Off-Kilter, Uneven Drums

Hey, I’ve been re-discovering my love of Flying Lotus and Shlomo and slower, more ambient stuff. Forgive me if this is too broad of a question by the way. Anywho, the one thing that I wanted to figure out if I could replicate with Renoise (I believe they both use Ableton Live) was the sort of uneven, off-kilter, slightly-out-of-rhythm beats they use. I’ll give you some examples:

Now maybe this is an erroneous question in the first place because they might just be using regular samples and moving one hit so it sounds just slightly off. I don’t really know how else they could do it, unless AL allows them to place each sample in like 64th notes or something. Which I hope isn’t true, as I don’t want to buy another DAW just to make one style of music, and I here Renoise’s strength is in it’s drum programming, and I trust in that. But back to my main point. The groove settings I can’t make heads or tails out of and as I understand not many people can. The delay effect command I am more familiar with, but I still can’t seem to capture the sound. If anyone has any advice, I’d appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

hi Wedge,

Renoise allows you to go as small as you like, even down to 64th notes and lower. just increase your resolution by upping the BPM/LPB. if your LPB is 4, making it 8 will give you twice the lines in the same amount of time.

about the methods these guys use: i think it is a combination of off-kilter drum programming and just live playing. try just tapping in the tempo yourself on your keyboard while the track is playing.

that’s all i got! good luck.

I also remember reading an interview with Dabrye somewhere that he would often put small bits of silence at the front of his samples, so when they were triggered they were a little off.

I agree with rhowaldt that I think these beats are largely played live and left mostly un-quantized. Just start the pattern playing and try to enter the notes by feel as it plays. I feel like FlyLo especially has sections that feel almost sloppy to me, which go into quantized sections when the beat really drops. To me, this technique works well because you eventually can catch that rhythm, it’s not just a mess the whole time.

Other ways you could do it would be to use the delay command so that you can swing things as much as you want. You may also want to think about what’s going on on top the beat. It might be easier to put the instruments on top of the beat out of sync and leave the beat strong.

I also wanted to add that sometimes running beats through things like strong compression or filters can “pump” them in ways that can achieve these effects. They can bring out these little noises or nuances that are imperfect, but work.

All good suggestions which I will certainly be implementing, thank you. Although, I have no idea what you mean when you say Quantized and Un-Quantized…to me the only way to record live is to put the cursor in a column and play, and as far as I know that’s all within the ticks that conform wholly to the pattern. Is there another way? Or do I just have the terminology all messed up?

Quantizing is really just fixing notes that you record, either as it happens or after the fact. I don’t think Un-Quantized is a word, I probably should have written non-quantized. There probably is a better term for that, but it escapes me now.

I meant that I think they are just pushing play, playing the notes with a keyboard / drum pad / etc, and not going back and fixing “mistakes”.

If you track parts of a beat live in Renoise, that is to just let Renoise play and enter notes while the pattern scrolls down, you’ll notice Renoise will include information in the delay column. This should give you playback of the notes how you performed them. The key would be to not go back and fix that information, unless the part was just incredibly off. You leave in the “human timing”.

As rhowaldt also said, increasing your Lines Per Beat will open up the ability to really dial in those perfect (or imperfect) notes.

Flying Lotus has stated a few times that he uses Reason. If you follow his Twitter, you’ll see him agonizing over the unavailability of Reason3.5 for OSX Lion (he recently got a new iMac it seems). In a separate interview he claimed that he doesn’t use the grid for stuff, something which people have gone overboard with paying attention to.

Ah alright, sorry, my mistake. So when you say he doesn’t use the grid, you mean he just edits drum parts together in a sample?

Nope. Not using the grid means that he uses a piano roll but does not have anything that the notes snap to. I.e. he can place them anywhere he wants in the pianoroll, as close and as far away as he likes. Look at this:

Apparently a similar thing is possible with Reason.

Ah alright. Thanks. So since Renoise doesn’t have a piano roll, is there anyway I can get sort of an equivalent sound?

Hit record, hit play, and flail away! Unless you’re some sort of robot you won’t be able to avoid playing slightly adrift of perfect… (Failing that, you can always enter everything precisely and then manually tinker with the delay column but I suspect that’ll be a massive ball-ache.)

as i said before, Renoise allows you to go into as much detail as you want. start programming with 999bpm and 256LPB and see how detailed you can get. so yes, the same thing can easily be achieved in Renoise. the only issue you’ll run in to is patterns being pretty short and some effects being based on this.

you might want to check out this article on CDM as well:

Really interesting article, thanks for posting that, and for the reply above. I’ll try changing my LPB and playing live and see what happens…

Hmmm…well it still sounds a bit…bad? I don’t know…mechanical still? I’m at 16 LPB. I may be wrong, but won’t even tapping out drums in renoise still confine you to a grid? Anyway, I’ll quit my bitching and keep trying…

You wouldn’t happen to have line-quantization on? This might result in something like you described (the grid-effect).

Here’s the manual page on quantize.

i believe the delay column is the key here. put a delay value on every 2nd/4th line to get a groove.

Every sequencer in the world limits you to a grid of some level. The base level of the software is generally quite fine and then it will offer Quantise options, mentioned a few times in the thread, to for your (live) note entry to be a bit more regimented/syncopated.

Old samplers and sequencers may work as low as 96ppqn (Parts Per Quarter Note), even right down to 24ppqn. If my memory serves from when I last looked into this Cubase and more more recent software sequencers use 4096ppqn.

What does Renoise use? Well that depends on your LPB setting! Each line has 256 different timed positions you can place a hit on it by using the delay column.

So if we wanted to match the 4096ppqn possible resolution of “mainstream” sequencers you would have to use a LPB of 16. Then recording with Quantise Off should give you 100% identical results between Renoise and other sequencers. Do you really need resolution that high? Well that’s debatable but I doubt there will be many people who can tell the difference in a double blind test between free quantise at that or half, or even quarter of it.

Thanks for that explanation, that gets right at the root of my question and answers it quite well!