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When producing music, it can become quite repetitive given that we're mostly working with loops. Maybe by working this way, we've grown accustomed to doing things over and over and not realizing that it could be hurting our productions.
There are many different ways that you can change things up and get your beats to sound fresh again, but one thing I've always looked at for inspiration is beat juggling.
If you're unfamiliar with beat juggling, it's where a DJ will take two records and juggle them by taking certain pieces of each record and piecing them back together to form his own beat. It could be the same two records, or it could be two different ones. Traditionally, it's done with the same records because it gives the DJ the chance to really show how he can break down that song and create something completely different.
If you were to watch DJ's from today's competitions do beat juggles, it can seem very confusing to someone who is unfamiliar with it, so that's why for this article I'm referring back to the 1990's where most DJ's had some amazing juggles.
Let's take a look at Mista Sinista. Along with Roc Raida, Rob Swift, and Total Eclipse, they formed the X-Ecutioners and all of them were known for their beat juggling. Sinista was always one of my favorites because of his style behind the turntables, but also because of the records he chose to juggle.
Here he is performing some of his best juggles:
How This Helps Your Productions
Quite simply, just listen! There have been many times where I'm watching a DJ perform and I instantly get ideas for my next beat. If you really listen to what he's doing, you'll hear little pieces of a pattern that can easily inspire you. For example, let's say that you're used to doing 4/4 patterns on your drums - now you might get ideas for your next drum pattern, making it more complex.
It's not just about the drums though, it's also about the music. If you watch around the 4:00 minute mark of the video above, he puts on an R&B record and just tears it apart. The patterns he was coming up with are unique in the sense that it made me realize I should maybe use some keyboard sound on my next beat. It may not seem like much to you, but to me, every little bit of inspiration helps.
The other thing about listening to beat juggles is the records that the DJ is using. A lot of times you'll see a DJ use old school beats, stuff like Ultramagnetic, and when it comes to Ultramagnetic, the drums they use on their songs are phenomenal. So by hearing those records being used, it quickly inspires me to either sample drums like that, or make my own "big beat" type of breaks.
It Helps You Build A Complete Beat
Probably the main reason why I use beat juggles as my inspiration is because of the breakdown. This comes back to what I mentioned earlier about patterns, but instead of just patterns for drums, I mean for your entire song. Watch as Mista Sinista completely breaks down Method Man's "Method Man" beat:
Notice how not only did he break down the beat, but HOW he broke down that beat. Look at the way he transitioned from doing doubles to creating something completely new. If you were to apply that technique to your beats, imagine what you could come up with! For example, he does doubles, then transitions, then breaks it down by slowing down the whole thing. That whole technique can be applied to your beat. Who says your beat has to be only a certain BPM the whole way through? You could create a beat that is 95 BPM but has breakdowns for a few bars that are at 85 BPM.
There are many different things you could do with your beats, but the first thing you need to do is be inspired. Beat Juggling is definitely a way that will help you figure out what you want to do with your next production, and you shouldn't hesitate to try something new. It may not work out for you and maybe you're comfortable with your current workflow, but if you want to try something new and give your beats that something special, then check out some Beat Juggling.
Resources Related To Beat Juggling