Breakbeat

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Breakbeat is a broad type of electronic music that utilizes breaks, often sampled from earlier recordings in funk, jazz and R&B, for the main rhythm. Breakbeats have been used in styles such as hip hop, jungle, drum and bass, big beat, hardcore, and UK garage styles (including 2-step, breakstep and dubstep).

Contents

Etymology

The most likely origin of the word "breakbeat" is the fact that the drum loops that were sampled occurred during a "break" in the music, as in the Amen break, which is a drum solo from "Amen, Brother" by The Winstons. However, it is a common thought that the name derives from the beat being "broken" and unpredictable compared to other percussive styles, something which is also reflected in the name of the related genre broken beat. Whether this was part of the original meaning of the word or is purely a folk etymology remains unclear, but it is safe to say that the term has evolved to encompass both sentiments.

History

Beginning in 1973 and continuing through the late 1970s and early 1980s, hip hop turntablists, such as DJ Kool Herc began using several funk breaks in a row, using irregular drum patterns from songs such as James Brown's "Funky Drummer" and The Winstons' "Amen Brother", to form the rhythmic base for hip hop songs. DJ Kool Herc's breakbeat style involved playing the same record on two turntables and playing the break repeatedly, alternating between the two records. Grandmaster Flash perfected this idea with what he called the "quick-mix theory": he would mark the points on the record where the break began and ended with a crayon, so that he could easily replay the break by spinning the record and not touching the tone arm. [1] This style was copied and improved upon by early hip hop DJs Afrika Bambaataa and Grand Wizard Theodore. [2] [ dubious ] This style was extremely popular in clubs and dancehalls because the extended breakbeat provided breakers with more opportunities to showcase their skills. In the 1970s, hip-hop was all about the break. Then, in the 1980s, the evolution of technology began to make sampling breaks easier and more affordable for DJs and producers, which helped nurture the commercialization of hip-hop. Through crude techniques such as pausing tapes and then recording the break, by the 1980s, technology allowed anybody with a tape recorder to find the breakbeat. [3]

In the early 1990s, acid house artists and producers started using breakbeat samples in their music to create breakbeat hardcore. [4] The hardcore scene then diverged into subgenres like jungle and drum and bass, which generally had a darker sound and focused more on complex sampled drum patterns. An example of this is Goldie's album Timeless .

Josh Lawford of Ravescene prophesied that breakbeat was "the death-knell of rave" [5] because the ever-changing drumbeat patterns of breakbeat music didn't allow for the same zoned out, trance-like state that the standard, steady 4/4 beats of house enabled. In 1994, the influential techno act Autechre released the Anti EP in response to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, deliberately using advanced algorithmic programming to generate non-repetitive breakbeats for the full duration of the tracks, in order to subvert the legal definitions within that legislation which specified in the section creating police powers to remove ravers from raves that "'music' includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats".

Evolution

In the late-1980s, breakbeat became an essential feature of many genres of breaks music which became popular within the global dance music scene, including big beat, nu skool breaks, acid breaks, electro-funk, and Miami bass. Incorporating many components of those genres, the Florida breaks subgenre followed during the early-to-mid 1990s and had a unique sound that was soon internationally popular among producers, DJs, and club-goers.

DJs from a variety of genres work breaks tracks into their sets. This may occur because the tempo of breaks tracks (ranging from 110 to 150 beats per minute) means they can be readily mixed with these genres. Breakbeats are used in many hip hop, jungle/drum & bass and hardcore songs, and can also be heard in other music, from popular music to background music in car and clothing commercials on radio or TV. [6]

Sampled breakbeats

With the advent of digital sampling and music editing on the computer, breakbeats have become much easier to create and use. Now, instead of cutting and splicing tape sections or constantly backspinning two records at the same time, a computer program can be used to cut, paste, and loop breakbeats endlessly. Digital effects such as filters, reverb, reversing, time stretching and pitch shifting can be added to the beat, and even to individual sounds by themselves. Individual instruments from within a breakbeat can be sampled and combined with others, thereby creating wholly new breakbeat patterns.

The "Amen break"

The Amen break, a drum break from The Winstons' song "Amen, Brother" is widely regarded as one of the most widely used and sampled breaks among music using breakbeats. [7] This break was first used on "King of the Beats" by Mantronix, and has since been used in thousands of songs. [8] Other popular breaks are from James Brown's Funky Drummer (1970) and Give it Up or Turnit a Loose, The Incredible Bongo Band's 1973 cover of The Shadows' "Apache", and Lyn Collins' 1972 song "Think (About It)". [2] The Winstons have not received royalties for third-party use of samples of the break recorded on their original music release. [8]

With the rise in popularity of breakbeat music and the advent of digital audio samplers, companies started selling "breakbeat packages" for the express purpose of helping artists create breakbeats. A breakbeat kit CD would contain many breakbeat samples from different songs and artists, often without the artist's permission or even knowledge. [9]

Subgenres

Acid breaks

In electronic music, "acid breaks" is a fusion between breakbeat, acid house and other forms of dance music.[ vague ] Its drum line usually mimics most breakbeat music, lacking the distinctive kick drum of other forms of dance music. One of the earliest synthesizers to be employed in acid music was the Roland TB-303, which makes use of a resonant low-pass filter to emphasize the harmonics of the sound.

