Our step by step drum programming series breaks down a back-of-the-crate deep house groove with a classic retro vibe.
Beat Dissected is a regular series which deconstructs drum patterns, showing you how to program them in any DAW. Just copy the grids in your own software to recreate the loop.
Here’s the complete beat we’ll be making this week:
Analogue hits + percussion loop
Choose a kick sample with a deep, thumping low end to suit the old school deep house vibe. Classic analogue hits work well here, but you can also layer in an acoustic kick sample to add a slightly different feel.
Start with a basic four-to-the-floor pattern. Additional ‘ghost’ kicks with lower velocity can then be added to help fill out the groove. (Click images to enlarge.)
The simple clap pattern uses a sample of a classic analogue drum machine. An 808 or 909 sample is a great starting point here. Adding some compression to tighten up the clap and give the attack more prominence can help it really stand out.
The claps in this pattern sit on the 2nd and 4th beat of every bar, but we’ve nudged them to the left by just a few milliseconds to emphasise the snappy transient and to make the groove feel slightly less rigid.
The hi-hat pattern in this beat is very simple. We’ve used TR-808 open hat samples with quite a short decay. The hats are triggered on each offbeat.
A few additional ghost hats with lower velocity are added to help bring out the swing of the track. A closed hat sample or a shaker could also be used here for a slightly different feel.
To give the loop a deeper feel, we’ll add a sampled synth chord stab on the first offbeat of each bar. Sampling chords is a classic deep house technique which blurs the lines between your drum pattern and the synth elements of your track. Sample a chord (minor 7ths and 9th work well), then shorten its envelope to make it work as a rhythmic one-shot. The classic technique here is to sample an analogue synth, but absolutely anything can work, so experiment with different synths and patches. Mellower sounds tend to work best. Be sure to tune the sample to match the key of your track.
It’s at this stage that you can really determine the personality of the groove. Busier stab patterns can fill the gaps between the other drum hits, while pitching the stab sample up and down to follow the chord progression of your track can also work well.
The final step is to add a percussion loop. This is mixed in very quietly to add a subtle background groove. We’ve picked a loop that fits well with this beat, but if the loop you choose has very loose timing then you may need to quantise it slightly or slide some of the other drum hits backwards and forwards until the timing’s just right.
At heart this is a very simple beat – a straightforward kick, hi-hat and clap pattern with just a few ghost hits, some chord stabs and a percussion loop to give it its personality. The main trick is to choose suitably old school sounds. Sample selection is just as important as the pattern itself here.
If you enjoyed this tutorial you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.