Beats that beat Phat without the laborious work of 60s soul artists and the Raspberry Pi Pico.

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Raspberry pi pico
(Image credit: Tod Kurt)

Are you looking for some chill beats to work to? A skilled hacker Tod Kurt also referred to under the name Todbot is here to have got you covered with an RP2040-based program that makes use of Circuit Python to combine breakbeat samples, such as the well-known Amen break that kicked off the whole process, to create an endless background beat. The tale comes from Hackster and the code is available that can be downloaded from Github for those who want to make their own.

The system can be used on all RPI2040 boards, including the Raspberry Pi Pico, which uses its PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) pins to create audio signals. Kurt decided to base the program on the ItsyBitsy model from Adafruit. 

The program selects WAV audio files randomly from the carefully curated samples and then uses CircuitPython’s AudioMixer object to mix them. Since the files are typically in various lengths, it is necessary to need a different application to perform the beatmatching.

AudioMixer has been set up to use the same amount of vocals as sample nine, in this case, so all of the samples are playing simultaneously. Amazingly, and despite some cymbal and bass interludes, this short clip of never-ending breakbeats Kurt has shared on Twitter does not sound disjointed or jerky.

Kurt’s output hack is simple and sees the audio signal transmitted through a breadboard to the 3.5mm audio jack, then on to a portable sound system. In reality, the entire system is mobile as it’s powered by USB by the rechargeable power pack, which means you can take your tunes to church, the grocery store or a movie theatre, wherever your brash music will be appreciated.

The Amen break originates from an instrumental B-side that was composed within 20 minutes in the year 1969. It was the backbone of the hit single “Color Him Father” by the Winstons, the soul group from Washington DC. The 7-second drum break that was later used to sample mercilessly by hip-hop musicians turned out to become the foundation for the majority of drum ‘n’ bass music. But the Winstons and the musician Gregory Coleman have never received a penny in royalty payments. Color Him Father was awarded the Grammy award; however, the Winstons did not succeed and stopped performing in the year 1970.

Kurt’s CircuitPython projects include this one. In addition, they are described on his¬†GitHub pages for projects.

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