Big beat

Big beat is a term employed since the mid-1990s by the British music press to describe much of the music by artists such as The Prodigy, Cut La Roc, Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method and Propellerheads typically driven by heavy breakbeats and synthesizer-generated loops and patterns in common with established forms of electronic dance music such as techno and acid house.

Progressive breaks

Also sometimes known as atmospheric breaks, progressive breaks (or "prog breaks") is a subgenre of breaks that is essentially a fusion of breakbeat and progressive house. Much like progressive house, this subgenre is characterized by its "trancey" sound. Its defining traits include extended synthesizer pads and washes, melodic synth leads, heavy reverberation, and electronic breakbeats. However, unlike progressive house, very few progressive breaks tracks have vocals, with most tracks being entirely instrumental or using only electronically-altered snippets of vocal samples for sonic effect. Typical progressive breaks tracks will often have a long build-up section that leads to a breakdown and a climax, often having numerous sonic elements being added or subtracted from the track at various intervals in order to increase its intensity. Progressive breaks artists include Hybrid, BT, Way Out West, Digital Witchcraft, Momu, Wrecked Angle, Burufunk, Under This and Fretwell.

See also

Related Research Articles

Drum and bass is a genre of electronic music characterised by fast breakbeats with heavy bass and sub-bass lines, sampled sources, and synthesizers. The music grew out of breakbeat hardcore. The popularity of drum and bass at its commercial peak ran parallel to several other homegrown dance styles. A major influence was the original Jamaican dub and reggae sound that came into London in the 1980s. This grew into the Jungle/Drum and Bass sound that the U.K. is famous for by the 1990s. Another feature of the style is the complex syncopation of the drum tracks' breakbeat.

Breakbeat hardcore is a music genre of the very early 1990s that spawned from the UK rave scene. It combines four-on-the-floor rhythms with breakbeats usually sampled from hip hop. In addition to the inclusion of breakbeats, the genre also features shuffled drum machine patterns, hoover and other noises originating from new beat, acid house squelches and bleeps, and often upbeat house piano rolls and vocals.

Jungle is a music genre that developed out of the UK rave scene and reggae sound system culture in the 1990s. Emerging from breakbeat hardcore, the style is characterized by rapid breakbeats, heavily syncopated percussive loops, samples, and synthesized effects, combined with the deep basslines, melodies, and vocal samples found in dub, reggae and dancehall, as well as hip hop and funk. Jungle was a predecessor to drum and bass, which saw success in the late 1990s.

Amen break Widely sampled drum break

The Amen break is a drum break that has been widely sampled in numerous music genres. It comes from the 1969 track "Amen, Brother" by the soul group the Winstons, released as the B-side of the 1969 single "Color Him Father". The drum break lasts about seven seconds and was performed by Gregory Coleman.

Hardcore is a subgenre of electronic dance music that originated in the Netherlands and Germany in the 1990s. It is distinguished by faster tempos, the intensity of the kicks and the synthesized bass, the rhythm and the atmosphere of the themes, the usage of saturation and experimentation close to that of industrial dance music. It would spawn subgenres such as gabber.

Electro is a genre of electronic music and early hip hop directly influenced by the use of the Roland TR-808 drum machines, and funk. Records in the genre typically feature drum machines and heavy electronic sounds, usually without vocals, although if vocals are present they are delivered in a deadpan manner, often through electronic distortion such as vocoding and talkboxing. This is the main distinction between electro and previously prominent genres such as disco, in which the electronic sound was only part of the instrumentation. It also palpably deviates from its predecessor boogie for being less vocal-oriented and more focused on electronic beats produced by drum machines.

The Winstons American 1960s funk and soul music group, based in Washington, D.C.

The Winstons were an American 1960s funk and soul music group, based in Washington, D.C., United States. They are known for their 1969 recording of an EP featuring a song entitled "Color Him Father" on the A-side, and "Amen, Brother" on the B-side. Halfway into "Amen, Brother", there is a drum solo which would cause the EP to become the most widely sampled record in the history of electronic music. Sampled audio clips of the drum solo became known as the Amen Break, which has been used in thousands of tracks in many musical genres, including drum and bass, hip hop, jungle, big beat, industrial and electronica.

In popular music, a break is an instrumental or percussion section during a song derived from or related to stop-time – being a "break" from the main parts of the song or piece. A break is usually interpolated between sections of a song, to provide a sense of anticipation, signal the start of a new section, or create variety in the arrangement.

