Talking Trip-hop Techniques

How to do this, that and the other. Share, learn, teach. How did X do that? How can I sound like Y?
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Coxy
KVRian
713 posts since 31 Aug, 2004 from England !

Post Tue Aug 21, 2007 2:32 pm

Really getting into Trip hop lately, infact I've always been into it for listening purposes but really having ago at making it.

I've no academical music qualifications or theory behind me and this hasn't been much of a problem for me when creating Trance as it was(is) the genre I love, I listen to daily, I use to mix for the past 10 years. I know it inside and out from sounds to structure from euphoric to progressive. When you have such an in-depth knowledge and experience with trance (or any genre I guess) it's easier to (re)create similar tunes with enough originality to classify it as you're own. Since I know trance like the back of my hand I know how it should sound, I know what works and what doesn't and I find it easy to lay down the foundations of a great Trance tune and turn it into an original polished mix.

Now I'm having a stab at Trip hop and other experimental genres and since I don't know these like I know trance I feel like I'm wondering blindly in a field of mist when it comes to production techiques, structure, sounds and alike. Granted that's what half of trip hop is, it's something that's not locked to any specific techniques or sounds but experimentalist by it's very nature.
But suffice to say I find it very difficult to come up with anything productive. I can get some semi decent loops going on with some deep kicks and heavy, moody basslines but even get stuck on arrangement. I've listened to alot of other source material so am getting a better picture slowly, but would also love advice on perhaps how anyone here produces their trip hop. Topics such as Structure, technique and sounds used or anything else you feel should be noted.

I'm using
SL3
Smokers relight
PadKontrol + midi keyboard
some other synth/effect goodies and freebies
and an old battered turntable for sourcing stuff too.

Thanks guys

morphex
KVRist
344 posts since 30 Oct, 2003 from Pacific NW, USA

Post Tue Aug 21, 2007 8:52 pm

I'm involved in making music for films and often times I have to put aside the types of electronic music I normally produce for myself to create music that matches the feeling of whatever project I might be working on. This means it's important for me to remain versatile and have some experience producing all forms of music (to a certain degree since I specialize in modern sounding scores).

I'm experienced in producing ambient/soundscape types of music as well as just about any type of dance music or experimental/IDM or industrial soundtracks. Like you, I've always liked trance music, whether it be progressive, psychedelic, or even breakbeat-orientated (think BT, Hybrid, Junkie XL, Deepsky, Sasha, and many others). In fact, most of these artists have experimented with slower bpm's in their music, maybe not to the extent of it being considered Trip-Hop, but when you slow things down a bit, the musical elements become more important an meaningful.

Sometimes I need to create a 'street-wise' vibe that's got a very urban feel to it but I don't want to even pretend I have any skill whatsoever producing some form of hip-hop, because I don't, and that's not what I'm interested in producing anyway... not that I have anything against it, I'm just more interested in other forms of music. So Trip-Hop seems like a sort of middle ground for me to experiment with. It can be laid back and yet still have some attitude and be a bit edgy.

When I first started thinking about what elements make up Trip-Hop I was tempted to go to a music retailer and buy a Trip-Hop compilation CD to get a feel of what common sounds or production styles defined the genre. But I decided against it, and just came up with my own form of it by starting out with some down-tempo drums that had been dirtied up with a little distortion. I figured I would listen to the name 'Trip-Hop' and what those words meant to me. Didn't take a genius to figure out that a combination of trippy hip-hop style breaks and some atmosphere with a heavy bassline to drive the track forward would be a good place to start.

From there, I concentrated on a good melody and some lo-fi, spacey dub effects to give the track some character. But I noticed this style of music requires a different approach to mixing than what I was used to. Compression and EQ are important factors, but so is reverb, delay and anything used to dirty up the track, like gentle overdrive or the sought after tape saturation effect that everyone's crazy about. I've been able to create music that closely resembles the style of some prominent Trip-Hop groups, but my tracks still retain some of my signature 'modern' sound-designing qualities and, IMO, don't sound like anyone else. I need that edge that originality provides when I'm being considered by a potential employer. And I feel good when I complete a project that includes music that enhances the film's emotional impact, especially when it's a style of music that I'm not used to making. Part of it is copying other artists' techniques and examples, and the rest is purely creative composing.

Each person will approach making their music differently than others, which will hopefully ensure a smaller number of 'copy-cats'. Get some ideas and inspiration from groups that you like, then create a track with your own unique spin on things. And most importantly, enjoy yourself while you're recording.

