In the latest Beat Dissected, we construct a dark, woozy R&B beat using classic 808 samples and percussive hits.
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:
SoundsMainly Roland TR-808 hits
To begin, we put together two different kick samples, both house-flavoured and therefore rich in low end. Kick 1 has a longer tail and more low-frequency content. We’ve also used bitcrushing to obtain a snappier sound. Kick 2 is a lower pitch, with a shorter tail. Kick 2 plays at the start of the first and third bars, while Kick 1 plays a busier pattern.
The second element is a found sound sample which plays a percussive role underlying each quarter note of the beat. To obtain a more interesting sound, we’ve applied some slight distortion and tape saturation to the original sample and then pitched it down.
A layer of three samples then occurs on the third beat of each bar: two claps (one is an 808 sample and the other is a live drum sample) plus a conga-like percussion sound with a very long reverb tail. The 808 clap also has reverb, but with a shorter tail.
Playing with different length reverbs gives a particular sense of space to the overall sound. One of the two clap samples is slightly moved forward on the grid in order for its transient not to clash with the other two samples. This makes it stand out better in the mix.
A tambourine sample is then added to the first and third beat of every bar. This sample is also moved slightly off the grid and gives the beat a general sense of looseness.
To further enrich the beat, we’ve added two percussive samples taken from an 808. These are a conga and a tom, both high-pitched. They play one after the other at the beginning and in the middle of the beat. The 808 tom sample has a spring reverb effect applied with a 2.64 ms decay time. The conga sample has a similar type of reverb (2.01 ms decay time) and a ping-pong delay playing triplet repetitions, set to 60% feedback and 32% dry/wet.
Finally, to add a more retro feel, mixing classic and modern elements within the same production, we’ve added a constant layer of tape hiss playing throughout the duration of the pattern. The whole beat is glued together with a stereo master bus compressor applying around 10 dB of gain reduction.
If you enjoyed this tutorial you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.