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Playing with DJs or rappers

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by pklima, Oct 7, 2006.


  1. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Feel free to call me all sorts of horrible things for posting this. I don't have any interest in electronic music or hiphop, really (give me folk or country any day), but I do love a challenge.

    Anyone got any real experience playing with music based on samples or DJs mixing vinyl? I figure you REALLY would have to rely on your ears - I'm guessing DJs generally don't give you charts, can't tell you what chord progressions, keys etc. they're working with... A DJ who's able to listen to you and adjust what he's doing accordingly could be a lot of fun to play with and completely different than playing with live instrumentalists, too.
     
  2. Monomer

    Monomer

    Jul 22, 2005
    I wouldnt expect any sort of charts from a dj.


    everytime the "bend" the pitch, the keys changes (even a little bit) Pitch (to them) controls the speed of the record, and also it's BPM.
     
  3. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    DJing is a lot like playing percussion. You don't get charts from a conga player either. You just have to hope the DJ is a good enough musician to make it work.

    This of course assumes that the DJ isn't someone who just stands around playing songs.
     
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    And like playing with percussionists, a lot of this is based on "feel". Some folks have a problem with that, others don't. It just takes practice.

    I frequently play behind rappers who don't know how to communicate musically in the established sense. They can however give hints as to what they're looking for and that's where being able to pick up that kind of stuff is handy. It's good practice too... you can play off them just like any musical instrument.
     
  5. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    It does take practice and feel. I've played with DJs spinning other people's stuff and their own, and Rappers.

    Brad's right about playing with rappers in that you have to pick up on the hints and where they're leading.

    I've played with DJs spinning stuff from acid jazz, to house, to trance; where I just jump in. I try to double the 'bass'. It may be a drum or keyboard, or be generated from some other source. I may palm mute or ghost note, slide around, sustain...it's all about the feel. Definitely no charts involved. Doubling the part gives it a 'live' feel, while it's also cool to improv parts too. I try to meld into the music so it doesn't sound like it's live and recorded stuff going on. I've had people thinking it was all live, and others tripping cause I was playing and they thought it was all recorded.

    I played with one DJ who 'wrote' his own stuff. Sometimes he would drop out the bass lines and I would usually play the parts as written. (He played keys and trumpet on the tracks and live.) Sometimes I just doubled to give it a 'thicker' feel. On the stuff we wrote together, he would usually drop my line and his keys so we could play them live. Sometimes we played with a percussionist too.

    It's the most fun to just meet the DJ on the spot and talk to him a bit to see what he spins and just go for it. Makes for a fun ride.:)
     
  6. Monomer

    Monomer

    Jul 22, 2005

    real dj's "beatmix" and in most cases, is talent all by itself.
     
  7. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    +1
     
  8. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Back in college I would hook up with the turntablists when they would have an open mic night. Sometimes the outcome would be amazing and some nights people with no business holding a microphone would embarrass themselves trying to rhyme. It was always entertaining though.

    If you know the material being sampled it can help, but the fact that the turntablist is often changing the tempo will change the key. That was kind of fun for me though. If I knew the song and the original key, I could quickly figure out what to play at different speeds.

    If you are working with an MC you have to keep in mind that they need a lot of room to work. Keep things funky but minimal. If you do play a busy line, make sure it is repetitive and has a lot of space to it. Coolio's sample of Lakeside's "Fantastic Voyage" for instance, especially when played on one bass rather than a bass and keyboard.

    To me, improvising with a turntablist is not much different than improvising with a drummer. I'd start out with a simple funk figure, make sure I was in the same key and then get a little more busy without taking up too much musical space. I'd sometimes get a chance to show off a bit during breaks and between MCs but usually I left that space for the DJs since they were the draw.

    If nothing else, I improved my sense of rhythm since there was usually no drummer. The format made it real obvious when I screwed up, so I really had to be locked in.

    Good luck and have fun!
     
