Jesse Tittsworth might reside in suburbs of Virginia, but the music that he makes is undeniably Baltimore. The breaks-driven, chopped-up bangers on his latest, Twelve Steps (Plant Music), combine club music’s heavy low-end with bits of pop, R&B, and old funk and soul, and play as well on the dancefloor as they do beneath vocals from The Federation, Nina Sky, and Pase Rock. So how does Tittsworth craft Baltimore club tracks that make MCs wild out and dancers shake shakeshake dat ass? Read on and find out.
1. Less is more
Keep in mind that B-more club music is generally pretty minimal. Not techno minimal, but my favorite club tracks of all time breathe really well. There’s room for the drums to be big and for the bass to sound mean. Try not to overcrowd the mix with tons of notes and instruments.
2. Break 'em
Don’t be afraid to tear the drum breaks apart and rearrange a specific slice or slices. Assign the different sections to a keyboard or drum pad and experiment with the groove or sequence. Loop a section of one break and maybe layer it with a piece of another. Take the groove and replay it with your own instruments.
3. Keep it natural
Keep in mind the milliseconds that separate the live drummers in many club breaks from beats made on a drum machine or with software. Programs like Ableton are really good for getting everything on beat. The result is something that’s easy to mix but might not groove right. To get it natural there are times where I will turn quantizing off altogether. Turn away from the grid and just beat your rhythm in real time. Any controller will do–I’ll pound a keyboard, mouse, or even my laptop directly to get those notes to sound right. Programs like Reason also have a percentage function so you can quantize something a little closer without snapping to a cold beat.
4. Low-end theory
A big part of Baltimore club music is bass, so your low-end has got to sound right in the club. This might mean a lot of back-and-forth mixing from the car to the club to the studio, but don’t rest until it thumps in all places. Try to make sure things aren’t fighting in the low-end (do your kicks and subs get clouded together?).
5. Do your homework
You can learn from programs, studio techniques, tutorials, and all that but there’s also going to be a lot you will only get from context. Take the time to learn where club music came from–what made the pioneers and classic records great.