Ableton Live Video Tutorial: Flying Lotus’ ‘Camel’ – Beat Deconstruction

Have you ever wondered what your favorite producers are thinking when they’re making beats? Dubspot instructor, Ableton Live expert and award winning music educator, Pat Cupo, explains his concept of “Beat Deconstruction”. In this tutorial, Cupo takes a two measure loop of Flying Lotus’ “Camel” from his Los Angles LP (2008) and breaks down the beat into it’s four main components: kick, snare, hi-hat, and percussion, each having it’s own dedicated clip in an audio track. By using Warp Markers as visual place holders to highlight when and where each component occurs in an audio clip, we can begin to understand how the beat was conceptualized. Using the Slice to New MIDI function in Live set to slice the audio at the “Warp Marker”, new MIDI clips are created that contain a series of MIDI notes corresponding to the Warp Markers from their original audio clips. Once this has been done, all of the MIDI information is taken to the Arrangement View to view the clips as a musical score. After a little editing, the music seems to pop out from the screen and we can see the beat in it’s entirety as if we programmed it ourselves.

So why should you know how to deconstruct a beat? For starters, all the cool kids are doing it, and you want to be cool, right? After that, you need to train yourself to “see what you hear” and “hear what you see”. In other words, you should be able to look at a piece of audio (the waveforms) and almost hear in your head what it would sound like. The flip side to that would be hearing a piece of audio and being able to visualize it as MIDI. Beat Deconstruction will help train your eyes and ears and also help you to start thinking like a producer – a beat maker – a musician. Try it out on your favorite drumbeats and find out if your eyes and ears are working properly. Challenge yourself and deconstruct a beat that you think is way out of your league and you might be surprised by how much you actually learned by going through the process.

A little tid bit for your information: The percussion part of “Camel”can be a little hard to hear for the novice beat maker because there are lots of tiny moving parts all woven together behind the heavy vintage crackle. Lucky for us, it’s a sample so we can trace it back to it’s original source and hear it in it’s original form. So let’s check out the history of this sample: Ashley Dunbar’s Retaliation’s “Watch ‘n’ Chain” (1969) is the original source. The percussion part is pretty prominent and you should recognize it:

Amon Tobin samples the percussion on “Saboteur” (2000). Really cool track – this one is for you gamers out there:

Now the $36,000 question: Did Flying Lotus sample Ashley Dunbar’s Retaliation or Amon Tobin for “Camel” (2008)? For those into deeper music theory, “Camel” and “Saboteur” are almost identical as far as harmony and key are concerned:

And finally, last year Nosaj Thing did a nice remix of “Camel” (2010):

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  • 1/7/2011

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Patrick Cupo. Patrick Cupo said: Ableton Live Video Tutorial: Flying Lotus’ ‘Camel’ – Beat Deconstruction pt 1 [...]

  • David
  • 1/7/2011

I just wanted to say thank you, and that I GREATLY appreciate every article/video/post this site has to offer.

Especially this post, it’s right up my alley, thank you again.

  • Samuel Plasencia
  • 1/7/2011

Hi from Spain, this is a great tutorial guys!

Our Netlabel JourneMusic is searching for new artists and tracks.



  • Julie
  • 1/7/2011

This is a great tutorial on beat maker online and how to deconstruct a beat.

  • #Ableton Flying Lotus’ ‘Camel’ – Beat Deconstruction pt 1 | Dubspot Blog « Les ressources d'Ableton
  • 1/7/2011

[...] Ableton Live Video Tutorial: Flying Lotus’ ‘Camel’ – Beat Deconstruction pt 1 | Dubspot Blog. [...]

  • Lonnie J. Mcginley
  • 1/7/2011

very informative post. can’t wait to test my new found knowledge on beat maker online