In the latest instalment of Beat Dissected, we create a techy house pattern with real depth.

Beat Dissected is a regular series in which we deconstruct drum patterns, showing you how to recreate them in any DAW. Just copy our grid in your own software to recreate the loop.

Here’s the beat we’re building today:

To download the samples for this beat, click here. The samples are provided on a completely royalty-free basis. They may not be sold or given away, either in whole or in part.

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Spec

Tempo

125-130bpm

Swing

60-65%

Sounds

Mixture of analogue and digital drum machine sample plus acoustics hits

Step 1

We could go for a TR-808 kick sample in this beat, but we’ve chosen a 909 for its techy sound. [Note: an earlier version of this article erroneously suggested we’d used an 808 kick – apologies for any confusion.] We’ve layered a shaker sample over the top to add a little character and compressed the layered sound very lightly to tighten up the transients.

We can return to the tuning at a later point, ensuring that the kick plays nicely with our bassline and any harmonic elements. For now, we simply add the kick sample to every quarter note.

Drum and beat programming in ableton

Step 2

For the hi-hat, we’ve layered a very simple live-sounding acoustic hat sample with a wider, more open analogue hit. In this case we’ve gone for a Roland CR-78 sample but any kind of hit with analogue white noise character will work.

The pattern is as simple as can be, following the tried-and-tested approach of an open hat on every offbeat.

Drum and beat programming in ableton

Step 3

To emphasise the swing of this beat, we’ll add a 16th-note shaker pattern. Any acoustic shaker or maraca sound can work well here, or you could try a tambourine sample so long as it has a relatively short attack transient and short decay.

The velocity variations play a very important role here, avoiding a robotic sound and adding a subtle groove. You can also begin to adjust the swing setting, since the 16th-note pattern will highlight the effect.

The level of the shaker is crucial. Too loud and it’ll dominate the mix, too low and it won’t add the groove we’re looking for. We need to ensure it sits at the back of the mix, adding a techy groove without taking over.

Drum and beat programming in ableton

Step 4

The snare and clap sit together on the second and fourth beat of each bar – a very standard pattern.

We’ve chosen very tight snare and clap sounds. Both sounds begin with TR-707 samples. We’ve shortened the envelope of each one in order to make them short and snappy. Both sounds have been EQd heavily, cutting off the low end from around 120 Hz with a very sharp high-pass filter.

We could layer these two sounds together but we’ve chosen to leave them separate so that we can vary the beat at the arrangement stage, muting and then reintroducing each of the sounds in turn in order to retain a similar groove but add variations.

Drum and beat programming in ableton

Step 5

With the basic framework in place, we can begin to introduce more character. We start with a second snare sound. This is a tighter, higher pitched sound which sits in unusual places in the beat, adding a little interest to the groove. The level is relatively low, giving the effect of ghost hits.

Drum and beat programming in ableton

Step 6

Finally, we add an additional percussive sound. This is based on a hi-hat sample, but we’ve processed it heavily to create the final sound you hear in the beat. First the envelope is adjusted, giving a very soft attack transient and a short, tight release. Next we’ve run it through SoundToys’ Decaptitator plugin for a little extra grit. To complete the sound, we’ve applied some heavy high-pass filtering to carve away the lower frequencies and avoid clashing with the clap and snare.

The pattern is simple, sitting around the snare and clap hits on every offbeat. This helps to emphasise the groove of those elements without adding syncopation. The swing setting is crucial here, affecting all of the percussion hits. The overall result of the percussion part is to make the beat busier and more interesting without adding complexity. The result is a pattern with a compelling groove.

The very last step is a standard application of the SSL Duende bus compressor, peaking at around 4 dB gain reduction in order to smooth out transients and help the elements to gel together.

Drum and beat programming in ableton

To download the samples for this beat, click here. The samples are provided on a completely royalty-free basis. They may not be sold or given away, either in whole or in part.

14th August, 2014

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