Now that you’ve had some experience with the application, let’s get down to making a specific genre. House music was born in the early 80s (depending on who you ask) in Chicago from the ashes of the disco era. House gets its name from the underground Chicago club The Warehouse, where legendary innovators like Frankie Knuckles used to spin. House entered into the mainstream in the mid-80s when pop acts like Janet Jackson started to incorporate the sound into their own studio albums. Today, the influence of House can be heard in music by artists as disparate as David Guetta and Björk.
Let’s start with rhythm.
Open up the “House Tutorial” template in your Surface Music Kit application, which is at a tempo of 120 BPM. Like in the first exercise, the “loops” are on tracks 1-6 and the one-shots are on tracks 8-14. There are a few empty tracks we’ll save for later. You should see a full beat already loaded into the Song View. Take a listen.
Delete all of the notes, we’re going to make a House beat from scratch.
If there’s one common element across the whole of the House genre, it’s the “4 on the floor” kick drum pattern. “4 on the floor” is simply one kick hit on each downbeat or click.
Find the kick on pad 12 and record 8 measures of “4 on the floor”. After recording, zoom in and move any notes that aren’t exactly lined up to the grid so that each of the notes occurs exactly on the downbeat, or ¼ note on the grid.
TIP: It’s easiest to record with the “click” enabled and with one measure of lead time so that you can hear the tempo before you start to play your rhythm. Start with the Position Marker on beat one so that the SMK will give you a one measure count-in.
You should have something that looks like this:
The next basic element in a House beat is the snare or clap hit on beats 2 and 4. Find the snare (pad 13) or the clap (pad 14) and record hits on 2 and 4 over your “4 on the floor” pattern.
The final basic rhythmic element to any House track is the hi-hat hit on the upbeat. Find the track with the hi hat (pad 11) and record over your existing pattern so that each hi hat hit occurs on each upbeat.
Another element that’s found in much House music, and especially in Deep House, is the 7th chord keyboard harmony. Find the Rhodes Loop (pad 4) and the Rhodes sample (pad 10) and listen carefully. Is this a pad or a stab (stab)? Is its quality major or minor (minor)?
Record a rhythm with your Rhodes sample.
There are several elements that are melodic in nature. Can you find them (pads 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9)? Play around with these pads, and when you feel comfortable, record some of the sounds you like into your project.
Now for the hardest, but also the most fun part of the exercise. Pads 7 and 16 are empty. Find a few sounds from your sound library that you might want to fit into your project and play around with them to see if they work melodically. Listen closely to how the musical elements you’ve chosen work with the already existing material. If something doesn’t sound right to you, it probably doesn't sound right to other people. In that case, try a different sound.
Creating exciting music often comes down to intangibles like how it affects people on the dance floor and the emotional response people have to it while their listening. While each track exists in its own sonic space, and there is no magic formula to creating a great track, there are a few common “tricks” that you can use to create the feeling of tension and release. We’ll touch on one here.
A House pattern, repeated, in and of itself is, well, boring. You need elements in your tracks that break up the monotony and create the feeling of forward motion in your listener. After each 4-8 bars, it’s always a good idea to switch up something in the track so that your ears always have something new to latch on to. While dropping something new on the downbeat of measure 5 can sometimes be effective, it’s generally a good idea to ease into it with a transition. One way producers create this tension is with rising and descending effects.
Locate the Whitenoise Riser in your application (pad 15). Notice that as the sample goes on, the volume increases. You’ll want to place it starting on the downbeat of measure 7 of your loop, right before the loop cycles back.
Now, play around with what you’ve created! Drag some new effects into your project if you’d like and when you’re done, save and export.