Knowing the drums and the beat
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Old 15-02-2012, 03:23 PM   #1
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Knowing the drums and the beat

Hi guys.

I am really interested in how to get my head around understanding the beat and getting it to sound right and realistic. I've been trying to create some beats with drums, but they tend to sound really fake (I use vengeance and I am not too sure what I'm doing when compressing everything) and the beat (if not the basic one) just doesn't sound right. Except for a kick and a snare (and cymbals) i am not even sure what else to add. I did my research and tried to get a hang of it, but I just don't feel it. Do you guys have any tips on how to 'hear' the drums and how to feel the beat and know how to compose it? I know it will take time and practice, but the problem is I don't know what I should be practicing and how.

Thanks for any help

and I am not too sure what kind of music I am getting into, so I just want to learn the overall beat and drums rules. I've been listening too a good range of tracks, trying to catch it, but just can't recreate it :/ even tried writing it down, but I am useless

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Old 15-02-2012, 04:10 PM   #2
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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Originally Posted by Goshyax View Post

but they tend to sound really fake
I guess what you mean is that it sounds too rigid and like very bad computer music.

First thing to understand is that at the very basic level when you are composing music in any time signature is to understand the basic accents. In 4/4 the most emphasis is on the 1st beat of the bar, and then the next emphasised note is the 3rd beat. so 1, 2, 3, 4.

So when you are programming your beats, make sure that this is evident in your velocities. Don't just have your beats at the same velocity, you can give them feeling with changing the velocities to accentuate different beats.

Second - sometimes everything dead on the beat is a little bit boring... learn how to use swing quantization... this will make your drums less rigid and computer sounding.

Quote:
(I use vengeance and I am not too sure what I'm doing when compressing everything)
Firstly don't compress everything. Secondly, maybe stay away from the compressor until you understand it. It actually isn't that esoteric, it merely increases or decreases the gain by a certain ratio whenever the threshold is triggered. Until you really understand compression you are more than likely going to ruin your mix by using it willy nilly.

Quote:
and the beat (if not the basic one) just doesn't sound right. Except for a kick and a snare (and cymbals) i am not even sure what else to add. I did my research and tried to get a hang of it, but I just don't feel it. Do you guys have any tips on how to 'hear' the drums and how to feel the beat and know how to compose it? I know it will take time and practice, but the problem is I don't know what I should be practicing and how.
You know I am going to come up against those people who always argue against getting music lesson...
but to me it sounds like you could really do with some Aural Musicianship classes... where you get to clap different rhythms and where you can get a more tangible feeling of how beats work with different rhythms and time signatures and stuff. I would recommend finding a hot young percussion teacher... who can play clapping games with you, and teach you a bit about rhythm and drums... and maybe.... juts maybe... mmmm hot young uni student percussion teacher.... with glasses, who knows how to bang stuff hard. mmm aural.

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Old 15-02-2012, 04:21 PM   #3
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

mote pretty much covered how to make drums sound more 'human'.
But for a 4/4 time signature, the basic rules are:
snare almost ubiquitously on beats 2 and 4, kick on beat 1 and then usually beat 3. You can add pre- or post- kicks, so there would be a bass drum on beats 3 and 2 1/2 or 3 and 3 1/2, or 1 and 4 1/2, etc. You can also have kicks on just (eg.) 3 1/2, not 3.

The more kicks, generally, the more energetic. Heavy metal drumming has lots of double bass drumming, so there might be kicks on 2 3/4 and 3 (ie. two hits in quick succession), and also more kicks generally. Another common beat is 'four on the floor', or a kick on every beat.

Half time drums are basically hit after twice the wait. So kick on 1 and 3 and snare on 2 and 4 would become kick on 1, snare on 3. Double time is the opposite.

Hihats are usually played on every 1/8th note. Open hihats for more energy, rides for even more energy (they're sometimes played only every 1/4 note though). Crash cymals occasionally occur on the first beat of the bar.

Basically, stick a kick on beat 1, snares on 2 and 4, and mess about adding kicks in almost wherever else you want. You'll soon find a good groove. Add hihats to taste.

I'd also be curious to know how people generally compose more complex fills and rolls, though.
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Old 15-02-2012, 04:22 PM   #4
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

I know I have gaps in music theory (even though I played classical guitar for 7 years - shame on me) and I would definitely be up for music lessons if I had the money to do it. When I started playing around with composing I wanted to get piano lessons, but once I saw the prices I gave up that idea. Hot, young, uni student percussion teacher you say? I actually do know a guy who studies drums... I will give that a go and see if he'd be up for teaching me a thing or two. I don't know him well, so it may be a bit awkward 'hey.. we never talk... but yeah, teach me drums... would you?'

You are definitely right about compression... and everything else basically. I know what to use and when I am supposed to use it, but I don't fully understand everything. However, the advice I get is 'learn on your mistakes' but tbh. I don't know what the mistakes are, so how am I supposed to learn from that. meh
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Old 15-02-2012, 04:29 PM   #5
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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Originally Posted by mote. View Post
to me it sounds like you could really do with some Aural Musicianship classes... where you get to clap different rhythms and where you can get a more tangible feeling of how beats work with different rhythms and time signatures and stuff.
REALLY?!? REALLY?!?!?!

any way moving on....

i think the best part of what you said is that you know you need to listen out for all the little placements of drums that come up time and time again in a genre and help define that genre.
the best thing to do imo is listen and listen and listen to the kind of music you want to make and things will start to pop out at you and you'l be desperate to go back to your DAW and try it.

I listened my way through all sorts of genres i was trying to make, immersing myself in them for a bit before i really got the hang of how to make them. now last night i made a house track (probably only ever made one other house track) but i made the drums in about 5 mins because of all the listening id done while i was starting out

i used this to learn production techniques too before i had this site to ask on

in short... yeah go and get a woman to clap at you

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Old 15-02-2012, 04:29 PM   #6
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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Originally Posted by Feral_P View Post
I'd also be curious to know how people generally compose more complex fills and rolls, though.
When I asked my producer/DJ friend about that, he said "just use your imagination and let the creativity do the work". Easy for him to say. I think what he said might be useful if you know all the tricks behind the drums (he played drums all his life) and it comes naturally. Otherwise, I suppose it is trial and error. but if someone has any advice on that I wouldn't mind learning about it.

Feral_P, thanks for that info on where to put what, I'll definitely have a play around with this!
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Old 15-02-2012, 04:31 PM   #7
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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Originally Posted by Goshyax View Post
When I asked my producer/DJ friend about that, he said "just use your imagination and let the creativity do the work". Easy for him to say. I think what he said might be useful if you know all the tricks behind the drums (he played drums all his life) and it comes naturally. Otherwise, I suppose it is trial and error. but if someone has any advice on that I wouldn't mind learning about it.

Feral_P, thanks for that info on where to put what, I'll definitely have a play around with this!
listening for rhythms is hard but listening to the right sounds for the right place is much harder and takes longer imo

like try doing fills with your full snare and it will be too heavy and not right

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Old 15-02-2012, 04:32 PM   #8
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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in short... yeah go and get a woman to clap at you
I think I'd rather have a man clap at me. If I had a woman clapping at me it would probably end up in a cat fight of some sort
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Old 15-02-2012, 04:37 PM   #9
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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I think I'd rather have a man clap at me. If I had a woman clapping at me it would probably end up in a cat fight of some sort
oh so you're a lass then? or maybe im just not following lol

well yeah if you have a sarcasm monitor then you may have noticed im against paying someone to help you with rhythms like a child when you've played classical guitar for that many years

and also like i said i believe that listening for the sounds to be used is harder then where they should be placed and a clappy man wouldnt be able to help you with that one bit... unless he had multi timbral hands lol

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Old 15-02-2012, 09:21 PM   #10
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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Hi guys. (I use vengeance and I am not too sure what I'm doing when compressing everything)
I kind of figured that was *why* people bought vengeance packs.

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Old 15-02-2012, 09:43 PM   #11
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

Listen very carefully to the widest variety of drumming you can.

Listen to a lot of jazz with good drummers. I don't know any names off the top of my head but that shit is choice. and any progressive music, especially from around the 60s and 70s, will probably have good drums to study.

and the best thing you can possibly do is learn to actually play drums. any kind of drums, a kit, congas and bongos, a mothafuckin timpani, any kind of drum.

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Old 15-02-2012, 09:49 PM   #12
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

Type Steve Gadd into Youtube.

Otherwise, wait and hope that Vlantis comes and clears this mess up.
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Old 15-02-2012, 09:58 PM   #13
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

Alls i can add to the suggestions is just realize it takes practice and time. My first couple of beats sounded like they were coming from a shitty casio keyboard and wouldn't make a single person move. Now they sound rather organic and dance-able. Just be patient and it will come with time. Keep making beats even if they sound awful.

(i taught myself how to play the drums and have been playing them for about 7 years now for what that is worth)
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Old 15-02-2012, 10:39 PM   #14
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

I agree with the whole "listen to music" advice. It's one of the easiest ways to learn because you'll have an impulse to copy the style of a certain song on your daw. You'll end up playing with your sounds until you have something that sounds exactly like a song you may be trying to imitate.

