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Hip Hop Artists Developing Open Source Beat Making Software 192

Posted by timothy
from the drumsticks-are-free dept.
First time accepted submitter caseyb89 writes "Beat making software is incredibly expensive, and the high price limits usage to those who can afford it. Two professors at UNC have a dream of allowing all artists access to beat making software, regardless of income level. They are rallying the community on a project to create open source beat making software. The two professors double as DJs and hip hop artists, and they recently spoke at Rio+Social."
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Hip Hop Artists Developing Open Source Beat Making Software

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  • Nice Idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:15AM (#40452697)

    But Hip Hop artists just pirate whatever software they need. The only real expense are decent microphones, mixers, preamps and speakers.

    full disclosure: I am a sound engineer living in NC who works with hiphop artists.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ackthpt (218170)

      But Hip Hop artists just pirate whatever software they need. The only real expense are decent microphones, mixers, preamps and speakers.

      full disclosure: I am a sound engineer living in NC who works with hiphop artists.

      This.

      Though their producers at least make some effort now to reduce their legal exposure by seeking the rights to the sample or knowing just how much they can get away with, rather than blatantly ripping off an drum track from another artist -- lest they end up in court coughing up all of their profits.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        I guess actually learning to PLAY the drums and other instruments is totally out of the question, eh?

        How in the world did we ever get musical beats....before computer software?

        Hmm........

        • Re:Nice Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by oldmac31310 (1845668) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @01:14PM (#40455461) Homepage
          I'll get off your lawn. Yours is a really narrow minded view. The fact is, both 'real' musicians and people who can't play at all benefit greatly from the myriad of music software and hardware that have come along in the past 20 years. Using your logic (no pun intended) we should remove technology from music completely and go back to only using our voices, clapping our hands and banging rock and sticks. Think about a piano for example. It is a technological marvel. Should we ban it just because it makes it too easy and the musician doesn't even have to pluck or strike the strings? I consider myself a real musician and I am very happy indeed to make use of whatever tools are available.
          • by dgatwood (11270)

            A piano really isn't a technological marvel and never was. Even at the time, it was seen as a fairly straightforward improvement upon the harpsichord and the clavichord, the main difference between a piano and the latter being that the piece that strikes the string does not remain in contact with it. The mechanism was a definite improvement, but it was very much an incremental improvement over existing technology, the fundamentals of which are merely a more modern version of the hammered dulcimer/santur,

            • by cupantae (1304123)

              "Technology" generally refers to this kind of product of incremental advancements. I enjoyed the little spiel, but all you didn't do was demonstrate your point.

              • by dgatwood (11270)

                What you're missing is that electronic synthesis is an incremental advancement relative to other computer technology and to some extent relative to audio recording technology, but it is not an incremental advancement relative to other musical instrument technology. It is an entirely different way of producing sound that pretty much spontaneously appeared in the past century out of nowhere.

                For tens of thousands of years, musical instruments produced sounds because of a player striking something, plucking s

                • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

                  For tens of thousands of years, musical instruments produced sounds because of a player striking something, plucking something, or blowing air over or through a tube (sometimes involving a reed or human lips simulating a reed) in some fashion.

                  I honestly think you may have been overlooked a critical thing

                  We are talking about "music", right?

                  Since the dawn of homonoid civilization, where-ever "music" was played, it was played live

                  The presenters and audiences were all gathered at the same spot, so to share, or add to, the soundwaves that were at that place

                  Since the beginning of sound-recording, the advent of (wireless) radio-transmission of sound-recording, this thing we refer as "music" had already been changed

                  The digitalization of the soundwave (i

                • by cupantae (1304123)

                  I don't think that's a meaningful difference in terms of invention. Hearing a simple oscillator, even the most casual musician would surely realise an instrument could be made from it. A lot of ingenuity went into the designs from that point, but again, it was a gradual evolution of ideas.

        • You can't shut off your ears, and they're connected directly to your brain. Unlike other art forms where people direct their attention at what they want to absorb, the waveforms you see in music are already recreated inside your brain before you begin appreciating them.

          I think you're hung up on the distinction between musicians and composers.
          Musicians play music. Composers use instruments to play people.
          One can be both.

        • Yeah, that no-talent hack Mozart had the audacity to write music for scores of instruments he didn't know how to play!

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I thought hip hop artists just ripped off other peoples beats?
      • by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:36AM (#40453007) Homepage Journal

        I thought hip hop artists just ripped off other peoples beats?

        Honestly, they're the people, on the receiving end who most embody Marx's "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need", as they need beats, bass tracks, synth riffs, etc. But try to get them to pay for, or even credit the original artist, ah, that's where they become capitalists.