Florida breaks, which may also be referred to as The Orlando Sound, Orlando breaks, or The Breaks, is a genre of breakbeat dance music that originated in the central region of the State of Florida, United States. Florida Breaks originates from a mixture of hip-hop, Miami bass and electro that often includes recognizable sampling of early jazz or funk beats from rare groove or popular film. Florida's breakbeat style feature vocal elements and retains the hip-hop rhythms on which is based. The Florida breakbeat style however is faster, more syncopated, and has a heavier and unrelenting bassline. The beat frequently slows and breaks down complex beat patterns and then rebuilds. The genre has been described as being easy to dance to while creating an uplifting, happy, or positive mood in the listener.

A drop or beat drop in popular music, especially electronic dance music styles, is a point in a music track where a sudden change of rhythm or bass line occurs, which typically is preceded by a build section and break.

Baltimore club, also called Bmore club, Bmore house or simply Bmore, is a fusion of breakbeat and house genres. It is often referred to as a blend of hip hop and chopped, staccato house music. It was created in Baltimore, Maryland, United States in the late 1980s by 2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell, Frank Ski, Miss Tony, Scottie B. and DJ Spen.

Hip hop production

Hip hop production is the creation of hip hop music in a recording studio. While the term encompasses all aspects of hip hop music creation, including recording the rapping of an MC, a turntablist or DJ providing a beat, playing samples and "scratching" using record players and the creation of a rhythmic backing track, using a drum machine or sequencer, it is most commonly used to refer to recording the instrumental, non-lyrical and non-vocal aspects of hip hop.

Dance music Music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing

Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. In terms of performance, the major categories are live dance music and recorded dance music. While there exist attestations of the combination of dance and music in ancient times, the earliest Western dance music that we can still reproduce with a degree of certainty are the surviving medieval dances. In the Baroque period, the major dance styles were noble court dances. In the classical music era, the minuet was frequently used as a third movement, although in this context it would not accompany any dancing. The waltz also arose later in the classical era. Both remained part of the romantic music period, which also saw the rise of various other nationalistic dance forms like the barcarolle, mazurka, ecossaise, ballade and polonaise.

Drum and bass is an electronic music genre that originated in the UK rave scene having developed from breakbeat hardcore. The genre would go on to become one of the most popular genres of electronic dance music, becoming international and spawning multiple different derivatives and subgenres.

Nu skool breaks is a subgenre of breakbeat originating during the period between 1998 and 2002. The style is usually characterized by more abstract, more technical sounds, sometimes incorporated from other genres of electronic dance music, including UK garage, electro, and drum and bass. Typically, tracks ranged between 125 and 140 beats per minute (bpm), often featuring a dominant bass line. In contrast with big beat, another subgenre of breakbeat, the sound set consisted less of hip hop samples and acid-type sounds, instead emphasizing dance-friendliness and "new" sounds produced by modern production techniques using synthesizers, effect processors, and computers.

Big beat is an electronic music genre that usually uses heavy breakbeats and synthesizer-generated loops and patterns – common to acid house/techno. The term has been used by the British music industry to describe music by artists such as The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, The Crystal Method, Propellerheads, Cut La Roc, Basement Jaxx and Groove Armada.

Electro house is a music genre characterized by heavy bass and a tempo around 130 beats per minute. Its origins were influenced by tech house and electro. The term has been used to describe the music of many DJ Mag Top 100 DJs, including Benny Benassi, Daft Punk, Skrillex, and Steve Aoki.

Deekline is a British producer and DJ of dance, breakbeat, breakstep and garage music. He is the innovator of breakstep music which is bass-heavy, breakbeat-infused 2-step, first characterised in his 1999 hit "I Don't Smoke", which reached No. 11 on the UK charts. He is the owner of Rat Records, which has released material of such artists as DJ Fresh, Jack Beats, Stanton Warriors, Wiley, Skinny Man, Rennie Pilgrem, House Breakers and Freq Nasty. Annand has also had notable collaborations with British electronic music producers Ed Solo and Wizard. In 2011, he opened up his online clothing store, Bass Boutique.

References

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  2. 1 2 Modulations: A History of Electronic Music, Peter Shapiro, ed. New York: Caipirnha Productions Inc., 2000, p. 152
  3. Schloss, Joseph (2004). History in Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University. p. 40.
  4. Thomas, Gideon. "Breakbeat Hardcore - Your Ultimate Guide". Core Magazine. Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  5. Generation Ecstasy, Simon Reynolds, New York: Routledge, 1999, p. 253
  6. "Nate Harrison". nkhstudio.com.
  7. "10 Most Sampled Breakbeats". blog.whosampled.com.
  8. 1 2 "Musical history: Seven seconds of fire". The Economist. The Economist Newspaper Limited. 2011-12-17. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  9. Goodyer, Tim (March 1992). "Criminal Record?". Music Technology. United Kingdom: Music Maker Publications (UK). pp. 54–59. Retrieved 2020-01-20.