In the latest Beat Dissected, we construct a shuffling garage beat laced with swing.
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:
SoundsVarious Layered Drums
For the kick we’ve chosen a 909-based sample. In this case the basic 909 hit is layered with some percussion parts to add character. We’ve used shaker and maraca sounds but you can experiment with any type of percussion as well as closed hi-hat sounds to give the 909 a distinctive flavour. A very gently hit of tape saturation completes the sound.
The kick pattern is fairly complex (although it’ll make much more sense in the next step, when we add the snare hits). There’s a hit on the first beat of each bar, but the other three hits are off the beat. Note that some of the hits are triggered at a lower velocity. These aren’t quite ghost hits, but the velocity variation emphasises the groove of the beat.
The snare sound is based on an Alesis DM5 hit which has been layered with another snare sample from a Roland JD-990 expansion card. An Alesis HR-16 clap has been tucked underneath at a low level just to add a little extra character. We’ve pitched the hits to work together and shortened the release, then added a sample of vinyl dust for some extra character and grit. The EQ on the snare layers cuts off the snare layers, then we’ve added some subtle compression and room reverb for depth.
The snare is a simple pattern on the second and fourth beat of each bar, with an added ghost hit right at the end of the bar. Note how the snares play around the kick drums.
For the hat pattern we’ve created our own sound based on a 909 hit but with an added stereo effect by panning one copy of the sample to the left and one to the right. The key to making the combined hat sound wide is to alter the start times of the two hats in relation to each other, and to add variation to the pitch and amp envelopes. One hat was was pitched down 5 steps and the other 4. Reverb was added for extra character, as shown.
The hat pattern again fills some of the gaps left by the kick and snare, with extensive use of ghost hits for groove.
Our shaker part uses a similar approach to the hats, spreading the stereo image using two copies of the same sample (in this case a live shaker sample). Any kind of shaker or similar percussion sound can work for this pattern. We’ve mixed it relatively quietly to avoid dominating the groove.
For extra character, we’ve added a snap sample, mirroring the snare on the second and fourth hits of each bar. The reason we’ve chosen to program this as a separate hit rather than layering it with the snare is so that we can vary the patterns slightly. In this case we’re not mirroring the ghost hit at the end of the bar, but you could also use the snap to add extra ghost hits around the existing snares.
Our sample here comes from an Alesis D4. We’ve pitched it up one step and tightened up the release. Just as with the snare we’ve added a slight hint of room reverb.
For the last step, we’ve grabbed a vocal shout from a vocal recording session. A lot of sample library companies have releases dedicated to vocals and vocal snippets, so finding one to fit this kind of beat is just about choosing the right type of sound and the proper editing/processing.
The pattern is very simple, but pay close attention to the tuning of the vocal snippet; if your sample has a distinct pitch, you’ll need to make sure it’s in tune with the other melodic elements of your track.
If you enjoyed this tutorial you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.