can be kind of hard and will probably require resampling. The difficulty level is completely different depending on the program you're using and whether you're working with sliced loops or soundclips. dblue Glitch might actually be useful for these types of glitches. Same goes with reversing.
But really, try anything as an occational effect. Flanging, phasing, bitcrushing, only the imagination sets the limit.
That kind of wraps everything up. I hope this has been of some help to anyone reading this, and if I'm unclear on something, or there's something you think I completely left out, just ask and I'll try to update this tutorial.
As always, just try to be tasteful with your stuff and provide some grounding for it.
Now go do some breaks!