Behind The Beat
Writing – Harmony
To begin writing this idea I started with a 4 bar chord sequence. Here are the chords, with the name symbols and then the Roman numeral analysis below. I’ll do a future video on Roman numeral analysis for harmony soon:
I’m a big fan of non-resolving chord patterns that stay away from the I chord. It’s the kind of thing you hear a modern producer like Calvin Harris do all the time. Some purists hate the lack of resolution but I dig the hypnotic floating feeling you get. The little b next to the V chord means that that chord is in first inversion, so you have the third of the G chord (B) in the bass.
Funk Guitar Part
With the chord idea down, I went for a Nile Rogers muted guitar part to start building the riff. I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 14 but I still find Nile’s style and pocket incredibly difficult to try and recreate. After about 100 takes I had a the part you can hear in the video nailed down! Here’s a look at the effect chains on the guitar.
For the guitar sound I stayed away from amp simulators and guitar rig. I know that Nile would normally record straight into a Neve desk for the classic funk guitar parts and so I tried to recreate this chain as follows with a bit of help from a guitar player friend and some Waves tutorials (fig 2 below).
If you look above you can see I was using the Scheps 73 Neve 1073, the Puigtech and the CLA 76 all from Waves. The most important part to my ears was the compression effect on the guitar from the CLA-76. Here are the settings that worked on my Telecaster. I know that Nile used the ‘hitmaker’ Strat, but I only have my trusty Telecaster at the moment so I went with the Neck Pickup and got as close as I could.
Here’s a quick look at the CLA-76 settings with me getting about 7-8 dB compression on average. Compressing a lot seemed to sound good. Note that I’m using a fairly slow attack and very quick release here. This helped to keep the guitar breathing but fat.
Picked 2nd Guitar Part
The next thing I added was a picked funk guitar part over the chordal part. This ended up being more of the hook of the tune than the chord part. I used the same chain I’d used on chordal part but with the addition of a couple of plugins before the compressor to really make the single notes cut through. (fig 4)
The first part of this was a Limiter and Renaissance RAxx to really level the signal before sending it into Guitar Rig. I picked up the idea of L1 limiting going into the amp from Dave Pensado. It’s just really flattening some of the most extreme peaks from my single note guitar part. You have to be super careful with the limiter as you don’t want to flatten the majority of your sound, just catch the peaks.
The Guitar Rig patch was an extra element I added here. I used the preset ‘Super Clean Funk’ (fig 5 below)
All the guitars were then grouped into a Bus so that I could add a filter effect to them quickly and easily.
For the drum part I again mainly used Boi1da’s brilliant drum samples – for the snare and hats. You can check them out here. I used a kick from the brilliant Loopmasters Big Bad Kick pack.
Although I often start with a drum rack in Ableton and then separate the individual drum hits out, to save time here I kept them in a rack and used a similar approach to the previous beat. Here’s a quick look at the Drum Bus plugin chain. RC 20 adding some vintage colour.
I didn’t mention the bass in the video above so I’ll take a quick look at it here. The main bass sound was a combination of two sounds layered on top of each other. The first sound is an 808 from a brilliant 808 VST called ‘Woofer’ I bought ages ago and forget to use. It’s one of the better 808 bass VSTs I’ve heard. This sound gave the main body of the bass part (fig 5 below)
The second bass sound was a more gnarly mid range sound which projects through the mix. For this I used a patch from Arturia’s Roland Jupiter recreation.
The Keys Sounds
The main chord part was a combination of three sounds:
- A Nord Lead 2X patch
- A Tal-U-No Juno VST
- A Jupiter (Arturia) VST patch
The Nord Lead Patch was a simple saw wave chord that I was filtering heavily. It’s the main swelling sound you can hear. I recorded the automation in and then bounced the audio out.
The second patch on the Tal-U-No (Juno recreation) was also achieving a similar effect. I might have even used this as the inspiration for the Nord patch.
Here is the Jupiter patch that I layered underneath. This was a synth brass sound, which felt like it fitted the theme of Disco pretty well.
The final part of processing on the chords was to group them together and add a side chain compressor which was being triggered off the main kick part. For this compressor I explored a few different presets and ended up settling on the ‘Precise’ preset. I saw Fred Falke using this once so it’s always in mind when I come to sidechaining, especially on Disco tunes. (fig 9 below)
For more on sidechaining check out this post. Hope you enjoyed this quick look at how I made this future disco beat. Let me know what you think and any questions in the comments.