Many talented producers, beat makers, and artists who have even gone to music school have a hard time figuring out why their songs or beats suck. Most of the time, if your song or beat is technically right but still doesn’t sound the way you want it to, there is likely a problem with the feel and groove of the beat. A lot of what I’ve learned about beatmaking, and even about writing songs, came from learning to trust my intuition and emotions when creating music.
What can I do to zero in on the feel of my song or beat?
There are multiple areas that contribute to the feel of your beat, but one of the best places to start is with the drums.
Since you’ve decided to learn how to make your own beats, the first thing you need to understand is that in beatmaking one of the most important elements is the drums. Along with the baseline, drums also influence the overall groove and rhythm of the beat, also known as the“feel”of the beat. In fact if your drums suck, nine times out of ten your beat or song will suck too.
In this post I will explain what a drum loop and a drum kit is, their differences and common uses, as well as the different categories and sub categories of drum sounds you’re likely to come across.
The Drum Kit
In basic beatmaking, drums are divided into five main categories: kicks, snares, hats, cymbals, and percussion. And of these five main categories, there are additional sub-categories.
The kick drum category includes the standard bass kick, 808s, and booms. A standard bass kick has a live sound or acoustic sound to it, an 808 (named after the famous Roland TR 808 drum machine) has a more electric boom sound that can produce extremely low-frequency sounds as well. Then there is the boom kick, which is more of an amped up version of the standard bass kick drum.
With the snare drum there are standard snares, snare toms, rim shots, and woodblocks. However, one thing to keep in mind is that snare sounds can be any sound you want to use that will act as a snare. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a typical snare drum or snare drum sound. In other words, the term “snare”in beatmaking refers to any captured sound, whether it is the sound of a pencil hitting the floor or your knuckle hitting the desk in your studio.
In the “hats” category, there are both open and closed hi-hats. The hi-hat sound refers to the sound of a standard hi-hat cymbal in their default position. The default position of a hi-hat is where one hi-hat cymbal rests on top of the other, but is held loosely together by the hi-hat’s foot pedal. So, in beatmaking a hi-hat sound would be the sound of drum sticks striking the hi-hat cymbal in its default position. Similarly, an open-hat sound refers to the sound of a standard hi-hat cymbals in their maximum open position, and a closed-hat sound refers to the sound of standard hi-hat cymbals held tightly together.
Cymbals include crashesand rides.Crashes are a type of cymbal that produces a loud high pitched “crash”sound when it is struck with a drum stick. Rides are another standard type of cymbal in most drum kits, and are often used to create a constant rhythm much like a hi-hat is used. However, a ride cymbal has a much longer sustain which makes it sound much slower than the sound of a hi-hat.
There are also many other percussive sounds that beatmakers use with primary drum sounds to make a their sound more unique, and to give a track’s groove or rhythm more depth. These percussion sounds include timpani’s, tambourines, shakers, castanets, sleigh bells, and blocks.
Drum Kits & Drum Loops
In beatmaking, a drum kit is a set of drum sounds that can be triggered or played like a standard acoustic drum set. Although there are midi drum sets with pads that you strike with drums sticks, in traditional beatmaking the drum sounds in drum kits are played by either pressing the fingers on the keys of a midi piano or by pressing the pads of a midi drum pad device.
Drum kits are favored by producers and beat makers who prefer to play their own drums for their beats and songs. I prefer this way because it gives you more control over the groove and rhythm of the entire beat and the mix of individual drum sounds, regardless of whether you decide to track (record) your drums before or after you track the melodic instruments.
In the beat making process, drum loops are pre–programmed or played drum performances that have been recorded and edited to loop seamlessly across a beat. They are used to help inspire ideas for new songs, to keep time and rhythm, or to be the main drums in a beat.
Drum loops have many uses, but unlike drum kits they give you less control over the mixing of individual drum sounds and the groove, which often forces you to find the drum loop first and then make your melodies fit the drum loop’s groove. However, there are some audio loop formats like Rex and Apple Loops that give you a little more control over mixing, tempo, and groove synching.
Next Post: How to Make Beats, The Drums: Part 2