Last week I got the opportunity to check out a new course offered by Soundfly. For those that don’t know, Soundfly offers a multitude of programs and courses in music production, composition, performance, and industry marketing and management. The course in question, From Samples to Songs, utilizes the discography and coaching of renowned hip-hop producer RJD2.
Ramble Jon Krohn, better known as RJD2, grants students in this course a behind-the-scenes look at how he makes sample-based songs. During the Soundfly From Samples to Songs module, you learn not only how to create your own samples and music, but also the history, theory, and applications of sampling in digital music production.
via @learntosoundfly on Instagram
RJD2 is well-known for his 2002 hip-hop masterpiece ‘Deadringer,’ as well as the composition of the Mad Men theme song. All of his music utilizes the sampling techniques he breaks down in this Soundfly course. He definitely leaves no stone unturned. I found myself thoroughly impressed and excited with what I was learning as I followed along with each lesson. As a music industry student and musician myself, I found legitimate understanding and application of this experience.
The RJD2 course focuses on three primary sections: the creative process, creating beats from samples, and arranging samples and songs together. It should also be noted that if you want to take this course, you’re going to need an MPC or a DAW (Ableton, Logic, etc.). From Samples to Songs contains a multitude of practice and “challenge” sections that serve as assignments and tests.
via @learntosoundfly on Instagram
The Creative Process with RJD2
RJD2 provides a flow chart for the songwriting process that splits based on whether a track is vocal or instrumental. He starts with what he calls a “song kernal,” or in other words a rudimentary instance like a simple beat or chord progression. One thing that is stressed from here on forward is to keep things simple; especially when it comes to getting started. In fact, RJD2 says to focus quantity over quality in the brainstorming process. He goes on to mention how he makes up to ten beats in one day.
Soundfly and RJD2 provide instruction on song composition that breaks the process down in a concise and comprehensible manner. You can jump around to whatever section you please too. However, there’s a distinct trend from basic song foundation to finishing touches in chapters 7 and 8.
There’s a lot of advice available when it comes to songwriting and tackling writer’s block. RJD2 advises getting simple projects done fast. Furthermore, it’s important to give your brain a chance to listen to something else and get some variety. This way you aren’t mulling over one drum loop until it gives you a migraine.
Creating beats with samples according to RJD2
This Soundfly course dives into loop sampling and chopping samples. RJD2 clearly distinguished the differences between both strategies and shows us how to apply both styles usefully. The course also breaks down the basics of this, showing how to chain an MPC in a sampling setup and also how to get the most out of such a device.
Loop-based sampling for instance is an arguably simpler technique in the sense that you change little about the sample. Taking a clip of a sound like a chord progression or drum beat, adjusting its tempo, and defining start and endpoints is what “looping” a sample refers to. This course comes with tons (and by tons, I mean folders worth) of drum loops to practice and experiment with freely. The course does naturally encourage you to do some cratedigging of your own nonetheless.
Chopped samples on the other hand find themselves as mere fragments of a new idea. When you cut out individual hits, tones, or sounds and create an entirely new loop with those samples, you are using chopping techniques. The chopping module of Soundfly’s course is incredibly descript and acknowledges the order by which you lay new sequences and instrumental voices.
The arrangement process with RJD2
RJD2 taught me to “push the envelope” of what is deemed acceptable in songwriting. He shares that one should always find the limits set by genre and theory, and then to blow right through them. After all, how many hip-hop mixes do you hear today that practically seem to hide from being outrageous or inventive? If you always look at what other people are doing, it should be with the intent of surpassing them, rather than copying what they did.
The final modules of this course before the final project teach students how to incorporate tonal/instrumental samples and vocals over a sample-based beat. The title of this Soundfly course is no joke; they really take you through everything, From Samples to Sounds. I had a blast working through this alongside RJD2, and I thoroughly recommend this resource to anyone looking to create their own hip-hop tracks.