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The MIDI Drum Tips page 2                                                  page  1  2

Write Original Drum Tracks

Fast and Furious in a MIDI Sequencer

by Rich the Tweak


Here's how to write drum tracks really fast on a midi sequencer.  Don't let the simplicity of my approach fool you into thinking this is an article for beginners. OK, lots of pros know about this, but I'll bet many an intermediate tweak does not.  What I am talking about here is a "way of working" a "workflow" so to speak, which will work no matter what type of music you are doing.   The goal is to build a drum track for a song in about the same amount of time as it would take to audition a bunch of loops to find the right one.  Except here, at the end, you have a totally original drum track that, instead of staying the same as the song progresses, moves and breathes with the song.  This method works in the midi domain of a sequencer.  Because we are using midi and not audio, we don't have to mess with time stretching or beat chopping or any of that.  We can tailor the drums to fit perfectly, change tempos, add fills and lead-ins with zero problems.  It will work with software drum machines, real drum machines, samplers, and synth drum sets equally well. 

Drums for the Verse

This 16 bar pattern will fit a typical "Verse" section<<Selection in Document>> in a standard pop song.  Using this method you can have it done in minutes and it will be totally original, with no looping.

Step 1:  Define a one bar pattern you really like. Just one.  So work hard on it ok?  Add a groove quantize template or spend time with the way the kicks roll out or the way the snare sits up.  Don't adorn it with too much clutter, just make it basic, tight, catchy.

Step 2: Click on the pattern.  Press CNTL (or Copy) and drag (or paste) it to the next bar to the right.  Merge the 2 so it's now a 2 bar pattern.  Make a few subtle changes to bar 2, for instance drop out a hi hat or move a kick to an 8th note.


Note the changes made to the kicks, and how the 1st snare in  the 2nd bar is moved up, and the slight variation in the high hats.
Listen to this example  (short mp3 file)


Step 3: Click on the pattern.  Press CNTL (or Copy) and drag (or paste) it to the next bar to the right.  Merge the 2 so it's now a 4 bar pattern.  Make a few subtle changes to bar 4, for instance add a hi hat at 16th notes or add a flam to a snare.

Step 4: Click on the pattern.  Press CNTL  (or Copy) and drag (or paste) it to the next bar to the right.  Merge the 2 so it's now a 8 bar pattern.  Make a few subtle changes to bar 8, for instance a little tom action or some snare action resembling a roll or mini-fill. 

Step 5: Click on the pattern.  Press CNTL (or Copy) and drag (or paste) it to the next bar to the right.  Merge the 2 so it's now a 16 bar pattern.  Make significant change to bar 16, because this is a major pillar if the song, you should design this fill to lead into the next part of the music. 


Drums for the Chorus

When you do the "chorus" use the same basic pattern but make the hits louder.  You might change from playing hi hats to crash cymbals at certain points, or add a tambourine track to replace the hi hats.  After you define 1 bar of your chorus, work just as we did above, with subtle changes at first.  As you approach bar 8 of the chorus, you want to drum up some excitement as the song should be peaking here.  



large product image

Battery is a great way to to get drum sounds in your mix



Drums for the Verse II

Yep.  Simple as pie.  Copy bars 1-16 to Verse II.  No, don't leave them that way, go in and make a few subtle changes here and there.  Move a few kicks, alter the rhythmic pattern of the hi hats but keep it close.  This is all you have to do to keep the listener's ear from going "aha, that's a copy of verse 1".  In particular, make sure you go back and change the fills at bar 8 and 16. 

Drums for the Chorus II

Oh, you have the secret now.  Just copy Chorus I to Chorus II.  Go in and make it a little different, typically a little louder, and throw in something that might be expected, but in a different way, like a cymbal choke, a tom build, add a bit more drama

Drums for the Intro, Break, Ending

Depends on the song of course, but these are the most fun to program.  And you'll be having more fun because following this recipe you'll have saved a lot of the drudge work in coming up with a totally original track

Summing Up

What is cool is that all these subtle small changes add up.  While every bar has the same basic foundation, every bar is different, which lends to the perception a real drummer might be at work.  As you go back and fine tune your part, ask yourself, "What would a real drummer do here?" Those final edits can really make the track standout, and you will be the envy of those who think drum programming is hard and time consuming.  Shhh... don't worry, I won't tell.





Take my Tip and use it well,

All the best,
Rich the Tweak

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Cool Quote:

"...a vigorous and straightforward rhythm should be given to the bass drum, cymbals and gong.  The strokes on these instruments should almost invariably correspond to the strong beats of the bar, highly accented syncopated notes or disconnected sforzandi..."

Principles of Orchestration


More Articles on Recording and Composition by Tweak

Recording and Composition INDEX
Recording Process Made Simple
Inspiration and Style
Step-by-Step: How to write a Song
Write Drum tracks without a Drummer
Hip Hop Beat Construction Made Simple
Hip Hop Production and Mixing
Hip Hop Drum Tweaks
Using Electronic Drum Kits
How to Record Vocals
Preparing for a Vocal Session
Vocal Processing
Recording Guitars
Using Compressors
Using Effects Processors
Buying a MultiTrack: Watch Out!
Using an AW1600 Recorder
Podcasting from your Home Studio
MultiTrack Recorder Price List
Outboard FX Price List
Studio Racks List


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