        • I thought hip hop artists just ripped off other peoples beats?

          Honestly, they're the people, on the receiving end who most embody Marx's "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need", as they need beats, bass tracks, synth riffs, etc. But try to get them to pay for, or even credit the original artist, ah, that's where they become capitalists.

          methinks you haven't paid attention to the liner notes of hip hop albums since the 80's. Sample clearance has become a lucrative stream of income for many a washed-up musician with catalogs that do nothing for them at the moment. They get credited and get paid for the samples all the time though there are some that simply won't allow it (Prince comes to mind).

    • by djlemma (1053860)
      I think this is probably true of the entire target market of "beat making" software. Although the markets other than hip-hop won't necessarily bother with decent mics, because you don't need human vocals for techno/house/dubstep/whatever. Or any vocals at all, for that matter. People don't have to go out and record their own samples any more either since there's so many collections out there now.
    • by cjjjer (530715)
      Pretty much sums up the reason for them wanting to do this :

      One obstacle has been our software of choice, Reason 6. Not only is it prohibitively expensive, but it is difficult to order, impossible to share between computers, and is anchored by obnoxious security provisions.

      In layman's terms they don't like the idea of not being able to use if for free. Pretty much defines the majority attitude in the hip hop industry really.

  • Please Define (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:21AM (#40452787) Homepage Journal
    "Beat making software."

    FWIW, Hydrogen [hydrogen-music.org] is free.
    • Re:Please Define (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:24AM (#40452819)

      Hydrogen is not a pro level piece of software. We tried it, and ended up hiring a drummer instead.

      The results are far superior, at least for our style of music.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Also, LMMS [sourceforge.net].

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      tracker.

      what I assume is that they're after is a tracker/voice generator coded by them that they somehow get paid to produce.

      anyhow, if you can afford a fucking nintendo ds you can afford a beat making thingy.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjUy8C4iqPM [youtube.com]

      but really wtf, they should import some demoscene over there, they got booty & drugs - shouldn't be too hard to coerce people to visit.

    • Re:Please Define (Score:5, Informative)

      by djlemma (1053860) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:30AM (#40453717)
      They are mostly talking about Reason. [line6.com] It's a software simulator for a bunch of real-life studio hardware that musicians used to have to purchase and hook up and find places to put. So, instead of having to spend $50,000 to outfit a studio with keyboards, synths, patch bays, mixers, effects, compressors, cables, etc., you can simulate it all with Reason for something like $450. But to the people in TFS, this is too much money still, and they would like to make a free equivalent. It's noble, but as others have mentioned there are other options that do not have nearly so polished and authentic sounds and interfaces, but are much cheaper or free.
  • HIP-HOP ?? SUX !! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's like disco all over again !! Only by people who can't play, can't keep a tune, and make farm -animal noises !! It truly SUX !!

    • Oh, come on, dude! What the world needs now is MORE BEATS! MORE!!!
    • Every genre has it's good and bad. Listen to modern country music and tell me you don't find it just as shit-tier as hip-hop and I'm calling you a liar. She think's my tractor's sexy! [youtube.com] Yee-fucking-HAW!!!!

      Then of course there's The Bieb and Lady Gaga's garbage. And Guns 'n' Roses' and Van Halen's new garbage. And Metallica's garbage. And Skrillex's garbage...

      It goes on and on. Hip-hop doesn't have a monopoly on shitty music at all...

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      It's like disco all over again !! Only by people who can't play, can't keep a tune, and make farm -animal noises !! It truly SUX !!

      It's also for people who are extremely bad at poetry, but want to express themselves and get $$$ anyway.

      • by chispito (1870390)

        >It's also for people who are extremely bad at poetry, but want to express themselves and get $$$ anyway.

        There are people who are well paid for good poetry?

      • Yeah, as opposed to masterpieces such as 'Purple Haze':

        Purple haze all in my brain
        Lately things just don't seem the same
        Actin' funny, but I don't know why
        'Scuse me while I kiss the sky

        Purple haze all around
        Don't know if I'm comin' up or down
        Am I happy or in misery?
        Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me

        Help me help me
        Oh no no... no

        Yeah
        Purple haze all in my eyes
        Don't know if it's day or night
        You've got me blowin, blowin my mind
        Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?

        No, help me aw yeah! oh n

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I agree, I've always said that hip-hop is 21st century disco (even if hip hop did start in the 1970s but was underground for two decades).

  • LMMS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrSome (2587847) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:27AM (#40452859)
    Is LMMS [sourceforge.net] not good enough?

