Bossa Nova Vibes

In this latest Beat Dissected, we put together a Brazilian bossa nova-inspired beat with acoustic and percussive textures.

The driving rhythms and syncopation of Latin American genres have made their way into all forms of dance music but we’ll be looking at numerous sounds and patterns that specifically work well together. Jose Padilla’s ‘Bossa Rosa’ is a prime example of the sound we’re going for:

As usual, click any image to see a larger version.

Here’s our final beat in solo and then with a bassline, Rhodes chords and synth chord plucks for context:

[spec tempo=”120 BPM” swing=”None” sounds=’Ableton and Splice’]

Step 1: Kick and Hat

Load up a new Drum Rack and import the ’CCT_RealVinylKick’ and ‘CCT_Hat2’ samples from the Loopmasters Mixtape Pack, as we’re going for an acoustic drum sound.

The key driver of the rhythm is a simple 4/4 kick with quieter kick hits occurring on the fourth 16th-note of each beat. Kicks occurring on fourth 16th-notes is coincidentally a rhythmic technique used commonly in rolling techno-style tunes.

The hats will occupy every single 16th-note with every second hat playing at a much lower velocity, giving the illusion that the hat is actually playing 8th-notes.

To make the hats sound more human, insert Live’s velocity device on the hat’s pad in the drum rack and slightly increase the random knob so that each hit’s velocity is different. Next, insert an EQ Eight and make a high pass until around 530Hz to cut the unnecessary low frequencies.

[advert]

Step 2: Rim and Sidestick

For the rim we’ll use ‘Rim Dobbs’ from the Core Library and for the sidestick we’ll use ‘SNARE_SNR_1470_MPL_damp_stick_sidestick 20-1’ from the Drum Booth pack.

Instead of hitting on downbeats, the rim lands on various other 16th-notes in the grid. The first hit is usually the third 16th-note and the next is usually the second 16th-note of the third beat. For the other hits, you can experiment. The bossa feel also commonly makes use of consecutive rim shots with different velocities, as we have done at the end of the second bar.

As this is a sound heavily associated with live played group performances, we can use reverb to create the illusion that the beat was recorded in a room. Insert the Standard Room preset from Live’s Reverb on the rim shot and bring the dry/wet blend to below 10%.

Panning can also give the impression that parts were performed in an actual space so pan the sidestick sample to the right by 20-25. For this part, program hits at differing times between the rim hits. We programmed most of them on the second 16th-notes in beats because this made them come straight after the double kicks.

Here are the rim and sidestick parts in solo with the kick, and then with the hats also playing:

[advert]

Step 3: Metal Percussion

If you were ever looking for an excuse to use a triangle in your beats look no further! The first metal percussion part is the ‘Percussion Triangle Open’ sample from the Beat Tools pack. The triangle will play the simple role of layering every kick hit so simply program the same pattern as the kick’s from Step 1.

Cowbell-style sycnopated bell patterns are another hallmark of Bossa Nova and grooves with roots in Latin American styles. We used the TS_TROPICOOL_103_percussion_loop_water_bells_1’ sample from That Sound’s Tropicool Pack available on Splice. 

Pan the bell to the left by around 15-20 and program a one-bar loop. The bell can hit at the same time as some of the rims but it should also have its own distinct rhythm that emphasizes different 16th-notes. Remember, what we’re going for is a combination of elements with different rhythms that would also sound catchy in solo.

Here are all of the percussion parts in solo followed by our progress so far:

[advert]

Step 4: Congas

The last bit of programming will be two conga hits. Bongos and congas are common in this style and the key while programming them is using hits with different types of expression and different pitches. 

Two samples are more than enough for us here and we’ve used the ‘Conga Low Slap’ and ‘Conga Low Ring’ from the Core Library. Program syncopated patterns where the two samples form a call and response relationship. While writing these kinds of percussion parts experiment with all kinds of rhythms and combinations so you have different options to choose from and even use in other sections of your arrangement!

For the ‘Conga Low Ring’ sample, use Simpler’s internal filter to dial in a slight highpass as the lows are a little bit excessive. Pan the congas to the right but pan one further right than the other to contribute to the illusion of a real room. We panned one by sixteen and the other by 22. 

Here are the congas in solo and then with the rest of the beat:

[advert]

Step 5: Bus Processing

The processing on the entire drum rack has the goal of adding some punch, cohesiveness and ambience to again make it sound like everything was performed in one room. Insert Live’s Glue Compressor and Reverb audio effects.

Set the compressor’s attack to 30 so that the transients cut through, set the release to auto (A) and lower the threshold until you’re getting 3-4dB of gain reduction. Add 3-4dB of Makeup gain to compensate for the reduction in volume. The compressor will slightly reduce dynamics and balance levels.

With the reverb, it’s as simple as lowering the decay time to between a room-style 600-700ms and adjusting the Dry/Wet to taste. We left it at 11%. With all rhythmic elements going through one short reverb, it will sound like the instruments are all in one room. 

Here’s the final beat in solo and then again with a bassline, Rhodes keys and synth chord plucks:

Read the full story