Deconstructing Kanye West’s Good Morning Beat
Good Morning is the first song on Kanye West’s third album, 2007’s Graduation. The song follows The College Dropout and Late Registration’s academic theme, whilst presenting itself as more mature and focused than it’s predecessor by opening with an introspective song instead of a skit. The song was produced solely by West, although Graduation saw him allowing others to co-produce his work more than previously. Kanye uses two samples in Good Morning, one of Elton John and another from Jay-Z, which are accompanied by layers of keyboards provided by London-based producer Andy Chatterley. In this tutorial, I'll talk you through the synth patches and how Kanye chops up his samples.
The drums are slightly off-grid, West would’ve played the samples on an MPC sampler to create the loop, and as such the offbeat kick drums are slightly late, creating the lazy hip-hop feel that opens the album. A similar drum beat and samples reappeared on Real Friends from 2016’s The Life of Pablo.
In the next part of the introduction, you can hear two keyboard sounds, an organ sound and a resonant high-pitched synthesizer line, and both sounds can be recreated using Arturia software instruments. Here’s the organ part played on Arturia’s Vox Continental V instrument, on the preset Da Gospel.
The synth line can be created in any synth plugin, and Arturia Mini-V is a great candidate for this sound. Start with a blank template patch and set up three oscillators all set to triangle waveforms, with one pitched an octave above the other two. Triangle waveforms are naturally mellow sounding and work great for high-pitched lines as they don’t sound harsh in the upper register. Set cutoff frequency to 2, filter emphasis to 3 and amount of contour to 4 to set up the resonant filter, then set decay time to 200ms and sustain to 0 to create a subtle plucking effect. Run this sound through a lot of reverb to sit it towards the back of the mix.
There are more synth layers when the main beat starts, and the resonant synth line from the intro is accompanied by some dreamy synth chords. The patch sounds somewhere between an analog synth and an organ, so I programmed an organ-like patch in TAL U-NO-LX, that sounded just like the chord track in the track. To program organ sounds on a synth, use a square-wave with pulse-width modulation. In TAL U-NO-LX set both filters to the halfway mark to lighten up the track and make it easier to layer, then use the LFO for organ-like pitch modulation, with a touch of filter modulation too. Turn on the chorus and run it through some light reverb and you have a nice fake-organ patch to use for your own beats!
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Now for the famous Elton John sample, which comes from the song Someone Saved My Life Tonight, from Elton’s 1975 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The sample appears at 1:42 in the original song, check out an excerpt here:
Kanye’s method of sampling technique is typical of sampling from the 90s, and he is the master of manipulating tempo to chop and stretch his samples, which he does on an Ensoniq ASR-10. Here’s what the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA has to say about the ASR-10:
“The beautiful thing about the ASR-10 is this: It was the first sampler that you could play the beat that you made. I mean, let’s say you already made a drum pattern. You could sample while playing your beat. Therefore you could monitor what you were sampling and hear what you were adding to it. As A DJ that was perfect, I could scratch in what I wanted and sample and hear it as I did it, and be on beat every time.” -RZA (The Wu-Tang Manual)
The ASR-10 is pretty outdated now, not that that stops Kanye from using it, but we can use a similar technique by utilising Ableton Live’s “Slice to New MIDI Track“ function, which will cut our sample into bits and let us play it back however we want. Kanye prefers to use the keyboard and painstakingly getting the timing right through trial and error (Kanye West making an ill track in the studio - YouTube), but you can also use MIDI pads if you have them, or adjust the blocks in the Piano Roll.
The sample is too slow to rap over, so the first step it to raise the speed and pitch. In Ableton Live turn on Warp and use the Repitch warp mode, then raise the tempo of the sample from the original 66BPM to the new 85BPM. The main issue here is to get the pitch as to be as in-tune as possible, there’s no secret trick to this, just play the sample against another instrument and rely on your ears.
I cut the Elton John sample into 1/8 note beats and played them against the drum beat I created in the first step. Aim to line up the rhythm of the sample to the lazy hip-hop rhythm as much as possible. I also repeated the last step to fill out the last beat. Listen to the results below. Something to add is that Kanye beefed up the sample by getting Tony Williams and Connie Mitchell to double the vocal line.
Another draw to the ASR-10 was the character that it imparted on any sound that was fed into it, adding grit and magic to samples. You can emulate this effect using two plugins, a bit-reducer and a saturator. Here are the results using Ableton’s Redux and Saturator effects.
For more bit-crushing possiblities, D-16 Decimort 2 is a high-quality bit crusher that 'recreates the colouration and adds the vintage sampler's magic to any sound'. It has presets for all the legendary samplers, including Kanye's ASR. Here's the sample processed with D16’s Decimort 2 on the ASR-10 setting, with Soundtoys Decapitator to add some drive. It sounds really crunchy with this combination of plugins!
Lastly, there is a sample later in the song from Kanye’s frequent collaborator and good friend Jay-Z, where he samples the line “hustlers that's if you still living, get on down” from The Ruler’s Back, off of The Blueprint, a Jay-Z album that Kanye helped produce. The sample wasn’t taken from the full track, none of the backing beat is present in the sample, so Kanye sampled the Acapella vocal track. The sample is still chopped up, and the rhythm of the phrase is altered to omit the word “and” from the original sample and place “get on down” more on the beat. Check it out:
Here’s the full recreation, in it’s entirety. Click the download link below to download the synth patches to add to your own library.