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Hip Hop Sessions

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by woods, Nov 18, 2003.

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  1. woods

    woods Guest

    Any discussions on a Hip Hop session out there?

    Including laying down the initial tracks - beat machines, sampling, getting the sounds, etc.

  2. what would you like to discuss?
    what do you ned help with?

    i mainly produce r&b and hiphop..
  3. woods

    woods Guest

    I have an Alesis HD24 and outboard pres (737, API 3124, Buzz Audio) and outboard comps (UREI LA4, UREI 1178, DBX 160X). Mics (U87, 414, KM84, AT4050, SOundelux U99). Mixing Soundcraft Ghost. Mixdown VariMu, Massive Passive, Masterlink. But know absolutely nothing about Rap/Hip Hop production techniques.

    A young producer has approached me about recording a Hip Hop group. He is creating the beats and music. His groove box is a Roland MC-909. i guess that is a drum machine, sampler, and sequencer all-in-one. He is also using an Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler.

    I need to start with some really rudimentry stuff.


    1. Laying down his beats and grooves. Should we keep all the parts on separate tracks or all on one or stereo right out of the groove boxes?

    Is there any way to run this stuff through the outboard preamps for good quality sound?

    2. Is his gear up to the challenge of a sonic perfectionist? What is the most common beat box used currently. Or real drums?

    What are the best sounding (sonically) beat machines on market today?

    3. Do we focus on one sound at a time: ie. the kick sound or the bass groove or the keyboard/synth or any other musical sound we may want to experiment with such as a guitar etc.?

    Lets see how many more questions this will generate for now.


  4. freaky

    freaky Guest

    ok, I'm not a pro, and I've never done hip-hop. With that said, I do do industrial electronic stuff and if I was in your situation, I would: Track the drum machine like real drums, (seperate tracks for kick, snare, toms, hat, overheads...). I would use the preamps. Most of your groove boxes run a line level signal, treat them like you would a synthesizer, and use your outboard pre's as a DI. His gear should be "up to the challenge", (although, I've never been impressed with the asr-10), the 909 has been done to death in dance circles, have him bring some music to listen to as reference. I'm sure he has a reason why he likes that drum machine, try to emulate that. Seems the roland "X0X" boxes are standard for dance, rap kind of stuff. Starting with the "groove" would be a good idea. Lay some solid drum tracks, add some bass and go from there. Keep those compressors handy and work them hard. Be ready to double the vox, a lot more than what you feel is natural. When in doubt over anything, consult the producer, I'm sure if he's doing all the music that he has a pretty good idea where he wants it to go. Lastly, (and you should probably do this first...) spend some time listening to a few hip-hop cd's. I hear a lot of it at the gym and it's fun stuff these days. Have your producer recomend some. I hope this helps/inspires you. Have fun! :w:
  5. sserendipity

    sserendipity Active Member

    Jul 3, 2001
    This is the MC-909, not the TR-909 - it's a new peice of kit. Personally, I have nothing but extreme contempt for it - I wouldn't know where to begin in knocking this unit. BUT, if it's what he uses then that's what he uses - you can't just switch out what he's comfortable with and expect to get results. If he's looking for alternatives, Emu makes better 'rom boxes' and there are a million better samplers on the market.

    You'll want to break as much of the sounds out as possible - so you can mix them as you would a regular band.

    Hiphop and rap are about the easiest genre to engineer. The tracks are all synths, samplers or loops, and, frequenly looped to the extreme underneath the vocals. You will start going crazy...

    The vocals are incredibly dry and upfront. Doubled a lot, but no worries about intonation, or the issues that singing bring.

    Keep in mind while mixing that the sounds you
    are working with will feel very static compared to a live band - it's easy to feel that something's 'not quite right' when it's fine and in actuality you're just comparing the instrument in your head to the dynamic, human equivalent.

    Chances are, the producer will show up with everything composed and recorded, and ready to 'dump' into your system, as far as all the instrument parts go. Lay down each instrument, and make good use of your subs and grouping to get parts to gell and to eq your drum kit as a whole.

