In the latest Beat Dissected we create an R&B beat based on classic 808 hits but laced with with future flavour.
Beat Dissected is a regular series in which we deconstruct drum patterns, showing you how to program them in any DAW. Just copy our grid in your own software to recreate the loop.
Here’s the beat we’re building today:
SoundsRoland TR-808 samples
This kick is a house-flavoured bass drum sample featuring a rich, rounded low end and a present attack. To brighten its snap we added a short slice of noise hiss around 16 kHz. The sample envelope is tweaked to shorten the release – reducing the sound’s tail for an ultra-dry sound. Finally, tape saturation is used to thicken the overall sound. The pattern is fairly busy, the space on the third beat of each bar establishing the half-step foundation.
Step 2 is simplicity itself: an 808 clap/snare combo that triggers on the third beat of each bar. Getting the sound right takes a little more effort. First up, although both sounds overlap, the pitched-up snare hits slightly before the clap, so that both attack transients are slightly out of sync. Second, both samples are carefully EQ sculpted to remove mud and highlight presence. Finally a short room reverb is applied to widen the stereo image and give the sound added vitality.
The beat starts to take on character with the addition of the third beat element, an 808 conga layered with a rimshot, both pitched down a few semitones. Again, to help the sound cut through the mix, some white noise hiss is layered in the high end. Unlike the regular groove laid down in the first two steps, the percussive rhythm in this step plays with variations. The first variation – in the second and fourth bars – adds a lower velocity ghost note to give the beat a more human, organic feel while the third bar triplet introduces a wonky hip-hop flavour.
The element that pulls the beat together and delivers momentum and bounce is an 808 maraca hit that sounds on each off beat. The sample is tuned up a few semitones (to fit sonically with the other beat elements), with a carefully edited tail to tighten the groove. The whole beat is then glued together with gentle bus compression.
If you enjoyed this tutorial you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.