These producers are using the Amen break as a granular synthesizer and it’s awesome
The most sampled break in history gets a face lift.
Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Producers are taking the Amen break – a 1969 drum break performed by The Winstons’ Gregory Sylvester Coleman that has been sampled on thousands of tracks – and turning it into a granular synthesizer, and the results are pretty cool.
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The break has been sampled 6,296 times (officially, at least), according to WhoSampled, taking the top spot as the most sampled loop in music history. And it’s now taken on a new form.
If you aren’t familiar with the premise, granular synthesis is where a sound is broken down into tiny particles which are then micro-sampled, creating new textures out of pre-existing sounds.
The wave of Amen Break granular synthesis remixes was snowballed by Virtual Riot who posted this version, titled death by amen on YouTube:
Fans in the comments quickly spotted that the producer managed to construct Gourmet Race from the Super Smash Bros soundtrack using the Amen break, before dropping into Satisfaction by Benny Benassi and The Biz.
As a result, fellow producers decided to try it out for themselves. Here are some of the best ones:
British DJ Sub Focus recently shared his thoughts on the Amen break. In an episode of Tape Notes in July 2023, he broke down how he likes to process it in Ableton Live.
“The way I’ve used is slightly old school,” he explains. “I’ve chopped it up in a sampler and I change the transpose of it as the pattern goes on to give it variation. It slightly shifts up and down as the variation goes on.
“It’s mad the intimate knowledge you get of these breaks. Everyone has manipulated these tiny bits of audio hundreds of thousands of times and there’s loads of ways of interpreting this small batch of source material. If you’re a drum ‘n’ bass producer, you just become familiar with the varieties of Amen.”
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