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4 Classic Breakbeats That Changed Hip-Hop History

Charles Burchell, and The Winstons

+ This lesson excerpt is taken from Soundfly’s The Art of Hip-Hop Production. To access the rest of this course, plus hundreds of instructional videos and tutorials on beat making, mixing, music theory and more, subscribe here.

Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic samples ever used: breakbeats.

Watch below as Soundfly instructor Charles Burchell demos the classics and replays each of these four influential breakbeats on his drum kit.

Alright, let’s quickly recap those breaks and set you up with the original recordings, as well as instances where each were sampled in hip-hop tracks throughout history — all culled from our Art of Hip-Hop Production session with Charles.

1. Amen Break

Originating from a 1969 recording called “Amen Brother” by The Winstons, the “Amen Break” is probably the most famous break in the entire world. In fact, there’s a really incredible documentary on YouTube about its tangled history, that’s totally worth a watch if you have the time.

The break occurs at around 1:25 in the original recording.

The “Amen Break” isn’t just a staple of hip-hop. It’s helped form so many genres, it’s hard to keep track of.

2. Use Me Break

The “Use Me Break” comes from the classic Bill Withers song of the same name. The break that’s typically sampled is really short, just a few beats from each of the drum breaks from various points in the song.

You can catch these moments at :57, 1:58, and 3:01 in the original below.

When you hear how short the breaks were on the original recording, you can get an idea of how “micro” some of the original beat makers went to get the sounds they wanted. Check it out in the tracks below:

3. Funky Drummer

James Brown’s “Funky Drummer – Pt. 1 & 2” is where our next break hails from. When you hear it at 5:21 in the original, how could you not want to sample that?!

When you hear it used in tracks, one thing you’ll notice is that this break often sounds like it’s at a lower pitch than the original — as if the record the sample came from was played back at a slower speed. This is a great way to make things sound huge.

4. Honey Dripper Break

The “Honey Dripper Break,” also known as the “Impeach The President Break,” is another classic. You’ll hear it right at the top of the recording by the band, The Honey Drippers.

On its own, it’s got such a great feeling that it’s never modified too much. If anything, like the “Funky Drummer” break, it’s pretty common to slow it down as well.

These are just four of what we believe are some of the most classic breaks. Feel free to grab the whole folder below and try them out in your hip-hop beats.

Download: Breakbeats Audio and MIDI

Continue learning about beat making, sampling, mixing, vocal recording, and DIY audio production, with Soundfly’s in-depth online courses, including The Art of Hip-Hop Production, Modern Mixing Techniquesand RJD2: From Samples to Songs.

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Charles Burchell

Charles Burchell is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer, educator, and diplomat from New Orleans, LA. He has studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the New England Conservatory (B.M. ’12), and most recently completed the Masters of Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Ed. M ’13). Burchell has recorded and produced albums with Wes “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Delfayo Marsalis, Ran Blake, Ciel Rouge, his band The Love Experiment (featured in Touring on a Shoestring), and has performed and given master classes at various music festivals around the world. Burchell also works as a cultural diplomat with the Next Level Program and is currently a teaching artist for Carnegie Hall’s Digital Music Production Workshop and Musical Connections Program in which he works with court involved youth and students from various boroughs throughout New York City. Burchell continues to perform regularly around the U.S. and internationally as a DJ, drummer, and bandleader.