Trifonic: Editing Beats – Part 1 from Next Step Audio on Vimeo.

No more secrets: that could well sum up the zeitgeist of music making in 2010. So it is that Trifonic, aka virtuoso beatmeister brothers Brian and Laurence Trifon of San Francisco, share their technique for chopping up and glitching out audio. Their new blog, Next Step Audio, is entirely dedicated to sharing their production techniques: [site slightly erratic response-wise for me at press time]

The video tutorial on beat editing, published by Next Step Audio, starts out generically enough: grab the ubiquitous “Amen break” as a sample, load it into Apple’s Logic Pro, slice it by beat and adjust to transients, gate… but Trifonic explains how they take the results further, drawing envelopes for modulation and winding up with something far removed for the original. Of course, if you’re fatigued of the “Amen break,” you could apply the same technique to samples of your own playing, and you could substitute your DAW of choice, from Live to Pro Tools, for the editing.

Part of what makes this tutorial compelling is that the duo has a distinctive musical identity, rather than being the anonymous, all-knowing voice music tech instructors had tried to be in the past. It’s worth checking out their music, too. Digitally-distorted, glitching beats had threatened to become a tired cliche years ago, but Trifonic combines those sharper digital timbres with rich, warm layers of sound. The shifting textures of the video for “Parks on Fire,” a big single for them, matches that musical structure perfectly in visuals. (The video is the work of the terrific Scott Pagano, an LA-based visualist.)

There’s plenty more music to share, too, and you can even grab a free Trifonic bass patch for Logic’s EXS24 and Native Instruments’ Kontakt 3 (or compatible samplers, which includes just about everything).

You can grab a free MP3 of Trifonic’s “Transgenic” in the “Rust Mix”:

And Trifonic are regular contributors to ccMixer, the Creative Commons-licensed remix site. They’ve got loads of work under an attribution / non-commercial license. That has, in turn, encouraged a crop of remixes of their work, which seems in keeping with the techniques they’re espousing.

(See my rant last week for some concerns about the non-commercial license relative to images. It’s less of an issue, I think, with samples, but I do hope to connect with the CC folks soon and talk on CDM about the relative advantages of Non-Commercial versus ShareAlike or some combination.)

In part two of the beat editing tutorial, Trifonic go further with glitching and special effects.

As noted by commenter Bryan Gilstein, “It doesn’t matter, we’ll go nuts with it.”

Amen, brother.

Trifonic: Editing Beats – Part 2 from Next Step Audio on Vimeo.

Trifonic have a bass patch sample that they share for free, too, in EXS24 and Kontakt 3 formats. It’s a wobble bass, yes, but with a few nice twists.

Good music, good production tips – I’m sold. (Now, is anyone else aside from me thinking about how these techniques could become real-time / live instruments?)

Lots more Trifonic at the artists’ website:

See also:
Tirfonic @ rcrdlbl [free music]
Trifonic @

…and I’ll see them next week in LA, where I’m sharing a big bill with them at the unofficial NAMM afterparty (more details on that soon):

  • dataf1ow

    This site looks like a great resource for new and intermediate users alike. The tutorial was clear, easily absorbed and widely applicable. And that video!…those visuals were incredible. Would love to know a little more about those too!

  • @dataf1ow: I'll see Scott, too, at the same event in LA; let me see what I can find and I'll put that on CDMotion. 😉

  • @dataf1ow and @Peter Kirn: FYI side note… we gave Scott full stems of 'Parks On Fire' so that he could synchronize every tiny detail of the song to video. Scott blew us away with his work, he is truly incredible.

  • UTM

    Wow, "Parks on Fire" is tremendous: both the song and the video. Thanks for sharing this!

  • tite brian. you should do these tutorials on lots of topics and even more of your amazing beat and zero crossing techniques. people will really appreciate it!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I think you mean "sum up" — not "some up"

    Not to be curmudgeonly or anything…CDM posts always strike me as well written, this is either a 'whole word typo' — something I commit every day — or a lacuna in your knowledge of written English.

  • @chaircrusher: Oops.

    You know, "some up." Slang. Like, "boy, I really some up that track."

    Nope. Oh, well, even with copy editors, mistakes happen. 😉

  • Wauw!

    Best musical discovery I've done in ages. Very Amon Tobin like, in a way.

    I haven't seen the tutorials yet, but I'm going to be buying some music tomorrow!

  • I prefer using an EXS instrument to trigger samples and using hyperedit to glitch them, but I use the same multi-track approach for applying effects (you have to in Logic, or at least bounce-in-place; in Pro Tools or DP you can just apply effects directly to regions). But these are great tutorials. Anyone know what screen capture program he's using?

    Also, I think Scott's motion is the best I've ever seen, thanks for sharing Peter.

  • I'd also like to know what screen capture program that is. Have some tutorials of my own I'd like to share with some kids I teach.

  • LT

    @Jordan: The screen capture program is Screenflow.

  • Steven Nguyen

    I've been a big Trifonic fan for quite some time and I'm glad to see them popping up every once and a while. Great video, thanks for sharing!