    Do what you know to be good engineering - the rest is his job. It will help to be upfront about your inexperience with the genre.

    Yes, get a list of bands in the style that he is working in. This is probably the most important tip.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Well-Known Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I recorded about 3 tons of rap/hiphop in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Some of my technique may be a bit dated but i will make a stab at it anyhow..

    First, sync the sequencer to the multitrack.. This way the producer can alter the beats if they decide to. Once you have the sequencer synced up, record a stereo “ref” track.. to work off while you cut vocals. As the producer works on the beats, changes things, you can erase and re record the “ref” track.

    Already answered in my last comment.

    Usually at mix, these tracks are run through the mixer. Many times the loops and samples will run continuously. The “artist” or producers will sit at the console working the mutes, bringing different elements in and out. At this stage if you wish you can try inserting different pieces. But keep in mind, much of this type of genre’ is supposed to be lo-fi. The producers may not want all the sounds to be “slicked up”. Usually they want it to sound as crappy as possible with lots of low end.

    His stuff is fine.. see my last comment.

    Now you’re asking for mixing lessons... do what ever works best for you. Sometimes it helps to solo something up and listen, especially if there is a problem with it but it is usually best to eq and make level adjustments while listening to other elements of the mix also. It all works together, in all types of stuff, not just rap/hip hop.

  7. always like any music, separate the tracks..
    as long as you have a good signal it'll sound good but yes running his stuff through good quality pres will render a better quality

    most common and the best, akai mpc's.. the mpc2000xl,3000le,4000 and some still use the old mpc60

    as for being a sonic perfectionist, the quality should be decent.. the 909 should have close to no noise.. the asr is an older piece.. it may not offer the sonic perfection you want, but plenty of albums have been made with them.. so its not like its gonna give you the sound of a cheap psr keyboard...

    by all means, experiment.. don't be to crazy with it... but thats apart of production IMO...
    experiment until you and the artist like what they hear. producing hiphop artist, you'll see some are smart and know music well.. and then you have your staight up dumb ass's that shouldn't be on the mic let alown around during mixdown...
    this is comming from 8 years of r&b/hiphop production...

    any other questions? by the way, seems like you have a real nice setup
  8. Tre

    Tre Guest

    If you try to fit some reverb in make it so that it is almost un-noticable to his ears. Trust me most rap & R&B hate the sound of reverb. For some reason COMPRESSION on vox, bass line, kick and snare is a must :c: .
  9. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    Having done lots of rap and hip-hop in the last 5 years or so I concur with most everything already posted.

    1. Dirty/grungy sounds are the thing, although cleaner sounding tracks are starting to make an appearence.

    2. It's all about the flow. Don't ask me what that means because I hear rappers that are way off the beat, at least to my ears, that the producer and posse think is absolutely da bomb or phat or whatever the accolade de jour is.

    3. Mix is DRY! DRY! DRY!

    4. Kik (heavily compressed), Snare (very compressed), Hat and Vox (moderately compressed) are the mix. Everything else is incidental except for the "hook" sound if there is one.

    5. Put a light reverb with a timed (1/8 or 1/4 note) pre-delay on the double vox. You can hear it when the track is soloed but it should disappear when the rest of the track is brought in.

    6. The low end of the mix will be either the kick or the bass sound. Do not try to make both occupy the same space. If they have an 808 type kick, that is the low end. Use "low & mid" midrange to accentuate the "bass" part. If the "bass" is the low end use a punchier kick EQ and suck out some of the bottom end of the kick.

    7. Compress the final mix until you can't stand it anymore. I hate it but that's what my clients want. I do send an uncompressed mix to the mastering house if the project goes that far.

    Go out and get yourself one of the greatest hits collections, the most recent you can find, as a touchstone for what the current sound is. The tendancy today is more towards sequenced material than using sampled loops.

    Good luck, and remember to tell them that cell phones, beepers, uncovered drinks, blunts and weapons are not permitted in the studio or control room.

