What are the musical commonalities between famous artists such as Skrillex, The Prodigy, Jay-Z, Slipknot, Bjork, Oasis, Amy Winehouse and Duran Duran?
The answer is rhythm. All of these artists have at one point used a specific rhythm pattern that is so identifiable you would recognise it even if you have never heard the original title song.
At just 6 seconds long it is the most sampled rhythm in the history of drums.
The Winstons, below, were an American funk and soul band who were not very well known, (their drummer G.C. Coleman even more so) and they released a song in 1960 titled ‘Amen Brother’, listen below! Little did they know that a sample derived from the drum solo in this track would become the ‘Amen Break’ - the most sampled rhythm in the history of drums.
The Amen Break is a loop of 4 bars that was popularised by the drum sample album ‘Ultimate Break and Beats’ released in 1986 for the DJ population. Since the sample was created it has become a prominent feature in mainstream music, featuring in a host of famous songs such as; Oasis - ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’, Nine Inch Nails - ‘The Perfect Drug’, Slipknot - ‘Eyeless’ and Björk - ‘Crystalline’.
The concept of sampling: where did it come from?
It was in the 70’s when the concept of using a ‘sample’ was brought about. Musically speaking, sampling is the process of taking a portion of a sound recording and reusing it on a separate piece of music. More often than not, this is done through a ‘rhythm break’ whereby a small section is sampled from one piece of music to form the beat on another track. It is through the sampling method that a piece of music can transform from average to being equipped with a catchy and memorable rhythm, making it hard to forget!
So as a result of this, DJ’s, musicians and artists like Skrillex and Jay-Z are continually in search of a melody ostinato/lick or drum pattern, that has the ability to resound in your mind long after it has been heard, leaving the taste of desire to hear it again… which is how the ‘Amen Break’ became one of the most extensively used rhythm across all genres of music.
Unfortunately, The Winstons never received any royalties for their original creation. However, in 2015 a DJ from the UK created a ‘GoFundMe’ page in the name of Richard Spencer, the singer and saxophonist from the band, to acknowledge and give appreciation to the ‘Amen Break’, whereby 2,000 people have donated $24,000!!
More and more artists are recording their own material nowadays with ever evolving technology accessible to them.
A basic knowledge of sound engineering will enable you to record your work, analyse your playing and help you understand what is happening to your track in a recording studio.
Stereo overheads, close mics on each drum, as well as room mics seems to be the standard for recording drums. However today I'd like you to read about a simple technique I use for getting great drum sounds with 4 microphones only, the Glyn Johns method. It is what I use at livestudios.
From Wikipedia: "Johns developed a unique approach to the recording of drums, sometimes referred to as the "Glyn Johns Method", that rarely employs more than two or three microphones, and which usually keeps one mike hoisted several feet overhead to achieve natural perspective of the whole kit, as well as one off to the side (not far from the floor tom tom), and one near to the bass drum. The key to the method is to keep both the overhead mike and the side-mike equidistant from (and pointed at) the centre of the snare, aimed in such a way of forming a triangular pattern (with the three corners being the snare, the side-mike, and the overhead mic).Johns prefers not to close-mike the individual drums, except occasionally the snare drum". See original article here, or read below for the the detailed method.