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The Most Influential Drum Machine Beat of All Time?

In the above video, a companion to our Mentored course, Beat Making in Ableton Liveelectronic artist and educator Dan Freeman shares his somewhat polemical argument that a preset drum beat on the Maestro Rhythm King MRK-2 is the “most influential drum machine beat of all time.”

Now, a statement like this is highly subjective and open to debate, but Freeman’s argument is pretty convincing! Multi-instrumentalist and genius/nightmare-bandleader Sly Stone was going through a rough patch with his band and management in the early 1970s. As a result, he spent an increasing amount of time by himself making music and started messing around with this drum machine beat while writing Sly and the Family Stone’s hit song, “Family Affair.”

In the end, instead of replacing the preset Rhythm King beat with live drums, as he’d originally intended, Stone decided to keep the original drum track in the mix. The song reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 1971, making it the first time a song with a drum machine had ever reached that high, and sat there for three weeks. It was the last #1 song of the band’s career, and it’s also one of the most influential soul songs of all time, paving the way for tons of ingenuity and innovation in the genre in the decades since.

If you’re making electronic drum beats using Ableton Live, and looking to infuse your sound with more creativity and pro-level technique, check out Soundfly’s six-week online course with Dan Freeman that features professional support and feedback from a professional Mentor, Beat Making in Ableton LivePreview the course for free, and use the code FLYPAPERSENTME for 20% off at checkout.

More About Dan Freeman

Dan, also known as CØm1x, is an Ableton Certified Trainer, artist/producer/bassist, and music technologist based in Brooklyn, New York. One of the world’s leading experts on the integration of live instruments with laptops using Ableton Live, he does live electronic acid house and electro­ funk sets that integrate live musicianship with improvised sound creation and visuals. He has performed and presented at venues, festivals and universities globally including SXSW, Harvard University, Berklee, Sonar (Barcelona), Berghain (Berlin), Centro Cultural Español (Mexico City), IATEC (Rio de Janeiro), AIMEC (Curitiba, Brazil), The Strøm Festival (Copenhagen), La Universidad de Santiago (Chile), DJLAB (San Jose, Costa Rica) and the Festival Internacional de la Imagen (Manizales, Colombia).

Currently, Dan has a production studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn where he mixes, remixes electronic music and writes for film as well as performs with his electro funk digital art and music collective Comandante Zero (CØ). Dan has designed curriculum centered around Ableton Live for several institutions. Previously he served as a senior instructor at New York City’s Dubspot where he taught electronic music production and headed Dubspot International. He is currently on the faculty of New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music where teaches producing music with software and MIDI. He also curates the Digital + Acoustic Sessions, a monthly event in Brooklyn, New York at ShapeShifter Lab that features artists using Ableton and live instruments in cutting ­edge new ways.

In 2015, he founded the Brooklyn Digital Conservatory, a platform that brings top digital music producers/performers and educators to emerging markets in Latin America and Asia for courses and performances.

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