The sound of Memphis Soul? Start with Al Jackson Jr. and Stax Studios

Recreating the vibe of a legendary session drummer and recording studio

Nobody plays a backbeat like Al Jackson Jr. The feel, punch and swagger of his drum tracks were a BIG part of countless Soul, R&B, Pop and Blues records in the 1960s and 70s, backing artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Al Green, Donny Hathaway, Albert King, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, and his own group Booker T. & the M.G.'s. For over a decade, Jackson was the house drummer at Stax Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, a former converted movie theater whose distinctive sound was a big part of the Stax formula.

Jackson's drum break on the opening measure of the 1967 single "Tramp" with Otis Redding and Carla Thomas has been sampled by Hip Hop classics by Wu-Tang Clan, Salt-N-Pepa and in the 1994 hit film CB4, featuring Chris Rock. The same breakbeat appears on recent tracks by Action Bronson and King Krule.

How do you capture that same Memphis Soul vibe today in your own studio? In this course, session drummer Dylan Wissing (Alicia Keys, John Legend, Drake) and assistant Steven Katona use the classic "Tramp" breakbeat as a case study to learn how to do it yourself. They cover every step of the process of recording and recreating the drums, starting with a bare riser and continuing through to the final recorded drum tracks. 

  • Selecting the drums and cymbals
  • Tuning, muffling, and sonic treatments
  • Choosing microphone placements
  • Acoustic treatments
  • Session setup and organization
  • Extensive shootouts and in-depth explanations for every element and decision
  • 38 videos, total running time 2h 19m


It's time to add the Memphis Soul vibe to your own studio. Let's start recording!

CREATING THE SOUND OF MEMPHIS SOUL | Recording "Tramp" Breakbeat Drums

  • 01

    Introduction & Session Prep

  • 02

    Bass Drum

    • Bass Drum Introduction and Tuning

    • Bass Drum Shootout 1

    • Steven's Tuning Tips

    • Bass Drum Shootout 2

    • Bass Drum Shootout 3

    • Bass Drum Shootout Finale

    • Bass Drum Muffling and Beater Shootout

  • 03

    Snare Drum

    • Snare Drum Introduction

    • Snare Tuning

    • Snare Drum Shootout

    • Snare Side Dampening Shootouts

    • Snare Muffling Shootouts

    • Ghost Note and Booty Shaker Shootouts

  • 04

    Hi Hats

    • Hi Hat Introduction

    • Hi Hat Shootouts

    • Making Adjustments and Final Hi Hat Shootout

  • 05

    Microphones

    • Kick Mic Introductions

    • Kick In Mic

    • Kick Out Mic

    • Snare Mic Introductions

    • Snare Top and Shell Mics

    • Hi Hat Mic

    • Snare Top Mic Alternative

    • Mono Overhead Shootout

    • Daptone Mic

    • Shoulder Mic

    • Kit Center Mic

    • The Mix So Far

    • Room Mic Shootout

  • 06

    Mic Preamplifiers

    • Preamp Shootouts

    • Preamp Quality Shootout

  • 07

    Final Tweaks

    • Last-Minute Snare Shootout

    • Controlling Snare Buzz

    • One Last Pass

  • 08

    File Prep & Conclusion

    • Prepping Files for Export

    • Closing Remarks

Gear used in this course:

INSTRUMENTS:

Bass Drums:

  • GMS 14x20" CL Series Maple
  • GMS 12x20" SE Series Maple
  • GMS 14x22" SE Series Ash
  • GMS 14x22" Super Vintage Series Maple
  • (probably) Pearl 14x20" vintage 1960s


Snare Drums:

  • GMS 6.5x14" Seamless Aluminum
  • GMS 5.5x14" Super Vintage
  • Gretsch 5x14" Name Band Wood (1960s)
  • Ludwig 5x14" Acrolite (mid 60s)
  • Unknown 5x14" Wood (probably 80s or 90s)


Hi Hats:

  • 14" A Zildjian New Beats (1960s)
  • 14" A Zildjian New Beats (1960s) Pair #2
  • 14" Sabian AAX Studio Hats
  • 14" Sabian Crescent Fat Hats
  • 14" Sabian HHX Legacy Hats


Heads:

  • Aquarian Texture Coated
  • Aquarian Hi Frequency Coated
  • Aquarian Force 1 Coated
  • Aquarian Super Kick I
  • Aquarian Classic Clear Snare Side


Accessories:

  • Innovative Percussion Legacy 5AB sticks
  • TnR Products Little Booty Shakers
  • Innovative Percussion KDB-1 Kick Drum Beater
  • Vic Firth felt, wood, and fleece-covered VicKick Beaters 


MICROPHONES

  • AEA R84 ribbon
  • AKG C414 XLS LDC
  • Audio Technica AT4047 SV LDC
  • BeyerDynamic M201 dynamic
  • BeesNeez Lul FET SDC
  • Cascade Fathead II ribbon
  • Electro-Voice RE20 dynamic
  • Bash Audio RM BIV ribbon
  • Shure SM57 dynamic
  • Telefunken M80 dynamic
  • Telefunken M82 dynamic


MIC PREAMPLIFIERS

  • ART Pro MPA II
  • Black Lion Audio Auteur
  • Daking MicPreIV
  • Sebatron VMP-4000e


CONVERSION

  • RME Fireface UFX+
  • Ferrofish A16 MkII


OTHER AUDIO GEAR

  • ADAM A7x monitors
  • UBK Gain Train Monitor Controller


SOFTWARE

  • Apple Logic Pro X

Meet Your Instructor

Dylan Wissing exploded onto the international scene drumming on Alicia Keys’ smash hit “Girl on Fire.” His credits include drum tracks for Kanye West, Drake, John Legend, Eminem, Jay Z, Rick Ross, Fabolous, Needtobreathe and many more. Drawing from a huge collection of instruments, both cutting-edge modern and crusty vintage, Dylan creates live drum loops and samples with vibe for days from his own Triple Colossal Studios. Dylan is an endorser of GMS Drums, Sabian Cymbals, Aquarian Drumheads, Innovative Percussion Sticks, and TnR Products.

Dylan Wissing

Session Drummer, Engineer

CREATING THE SOUND OF MEMPHIS SOUL | Recording "Tramp" Breakbeat Drum

LEARN HOW THE RAW DRUMS ARE MIXED TO CREATE THE FINAL "TRAMP" BREAKBEAT

The next course in our "Creating the Sound of Memphis Soul Drums" series

  • CREATING THE SOUND OF MEMPHIS SOUL DRUMS | Mixing the "Tramp" Breakbeat

    Free

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