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Type Beats & Innovation

Hello friends! Before opening an online beat store two weeks ago, I had never heard of "type-beats": original instrumentals with a specific artist or song's style as the basis of its creation. The concept reminded me of legendary jazz trumpeter Clark Terry, who when studying his favourite players, would use their style elements as the basis for his music creation – in Terry’s case, primarily trumpet solos. I love his mantra: "Imitate, Assimilate, and Innovate."

You could argue that this same approach could apply to all creative arts. Talk to any artist, musician, or filmmaker and they will talk passionately of their influences, and the savvy listener may recognize the influence on the new art being created.

The concept of type-beats is that you are openly advertising the influence of your instrumentals according to a “type”. For example, adding "Drake-type beat" to the title of your instrumental helps it find an audience online through an open search looking for instrumentals in the style of Drake. The association with Drake is the commercial designed to reach a rapper/vocalist looking for a beat with a specific artist/song/feel in mind through a YouTube search of beats for example. The goal is to potentially intrigue any music fan of that artist to listen to or purchase your original instrumental for the sake of lyrical collaboration.

Even Billy Joel, the ‘piano man’ himself, in 1983 released a whole record of what we might today call type-beats. Perhaps type-songs is more apt in this case, because Billy is the singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and lyricist (and decidedly a non-rapper). His record, Innocent Man, pre-dated digital recording by almost two decades and is Joel's tribute to the Motown and British artists of the 1960s that influenced him as he grew up. In the liner notes, he actually tells you, exactly what artist, band, and style he is inspired by on each track! For example, track five reads: “’Tell Her About It’ (Homage to Motown groups like The Supremes and The Temptations).” I especially like the album's title track which reads: ‘Innocent Man’ (Homage to Ben E. King and The Drifters).” The late Ben E. King of course wrote the classic, ‘Stand By Me.’ You can hear a number of that song's elements in Billy's, ‘Innocent Man’ (the simple, prominent bass line, even down to the use of a triangle part! The TRIANGLE!). Billy Joel, the first type-beat artist ever?! Let's add that to his 5 Grammy wins and 23 nominations. 🙌

Let me explain how I opened a beats store and then learned about type-beats. In May 2020, I started collaborating with my friend Adam of Keys n Krates. I recorded several fifty-second song forms on electric guitar in a pattern as follows: solo guitar riff, same riff with a beat added, and then the solo guitar riff restated. I just played and didn't overthink - I wanted the ideas to feel inspired, spontaneous, and open enough to invite collaboration. Adam offered a few more specific suggestions regarding tempos, feels, and artist styles once we got going. The subsequent material evolved into beat-type ideas before I knew what they were or what that meant. I always love when any collaborator creates a box, I don't find it limiting at all, I find it creates a musical focus.

I also enjoy how Billy Joel refers to his type-songs as “homages” which lends appropriate public reverence to his influences. In that spirit, here is how I would describe a few tracks from my beat store:

1. "Misty Major": Although this was a finished esoteric guitar instrumental with no drums, when Drake released, “Toosie Slide,” I wanted to add a trap beat.

2. “Night Drive”: I absolutely, 100% from day one wanted to write something with the feel of, "Everybody Wants to Rule The World," the 80's pop tune. I've always LOVED this song. I mean who writes a pop blues shuffle that doesn't sound bluesy at all?! Tears for Fears.

3. I'll mention one more track from my beat store: "Porto Escondito".

That's Adam's title…I have no idea what it means. I think a more correct spelling might be, “Escondido” but maybe this was done on purpose? I also have no idea what the song sounds like stylistically. I had this bouncy guitar riff, and when I asked Adam his answer was, "Pop?" It has edge and a heavy chorus groove to it, take a listen. Please feel free to share in the comments what type-beat this tune could be! Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate.

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