Tips for composing complex jazzy drums

Just looking for some quick tips (or .xrns study files) on how to go about programming more complicated fast paced style drums using old jazz and funk breaks to create complex rhythms ala Amon Tobin style if anyone has any.


Oh and if anyone knows any good sources for old jazz break samples I’d really appreciate that as well


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couldn’t view the vids somehow youtube complained the videos not being available, but found another version of one small step, so maybe I think I know what you’re after

  • slow down the rhythm in daw and/or mentally to focus on the patterns.

  • view the rhythms like kind of melodies with focus on accentuations. also each drum hit has a center frequency that the transient will kind of trigger, lighter and darker drum hits. you can make kind of melodic progressions out of them, just accentuations are more important than harmonic progressions when compared to tonal melodic stuff. In “one small step” amon also puts filters and panning into the game to make the formulations more complex.

  • partially complex beats can be viewed like kind of “noise poems”, made of syllables (with center freq defining timbre, and accentuations like in speech syllables), organised in rhyme schemes, if you adhere a nice scheme the beat will not sound chaotic but well organised, despite of any random chaotic buisiness going on between the parts that define the scheme. variate the “rhyme patterns”, or let them slowly fluctuate and roll back to the beginning.

  • study drum solos in jazz or funk or hippie stuff life concerts, there you can find the schemes in action without much distractions and put to length. such passages are also always nice material for sampling (a clean drum solo can be like 20x the material of the same drummer/drumkit/setting than the classic breakbeats could provide).

  • play with different hits of the same drum sporting slightly different stength and intonations of the hit, use the velocity commands to create stronger and more complex feeling of accentuation flows in your rhythms schemes.

I’d also like some kick ass jazz drum break/solo sample pack for my collection. So far I only found snippets (for free, that is). Maybe I’ll try to visit the local public library soon and look for jazz cds - here public libraries not only lend books, but often also cds and dvds - mostly crap stuff if the library is small, but given the nature of the usual clients visiting those (elder people…), I bet there’s a chance of finding shitloads of old jazz cds, also live takes, to sample drums and other instruments from.

I’ve got an old copy of EZDrummer with the Jazz library and learned a lot just studying the MIDI from that library, which is very good. Learned a lot from the Funk and Blues libraries, too

another concept I forgot in my last post:

  • divide & conquer. build up the complex rhythm progressively in stages. for example start with bassdrum/snare motion, those are the most dominant sounds. try to already convey that style of formulating sentences over multiple patterns with this. then add hihat motion into the already existant fundament, try to find places where the hats are coming nice when pronouced first, then add the weaker hits bit by bit. maybe you will want the hats to kind of alter the accentuation/“pitch” of already existant bd/snare hits to the brighter, or rather tone down their volume by velocity i.e. to let a bd hit sound more dull/deep. you can go in motion, or against compared to the step before. Then maybe add “lite” snare hits or rimshots, and add as many percussive elements as nessecary in order of importance for your beat. you can also generate more variations in rhythm without the full work by only doing variation of certain elements, or keeping phrases of them in copy/paste style, just offset/mixed in comparison to the first basic beat - a bit like triggering a full breakbeat at different slices reordering its rhythm to a new one, just for each beat hit seperately.

Oh and I was refering to using single note hits vs. breakbeat sequences, I mostly slice up my breakbeats into single note hits and then try to make a completely new rhythm out of the single hits. Sorting the hits in the keyzones by drum type but then also by perceived timbre makes maintaining a musical groove easier. sometimes you can alter or enhance the perceived pitch/timbre of a hit with clever eq or filtering (peaks).

I’m a fan of using tight brief delays. Also the tool dAnushri.

What I often do is use dAnushri to get something funky-ish as a start. It assumes you will use a kick, snare, and highhat but of course those can be any instrument you like.

Then tweak some beats.

On each percussion track I’ll add a delay fx set to line sync, , 0 feedback, full send. The left and right off-sets are each set to 1, or 1 + 2, or 2 + 3.

I make it mono.

I might also run it through a maximizer fx to make each hit of equal volume.

At the start of each track I set the delay to off (right-click on the enable/bypass checkbox)

I’ll play the track and periodically right-click that checkbox to have the delay kick in, then click again to turn it off.

The goal is to add in some extra hits. How you set the L/R offset values will give you different fills.

Play around with different settings to see if you get something you like.

I’ve not done this with sliced percussion samples (where each note gives you something more than a single sound)

Pretty sure I did this on EVERY track on my Dance Noise album

The last track, “Route” might have the most clear example of it.