I’ve got to adopt a new Ableton workflow in regards to my drums. I think the problem is that over the past two years, I spent so much time learning all things synth, that I slowly lost grips with beat crafting. I can still finger drum fairly well. But when I enter notes by hand, my beats are so lackluster.
When I started using Ableton, I was a fan of Impulse. It’s clean, small, and to the point. I also like the stretch option for some parts. I watched a few tutorials about using an instance of Impulse on separate tracks for different parts; i.e. kick, snare, hh, blah blah blah. I couldn’t get comfortable with that workflow as I was always having to go to the previous part and see what step I has placed a hit. More a pain in the ass than anything, unless you’re an actual graduate of a music program or are a timing virtuoso. And I am neither. I just like to either bash pads and then hit record and quantize sparingly as needed or click in notes one at a time until I have a groove that I like.
One day I decided to switch up my workflow and use Drum Rack. It was like having the same busted ass pair of glasses for years and getting an exam and a fresh new pair of lenses. The clarity. The ability to take virtually any sound and drop it in, zoom in on the waveform, turning anything into a drum hit. Alas, I often find myself chasing my tail in Drum Rack. I’ll get an awesome groove going that sounds like I used a classic break rather than entered my own midi notes, but I get all tangled up trying to bring forth variation. I usually end up making one core drum track. The main groove/break/beat, in it’s glorious entirety. Then I’ll duplicate it about 10 times and select certain parts and remove the parts. But I find that it really doesn’t effect the groove in the way I want. The fundamental groove is still there, I’ve just removed part of the sails so to speak. It often leaves me feeling discouraged and I orphan another project on what could’ve been a daily decent track. I’ll save any cool synth patches or samples that strike my fancy and trash the rest. An electronic music chop shop.
So here I am now. Trying to find a new workflow that will be the best of both worlds. Simple, concise, streamlined. I understand that I’m still a newb. I’ve only been producing for a flew days longer than three years. However, I’ve poured my heart and soul, and questionable amounts of time into producing. While I know that gives me no right to think that my beats should sound like that of Amon Tobin, Tycho, or Boards Of Canada, I feel like I should be making far better beats and grooves than what I’m making.
I try to steer clear of using loops. I recently downloaded and chopped up the Ultimate Breaks Collection. It took me about two days of constant cropping, but I amassed a good library to use for inspiration when I feel like my shit is stale. Again, I get discouraged. I’ll listen to the blend of the two drum tracks and be amazed. Then I’ll solo my drum track and want to just give up. Compared to James Gadson, I’m a kid with a broken Crayola trying to recreate Dali. I take away the comfort in knowing that I’m foolishly comparing my midi data entry to that of an award winning drummer that spent years perfecting his craft. So I don’t beat myself up too hard.
I guess it’s time to just experiment. I’m at an awkward stage now. I’m far too advanced for nearly all of the tutorials and yet I feel like I’m still just starting out. It’s a strange place to be.