Welcome back to another tutorial in the series of Basic Elements. In this article I would like to set up a starters guideline in the realm of house music. While it is fair to say that writing just one article about House Music would not really cut it. Therefor I will try to give a few different set ups so you can get started by creating your own.
The Definition of House music
House music is an electronic music genre that originates from Chicago. Developed in the early 80s. Early house music is defined by repetitive rhythm patterns based on 4/4 beats. The rhythm is defined by electronic drum machines (like the famous Roland 808 and Roland 909). While early house music has similarities to disco music, there have been many different changes with in the genre itself. A lot of off spring genres are based on the original house music. While a significant change was made in the mid 90s when hard style house music was introduced, next to the genre Mellow House. Later on the genre has different split segments like eurodance, ambient house, tech house and alike.
The modern versions of house today would be Nu House or Progressive house. Nu house (or New Style House) is defined by its pretty heavy beat, while progressive house focuses more on changes with in the song itself (progression during the song or melody).
By now you may understand there are different offsprings either sub genres in House music itself. In this topic I will mainly focus on the styles of old school house and mix this with progressive house. Since these will be the main important elements to get yourself in to the realm of house music.
House music structure
From a song structure point of view, House music (at least the old school house style) follows a pretty straight forward line up regarding to song structure:
And you are mostly there. Some songs don't even have a Verse. Since they take out a part from the Chorus and repeat the same cycle. I could post a complete list of songs that follow this direction. But I think I think just this example should speak volume
In this context you call the Piano lead the Chorus , while everything else is the Verse. It kind of depends on how you look at this though. It could for what its worth be the exact oposite way.
In this context the Yaaah would be the Chorus, while the drop / bass line and the "Common" sample is the Verse. Sounds simple enough right? Lets move on.
Song tempo in House music
As far the song tempo goes, this is often set on a slow rate (120 / 128 Beats per minute) with the old school variant. While nowadays (Progressive) things have speeded up a bit from 130 till 135 beats per minute.
The Basic Beat of House music
The basic beat of House music is often defined by drum machines. In Reason there are 3 different choices to make:
- The Redrum Drum computer (loading up samples)
- Kong Drum Designer
- NN-XT Advanced Sampler
There is a fourth one:
- The Redrum of Kong triggering Synthesizers. For the sake of simplicity, I will skip this one in this article.
The Beat is one of the most important element with in a genre like house music. The main issue with House music is that you may use a lot of different percussion elements can and will be used in any type of sub genre. It may also be noted that the percussion elements will drive your music in a specific mood.
- Bass drum
This will be the main element to set up the rhythm. Mostly a Bass drum is played on a four to the floor rhythm (every bass drum play a 1/4th note).
- Claps and Snares
Claps and snares will be added to create syncopation on the drum track itself. Note that the type of Claps or Snare will have an impact on the mood of the song. For instance Saturated drums will make the track sound a bit more aggressive.
- Congas and Bongas
Congas and bongas give the song an African touch. Often the relationship with percussion sets like these are summer hits (Think Ibiza).
- Metallic percussion
Metallic percussion hits often have a more Latin drive to the song. These type of kits will mostly be combined with whistles and such elements.
- Hihats and shakers
Often used to fill up the gaps and used as syncopation to the main drum track. Note that multiple hi hat sets are used in one drum track.
- Open Hi-hats
This one is tricky since it totally depends on the drive of the track. If you go for the euro dance type of beat then place these between every other bass drum. Otherwise use with caution.
Just to give an example on what kind of impact the drum track by itself might have in this realm:
Both examples will probably not sound that awesome. But it is important to understand that the drum track in the realm of house music will have a large impact on the direction you are going to take it towards. The point I am trying to make is that the main lead will be similar, but the drum track will drive it different.
I would definitely suggest to prototype some ideas first before getting started. Since the drum track will be the heart of the song.
Also take note that the type of drum might also have an impact on the mood of the Genre. Take for instance a Bass drum. A typical 808 Bass drum works with most house track. However, if you want to make it sound a little bit aggressive your best bet is to put some distortion or Transient shaper (Kong) on the bass drum. A little touch like this can have a different impact on the mood of the track.
This kind of leads me to the next subject on this matter. Most people will probably agree with me that using Dr Rex files is a cheap way in to making a track. It is like you are borrowing a loop which isn't yours. The whole idea behind house (or at least the origin of it) is to do JUST THAT! You borrow loops from a wide range of sources and use these in a new sequence. Do I need to mention the prodigy?
Sure, this is an awesome put together demo. Even while it was done in Abelton Live. But in the realm of House music, it basically works the exact same way. You loop certain samples together. Make something new out if it. And then play the keyboard next to it to make it a unique track again... sounds simple enough right?
This is why using a Dr Rex file, or NN-XT sampler which plays a basic loop is not really a bad idea to start with. You only need to make use of the additional effects or tools to modify them later on.
Is it cheap? Yes...
Does it work? Yes!
Automation techniques House music
Filters are going to be your friend while making loops a bit more interesting.
Since the loop is often very static at the end, you are able to fiddle around with edit automation just to make certain tones with that single loop sound different then the original.
What type of effects
I could write down a complete guide on what type of effects would go in the genre house. I would say that it depends on what type of house music you would create. If it is more towards old school house, then go use effects that would fit in the analog realm. A tiny bit of Reverb, a bit of chorus, and maybe a tiny bit of tape distortion to create warmth in the track. Not too much. House music is about bashing vinyl records in a new sequence more or less and resample those.
If you want to drive towards progressive house then mostly anything goes. Since progressive house leans more towards a digital style (barely any progressive tracks are made with using vinyl records and are being re-sampled for samplers).
A basic effect like an RV7000 is there to create reverbs. But when done right you can turn this thing in to an effect unit instead
Something like this might do the trick. The Effect unit will be add around 6:00...
Samplers and Audio Editing
The next section will be a tiny bit tricky for Reason 4 or Reason 5 users. In a way, if you tend to use samples like the Chords / Stabs from the factory soundbank then in those cases the NN-XT or NN-19 sampler will do the job pretty well.
The only thing that is needed is a sample, load this up in the Advanced sampler, and you are all set to go.
In this case I have used a sample called the Discstabber from the factory sound bank (Other samples > Chords / Phrases/ Pads / Stabs). The trick however with samples like these stabbers is that you can create a complete melody with these or use them as a filler (like I will be doing in the next example file).
Another method will be using the NN-XT advanced sampler as a loop player, but trigger the notes manually. The main benefit with this set up versus the Dr Rex is that the NN-XT allows settings which the Dr Rex by default does not have. For instance play mode in different directions (Dr OctoRex only has forward or reverse). Alternate Loop / End modes and different ways to control the pitch (envelope, lfo). And last velocity to sample start. Which can be nice for alternate starting points of a sample while retriggering the same sound with different velocities.
The bottom line, the NN-XT can be used as an advanced loop player more or less. Use this to your advantage.
Since the realm of Reason 6 (or Record) things have been rather different. Since Reason 6 comes with Audio tracks. These audio tracks can be stretched to fit in a specific time frame. In that realm editing will go much more easier. However, if you are still using Reason 5, you can still use the NN-XT advanced sampler while altering the pitch to time things better. I might give a fair warning though, it is time consuming to use loops and time them correctly in the realm of the NN-XT (it can be done, but better bring a bag of popcorn while doing it).
This article should get yourself started with a genre like house. Even while I am strictly focusing on the old realm of house music (like loops either samplers) the game has changed a lot since offspring genres have been developed. Covering them all in just one article would not do them justice.
Written by hydlide