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Sound Advice: Hey, Listen! To These Music Beds

Carl Pocket / Flickr

Rapper and producer Madlib performs at Echoplex in 2014. A song by Madlib's group Sound Divisions is a regular music bed on Capital Public Radio.

Carl Pocket / Flickr

Producer's Note: The audio for this segment has been edited to remove a comment from guest host Beth Duncan in regards to a piece of music that Insight found inappropriate.

Have you ever heard a song on Capital Public Radio underneath a host or an announcer’s voice and wondered, “What’s that tune?”

The wizard behind the curtain of CapRadio’s music breaks, Hey, Listen! host Nick Brunner, is here to help solve the mystery of our breaktime jams.

The songs that play during breaks are called music beds, and there’s an exact science behind their selection. Brunner has been choosing and producing the break music that you hear during local CapRadio breaks since 2008.

Some of the break music you hear on CapRadio comes from NPR, and it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s CapRadio music versus what’s NPR music. Most of the music you hear during the midday hours on air is produced by Brunner and jazz announcer Devan Kortan.

We have many listeners reach out to us through email, Twitter, Facebook and more asking, “Hey, I heard this thing at 9:58. Can you tell me what that was?” So here we’re bringing you some of the answers as Brunner lays out the details on four of our music beds, including two from today’s California Dream radio special, “One State, Unaffordable.”

“Wanda Vidal” - Sound Directions


This is a song that you’ve likely heard before during one of our music breaks, as it’s one of the first music beds that Brunner put into rotation in 2008.

The song has a modern feel while also calling back to the days of late ‘60s-’70s funky jazz, which Brunner said is what makes it an ideal music break song. It’s by the group Sound Directions, which is the alias of the jazz group Yesterday’s New Quintet. The group is led by rapper/producer Madlib, who is also known as Quasimoto.

“Degrees” - Stef Chura


This song goes to show that not all music beds start as instrumentals. Brunner took this song and chopped the vocals out before blending the cuts together into an understated music bed featuring guitar strumming and drums.

This song works when we want a song that is upbeat and modern without being obtrusive so that it can be played under a host or announcer speaking, or during a break, Brunner said.

When editing songs with vocals into music beds, Brunner’s process is fairly simple. In the case of “Degrees,” he cut the song after the long instrumental intro and then again after the vocals when the song transitioned back into instrumentals. Then he put the instrumental clips together and beatmatched them to try to make the song as seamless as possible.

He uses Adobe Audition to edit music beds, which is the same program that early 2000s mashup artist GirlTalk uses to mix songs.

“BUS RIDE” - KAYTRANADA Feat. Karriem Riggins & River Tiber


This song is one of many that will be featured during breaks on today’s California Dream project radio special, “One State, Unaffordable.”

Brunner tried to find songs with a very specific tone to use in this special, as it is focused on housing inequality, people who can’t find homes and people who don’t have homes. It would be tone deaf to follow a topic like this with a bouncy, jaunty beat, so he went on the hunt for music that fit the mood of the show.

This song by producer KAYTRANADA is jazzy with a hip-hop inflection and leaves a lot of space to talk over it. It’s a song that’s thoughtful and peaceful, but not so motionless that it doesn’t serve its purpose of moving the special along.

“We Might Come Back” - Black Moth Super Rainbow


There’s a feeling of storytelling to this song that makes it perfect for the California Dream special, and for music beds in general. But in addition to that, the song has a nice “boom-bap” texture to it that, along with the warbly, uncomfortable melody, makes it great break music for a news program, Brunner said.

Brunner is a particular fan of this piece, so you can hear it in rotation regularly at 8 p.m. on Saturday nights during his indie rock program Hey, Listen!

CapRadio is always open to pitches and suggestions for future music beds. If you produce music that you think would be good for a music break, or if you want to be featured on Brunner’s Saturday night indie-rock program, send him an email at nick.brunner@capradio.org.

If you ever hear a music break on CapRadio during local news coverage and want to know what the song is, tweet us at @CapRadioNews or reach out to Brunner via email! We’ll do our best to bring you the answers.

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