Monday, July 06, 2009


For my Modyfier track I decided to make an electronic music waltz. Although Waltzes are considered dance music in other genres, cultures and time periods, they are almost never heard on the big sound systems of modern dance clubs - my goal was to make one that could work in such a context. I also wanted the style to reflect the bass heavy music that I have obsessed with lately, especially Dubstep and its more upbeat predecessor 2-step/Garage.

I started out creating a 140bpm beat with the Redrum step-sequencer in Reason. I set it to 48 steps so it would be a longish loop but still dividable by 3 and set the time signature to 3/4. Next, I added some of my favorite drum sounds with lots of short hi-hats to give it that bouncy/skittery feel. Once that felt right it was time to add the bass.

The melody came to me right away but I wasn't sure where it came from. It was a little like the melody from the Police's "Message in a Bottle" which, ironically, is one of my least favorite of their songs (too much rock and not enough reggae) but it also reminded me of something else which I couldn't put my finger on. Eventually, I realized that it was from one of my first audio experiments back when I was using Sound Edit 16 to cut and paste audio waves in the early 90's. I found the cassette tape that had it (a compilation of odds and ends that I had called "Loop Stew") digitized the song and decided to add it to my new piece using Ableton Live. The original was indeed a waltz but having been made before I used any grid based program and full off improvised mouth sounds, its tempo and key were both pretty vague and I had to spend a lot of time futzing with it in Live to make it work with the bassline.

Once I had the basic vibe I created lots of different parts - switching up the basslines, adding fuzzed out synth melodies, adding and subtracting drum hits, changing delay settings etc. Even though each part is fairly distinct, they all relate back to that earlier song in some way - I uploaded the original so that you can compare them.

In hopes that someone would actually want to spin this track in a club, I decided to start off minimally so that a DJ could beat match it before the melodies became dissonant or the beat became too complex (and waltzy). I also wanted to add something that would be familiar to a dance track, so I decided to use some sort of hip-hop vocal sample. I went with a clip from the great song "Stay Tuned" by Gangstarr as a salute to one of the only true hip-hop waltzes that I know of. I mixed out most of the frequencies so you would just hear the words because, as a producer, I feel that its not cool to sample a sample - DJ Premier took time to hunt down, sequence and finesse his sounds and I feel its wrong to use them as if I had discovered them. The vocals, on the other hand, were made for that track alone so my use is only once removed which doesn't bother me as much - besides Guru's voice (aka Keith Elam from my hometown of Boston) sounds just too good to resist. In the sample he says "We come correctly every time" and that is something I at least aspire to do.

Whether a waltz like this would inspire or clear a dance floor is still up in the air but every once in awhile I give it a try (my last record "Strictly Scientifical" has two waltzes.) In the meantime, throw on some headphone and listen in the comfort of your own home or on your iPod commute. I know that Jay-Z has dropped a couple triplet-feeling killers and big props to Australia's Unkle Ho for bringing the true boom bap bap - but please email me (dj_flack - at- yahoo -dot- com) if you know of any other electronic/hip-hop waltzes that I could add to my skimpy waltz crate, as I would love to do a full-on waltz mix sometime in the future.

Waltz on!


Blogger Nicolas said...

great blog, all kind of techno music
great great great
i'll post the link on my blog

3:54 PM  

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