Zedara

Music Production and Promotion Tips

Programming Drums

Posted on | July 2, 2012 | No Comments

Whether you’re a maker of Jazz, rock and roll, Dubstep or Hip Hop, advances in musical technology over the last 15-20 years have made it possible for the average Joe bedroom musician to program their own drum beats on a computer rather than having to rely on standard recordings and bland, rehashed and reused loops. There are loads of ways to program drums now, and it can be a bit of  a minefield getting started, so here is Zedara’s guide to programming drums.

Firstly, you’ll need a DAW. “A What?!” Digital Audio Workstation, a program that allows you to put multiple tracks together and start to build a song. This is the very core of making music on a computer and you may well already have experience with one. My personal weapon of choice is the amazing Logic Pro Studio, but it’s not cheap, and for beginners I would recommend starting out with something like Fruity Loops or Reaper. I’m not going to go into the specifics of starting new tracks on these pieces of software, otherwise this article might end up the size of a Tolstoy book, so you’ll have to refer to a manual for that .

From here, you have a couple of choices. You can use a VSTi or virtual instrument to create your drum loops, or you can drag and drop the samples yourself. What’s the difference? Well, a Virtual Instrument such as Logic’s ESX24 will allow you to load all of your drum sounds onto a midi track, and play it like any other instrument, or map out the MIDI keys manually. This might be a good call for a beginner, and a good way to get started in creating beats, but for the most control, I would suggest that you add tracks manually and drag and drop the samples, simply because it gives you much more control over things like effects once the beat has been made.

You’ll need a good set of sounds to get on your way, too. Fortunately, lots of the more expensive softwares come with loads of samples to get you on your way. Logic has a load of drum kits and samples to get started with. Failing this, unfortunately you may have to open your wallet for good quality samples, but to get yourself going, google ‘free drum hits’ or ‘free drum samples’ and you’ll find some useful sounds.

Finally, you’ll need an understanding of music, and the genre you are creating drums for. For example. a Dubstep beat, nine times out of ten will be at 140 bpm, and the time signature is 4/4. If this is gobbledegook, make sure you look for some information on beats, bars, time signatures and tempos to get a grasp of the subject. If you want to make Dance music, you’ll want a tempo around 123-130bpm, drum and bass is at about 165-170, the list goes on. Listening to music that you hope to emulate and taking tips like this are fine, just make sure you dont end up copying them outright.

Drums are the basis of most types of music, and are important to get right. If you can program beats well, you’re half way to a decent track. It’s an art that takes a lot more than what I’ve mentioned above to master, but keep going and you’ll get there. Happy drumming folks.

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