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The Making of Afro-Latin Percussion Part 1

Posted on 13th September 2013  · 
Sometimes you just get lucky. Sometimes the next project is not with the same stressed-out commercial client who needs a routine piece by midnight. Instead, an opportunity comes along that allows you to work with someone who kicked your ass years ago and helped you grow as a musician. You work together as professionals to make something truly inspired, spontaneously performed, deep and flexible in its application. And when the client gives you adequate time to produce it, it's just too good to be true. This is what Wave Alchemy's Afro-Latin Percussion project is for me and percussionist Ed Uribe.

Ed is intense. He knows so much about ethnic instruments, artists, culture and musical styles. Ed was one of my teachers at the Berklee College of Music. He stretched my sense of rhythm, expanded my vocabulary, and motivated me to think and feel beyond the obvious 2 & 4 back-beats that sometimes feel so flat. He's the ideal performer that can play all of the instruments, explain how the various parts fit together, and toss off more ideas than the rest of us mere mortals - without repeating himself.

After much discussion with Dan and Steve at Wave Alchemy, we decided to produce a comprehensive Afro-Latin percussion library of samples and loops that would feature Ed's abilities to draw out the authentic flavours of each instrument. Wave Alchemy insisted on recordings of the highest technical quality that would capture the signature tones of the instruments and the collection had to be broad enough to encompass the wide variety of Afro-Latin instruments.

We recorded everything at Ed's studio in New Jersey on a Mac Pro Tools HD DAW. I edited everything in Baltimore, Maryland, using Ableton Live 9. Dan and Steve further processed some recordings back in the UK.

In New Jersey, we ran two Neumann TLM 103 overhead mics through an Avalon 737SP vacuum tube pre-amp. For close mics, we used Sennheiser 421s, Electro Voice RE20s, and a Neumann M147 on some choice instruments to capture some low-end. We ran the close mics through an API 3124 mic pre-amp.

We wanted to capture the sound and feel of a human being playing these instruments complete with subtle variations in dynamics and tone. Toward that end, Dan and Steve provided us with tracks to which Ed could play along. After a few takes, we realized we were going to generate a large quantity of material.

Ultimately we decided to split the project into two volumes; Volume One features lighter percussion such as various shakers, cabassa, guiro, clave, cowbell, woodblocks, and various toys. Volume Two features heavier, more drum-centric percussion such as bongos, cajon, djembe, congas, and timbales. We also decided to generate "tightened" recordings of the same material so that modern dance producers could use them quickly and easily. The entire project library is offered in two different stylistic profiles: a natural, organic feel in WAV format and tight REX files that will lock into your project right out of the folder.

Be sure to visit the making of Afro-Latin percussion Part 2 where percussionist Ed Uribe talks more about the story behind the library and the different rhythms and instrument combinations common in Afro-Caribbean and Latin American percussion.

Written by Jeffrey Trueman for Wave Alchemy


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