  9. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    So, you need a fretless or DB and the ability to play "between keys" (say, slightly sharp of E), right? Or is pitch just not that important?
     
  10. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    I always played with a fretted bass though I tried a fretless twice.

    IMO, a fretless doesn't work as well for most material.

    On the other hand, I always played in a live setting, so the small differences in pitch isn't heard by the vast majority of the audience.
     
  11. Monomer

    Monomer

    Jul 22, 2005
    In a dj's world, pitch is only a tool to match BPM's.

    some worry about keys and whatnot, but you just cant do it on the fly (these dj's usually use cd decks that have a key lock feature) or protools (in the studio)

    Me, (as a Dj, for the past 4 years) -I dont worry about pitch - as long as both songs/tracks flow together nicely, and sound good. All I'd have to worry about is stuff like "chipmonking" (which only concerns vocal peices, as speeding them up to far will make the vocals sound like a chipmonk)




    If you have a good ear, and are a good fretless player, I'd recomend it. Most rap instermantals are just drums (with maybe a drone bassline) so it should be fairly simple.
     
  12. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    Fretless would probably work better. I wasn't playing fretless. I would either bend the note or slide if playing on top. Or find some good notes to harmonize that'll sound cool since the key is slightly off. Definitely keep it simple. Or play some little high riffs. Stuff that's more implied than really trying to nail a key. Never hurts to sit out most of the song either.:)
     
  13. DeadMike

    DeadMike

    May 17, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    Yeah, we rock out with an MC. Typically, he can flow right over what we play, anything from straight up hip-hop beats to blues, rock and funk.

    Our key is to give him something that he can flow with. I totally agree that the key is to leave some space and enough there so that if he needs to catch his breath, it doesn't totally look like he just missed something.

    We added a cover of Ice Cube's Bird in the Hand to our set. We didn't know exactly what we wanted to do under the rap, so I basically started a basic 12-bar in A and after practicing it a few times, we all figured out where the MC would drop in. It almost works perfectly...he finishes the rap about 8 bars into the last 12-bar run, so we get to take it to the end real nicely.

    I also have to do some rapping while I play bass. I wouldn't encourage it. It doesn't turn out very well...but, I get by.
     
  14. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    Cool. Haven't heard anyone cover that Cube song. Got any recordings of the cover?
     
  15. DeadMike

    DeadMike

    May 17, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    We haven't recorded that one yet, but you can check out music and videos of how we get down with a rapper at www.yostrick9.com
     
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I did play in a group at Jazz Summerschool which had a DJ - who had decks and samples..

    It was OK playing live in the nightly Jazz club - but it was a real pain during the day when we (the other musicians) were all talking about the music and rehearsing stuff - he would just be "goofing off" playing random stuff and being irritating!

    I don't think DJs have a concept of "rehearsal"!! :p
     
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Experience with that one DJ = blanket statement:smug:


    DJs rehearse... that's how they get to whatever level of expertise they achieve.
     
  18. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes! Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    +1. I've lived with a few.;)
     
  19. willgroove2

    willgroove2

    Aug 16, 2003
    chicago IL
    Endorsing Artist;Essential sound products,Dunlop, Ergo Instruments
    I work with DJ's both in the studio on remix's and live on various projects. It can be difficult at first dealing with people who don't "speak" music in the traditional sense but once you find a common working language things go much smoother.
     
  20. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Playing with a DJ can be a real gas, even (and especially IMHO) in a jazz setting. Of course, it helps if the DJ has a "real" musical sensability. All the good ones do. Just like a truly good percussionist is a truly good musician first.

    If you wanna check out how this can work, follow the mysteryfeetjazz myspace link below, and check out the cut "Jumpstart". Sorry, it's just a clip that fades just after the rap. That's DJ Logic on the tables (one of the "good ones", obviously) and Lenny White on drums doesn't hurt the groove one little bit.
     
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