Drum and Bass Remixes
Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Son House
The first task in accomplishing these remixes was to tempo the tracks. This allows the track to be pulled into different applications for sequencing or mixing. I used Garage Band for my bass and drum sequencing.
Tempoing the Track
For tempoing I used the Audacity program. The first step is to choose a tempo. You need to find a spot in the track where the grove is good and the tempo feels consistent. Import the file into your audio editor and as precisely as possible select a 2 - 4 bar section where you like the tempo. It's a good idea to loop your selection to fine tune your selection length.
Use the following formula to calculate your tempo:
T = 60n / l
-where n is the number of beats in your selection and l is the length of your selection in seconds.
Now comes the actual tempoing process which can be a lot of painstaking work. These tracks only have acoustic guitar and vocals and the tempo during the performance can vary quite a bit. If I get lucky I might find a 4 bar stretch where I can apply the tempo tool and get a good result. Most of the time I do 1 or 2 bars at a time and sometimes less. For the Pearline track I ended up with close to 200 separate audio regions. I will cover the details of how I go about this in a future article.
To get started I needed to generate a click track as your reference. If you use a different application, when your tempoing is complete you need to export the tempoed track and the click track into your sequencing software. Make sure the 2 tracks start at the exact same time. Starting the click at exactly 0 sec. with lots of lead-in is a good idea. Use your imported click track to make sure everything is in sync in your sequencing application.
Once your track is all set up your ready to start adding sequences. This is where all the work you put into tempoing pays off. I usually export sub-mixes back into Audacity to do a final mix.
Adding the Bass and Drums
I used Garage Band to add the bass and drums.
For drum sounds on these tracks I chose drum instruments from the EDM category. The exception was the Rock Me, Sister Rosetta Tharpe track which I used brush samples for. That was the first track in this set I did drums and bass for. While searching through sounds I came across the brush samples and thought they would work well with that track. I didn't try to emulate how a drummer would play real brush parts as I had done in the past. I just tried to use the samples in a way that would flow together and create a good groove with interesting sonic embellishment. For the rest of the tracks I constrained myself to the EDM instruments. I wanted to enforce the contrast between the samples and the original track. The goal was to expand the tracks sonically and not emulate an early blues recording. Ideally I would just create a one or two bar loop to get started and potentially chose different samples based on that.
For bass sounds I chose from various synth bass instruments ranging form EDM to vintage synth bass. With each instrument itself having a wide range of settings and presets available you can spend a lot of time getting a bass sound. I usually start with a very basic sound and then start creating the bass part. Once I hear the bass part develop against the basic drum loop I can fine tune the bass sound.
- Rock Me - Sister Rosetta Tharpe"
- That's All - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- Bring Back Those Happy Days - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- Sit Down - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- Stand By Me - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- There's Something Within Me - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- Death Letter Blues - Son House
- Pearline - Son House
- Levee Camp Moan - Son House
Drum and Bass Bach
Bach wrote 6 cello suites for unaccompanied cello. After doing remixes for some of the blues tracks I wanted to see if I could try the same process with a couple of the cello suite tracks.
The tempoing process was even more challenging than the blues tracks as the cello suites are often somewhat rubato in sections. There are a lot of grace notes used and sometimes notes are held a little longer depending on interpretation. Also certain parts of phrases were sped up or slowed down in a very subtle way.
With the drums I wanted to achieve a hip hop feel. Once again a used Garage Band EDM drum instruments for my sound pallette.
Adding the bass was a real challenge. These pieces were composed as stand alone pieces by Bach. It could be considered completely blasphemous by purists to add bass to these pieces. Although, there are probably appearances of some of these motifs or figures in other Bach works for multiple instruments including bass parts. My intention was not to try to write bass lines that Bach might have written at all. I was looking for that drum and bass hip hop feel and at the same time try and follow Bach's harmonic implication, even at times distort what was probably Bach's harmonic intent. I was happy with most of what came out of it. The Gavotte piece for me was the more difficult to find a bass line. There a couple of points where I think there may be a better suited figure while still maintaining a hip hop feel propelled by the drums.
Also adding to the challenge of adding a bass part was the intonation. Open cello strings can be tuned to concert pitch but fingered notes can vary. In ensemble these variations can be noticed right away and retakes are necessary for this reason alone. With no accompaniment these slight variations are less critical. As a result I had to add a pitch wheel track to tweak the bass tuning to match over the course of the track.