Today, we launch our biggest production challenge to date… A pack of 75 brand new recordings of the Amen Break Loop
Why on earth would you re-record the Amen Break loop? Why mess with perfection? Just grab the original and go to town!
The original audio, however, is a set piece; increase the tempo (as was with Jungle D&B) and so will the pitch, and vice-versa with hip-hop (Straight Outta Compton) the drum tones/timbre became deeper and more sustained.
Sure you can fire it into a sampler and play with the pitches and tempos. Or smash it through any number of plugins to change it in any number of ways.
But you’d still be using and manipulating the same original programme material (a posh way of saying the same piece of original audio).
Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear a deeper kick at the original tempo? And then sped-up and pitched down!? Or a kick with more sustain twinned with a high-pitched snare at a slower tempo?!
With 75 brand new variations of the amen break loop, there are literally endless new possibilities for re-imagining this classic drum loop.
The Amen Break loop as you’ve never heard it before…
Here’s some demonstrations using only the stereo WAV Amen Break Re-recorded pack. NO additional editing or effects were used…
When we come up with ideas for loop and sample packs it’s usually based around a single setup, or drum sound.
Achieve an interesting sound, then record as many different grooves as possible (around a theme) on that one single setup.
The Amen Break loop pack is completely the other way around; a single beat (the most sampled drum beat of all time no less) as many different setups and combinations as we could keep track of in one session. Our most ambitious Beat Shed recording session yet!
The Amen Break loop is ubiquitous, yet not always heard at it’s original tempo/pitch. What really interested us was the idea of different pitched-up/down drum tones and mixing them up at the original tempo.
We took 3 kick drums, 5 snares and 5 ride cymbals. Then carefully built a recording setup and treated each voice to create the MAXIMUM possible sonic contrast. And then we painstakingly performed The Amen Break with each and every combination. That’s every kick with every snare with every ride.
Ludwig 70’s vintage 22 x 16″ – Tuned medium low, front head on, but with hardly any damping. A big fat vintage “open” tone.
Yamaha 5000 22 x 16″ – Tuned WAY up high with no damping and no front head. This thing really sings for it’s supper. Booooooooooom!
DW Collectors Series 22 x 18″ – Our standard “session” tuning, WAY down low, plenty of damping, front head on. A great “microphone-friendly” modern kick sound with plenty of controlled bottom-end.
Ludwig “Black Beauty” 14 x 5.5″ – The Black Beauty is a treasured beast among us drummers! It has a unique ringing quality due to the shell, but with plenty of “bouff” to boot. Medium tuning, average damping. Labelled in the audio files as “BB”.
DW Collectors Series 14 x 5″ – A beautiful maple snare with plenty of warmth and bite at the same time. Tuned relatively high with light damping. Labelled in the audio files as “DW”.
Yamaha (??) “Deadsnare” 14 x 6″ – We’ve never been quite sure what this piece of dogshit actually is. But tune it so low the lugs are falling out then flip an old snare head and put on top, and VOILA! The deepest and deadest snare you could hope for! Labelled in the audio files as “YamDead”.
Pearl Full Floating Brass 14 x 6.5″ – This thing is an ANIMAL. It certainly is not the Ludwig Supraphonic that John Bonham used, but treated and tuned this way, it certainly does a pretty good impression. Labelled in the audio files as “Pearl Bonzo”.
Pearl Maple Piccolo 13 x 3.5″ – This is so high pitched and cutting that it sounds a little like the snare on The Amen Break when it is sped up in the way the jungle/drum’n’bass guys do. Labelled in the audio files as “Piccolo”.
As you can see, we auditioned one or two rides! (We say “rides”, but only 3 of them are actually ride cymbals). We eventually settled on the following…
“Ride 1” – 20″ Zildjian K Custom Hybrid Ride
“Ride 2” – 20″ Sabian Dark Ride
“Ride 3” – 18″ Paiste 404 Medium Ride
“Ride 4” – 14″ Zildjian A Custom Fast Crash
“Ride 5” – 8″ Zildjian A Custom Splash
What about THAT crash cymbal?!