  • Dave Smith-Hayes

    This is very useful tutorial but I found a lot of what he was doing would take a lot of time cutting and copying over and over again. A lot of what he was doing can be done within a tracker (Renoise is what I'm thinking) in a matter of moments.

    None the less! Very useful tutorial for anyone who uses a DAW like Logic.

  • Jeff

    "So…that's pretty cool."

    Yes, yes it is. I really am glad for these meatier tutorials. I've tried some of this stuff in the past during experiment sessions. But being shown it in this methodical way really helps to turn things from "experiment" into "technique."

  • The video tutorial was great, though I would like to say many of their beat slicing techniques were taken from BT (Brian Transeau). One of the Trifonic members used to work for BT. Even the mix of glitch, melodic and classical parts are in my opinion BT's accomplishment. He was doing beat slicing in the same fashion at a time there were no Daws and the tools we have now. I would recommend to really listen him and get a taste of the real genius BT is.

  • Birds Use Stars

    These kinds of techniques are great, I find, when you make your edit, record it and trigger as a clip in Live. Bang out the stutters in real time! Kick it live!

  • Great post Peter – interesting and well explained tutorials that can be applied more or less in almost any DAW – have just been implementing some of these ideas in Ardour. 🙂

    … enjoying the sounds of Trifonic as we speak also – as your post allowed me to discover their album Emergence – very nice work!

  • Awesome to see Trifon here. A good friend, and great musician, he can also play ragging metal solos on command! that is really impressive=)

    unleash the lion!



  • Jesper Goor

    Wow, this is really great music. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. That video is easily one of the best I have seen.

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  • why make a tutorial like that? there are hundreds of the same like this already available. to have more ppl overuse the amen break and being less innovative instead of chopping up fill breaks or layering others to get ur OWN STYLE? learning by doing or give it up. if u really need basic help dont waste ur time with producing.

  • Pretty awesome and simple. There is some similarity to the techniques used by Gustavo Bravetti, as covered previously on CDM :

  • RayFlower

    Yet again I'm reminded that i chose express over logic 9:E that reverb is fantastic.

    On other news:

    This was very educational, been wanting to make some glitch the past months but never got around to it but this explain it very good, i guess i'll have even more fun with the felxtool which i've had cool result with before.

    Guess Its time to give all those samples i've got bundled with various hardware a try.

    Thanks for posting.

  • Dave Smith-Hayes

    There's also the DBlue VST plugin called Glitch which is a step-sequenced multi-effect plugin which can handle most of what he's doing without even touching the sample.

  • I think it's possible to credit BT with popularizing stutter edits, but not necessarily inventing them. DAWs were available as he began production, though I don't recall them being called that. And plenty of people working with computer music were working with these kinds of digital effects with audio, basically back to the birth of DSP (because, well, they're hard to avoid!)

    There's a connection between BT and Trifonic artistically, too, but I think Trifonic has a distinctive sound and aesthetic.

    Anyway, I think the general change is that, you know, there's less of a sense of "this is my thing." These effects are now quite similar, and the implication of people doing free tutorials is actually that they want to spread them further.

  • @Dave Smith-Hayes:

    lol. glitch is the laughing stock of the electronic community.

  • Very interesting stuff. Not pushing, but I am very curious about the next step – arranging those cool loops into a drum solo (or drum comping, no matter). There certainly should be some particular subjective criteria on arranging that. Thanks anyways 🙂

  • Wow … that's some good tutorial action.

    For those with less … patience … check out the free SupaTrigga AU plugin:

    It's a quick and easy way to get *similar* (if random) results that you can then chop up and use in whatever way you want .. for instance, I usually drop the plugin on a track, then bounce it and chop out the interesting and useful bits (if there are any, if there aren't, just bounce again, it'll be totally different).

  • msgnr_epoxy

    That was great! Thank you for posting that.

    I always like to see what people are doing in other daws.

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  • FYI new post yesterday about Bass filter modulation and layering

  • PooPoo the Korruptah

    cool vid…nice tune too.

  • Auditory Canvas

    You could also do this with Live's slice to midi, then re-draw the notes on the midi grid, and resize, and re-space, where you want the sutter edit.

    Also makes it easy to re-arrange the loop too.

    Depending on the slice settings used, it can do a pretty good job of detecting the transients, which you can slice by, or choose to slice by another parameter.

    Added bonus is that each slice get's it's own track to add effects and sends.

  • sebastian

    my problem with the slice to midi is that you are so bound to your number of slices, means that you can time-stretch a slice, but then you can't get it to play back normal again (with automation).

    is there a way to circumvent this?

    but anyways i think it's nice to be able having everything with automated effects in one little clip.

  • Arc Red

    awesome tutorial!!! easy, informative, and not at all boring like many others.

  • Arc Red

    reply to: Dave Smith-Hayes

    "There’s also the DBlue VST plugin called Glitch which is a step-sequenced multi-effect plugin which can handle most of what he’s doing without even touching the sample."

    yeah..but is that cheating? sort of a 'cliff-notes' approach? also…can you get a program like DBlue Glitch to get the beats precisely how you have it in mind, or is it just an approximate sound? I have never worked with these Glitch programs! yet 😉

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