After making an intense series of video tutorials, dealing with cable TV deadlines, and the wife out the door for a few hours, Eli Krantzberg decides to let loose, unwind, and just play.
I’ve been really busy lately. I’m co-writing a bunch of underscore cues, along with another composer, for a cable channel TV show. It’s all underscore, we’re not scoring to picture. It’s a magazine style show. Each segment uses our music as wallpaper underneath a constant voice over. We have pretty narrow constraints in terms of what we can do. Each cue must be exactly 4:40, to conform with each of their segments. Instrumentation, density of arrangement, range of instruments, tempo – all must be within narrow parameters. And of course we have to crank this stuff out en masse! So we need to fall back on using variations of tried and true elements that work and have been approved, otherwise we’d never meet our deadlines. I actually enjoy the challenge of working within these narrowly defined parameters.
For drums I almost invariably start with either some layered Apple Loops, some Drummer grooves, or some Ultrabeat patterns. I modify them somewhat once in a while, mute an element here or there for a few bars, but honestly, more often than not I just slap them in, loop them, and leave them in for the duration. As a drummer, this is soul crushing! But there’s just no time for much else.
I’ve also just finished an intense (for me anyway) series of Vienna Ensemble Pro video tutorials. I needed to unwind from all this “tech” and use a different part of my brain. I haven’t sat down at my drum kit in a couple of weeks, my wife was out for a couple of hours yesterday, and I just felt like playing!
One of my favourite things to do is program up a simple little pattern in Logic Pro, loop it, and play over it. It’s way better than the old days of practicing to a metronome. It’s a great vehicle to just let loose, and go where my muse takes me; trying some new things, or just grooving, or whatever. Anyway, I decided to create a little challenge for myself. After all the mind numbing backbeat based grooves I have been working with lately, I thought it would be fun to try playing over a pattern without a predominant “two and four” backbeat on snare drum.
As far as avoiding 2 and 4, it’s a style of playing that I like to fool around with. I didn’t literally avoid every single 2 and 4, but I did avoid the regularity of a backbeat feel; which is the important thing in this style of playing. In a way, beats 2 and 4 become equal to other beats. So, the idea isn’t to literally avoid them all absolutely. But they don’t carry the defining element of the groove. No single beat, or kit piece, does. That’s the important thing!
It’s all about accents and ghost notes on the snare and hi hats. So, some beats are accented, some aren’t; independent of where they fall in the bar. The kick and toms though are all very “definite”. Anyway, that’s the way I approached it.
I always have my drum kit mic’d up (with five mics) and ready to go. I also have a nice template setup in Logic Pro that I use as a starting point whenever I’m recording my kit. I am continually updating it, as I tweak and make enhancements during various projects. Currently my template contains three drum busses. One as a submix, one for parallel compression, and one to simulate a small room reverb. And of course I’ve got various plug-ins in place before I start. Lately I’ve been using a lot of McDSP Filter bank and Compressor bank plug-ins. In this particular case, I used the Metric Halo Chanel Strip plug-in to parallel compress the entire mix as well.
Anyway, I had fun working out, it was a welcome change of pace from having my mind buried in tech. I decided to throw my iPhone up on a stand and record the whole thing to share. I imported the video into my Logic Pro project that contained the actual drum tracks, lined it up with the audio from the iPhone, and exported the mixed audio to the movie, all from within Logic Pro. For the record, I did four or five takes until I was happy with my performance, and then that was it. Not a single note of drumming was edited. No flex time, no cross fades, nothing – that was the whole point of this exercise. Just play! Now I feel like playing some vibraphone before I get back to the next batch of TV cues……
Click on the image below to watch the video: