Drum Pattern
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5 Effective EDM Drum Patterns Every Producer Needs

What’s shakin’ bacon? Ya’ll ready to learn some shi—stuff?

Crafting a mesmerizing groove is a hallmark of successful electronic tracks, and these super secret, never-before-seen drum patterns are your ticket to getting the dance floor moving! I’m joking, these patterns have been seen, and used a million times…because they work.

So, having them in your repertoire of beats to use and build from is a great starting point for just about anyone. From beginners to your favorite professional artists, these drum patterns are a great way to get your music flowing.

What is Drum Pattern Programming?

Drum pattern programming involves creating rhythmic sequences of drum sounds using a digital audio workstation (DAW) or drum machine. It’s a fundamental aspect of music production, especially in genres like electronic, hip-hop, and pop, where drums play a crucial role in giving people energy and keeping them on their feet.

Through programming, producers arrange various drum sounds (kicks, snares, hi-hats, toms, etc.) in a specific sequence to form a beat or groove. This process allows for precise control over timing, accents, and patterns, enabling producers to craft unique and captivating rhythms that drive the energy of a track.

Reasons You Need to Know These Drum Patterns

Let’s face it. If you are interested in producing music, especially EDM, then you are probably familiar with the sound of some of the drum patterns you will see below.

You have probably heard the term four on the floor before, and when I mention the dubstep drum pattern you can probably picture that hard hitting kick and snare, but were you aware that it’s called the “cut-time” groove?

Not only will knowing these drum patterns enhance your music (and shorten your time stumbling around trying to figure it out, or watching long winded YouTube videos), but it will also give you a deeper understanding of the music you listen to.

The Quintessential Drum Patterns

When it comes to drum patterns, by nature they are less loose and free like the melody is. They follow rigid framework and rules, and that is because they are providing every part of the song with that same structure so that other sounds can be free to do their thing.

So in a sense, programming drum patterns is the easy part. At least following the basic drum patterns is. Every drum pattern can be built upon to become more complex, but even if you look at complex drum patterns you will begin to notice the basic framework that they were built upon.

Drum Terms You Need to Know

  • Kick – The kick drum is also know as the bass drum, and is the largest of the drums. It provides the deep bass thump the echoes from the stage.
  • Snare – The snare drum is the snappy sounding drum the usually follows the kick. It is often the drum you hear most when you picture military marches.
  • Hi-Hat – The hi-hats are named in pairs even though it is only one part. The hi-hat can be opened, where both cymbals are separated from each other, and closed where the top cymbal is resting on the bottom cymbal. The open cymbal provides a sound that will ring for several seconds (or until closed) and the closed hat provides a quick tick of a sound. Closed hi-hats are used more often, while open hi-hat provides a quick accent to a pattern.
  • Cymbal – The cymbal is the big crashy metal disk that rings out, usually for several seconds, unless muted.
  • Toms – Hi, I’m Tom! (I’m Nathan). Toms are warmer sounding drums than snares, and are often used for drum fills, but can be used in all music for just about any purpose as well.
  • Percussion – Technically, all drums are part of the percussion section. However, when talking to music producers, people often refer to percussion as items like cowbell, maracas, tambourine’s, etc. Pretty much anything that is not a part of the main kit.
  • Bar – The bar is a place you go to grab drinks with friends. A bar is a section of your music that usually contains 4 beats, as most modern and popular music is written in 4/4 time.
  • Tempo – Tempo is the speed of your song in Beats Per Minute (BPM). If your song is 60bpm, you will have 1 beat per second.
  • Beat – The beat is the physical representation of the tempo of the song. As previously said, a bar usually contains 4 beats.

This can be interpreted as:

Quarter Notes (1/4): 1 2 3 4

Eight Notes (1/8): 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Sixteenth Notes (1/16): 1-e-&-a-2-e-&-a-3-e-&-a-4-e-&-a

Four on the Floor

Four on the floor is probably one of the most widely used patterns. It is a very simple pattern, so simple in fact, that you can get away with calling it four on the floor with only four kicks per bar with each kick landing on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th beats of each bar.

This pattern is great for just about any tempo, however typical house music at around 128bpm is nearly perfect. A good effective range for this pattern is 88-140bpm.

This is the simplest form of four on the floor and while many would consider it boring, there is a time and place for everything.

To add a layer of depth to your pattern, place snares, claps, stomps, or other snappy elements layered with the 2nd and 4th kick in every bar. Hi-hats are a great addition that add movement, and should be placed as eighths or sixteenths. There are many different tricks you can do with hi-hats as well to add variation.

As with all drum patterns, you can layer other elements on top of this, such as tambourines, drum loops, and other sounds and effects. One important thing to note is that when using loops and sounds from other people, make sure the loop matches the tempo of your song. Luckily, Apple Loops follow the key and tempo of your song, so when you place it in your track area, it will automatically match your drums.

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The Two and Four

The Two and Four drum beat is very similar to the Four on the Floor, except the difference is the kick mainly sticks to the 1st and 3rd beat, while the snare’s take over the 2nd and 4th beat. Similarly, it works well between 88-140 BPMs, with 128bpm being that sweet middle spot.

Not that it is a hard and fast rule, but if your entire song just has a kick on 1 and 3, and a snare hit on 2 and 4, the song is going to get very tedious to listen to. Start by experimenting with variation, add additional kicks, add some more snares. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and drums are certainly no exception.

If you want to make your drums sound a little more human, add some variation, as well as swing to your programming. Additionally, the velocity of your notes can really make a massive difference in the way each hit is perceived by your listener.

Velocity in layman’s terms, is how hard that aspect of the drum is being hit. If you think of it as yourself hitting the drum element, 100 would be you are hitting it as hard as you can, whereas 1 would be barely a tap. Accompany that with a little swing and you will have a more natural sounding drum pattern.

