If you don’t know the Amen drum break – let me assure you that you do. You’ve probably heard it hundreds if not thousands of times throughout your life. The Amen break looks like this:
Not immediately identifiable? Okay, well how about this?
Now we’re talking :D
The Amen break, first performed by The Winstons on the track Amen, Brother, is one of the most widely used drum samples of all time, appearing in everything from its original incarnation in funk and soul, to gangster rap, to forming the absolute bedrock of drum and bass & ragga.
The video below outlines the incredible history of the Amen break – and although presented in a super-sounds-of-the-seventies format, makes for some really interesting viewing. It’s not short at eighteen minutes – but it really is an extraordinary tale of sampling, copyright and musical creativity.
In fact, back in the early 90’s when I used to dabble with sample-based music in software called trackers, I even ended up using the Amen break in one of my pieces, mixed in with some Dvorak‘s Symphony #9 – Largo (better know to most people in the UK as the music from the Hovis advert) and a few other samples grabbed from various CD-ROMs full of mod files. I had no idea it was called the Amen break, what it was or where it came from – I just thought it was a kick-ass drum-loop, and at the end of the day, I was pretty much right.
For completeness, I’ll embed my own humble homage to the Amen break below: Recorded from the original .S3M file (bar sample-name changes so you can see what’s playing), and played back from (my former tracker of choice) Psi (of Future Crew)’s Screamtracker 3.21 under DOSBox – it’s not much of a track, but it has a couple of nice moments, and it’s interesting to watch trackered music being played – you can see the volume changes, Oxx commands offsetting the samples to start play at different locations and vibrato being applied to each note, whether it’s a synth, drums or the human voice.
Finally, if you’re interested in seeing what could be achieved with ScreamTracker – check out Skaven or Purple Motion‘s work (Second Reality et. al), my favourite mod artists of all time. OF ALL TIME!! ;)