I have decided to talk about rhythm today. As a budding music producer, you must master rhythm first and foremost. Only then will your songs shine and move people emotionally or make them break into an impromptu jig. The best music producers in the world and indeed Bollywood's top music producers are masters of rhythm and groove. Rhythm is the bed on which a hit song is based upon. Ask any pro music producer about the first thing he works on before doing anything else and he will tell you - 'Get a Groove going before anything else!' If the rhythm ain't right, ditch it and move on! You will save yourself a lot of hard work and wasted time.
Rhythm is and will always remain the most crucial ingredient of pop and rock music and indeed any form of music. In fact, take away rhythm and there probably wont be any music! Listen one of my recent compositions below and imagine the same song without the percussion rhythm! 90 % of the impact would be gone and you would be left with an egg shell of a song without the yolk!
As a music programmer, every sound that is employed in a song that you create has a particular duration or length be it in milliseconds or seconds. This duration represents the value of the sound in the dimension of musical time. Think about it. The succession of these values or events happening in musical time is called Rhythm. Duration of sound is of high importance because they are the building blocks of rhythm.
A deep understanding of rhythm is essential for anyone who wants to become really good at the craft of creating irresistible music. For too many people, drum programming is simply pasting together loops from here and there resulting in an output which is just mediocre and plain bad for the ears. And i am not just talking about rock music. Even EDM producers need to understand rhythm well. The best hit songs in EDM immediately touch a chord somewhere because the groove has been created organically on the sequencer. Every recognizable style of modern electronic music relies heavily on the existence of a great drum or percussion track. Forget about everything else. The drum track is the most important feature of any song which you must master first and foremost master because it is after the number 1 element in a song that moves us both emotionally and physically.
It is just not enough to rely on loops that others have created. A lot of people out there and even top star music producers in India like AR Rahman endorses the use of vst's like Stylus RMX (a loop based vst) which I feel is a regressive step in the journey of becoming a total music producer in total command of his craft. Using loops created by other people will always set your own creativity back because you are taking the easy way out. Admitted you have used certain loops for the verses and the chorus of a song. What about drum fills, drum rolls and transitions between a song's passages? How will you manage to create seamless transitions in your songs without the understanding the science and art of rhythm programming? Any producer worth his salt produces his own drum and percussion tracks. Period.
To create good rhythm tracks, one of the most important things that a budding music producer can do is to listen to percussion tracks and study them. There are lots of good percussion and drum vst's out there such as Latigo, Addictive Drums and a lot of great Kontakt audio percussion libraries that one can learn from. Better still, observe live drummers and percussionists. Even better take a crash course in learning to play the drums. Trakadoom Institute of Drums & Percussion is one such drums institute in Mumbai where you can improve your rhythm skills by learning under the famous Franco Vaz (Rd Burman's preferred drummer!) - it cant get any better than this! I, for one, personally trained under Franco for an entire year and I can tell you, my rhythm programming skills grew by leaps and bounds and I now cringe in disgust and embarrassment when I listen to what I was producing before I started learning drums and percussion from Franco compared to what I am creating now!
Some of the things that you will have to start paying attention to:
1. What is a guiro, maracas, shaker, tambourine etc.? How does one play these instruments? Learn to play it live.
2. What are the range of techniques used to play drums and percussion instruments?
3. What kind of sounds can one obtain from these instruments?
Suffice it to say, that the more you master drums and percussion the more the samples in your sequencer will come alive! No Kidding! Right now those samples are dead individual sounds. It is upto you to now put them together to create music to make a dead man dance!
Oh by the way, mastering rhythm will also make you a better musician and a composer because you will become better at creating melodic and harmonic compositions. Rhythm is not implied only by drums and percussion. Harmonies and chords also have their own distinctive rhythms which is called harmonic rhythm. Harmonic rhythm is created by the chord changes in your song. Chords are always heard and presented in a strong and identifiable context.
Pulse and Beat
Rhythm is Everywhere
If you want to understand rhythm, begin by observing the world and identify yourself as a part of it. Rhythm plays an important role in the world and in fact totally governs our life. There is the rhythm of the seasons, the tides, phases of the moon as well as the all important rhythm in which our lives are regulated and controlled - night and day.
Introspect yourself and see rhythm within you - the beating of your heart, the inhalation and exhalation of your breath, the process of walking, running, etc. Rhythm is everywhere both within and without. It is no coincidence that rhythms of music takes their inspiration from life's rhythms. Musical time can be divided into regular beats - pulses of a constant duration that emulate the regular rhythms of nature. Pick up, follow and get inspired by the rhythms of nature and you will be just fine!
Atin Dasgupta is an entrepreneur and a Music Composer / Sound Engineer. Leveljam – a community of computer music programmers in India is an initiative that is very close to his heart. His Music can be heard here - https://soundcloud.com/firangees