Something a bit more complex this week – a deep and funky organic-flecked tech-house beat created using a mix of straightforward programming and analogue audio processing.
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:
Soundsmix of organic and synthetic
Let’s start with the kick. We’re looking for something with depth, bite and body. Because no single kick’s doing the job we’ve chosen two different samples that complement each other, one supplying the powerful low end, and the second strong in snappy mids. When layering drum sounds, spend time searching for the right original samples; although you can do a certain amount to sculpt the sounds with EQ and transient shaping tools, you’ll always end up with something better if your source material is strong.
We’re using three different hi-hat samples. Hat 1 is a short, tight sound that reinforces the kick drum; it is mixed very low. Hat 2, again mixed low, adds bulk to Hat 3. Hat 3 is the most important of the three: a smooth, synthetic semi-open sound. Varying the interplay of velocity and note length bestows a nice slinky groove. The humble hi-hat is often overlooked by beat makers, but clever hat programming can deliver serious groove to a bog-standard rhythm.
Now let’s layer up a killer snare/clap combo. If you’ve got a superb sample palette, amazing sound design skills or you’re very lucky you might find a single clap and snare that work well together – and with the rest of the beat – in a matter of minutes. Often it takes longer. In this example we’ve pushed the boundaries somewhat and ended up with a layered combo made up of five separate sounds (shown as Clap/snare below).
Each sample is chosen for a specific sonic reason, and each sound fills out its own bracketed frequency range. (We’ve got: low tuned hit, solid machine hit, higher live hit, wide clap hit and high double-hit.) The start time of each sample is carefully moved so that each triggers at a slightly different time to ensure that the final sound feels like a single hit – rather than an awkward and messy mix of five.
To add depth, character and sonic glue to the beat, it’s time to bring in a loop or two. Although they’ll not play a key role, their presence serves to add a third dimension and complexity to the beat – alongside, in this instance, a slight live shuffle. There are a range of sample companies offering bang-on-the-money loops for this kind of purpose. The skill is in picking one that works in the context of your own groove, and then re-sequencing it and sculpting it using EQ and compression / transient designers so that it doesn’t overpower the beat foundation created in Steps 1-3. It’s also worth experimenting with the stereo width of the sampled loop: in this example we have placed some of the sounds in mono and others in stereo to help generate more dynamic and organic space. The audio plays our mix of the sampled elements, EQd, compressed and re-sequenced to work in our groove.
Time to bring it all together. The loop is imported into the project alongside the layered clap/snare combo and it’s sounding pretty full. To add a little final movement we’ve added a couple of additional snare hits. This serves to break and enhance the groove before repeating again at the end for an additional layer of organic movement.
If you enjoyed this tutorial you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.