    IMO, that type of music is so generic anymore, I'm surprised some mathematician hasn't created an algorithm to generate hit songs on command.

    You know, something like (BPM / Key + Attractiveness of Prospective Performer) = $$$
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They did. [scoreahit.com]

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      ...IMO, that type of music is so generic anymore, I'm surprised some mathematician hasn't created an algorithm to generate hit songs on command...

      I don't need an algorithm to tell me Autotune is the one who should be taking credit for the singing today, not the prepubescent pretty face on stage taking dancing lessons who can't sing for shit.

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        I don't need an algorithm to tell me Autotune is the one who should be taking credit for the singing today, not the prepubescent pretty face on stage taking dancing lessons who can't sing for shit.
        I always thought it would be fun to run Autotune in reverse: take a completely synthesized voice (Siri singing Led Zep's greatest hits), let De-Autotune (TM) screw it up, and run the audio equivalent of the Turing Test on the output.

        • take a completely synthesized voice (Siri singing Led Zep's greatest hits), let De-Autotune (TM) screw it up, and run the audio equivalent of the Turing Test on the output.

          They did that. It was called Vocaloid, and it created a monster [youtube.com].

    • No, it is not. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by logicassasin (318009) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:08PM (#40454295)

      I've struggled with LMMS for years. I give a try quite often and the end result is torturous. It tries hard to be FL Studio, but "different" but lacks so much that making anything is just entirely too awkward. I've considered contributing to the project but simply don't have the time to invest in it.

      I stick with FL Studio and Cubase for my hip hop work (with ProTools M-Powered strictly to send out sessions to studios).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      IMO, that type of music is so generic anymore, I'm surprised some mathematician hasn't created an algorithm to generate hit songs on command.

      You know, something like (BPM / Key + Attractiveness of Prospective Performer) = $$$

      Yeah really, that Michaelangelo guy, all he did was move a brush over a surface. ANYONE CAN DO THAT!

      If it's that easy, why aren't you out there doing it? The answer is that, in all reality, it isn't easy. It's actually really fucking hard. If it's that easy, you should go ahead and try

  • by CanEHdian (1098955) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:35AM (#40452977)
    Didn't we make beats in NoiseTracker (remember Mahoney & Kaktus) on the Amiga back in the late 80s? So the sound sucks by today's standards, but the software was simple to use and free. Why would today's "beat making software" be so expensive?
    • by six025 (714064)

      Didn't we make beats in NoiseTracker

      The source code for NoiseTracker was used as the basis for Renoise [wikipedia.org], which is cross-platform including Linux, but not free. It's a reasonably popular host for composing songs / beats that obviously appeals to a fairly specific group of users due to it's tracker heritage. Most musicians prefer the piano roll for editing MIDI, which is used in most other hosts including Cubase, Ableton Live and Logic (none of which are available for Linux, and Logic is only available on Mac).

      As for the cost: Renoise [renoise.com] is aroun

    • Didn't we make beats in NoiseTracker (remember Mahoney & Kaktus) on the Amiga back in the late 80s? So the sound sucks by today's standards,

      Chiptuners [youtube.com] would disagree. I guess, like all standards, it's more like a guideline?

  • Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zmooc (33175) <zmooc&zmooc,net> on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:40AM (#40453049) Homepage

    Why the hell does this make slashdot?! So we have people with a dream and they are calling for others to help them... Why would anybody do that if they could just as easily help the guys behind great stuff like Ardour, LMMS, Rosegarden, Miep, Hydrogen and the many other applications that aim to do somewhat exactly what these people dream of?!

    Why don't these dreamy people join any of the existing projects?

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by X0563511 (793323) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:38AM (#40453845) Homepage Journal

      Because those programs you mention are tuned towards actual composition, not hip-hop "beats" creation.

      (translation: too complicated)

    • Because they might not like any of these programs. Isn't that the reason why many pieces of software were started in the first place?

      • by zmooc (33175)

        "Many pieces of software" were started because programmers just started writing them. They proved their worth and got help. I see no code here. Why would anybody capable of writing such software join a bunch of people that have basically nothing to offer but their dream? And, especially, why would these people make slashdot headlines? I'd rather see some more attention to projects that actually have code than projects that are nothing more but an idea.

    • by antdude (79039)

      Two words: Open source.

  • It's called a drum. That's what keeps the beat in music. It's open source too, just have to buy a little hardware.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      It's called a drum. That's what keeps the beat in music. It's open source too, just have to buy a little hardware.