    Uncle Bob

  10. TREV

    TREV Guest

    Hello to all,

    Everyones response was pretty acurate. As I am not an expert on the recording of hip hop, I am a fan of the music for more than 20 years. and hope I can give some usefull help...

    To my knowledge the most popular drum machines are the MPC 3000, 4000, 2000xl or mpc60 as noted above. The unit your customer is using is popular too.

    Most hip hop is revolved around sampling, but in the last 3 years it has turned to internal sound kits from keyboards and workstations because of the change in sound people are looking for and the fact that hip hop music is generating million's of dollars a year. and sample clearance for the artist's and record companies has sky rocketed in recent years.

    most of the music is all seqenced, MPC (Midi Production Center) all though live instruments are becoming more popular on a lot of music.

    The reverb on a lot of hip hop music is not popular because of it's echo-y sound (if you will) makes it sound a little weak.

    I have a keyboard hooked up to my mpc and I use the mpc for sequenceing all the sound from the keyboard.... I also sample loops from old records and sequence them in with the keyboard sounds.... I then set how many bars I want for what parts and save the song on the mpc....

    just sort of an idea of what is probaly going on with his music.... I think he can sync the song up with the DAW using midi time clock and record one sound at a time buy muting the others, unless the machine he is using has more then out out put.

    lastley, if your looking for some examples of differnent hip hop songs to go by... the most popular of the two sounds.... try any of the NELLY or Slim Shady record for more of a keyboard sound. and for sample based music try something like murs.

    that's about it... hope some of that helped maybe better understand some of the feel behind that type of music... thanks for listening

    good luck
  11. as for the reverb, as long as you know how to design a clean reverb the artist will love you for it..
    i don't go by any rule when mixing my hiphop artist..
    a dry mix just sounds too dul to me.. i need to spice it up.. when i design a nice reverb, delay etc. allmy artist always ask me how'd you do that? that made my voice sound tight, so design a nice plate reverb.. nothing over 2sec you'll see it'll fit perfect.. not to much reverb but enough to clean up the track some.

    as for vox compression..
    i usually model my rcomp after real units i used.. like the 1176 or the L2a.. both very good comps and if you have a uad-1, even better..
    but sometimes a ratio of 4:1,8:1,12:1 or 14:1(L2a) with quick attack and release from 70-250..
  12. coysoundnyc

    coysoundnyc Guest

    ok first off ask the producer for some reference CDs or names, things like what's the style?
    maybe he calls it hip hop while it is more of an r&b thing.
    buy some records go get different stuff from Missy Elliot to the Roots, from Dr. Dre to the Neptunes (the most in demand hip producers at the time), from Eminem to Gorillaz and also some old stuff like N.W.A.(Niggaz4life) , Nas (It Was Written) Enter the Wu Tang, and Mob Deep (the Infamous). You'll find that there are differences.
    The main thing about hip hop to me is aiming at a new sound, unless the producer asks for something very specific like a "clone" of something else.
    keep in mind that the vocal is the most important thing (way more than rock and "good music") and in most cases is right in your face.
    Get the tracks divided.
    how is up to you.

    It is not true that hip hop is always row stuff. I have seen some big time session and they sucked the all of the 104 inputs of a J9000 they where using (that's why big studios now only survive because of hip hop) with 5 different kick 4 snares, different snares for different parts, BUNCH of delays (very short once) coming back on to spare channels etc.
    When you dump those track run them into DI and mic pres to get some good tone. but do not worry too much about sound yet, your goal is to get the flow and the vibe going, and most important the vocals done right. Than you'll warry about the mix.
    just pump everything at some good level but always the vox on top, so that the singer is confortable.
    you'll see, more than likely they will be writing lyrics for 90% of the time, so just let them do their thing, you'll be just fine, there are no special formulas for hip hop and maybe the very fact that you're not an hip hop guy will make you the ultimate hip hop engineer$$$$.
    a bit too long sorry.
    good luck.
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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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