Chemical beats were introduced back in the early 90s by a electronic music duo called the Chemical Brothers. Since they are the inventors of the genre and style, I might not do it justice by writing this article. However, I will try to debunk as much as I can in terms of what we know about how some of these tracks were created. Since knowing how they are made, will also make you understand how to build the drum track in a Chemical beat way.
Chemical beats = Speeding up a Hip Hop Drum track
Now this isn't a new trick at all. Even better, there is a whole genre build on the idea to speed up a hip hop track: Jungle (later known as Drum and Bass). In theory what Jungle artists would do is re-sample an existing Hip Hop drum track, pitch it up a notch and play it back on 170 Beats per Minute. Chemical beats kind of work in a similar way. There are 2 major differences here: the tempo = 120 beats per minute till 130 beats per minute. And second groove is an important element.
While a lot of hip hop tracks have different groove elements, finding a few once shouldn't be that hard.
Practical Example of a Chemical Beat
Now that I have explained how a chemical beat is born, lets create an example and go through the process step by step. Since there are more elements that have an impact on the whole chemical beat as a production. But the fundamental part is the hip hop beat. For this example, I'll start with a Dr OctoRex and use the Hip Hop Classic drum loop. The Transpose goes up to 3 semi notes while the Beats per minute will go on 125.
At this point the punch kind of disappears. This is happening due to the idea the sound is going up in pitch. To solve this issue we can use parallel compression to make it snap a bit harder. This technique is also applicable in genres like drum and bass (no wonder these 2 genres are quite related to each other).
To set up parallel compression you can use the SSL mixer (in Reason 7 and above) to create a parallel channel. The next step would be enabling the compressor. Set the ratio pretty high and the threshold pretty low (-30dB is not and exception). The balance may vary per track (since it all depends on the loop you are using).
From an old school perspective, you can still use the spider audio merger splitter to split the dry / compressed signal. This is the technique I will be applying in this example file. But the outcome will be similar using the SSL mixer though.
Layering your drums
Another essential key element is to layer different parts of the drum track you are using.This may vary per beat. Sometimes you want this cowbell type of approach, sometimes you want the bass drum to sound a bit more dirty and sometimes the snare needs this fat slapping approach. A lot will depend on the track itself and how it needs to sound like. For this example, I will make the Bass drum sound a lot more dirty and let the snare sound a bit more rich.
To do this, I will use another Rex Loop from the Hip hop section, but keep the pitch as is. Since in theory, we'll borrow the notes from the first drum track (the one that has the pitched up notes) but only use the once for lets say the bass drum or the snare in this case.
This may sound like a lot of work, while if you get used to this type of workflow, it really isn't much work to accomplish this task.
For the bass drum I will use the loop called Hip hop Crispy (just because I like the feel of this bass drum). For the snare, I'll be using the Hip Hop Black Talon loop.
While setting up the bass drum, I'll also add an additional groove element halfway in the track itself. This is a choice I am making right now. Since it could eventually play exactly the same as bass drum from the first track. While sometimes I like to "play" with the drums while things progress.
Adding static elements
A typical technique I get from the Chemical brothers songs, is that they add static elements from genres like Techno / House music and throw those in later. This is to build up the climax for a song. Static elements could be seen as the following:
- congo bongo repeating riffs
- wood blocks
and so on.
In a lot of ways, chemical beats is like a mixture of different genres put in a blender and turning it in to something new. Just as an example, I am using the main key ingredients I created so far, and turning the whole thing up side down using an Acid line (subtractor) and later on bringing in the static hi-hat element based on a four to the four beat.
If you think in terms on hip hop beats, these are your fundamental building blocks to create a descent chemical beats track. Since the genre is all about recycling existing material yet renew the whole thing in to something new. That is the major idea here.
Happy easter! This was my easter egg!
Written by hydlide