      The most original and impressive drum album ever - Drums of Passion [wikipedia.org] Stop playing around with Hip Hop and learn to compose and play like this and you will be legend.

  • These days when people want beat making software, they usually want something that will sequence drums, come with sampled instruments, record tracks and have effects all in one package. Of course regular DAW software like Cubase will do this, but from my observation- DJ's along with novices want something simplistic so they can psuedo-produce pieces in a minute amount of time. So to sum this up ~ Beat making software = easy software for dj's and non professionals. As for making beats with open source soft
  • by akirapill (1137883) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @10:59AM (#40453297)
    The centerpiece of any hip hop studio is the sampler. There exists a very high quality open source sampler called linuxsampler [linuxsampler.org] but they are not included in any mainstream linux repos because of their bone-headed, legally invalid licence. So you have to build it from source, a painful process that I've never been able to do in under 2 hours. There is a lot of high quality foss studio software out there, but as long as developers keep dropping the ball like this we're going to see more reinventing of the wheel like this and not a lot of progress. An excellent foss program for beat-making I would recommend is qtractor [sourceforge.net], but it does not come with a sampler.
  • Beat making software is FREE or near-free. Audacity doesn't cost a dime. Paying to clear samples, well that's a topic for another article. As far as making your own sounds, there are tons of free and inexpensive software synths, and free or inexpensive WAV collections (samples or loops). I own a bunch of $2-$5 beat making apps for my iPhone. Native Instruments iMaschine costs $5 and allows you to sample and compose songs using your own recordings/samples. I'm not sure that 'beat making' needs to be much che

    • by djlemma (1053860)
      As mentioned in TFA, they already use Audacity. I don't know if you've ever tried to make music with just Audacity, but if not let me save you the trouble. It's not the right tool.. it's a waveform editor. Funny enough, of all the studio software you listed, the one they're actually trying to replicate wasn't mentioned- Reason. These people aren't needing strong multitrack recording and mixing ability, they need good software synths tied together into a nice interface.

      Of course, they could suck it up
    • awesome. just bought that app. thx for posting!
  • And what about the Hydrogen drum machine software, isn't that what they would aim for? So, why reinventing the wheel?

    But admittedly I'm not an audio professional so maybe all this free/opensource software is missing key features I don't know about, which only commercial tools are providing so far...

  • by Lumpy (12016)

    Did they even look? Rosegarden does exactly what they are after... There is even a OSS version of Fruity Loops.

  • Good luck with yet another DAW. Thing is, this is nonsense - making music never has been cheaper, and the price is still dropping.

    $60 for Reaper and a slew of free as in beer plugins is not ridiculously expensive, and Reaper's anything but crippled.
    • Good luck with yet another DAW

      Digital Audio Workstation. Solving the world energy crisis one unnecessary Google search at a time!

  • by JudgeFurious (455868) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @11:26AM (#40453663)
    Isn't that like saying "Cheeseburger Physicist".
  • University professors teach Congolese youths how to make beats.

  • A lot of the comments have been hating on hip-hop, and well, I can't say I blame them. Most of the stuff you hear is just the same old shit. Some boring harmony over a lifeless beat and some lyrics that are so dishonest that it's almost offensive. But then you get some people who take hip-hop and turn it into something wonderful.

    There are/were quite a few jazz guys who are taking the chill groove of hip-hop and fusing it with jazz, adding beautiful harmonies and some honest expression. In the 90's there was

    • by hguorbray (967940)
      going back to the 80s we had Digable Planets,The Fugees, A tribe called Quest and bay area greats Digital Underground (Tupac was once a member) and bassist Bill Laswell has done some work in that area -fast forward to awesome Hip Hop/Rock experiments like Damon Albarn/Danger Mouse Gorrilaz albums (especially the incomparable Demon Days) -in fact you could just buy almost anything that Danger Mouse or Damon Albarn has done and not go wrong.

      Not to mention other crossovers like Beck, the Beasties, Japanese gu
  • by HalAtWork (926717) on Tuesday June 26, 2012 @12:46PM (#40454913)
    Rosegarden [rosegardenmusic.com] and Buzztard [buzztard.org] are great for such purposes, and are both open source.
  • CM Studio is inadequate? Every issue of Computer Music [musicradar.com] comes with a DVD, CMStudio being the centerpiece, with loads of samples etc.

    No, not free. Usually about $15 in the US, £6+ in UK, more elsewhere I bet.

    If you don't wanna pay $15, well, have at it.

  • If we can get one to take up race car driving and the other to take up medicine, I think we can do a sequel to "Buckaroo Bonzai"!!!!

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