[photo: Akai MPC3000]
When you think about the evolution of music, where does your history book begin?
From Diddley to Diddy, James Brown
to Jay-Z, the rules of the game may have changed, but its still about groove,
beats and having the right sound.
Lets take a look at just a few
key pieces of gear that helped shape Black Music over the years, and remain
integral to modern times.
Making its debut in the 1930s, the
electric guitar revolutionized acoustic sound by amplifying it. Its first usage
was in jazz orchestras, with guitarist and bandleader Gage Brewer believed to
be the first to use the electric guitar during a performance.
Hitmakers like Chuck Berry and
Jimi Hendrix took it to the next level, making the instrument as important to
their sound as their vocals. Hendrix was also known for his use of
amplification, effects and distortion.
Today, we dont necessarily think
about the electric guitar as integral to Hip-Hop, but in fact many artists are
well versed on the instrument, and those traveling with bands are proof that
the electric guitar remains key to any musicians craft.
One of the effects most often
associated with Jimi Hendrix is the wah, or wah-wah, pedal. Hendrix name is
usually connected to the Crybaby wah, but in fact the Vox figured prominently
in his work.
The wahs distinctive sound became synonymous with 1960s guitar, but it was also highly popular during the 70s, when bands like Rufus incorporated it into their recordings. In modern times, DJ Mix Master Mike developed his tweak scratch sound by connecting the wah to his turntable.
Invented in the 1930s, the vocoder
was primarily used for coding speech for telecommunications transmissions, and
made its musical debut in 1970, often used in soundtracks. Sometimes referred
to as the talking synthesizer, and not to be mistaken with the talk box, it
changed the face of pop music when incorporated by prog-rock bands like Pink
Floyd and Electric Light Orchestra (ELO).
The vocoder soon made its way into the R&B world, where bands like Zapp used it regularly, bringing it forward in hits like More Bounce to the Ounce.
The vocoder remains a staple in the Hip-Hop world, with artists like T-Pain, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and Kanye West incorporating its effect into their recordings.
Originally a Moog product,
vocoders are now manufactured by companies like Electro Harmonix, Roland and
Korg. The vocoder is a key feature in Roland keyboards.
The Turntable Mixer
Every Hip-Hop head knows that
Grandmaster Flash revolutionized DJing when he created a turntable mixer from a
mic mixer. He and dozens of other turntablists revolutionized Black music with
their groundbreaking magic on the turntables, and the DJ mixer in tow.
Although there were other DJs and engineers who had toyed with the turntable mixer idea, it was Hip-Hops use of the technology that forced equipment companies to take notice. These days you have mixers that work for everything from CDJs to iPods, but there will never be anything quite like the original sound of a real DJ and two turntables.
Sir Mixalot may have said it best
in his hit single My Posses On Broadway the 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb.
Roland was among the first
manufacturers to introduce a programmable drum machine. Their TR-808, with its
preferred kick-drum sound, came out as a comparably affordable model in 1980.
Working in analogue held it back
from instant success, but in timeand even after being discontinuedit became a
favorite of studio musicians, thanks to its variety of sounds, effects and available
Credit the 808 for that infectious
backbeat in Marvin Gayes 1982 hit Sexual Healing. That same year, Hip-Hop and funk collided in the classic Planet Rock, as Afrika Bambaataas vocals boomed as loudly as the 808 that drove the beat.
In the early 80s, producers like Mantronix and Rick Rubin utilized the bass of the 808 to create a fuller sound for Hip-Hop. To date, artists still seek out 808s to enhance their beats.
The whole bass/booty music movement incorporating the 808 is pretty fascinating within itself. For instance, did you know that 2 Live Crew actually started out in California? There’s a lot of info online about it, so google to your heart’s content!
Akai MPC 3000
Workstation, sequencer and drum
machine – the Akai MPC 3000 exploded onto the scene in 1994 and immediately
became the workhorse of beat makers everywhere, in every genre.
Years later, the 3000 remained such
a favorite that in 2000 the company came out with its MPC3000LE (Limited
Edition) to satisfy customers who couldnt get their hands on a used model of
the original. Since then, Akai has continued developing their MPC line,
debuting the 5000 this year, but the 3000 remains a sought-after piece of
equipment and Akai users still talk about it.
Easy to program, easy to tap beats
into, highly intuitive and user-friendly with its scroll help screens, featuring
MIDI inputs and outputs, pad banks and sampling memory, the 3000successor to
Akais wildly popular MPC 60 (1988)was the flagship for future Akai MPCs.
The 3000 made it easy for anyone
to walk into their local music store and utter those five famous words: I
wanna be a producer!
Home Studio Software
Pro Tools, Garageband, Fruity
Loops, Cakewalk, ACID the list goes on. As technology improved and advanced, so did the sound, the effects, and finally, in the age of the Internet, the ability
for anyone to set up a home studio and release their original material to the
Software programs like Pro Tools
and Garageband have given independent artists a voice and completely changed
the way music is made, heard, distributed and sold. Hundreds of budding
producers are able to work on their music in the privacy of their own home, and
with success stories like Little Brother, Soulja Boy and others, its only the
beginning of whats to come for independent production.
Which legendary artists influenced your sound? Which piece(s) of gear turned your beats or vocals around? The Gadget Inspector wants to know. Lets hear your comments!