Breakbeat

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Breakbeat
Stylistic origins Hip hop, freestyle, Miami bass, electro, techno, funk, turntablism
Cultural origins Early 1980s, USA; Late 1980s, United Kingdom
Typical instruments Turntables, sampler, sequencer, synthesizer, drum machine, personal computer, keyboard
Mainstream popularity Early-1990s; United Kingdom in rave music scene, later late-1990s; within big beat scene and some mainstream success in late 1990s United Kingdom as well as United States and Australia
Derivative forms Jungle or drum and bass, 2-step garage, 4-beat, dubstep, breakbeat hardcore
Subgenres
Acid breaks, big beat, breakcore, broken beat, nu-funk, nu skool breaks, progressive breaks
Fusion genres
Breakstep, breakbeat hardcore, trip hop

Breakbeat (also called breaks or breakbeats) refers to two things. It is both an electronic music genre and the distinct percussive rhythm from which this genre takes its name.

Early history[change | change source]

As a musical device, breakbeats have been known and used for almost a hundred years. The name and modern meaning of the term traces its origins to the rise of hip hop in the United States during the 1980s. The electronic music genre is widely regarded as coming from the United Kingdom's early rave music. Breakbeats were added to the music to form what became known as breakbeat hardcore. However, breakbeats had been used by American hip hop DJs and turntablists in instrumental sets well before the advent of rave in the UK. It could be argued that the two scenes developed in parallel.

Today, breakbeat lives on in the form of strong regional scenes in the US and UK. Breakbeats are frequently used in the production of such diverse music genres as hip hop, jungle or drum and bass, hardcore, UK garage (including 2-step, breakstep and dubstep). Since the 1990s, breakbeat has been used as background music to TV adverts. It also has been used in action film soundtracks.

Etymology[change | change source]

The most likely origin of the word "breakbeat" is the fact that the drum loops that were sampled occurred during a "break" in the music. a

In the early 1990s, acid house artists and producers started using breakbeat samples in their music to create breakbeat hardcore. This was also calledrave music. [1] The hardcore scene then diverged into sub-genres like jungle and drum and bass, which generally had a darker sound and focused more on complex sampled drum patterns. An example of this is Goldie's album Timeless.

Evolution[change | change source]

In the 1980s, breakbeat became an essential feature of many genres of breaks music which became popular within the global dance music scene, including big beat, nu skool breaks, acid breaks and Miami bass.

DJs from a variety of genres work breaks tracks into their sets. This may occur because the tempo of breaks tracks (ranging from 110 to 150 beats per minute) means they can be readily mixed with these genres.

Some artists well known for breakbeat include Afrika Bambaataa, Whodini, Davy DMX, Deekline, Dynamix II, 2 Live Crew, Cybotron, Nubreed, Hybrid, Phil K, Dirty Harry, NAPT, DJ Icey, Stanton Warriors, FreQ Nasty, Krafty Kuts, Freestylers, K-Swing, Soul Of Man, DJ Sharaz, Annie Nightingale and performance troupe Lucent Dossier Experience.

Breakbeats are used in many hip hop, jungle and hardcore songs. It can also be heard in other music, from popular music to background music in car, and jean commercials on the radio or TV.[2]

The "Amen Break"[change | change source]

The Amen Break, a drum break from The Winstons' song "Amen, Brother" is widely regarded as one of the most widely used and sampled breaks among music using breakbeats.[3] This break was first used on "King of the Beats" by Mantronix, and has since been used in thousands of songs.[4] Other popular breaks are from James Brown's Funky Drummer (1970) and Give it Up or Turnit a Loose, The Incredible Bongo Band's 1973 cover of The Shadows' "Apache", and Lyn Collins' 1972 song "Think (About It)".[5]

Legal issues[change | change source]

With the rise in popularity of breakbeat music and the advent of digital audio samplers, enterprising companies started selling "breakbeat packages" for the express purpose of helping artists create breakbeats. A breakbeat kit CD would contain many breakbeat samples from different songs and artists, often without the artist's permission or even knowledge. One example of this is the Amen Break, from a song by The Winstons, who hold the copyright. However, a company named Zero-G Limited released a "jungle construction kit" containing hundreds of audio samples. One appeared to be an exact copy of the Amen break. It was slightly sped up. Zero-G Limited claimed copyright since a copyright symbol was included on the product's packaging. However, when it came to Zero-G Limited's notice that there may be another claim on the copyright of the audio sample in question, they removed it from the product. The Winstons have not received royalties for third-party use of samples of the break recorded on their original music release.[4]

Subgenres[change | change source]

Big beat[change | change source]

Big beat is a term employed since the mid-1990s by the British music press to describe much of the music by artists such as The Prodigy, Cut La Roc, Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method and Propellerheads.

Acid breaks[change | change source]

In electronic music, "acid breaks" is a fusion between breakbeat, and other forms of electronic dance music Its drum line usually mimics most breakbeat music, but lacks the distinctive kick drum of other forms of EDM. One of the earliest synthesizers to be employed in acid music was the Roland TB-303.

In more recent times, artists such as Champion Breaks have started a resurgence of this sound, using mainly Amen breaks, Reese bass, and 303 acid lines to create energetic, and sometimes frenetic acid breaks songs.

References[change | change source]

  1. Thomas, Gideon. "Breakbeat Hardcore - Your Ultimate Guide". Core Magazine. http://www.coremagonline.com/features/breakbeat-hardcore-your-ultimate-guide.html. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  2. "Nate Harrison". nkhstudio.com. http://nkhstudio.com/pages/popup_amen.html.
  3. "10 Most Sampled Breakbeats". blog.whosampled.com. http://blog.whosampled.com/2010/04/29/the-10-most-sampled-breakbeats-of-all-time/.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Musical history: Seven seconds of fire". The Economist (The Economist Newspaper Limited). 2011-12-17. http://www.economist.com/node/21541707. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  5. Modulations: A History of Electronic Music, ed. Peter Shapiro (New York: Caipirnha Productions Inc., 2000), p. 152