Yes, the Amen Break has THAT infamous crash in it… (Or is it an open hat?! The debate RAGES on…) Rudely on the SIX of the fourth bar the cheeky swine. Well… recording different crash cymbals here would really have pushed the multiples of combinations over the edge.
So we auditioned every crash we had against the different kick/snare/ride combinations and settled for our trusty Zildjian 18″ A Custom Fast Crash to do the job – it has a dark tone, speaks instantly but decays quickly too. The happiest of compromises.
What’s this crazy “Kid’s Kit”?
We couldn’t resist doing a version of the Amen Break on a child’s drum kit! The 14″ kick is INSANELY high pitched with no damping, the tiny snare tuned quite low, and then we recorded one with a splash “ride” and one with a straight crash. BONKERS.
The Amen Break, like every other groove, is a pattern. And one that can be transferred to other instruments with different articulation. So we recorded an interpretation of the Amen Break loop on congas and cowbells, plus the usual Beat Shed extras of various percussion (tambo, caxixi, shaker, etc.).
Recording & Production
The Recording Approach: Rinse & Repeat
Recording was a challenge just in terms of keeping tabs on what was what and where within the project file. So we decided to divide it by kicks, then snares and then rides. Changing a ride is a lot easier than a snare!
Then it was a case of trying to perform the break as consistently as possible across the various sizes, tunings and tones of the various drums. There are worlds between the stick rebound from a tight piccolo snare and a deep dead low-tuned snare. And then again with a new kick. Playing a splash cymbal as a ride was also an interesting challenge… In summary, both hand and foot techniques had to adapt throughout the session.
Change ride/snare/kick, rinse and repeat…
Microphone selection and positioning was based on our usual Beat Shed setup starting point, but with the obvious exception of no toms.
An AKG D112 inside the kick, a D12-VR outside with the onboard EQ engaged.
We decided to go with two on the top of the snare (a 57 and a ribbon) for various blending options, plus an Audix D2 underneath to catch the snares.
Our trusty “Vurst” mic setup gets the shell of the snare and a bit of “click” from the beater on the kick courtesy of another 57.
We also put up a Rode M5 fairly close to the ride. It doesn’t sound great in isolation, but gives some interesting options! (Particularly with the phase/flange effect)
A pair of Aston Spirits over the top in carded as a spaced pair did the overhead duties.
A matched pair of Royer R-10’s three metres in front of the kit in Blumlein configuration get a beautiful “listener” snapshot of the kit, with a nice bit of room to boot.
Last, but certainly not least, our beloved “reverb” mic. A tube microphone set to omni-pattern out in the hallway with the set of doors at one end closed.(We are BLESSED at The Beat Shed to have a hallway which we can adapt as chamber reverb by opening and closing doors!)
The outside kick, the overheads and the room ribbons run through the Neve (style) 1073 preamps. The overheads driven slightly harder.
Snare top (57) goes through a Joe Meek Three-Q. Driven hard, no compression with a subtle lo-cut and boost at 3k.
The “Vurst” gets a special treatment through a Hairball Copper preamp. Even sparingly driven this preamp barks with a special sparkle!
Everything else runs through our crystal-clean Focusrite preamps, driven to different degrees with “air” applied accordingly.
Mixing was another huge challenge. With so many variables, surely there was no “one fix” solution… or so we thought.
Strangely, the piccolo snare enjoyed the same treatment as the dead Yamaha snare? (To coin a phrase, “go figure”) The same strange flavour of parallel compression/EQ settings seemed to compliment the tone of both of these esoteric drum tones. Weird!
We also split the kicks into 3 sub-groups; they are just SO different that we had to treat them in completely different ways.
Everything then went through The Beat Shed master bus Secret Sauce!
Voila! Bon Appétit…
… The Beat Shed Amen Break loop pack revises, revisits and reinvents the undisputed heavyweight drum loop of all time…
With 75 main grooves, plus a few extras and some percussion of naturally…
Audition EVERY loop in the Amen Break loop pack…