In our latest beat construction tutorial we focus on a rough, dirty house beat inspired by the likes of Levon Vincent, Anthony Naples and Huerco S.
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.
SoundsMix of organic drum sounds and treated samples
Start with a straight four-to-the-floor kick. We’ve gone for a hybrid sound built from a 909 sample layered with an acoustic hit to give a mixture of low-end weight and mid-range punch. Although kick drums are rarely treated to reverb, this beat demands it. The secret is in how the reverb tail is sculpted. Ensure you cut the lows from the reverb return to avoid clogging up the bottom end of the mix. Adjust the decay of the tail so that it just bleeds into the next kick hit – the exact time will depend on the tempo of your track. (Click the images to enlarge.)
The tom hits work with the kick to add a subtle bounce to the beat. In terms of the sound itself, we don’t want anything too imposing; we’ve gone for a sample of a live tom which we’ve then bitcrushed and EQd heavily to narrow the frequency range it sits in. Note the velocity variations that help give the groove its momentum, with the hit just after the first kick of each bar delivering a barely audible ghost hit. Note also how low this tom part is mixed, taking a back seat to the other percussive elements that are to be added.
Next up are two organic shaker parts, one slightly higher in pitch and significantly higher in volume to the other. Choose a sample that has enough decay to fill the spaces in the beat and one that has both mid-range body and a certain amount of old-school grit (if it’s sounding a bit too ‘nice’, then try passing the sample through a subtle saturation or tape plugin). Note the tuning of the shaker lines in relation to the tom; tweak the tuning of all three until there’s an effective tonal interplay between the parts. Finally, send a little signal from each shaker to the same reverb used on the kick.
Yet more reverb is introduced with the claps and a tambourine line. The tambouring mirrors some of the clap hits to add a little extra high-end punch. Again, note the different velocity levels of the clap hits, essential for adding life to the part. Also note how some of the claps are triggered very slightly before the beat, adding interest and a touch of wonkiness to the groove. It’s worth pointing out too that the clap ‘fill’ doesn’t have to be included in every other bar; you can choose to roll it out only for transitions or turnarounds at the end of sections. The reverb used on the clap and tambourine is different to the snare one: a longer tailed plate that fills in the gaps between hits.
The high-end is comprehensively filled out with a hi-hat line and a layered tambourine/shaker. The former plays selectively to energise certain parts of the beat, while the latter plays 16ths. Applying swing to the tambourine/shaker part will have a major impact on the feel of the beat, so experiment carefully to find the setting which works best. The changes in velocity across both lines are paramount; it may be time-consuming to tweak every hit but it pays dividends in terms of the final result. A little reverb on these last two sounds helps tie everything together.
To download the samples for this beat, click here.
If you enjoyed this tutorial you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.