I love Big Beat. Fatboy Slim, Mint Royale, Chemical Brothers, Prodigy… its’ one of my favorite genres. When energy is needed, whether it’s on the dancefloor or just vacuuming the living room, there’s something about the frenetic chaos and multilayered samples that just grabs me and gets me moving.
Whether or not I intended for this to be Big Beat, and how successful I was in the end, remains to be seen… I’ll need some listening time. It veers wildly into old school jazz-funk or R&B, but the sample over the top of everything just sort of nails it all down for me.
Part of me is a frustrated studio musician who’d really love to be up on stage, jamming on something like this in a club that still values a bigger combo. My chops, however, are sadly lacking, and I don’t have the clout for the roadies I’d need to lug some of the gear around.
- Mind Your Own Ray Toler 2:50
One of the nice things about attempting tracks like this is realizing how stripped back each part is. Since I’m normally doing everything in my music, and my roots go back to just me, two hands, and a piano, I tend to play big giant chords, which can wreak havoc when mixing. A huge part of arranging is carving out a space in the audio spectrum for everything to live. If there’s a thumping bass, you don’t want that Hammond B3 organ playing down in the same register, because you lose the impact of both.
So it’s often a pleasant surprise when I’ve been working out some intricate part with six to eight notes playing, only to realize that that’s not going to work in the mix. Many times, just two or three notes will do the job. That was certainly the case with the organ part on this track. Not only could I not really play those big two handed bits, but they didn’t sound right, crashing into the horns or the piano… Also, playing an organ part on a weighted keyboard is just asking for a broken nail or a blister, but I was too lazy to fire up one of the synths as a controller.
What’s That From?
It’s a bit embarrasing to admit, but the sample is actually me. Maybe you already knew that. I don’t sound like me to me, but maybe I sound like me to you. It was fun to load up my vocal into TAL Sampler and mess around with loop points and filters and what not. I was back in the olden days with my hardware samplers and more time than money. I suspect I overdid the repetition of it in the final arrangement,1A note from Future Ray: Yeah, I overdid the sample a bit, so if you’re not reading this the day I posted the track, I may have already fixed that aspect of it. If you downloaded a copy of the original, hold on to it, because it’s sure to become an ultra-valuable collectible. but Big Beat has never really been about subtle.
I was initially going to lift a sample from some hip hop record, but it was both faster and safer to just make something up. The trick is what’s a cool hooky sample? Much of the time, it doesn’t really matter, the repetition and setting make it cool even if it’s wasn’t to begin with.2Don’t provoke and getcha team smoked. (Word.) And I really hesitated to add a “lyrics” section to this post but, technically, I did write it… and I did perform it… so even if it’s not poetry, I suppose it deserves the same treatment.
The weakest bit in the piece (aside from some dodgy organ playing) is the horn section. Most of my sample libraries with horns are geared toward scoring or classical work. They’re often very “wet” (lots of reverb or room sound) and that really didn’t work at all when I tried it. I ended up resorting to the Native Instruments factory library for Kontakt and, while there are some hidden gems in there, most of it’s crap. If I ever go back to this piece to put some makeup on it, I’ll definitely be installing the Native Instruments Session Horns Pro library instead.
What’s the Point?
If you go back through my Song-A-Day history, there are a lot of tracks like this one where I’m trying out a new style, trying my hand at some improvisation, or practicing a playing or composition technique. Sometimes they’re songs, and not bad ones at that, like Waiting Patiently3No full entry for this one yet, but you can listen to it on the 2018 playlist or Piece by Piece, and sometimes they’re just instrumental jams like No Molesté. It’s strange, but I actually consider even the jam sessions more worthy of Song-A-Day than some of my well-produced4If I do say so, myself. ambient tracks.
The reason? These are songs or jams that likely would never have been recorded if it weren’t for Song-A-Day. I write the ambient stuff pretty often, and I don’t need a prompt to get me into that flow, but a spoken word/“rap” track like Something to Do With You?5Also from 2018 Yeah, those don’t happen on their own. Well, they didn’t used to, anyway. My horizons, confidence, and willingness to at least make the attempt6Even when it ends horribly, like Splat Rat. I’d rather you didn’t listen to that one, so I won’t tell you what year, but it rhymes with “plenty freight-teen.” have been expanded entirely because of this crazy process, and for that, I’m forever grateful!
No way out Your cover’s blown Get out of my business And mind your own Copyright © Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.
Instruments & Samples
Keyscape,Trilian, Kontakt Factory Library, Strum GS-2, Stylus RMX, Kurzweil K2600XS, TAL Sampler
Effects, Mixing, & Mastering
MOTU Masterworks EQ, Analog Phaser, and Hi-Top Boost, Valhalla Room and Delay, Gullfoss, Pro-L 2
- 1A note from Future Ray: Yeah, I overdid the sample a bit, so if you’re not reading this the day I posted the track, I may have already fixed that aspect of it. If you downloaded a copy of the original, hold on to it, because it’s sure to become an ultra-valuable collectible.
- 2Don’t provoke and getcha team smoked. (Word.)
- 3No full entry for this one yet, but you can listen to it on the 2018 playlist
- 4If I do say so, myself.
- 5Also from 2018
- 6Even when it ends horribly, like Splat Rat. I’d rather you didn’t listen to that one, so I won’t tell you what year, but it rhymes with “plenty freight-teen.”