Peace - morphex

deastman
KVRAF
7331 posts since 7 Aug, 2003 from San Francisco Bay Area

Post Tue Aug 21, 2007 9:46 pm

The 'trip-hop' subgenre was basically invented to categorize the music of Portishead. If you want to know what defined the style, thats a good place to start. Personally, I don't think it had anything at all to do with hiphop beats... it was mostly just a catchy name to spin off of an existing musical trend. What happened is that people started to take the 'trip-hop' name too literally, and started to bring in more of those beats.

The basic elements are downtempo low-fi drums, vinyl crackles and pops, Rhodes or Wurlitzer, tape delays, and synths that sound like they came from a 1950's sci-fi movie.
Incomplete list of my gear: 1/8" audio input jack.

dark_virus
KVRAF
1629 posts since 28 Jun, 2007 from Amazon rain forest

Post Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:33 am

1 - Listen to the proper artists: Smoke City, Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack, Moloko and so. It's always the first advice to listen to as many artists-per-genre as you can.

2 - Loopwise, think about TH as a deeply slowed down breakbeat, literally. Time stretch use to add certain 'distortion' that fits nicely in the genre. BPM is about 70-90 (in general).

3 - I've found that this kind of loops doesn't has to much treble in it, so a low pass about 15000hz is interesting to play of.

4 - Basslines follows the hip-hop style. Not so complex, but bouncy and proheminent.

5 - I don't know too much about this genre, but I think vocals are mandatory. Mainly female singers singing sad and 'lazy' melodies.

6 - Instrumental: low strings, detuned pianos, and no so bright instruments are good for that Trip-Hop feel (in general).

7 - for effects, reverb and delay adds depth and that 'oldies' feel, so common to the forementioned artists.

Again, I'm no expert in this genre, but I've listened enough to find certain common points.

Armadillo
KVRAF
2066 posts since 31 Dec, 2002 from London, UK

Post Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:59 am

Quite busy at work so I'm gonna have to keep this short.

I've just done 6 tracks for a CD which me and my "contacts" are gonna pitch toward a production music company. 3 of them are songs, 3 instrumental.
This is my idea of Trip hop.

1. Keep it slow, I mean reaally slow. 60 Bpm going up to 100 Bpm.
2. Keep it very minimal. Kick, snare, hihat. Forget percussion loops, tons of fills etc.
3. Although it's an Electronic genre I find most artists (eg. Portishead, Tricky) rely heavily on acoustic instruments...and then some sampled drum loops. Synths are not used that much. Keys are usually Rhodes/piano.
4. Vocals need to be low key, melancholic - almost whispering instead of singing powerfully.
5. Sonitex/Vinyl for that added lo-fi crunch sound.

User avatar
Coxy
KVRian
713 posts since 31 Aug, 2004 from England !

Post Wed Aug 22, 2007 12:01 pm

Thanks alot for alot of helpful stuff here.

I do and always have listened to alot of mainstream trip hop but never as deeply as I listen to Trance and other genres.

I seem to be getting most aspects right, the only thing I seem to be lacking on is when coming to the arrangement is keeping it interesting the further in I take the song.

It seems having no singer, or not having acoustic insturments is a real drawback as most stuff I listen to has a female vocalist.

Sickle
KVRAF
5025 posts since 13 Dec, 2005 from The Void

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 5:11 am

dark_virus wrote:1 - Listen to the proper artists: Smoke City, Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack, Moloko and so. It's always the first advice to listen to as many artists-per-genre as you can.
Don't forget Sneakerpimps' 1st release; a classic all on it's own. They moved well beyond trip hop on 'Splinter' into something greater, but 'Becoming X' sits alongside Massive Attack and Portishead's work as the best examples of that 'genre'. Tricky's first two are also superb choices.

One thing about appropriation:

It's one thing to have listened to something for years; quite another to listen to it carefully with the intent of absorbing technique.
Image
Jens, "B.t.w.: it appears I was wrong"

krushing
KVRist
490 posts since 8 Mar, 2005 from Helsinki, Finland

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 5:33 am

Sickle wrote:It's one thing to have listened to something for years; quite another to listen to it carefully with the intent of absorbing technique.
Best advice so far, imo - it's naturally possible to make a pastiche of a genre with a solid technical know-how and critical listening skill, taking the lowest common denominators and blending them into a comfortable sound sandwich, but I've rarely seen anything very original come out of these "projects". Not to discourage anyone of doing it, nor demean the advice given here; I just personally feel that taking a genre into it's ingredients takes the soul out of it.

diverdee
KVRAF
3617 posts since 26 Sep, 2003 from Bradford - The Armpit of Britain

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 5:35 am

For different trip hop-ish flavours i'd recommend gettin hold of & listening to early mo wax releases, early to mid 90's etc.
Headz 1 & Headz 2 are excellent, experimental hip hop, trip hop - whatever you wanna call it.

frequency_algorithm
Banned
566 posts since 2 Nov, 2006

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 5:59 am

If you want to learn about trip hop and how to do it you have to listen to the classics.