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Dubstep (Cut time)

THE DUBSTEP DRUM BEAT!

It’s actually remarkably easy, and at the same time, a massively frustrating beat to perfect. You place the kick on the 1st beat, and the snare on the 3rd beat when you’re working with a tempo of 140 BPM.

The hi-hats you place in every beat. You can place them as eighths or sixteenths, as previously said, depending on how fast you want the beat to feel.

In my opinion, the reason this particular pattern is so easy, but also frustrating is because if you are trying to play dubstep and have some hard-hitting bass lines in there…the drums can be easily overpowered by those sounds, and sound as if they barely exist.

If you choose to use royalty free sounds, selecting the proper sounding kicks and drums is what separates beginners from pros. I try not to say the talented from the not-talented, as I believe talent doesn’t exist, it is merely the proper application of time and knowledge so therefore it is skill, and skill can be learned. Choosing the proper sounds will come when you learn to refine your listening skills, and active listening is one way to learn this skill.

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Dubstep Drum Pattern

No Beat!

One of the hardest things that I needed to learn, and still struggle with, is over-doing it on the drums. Sometimes you just want a sick, never ending drum pattern. However, this sucks if you want to build tension, there should always be some space and breaks between segments of a song.

Or, you could always slow the drums way down, and speed them up when necessary.

But,

Just like every other instrument you’re using, drums should not be playing the entire song.

They certainly can, but remember to add rests, and reintroduce the drums when they are needed. Especially if you can’t figure out how to make the drums sound good in a certain section.

One way to combat this is by using another element of your songs, such as whatever instrument you have laying down your chords. Instead of having entire bars worth of notes being held, make your chords chop up into quarter or eighth notes to add some rhythm while your drums are taking a break.

Reggaeton!

This is a signature beat that just about everyone can instantly recognize. This beat is best programmed between 90-100 BPM, but anywhere from 88-110 will be okay as well. If you go too fast with this pattern, it will begin to take away the effects of the chilled vibe of the beat.

It is created by doing a typical Four on the Floor kick pattern, and then stacking your snare on the 3rd and 6th sixteenth note every two beats for a total of 4 snare hits and 4 kicks per bar.

This particular pattern requires no additional hi-hats, but layering them in, or adding loops is a great way to enhance the sound. Remember, these are basic drum patterns, this is not advanced drum work. Keep experimenting and layering different loops, effects, and sounds until you get something that you like.

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Key Considerations For Successfully Programming Drum Patterns

Drums are, by their nature, very structured and repetitive elements of a song. It is the part people dance to, and people dancing like patterns! You have to remember to add variation and swing to your drum pattern, though, otherwise it comes off robotic.

You can experiment with so many different patterns, and possibly create your own style by following the simple rules of structure and framework of other drum patterns.

One way to change the feel of your drum pattern is to experiment with different types of drum elements such as different kicks and snares, or change your snares to claps or stomps, or your hi-hat to a cowbell…because it needs more cowbell.

That last part is a joke from Saturday Night Live if you didn’t catch the reference. Don’t go adding a ton of cowbell to your music all Willy Nilly.

You should also divide your drums up onto separate tracks so that you can experiment with different instrument samples without affecting all of the drums. So your kick will be on one track, snare on another, hi-hat on another, etc.

Taking it to the Next Level: How to go Beyond Basic Drum Patterns

These basic drum patterns are not complete without additional instruments added to really flesh out their sounds.

You can add sound loops to your beats to add more depth to them such as percussion elements like tambourines. These overlay sounds to add more randomness and chaos to your pattern.

Logic Pro and GarageBand is amazing for this as Apple provides tens of thousands of royalty free loops known as Apple Loops that actually scale to the BPM and key signature of your project.

You can also use whatever weird sounds you find out there to different elements of your drums like downer on your snares and kicks, bells and whistles, whatever royalty free sounds you can find.

Make sure the sounds you are using are always royalty free sounds so you don’t get sued. This is why I recommend using a royalty free sample library like Splice.

Alternatives to MIDI Drum Patterns

There are several alternatives to programming your drum patterns with MIDI. The first of which is called “Drummer.” Drummer is an AI driven…drummer. If you picture a person sitting inside your device, and you tell them what to do, they will play some drums for you to record. This can be anything from simple, to complex drums, and allows you room to add more layers in other tracks.

The second alternative is using a sequencer. This works similarly to MIDI in pattern recognition, but acts more like a MIDI Pad controller, allowing your to turn nodes on and off. This works better for some people, but offers slightly less control over the precise spacing of notes, but much stricter rigidity so you can experiment without doing anything too odd.

The third method is to follow the same patterns as the MIDI you program, but using royalty free sound samples that you have downloaded.

The last method you can use, which will also aid in your sound design ability, is to create your own sound samples for all elements of the drums you require.

It is hard to recommend this method over the others for ease of use because sound design takes a long time, and when it comes to drums, you are most likely not going to create a revolutionary kick that has never been heard before. It is not due to the lack of ability or creativity, it is due to the sheer amount of drum samples that are royalty free out there on the internet for you to be able to use. I do recommend learning how to do it for your own sound design gain and knowledge, however.

Wrapping Up and My Experience With Drum Programming

Drum programming is one of those skills that is remarkably easy to learn, but difficult to master. I have struggled time and time again to create great sounding drums, or break the mold and come up with a new drum beat that sounds good, and I am just not quite at that level yet.

My preferred method of making drums is to program out the MIDI and make sure it sounds good, then one hit drum samples and place each element where it belongs. I just find that the drums that come stock with most DAWs aren’t as heavy hitting as the drum samples you can get from sound libraries, and I appreciate a hard hitting kick.

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