I just started producing house and just started listening to house. I admit that I wasn't great when I first started, but after constantly listening to house I know I'm a whole lot better. The more you start listening to a certain genre, the more you start learning progressions, structures, drops, etc.
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Old 15-02-2012, 10:58 PM   #15
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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I agree with the whole "listen to music" advice. It's one of the easiest ways to learn because you'll have an impulse to copy the style of a certain song on your daw. You'll end up playing with your sounds until you have something that sounds exactly like a song you may be trying to imitate.

I just started producing house and just started listening to house. I admit that I wasn't great when I first started, but after constantly listening to house I know I'm a whole lot better. The more you start listening to a certain genre, the more you start learning progressions, structures, drops, etc.
i've never tried to copy other people's sounds so much, i do it more for the fact that i have a really vivid aural memory so once i've heard something once or a few times, i can call it back up with a fair amount of detail. i think of it the same way that you might build a library of licks that you can play on an instrument, or maybe like a skateboarder learning different tricks and ways to manipulate the board and their own mass.

but yeah regardless if you think of it like i do or not, imitation is a time proven method of learning. just have to find the right method for your own perception.

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Old 15-02-2012, 11:15 PM   #16
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

And if you're having trouble (or, like me, are too lazy to bother) working out the rhythm of a particular song, you can always look up the drum tabs for it. They're really easy to read, even for non-drummers.
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Old 15-02-2012, 11:28 PM   #17
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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i've never tried to copy other people's sounds so much, i do it more for the fact that i have a really vivid aural memory so once i've heard something once or a few times, i can call it back up with a fair amount of detail. i think of it the same way that you might build a library of licks that you can play on an instrument, or maybe like a skateboarder learning different tricks and ways to manipulate the board and their own mass.

but yeah regardless if you think of it like i do or not, imitation is a time proven method of learning. just have to find the right method for your own perception.
i see what you're saying but i dont think it applies to this situation

if you want to make uk garage you have to listen to the drums for ages to get the rhythms and the types of drums hits used. its not copying the artist, it's trying to learn how to make uk garage drums by disecting it in your head

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Old 15-02-2012, 11:44 PM   #18
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

that's basically what i said though... but what i'm saying is that i learn enough from listening intently that i don't have to do so much actual imitation in order to get a sound i know in my head... some people need that tactile experience for things to sink in.

like i said copying others is a time proven method of learning. Some people learn much better that way. now if all you ever do is actively copy others that's bad, but imitating things is an important process in learning. just like to learn an instrument, you typically learn existing pieces of music in order to understand the music and learn the physical methods of your craft.

and since everyone's perception is a bit different and everyone's brains work a bit different, every individual has to find their own optimal way of learning. for me listening intently is often enough.

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Old 16-02-2012, 12:30 AM   #19
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

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Originally Posted by ghytwembpang View Post
that's basically what i said though... but what i'm saying is that i learn enough from listening intently that i don't have to do so much actual imitation in order to get a sound i know in my head... some people need that tactile experience for things to sink in.

like i said copying others is a time proven method of learning. Some people learn much better that way. now if all you ever do is actively copy others that's bad, but imitating things is an important process in learning. just like to learn an instrument, you typically learn existing pieces of music in order to understand the music and learn the physical methods of your craft.

and since everyone's perception is a bit different and everyone's brains work a bit different, every individual has to find their own optimal way of learning. for me listening intently is often enough.
ah hah! fair enough, im with ya buddy

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Old 16-02-2012, 01:02 AM   #20
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Re: Knowing the drums and the beat

Understanding rhythm can be a very deep topic. Colleges teach full courses on just that topic alone. It's going to take a lot of time and even more practice before you'll really understand it. A lot of music genres can actually be defined by the rhythmic patterns they use. I can only really give you advice on electronic music, mainly house because that's what I have experience with.

I think the best advice I can give you would be to just play around with the basics. Every house tune has to have a kick, clap, snare and tops (hihats, etc..). Doesn't necessary have to have all of them, and can obviously have more percussion instruments too. Those are the absolute basics and you need to start there.

The best way to make your drums not sound so machine/computer like is by how you process them. Adjusting things like the velocity and panning can really help. Adding reverb to claps or other percussion can also help them sound more "authentic". Filtering the EQ, adjusting attack, and decay settings will help them fit with the rest of your mix.

A lot of good feedback in here. Might also help to look at different drum sample packs. Especially if you're going for something more acoustic, because the vengeance packs won't help you there.

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