Start with DJ shadow Entroducing. Don't listen to anything else until you've heard this.

Portishead is NOT trip hop that's downtempo. Anything more jazzy than that is acid jazz. BARELY scrapes the line of triphop.

After that I would say look for DJ krush from Japan. Some of his stuff is jazzy, but mostly ALL his older songs are trip hop.

Some one mentioned sixtoo, he's got some good ones, as does JEL and Meaty Ogre from Galapagos 4. But I think that shit is too advanced for now.

Hopefully after that you won't be putting out generic shit out there in our world, not that you ever did.

deastman
KVRAF
7331 posts since 7 Aug, 2003 from San Francisco Bay Area

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 6:25 am

Oh, and the first Hooverphonic album is another trip hop classic.
Incomplete list of my gear: 1/8" audio input jack.

DWb
KVRAF
1811 posts since 18 Jan, 2005 from Lost in the blinding whiteness of the tundra

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 7:47 am

IMO some of the most important features of trip hop are funk, texture, space, and atmosphere. And space (both in terms of space in the mix and space within the bar) and texture are the ones that second rate trip hoppers overlook most often. I'm listening to Maxinquayle at the moment, and the amount of depth and contrast in the soundworld is fantastic.

I don't think there are any particularly strong formal rules, cos it's not really such a dancefloor oriented genre, so you don't have to worry about confusing DJ's and dancers or messing up the vibe of the set by sounding 'wrong'.

User avatar
vurt
addled muppet weed
58737 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 8:12 am

most of the earlier stuff, the likes of portishead, tricky, the rest of the bristol mob, was a mix of predominantly hip hop and dub, the beats indeed coming from the same sources as hip hop producers where getting there bits from. as dwb says, not so much a dancefloor vibe here so the beats tend to be kept looser than most hip hop of the time.
for keys and such same sounds really e pianos and such played in minor keys for that sullen feel, the way you feel whan you been smoking afghan black for a good hard session, even the walls are talkin about you :o
nice double bass, surf esque guitar lines and boom!

if you can find a hotty like beth to front for you as well youve got my vote :D

to me trip hop always sounded black n white. like an old tv.


lest we forget, thanks neneh :)

DWb
KVRAF
1811 posts since 18 Jan, 2005 from Lost in the blinding whiteness of the tundra

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 9:26 am

vurt wrote:most of the earlier stuff, the likes of portishead, tricky, the rest of the bristol mob, was a mix of predominantly hip hop and dub, the beats indeed coming from the same sources as hip hop producers where getting there bits from. as dwb says, not so much a dancefloor vibe here so the beats tend to be kept looser than most hip hop of the time.
for keys and such same sounds really e pianos and such played in minor keys for that sullen feel, the way you feel whan you been smoking afghan black for a good hard session, even the walls are talkin about you :o
nice double bass, surf esque guitar lines and boom!

if you can find a hotty like beth to front for you as well youve got my vote :D

to me trip hop always sounded black n white. like an old tv.
I don't know... some of the more interesting stuff could be shot on oversaturated cheap colou film a la The Harder They Come. Crowded with eclectic detail but still keeping its cool.

It might just be my tastes, but I think the straight up moody noir Rhodes / break / double bass / horn samples sound is getting pretty tired, but there's still lots of interesting stuff to be played with by bringing in some new ingredients and stirring the pot a bit.
It's a rave, Lewis!

BASSDRIVE
KVRian
965 posts since 14 Jun, 2003 from USA

Post Thu Aug 23, 2007 10:03 am

You guys gotta hear the Silent Hill (video game) soundtracks. There's a lot of good TripHop songs in them. Akira Yamaoka is a freaking genius.

You can download the soundtracks here:
http://www.evilunleashed.com/v2/index.p ... dtracks-sh
I like the 3rd one the best. I recommend hearing them all though.

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