Saturday, February 10, 2018

Robert Haigh explains the hardcore piano vamp

SR: In rave anthems like Landlord's “I Like It (Blow Out Dub)”or Outlander's “The Vamp” or your old pals 2 Bad Mice's beyond-classic remix of Blame's "Music Takes You" - specifically at the break at 3.52 - what is happening on the piano? The effect is very euphoric and UP!!  – is that due to the kind of intervals used (they seem very simple,  major chord-y), or just the rattling-along propulsive nature of the riffs? Sometimes I hear what sounds like a double-chording, like the same chord being played very quickly in succession.  The timbre is also part of the bright optimistic feeling. They also have something of the quality of the player piano about  them. 

Robert Haigh:  In each case here the piano is a sample of a chord. That sample/chord is then laid out across the keyboard and triggered (simply with one finger) at various positions (so it’s always the same chord but played at various pitches.) 

On Landlord, we have a sample of a minor chord which is triggered at four points giving us the effect of G+m - D+m - F+m then C+minor.

With "Vamp", which sounds like the very same sample (maybe eq’d a little differently), the sample is triggered at five points giving the effect of C+m - D+m - Em - F+m then G+minor. 

The sound (which I agree is wonderful) appears to be doubled up and highly compressed and clipped - I suspect all this was in the original sampled chord (probably from a Deep House or Techno track - it’s got a bit of a Kevin Saunderson feel.)

Same deal with 2 Bad Mice. This sounds like a maj 7 chord and again the sample been laid across the keyboard and triggered at various pitches. 

Maybe it’s the artificially quantised nature of the notes/chords which give it the player piano quality. 


Sadmanbarty from Dissensus offers a further thought:

"there are only 3 minor chords in any key, so the fact that these vamps have 4 or 5 minor chords means that they’re modulating (changing key). 

In pop, modulations tend to be used in choruses or at the end of the song to reach a climax. They’re euphoric and up lifting.

The fact that in hardcore these modulations are constantly happening lends itself to your idea of hardcore as a non-narrative, endless succession of NOWs. It contrasts with the way pop uses them sparingly to delineate structure."

1 comment:

bivers said...

I've seen a lot of people try to figure out stabs and vamps via 'proper' music theory over the years, but I finally got an answer I was satisfied with after taking some theory / piano lessons myself...

Composers like Debussy and Ravel used a technique called Parallel harmony ( which is moving a chord around by intervals. It's effectively the same thing when you play a sampled chord on a sampler and go up and down the keys. It doesn't actually change the key you're playing in, though --- if you look at the transcriptions on that wikipedia page, there's a ton of accidentals, but no modulation. It still sounds like the same key, it's just weird, surprising chords that my piano teacher once described as "shocking to your ear". Sort of like rave's 'blue note'.