How to Improve Your Drum Beats
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make more creative drum beats. But first… Tea!
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This hack is from the song “We Siddon We Dey Look” by the amazing Afrobeat artist Dele Sosimi. The track is off his album “You No Fit Touch Am”, which is an absolute masterclass in groove. And while every instrument is equally contributing to this groove masterclass, we’re gonna focus on the drums as they’re the foundation. Also, the drummer uses a simple but rare hack in this song that will transform your approach to drums, so we wanted to share it with you.
Okay, so there’s one element in a drum beat that’s hardly ever questioned. What is it? The kick drum on beat 1. Yep, if you listen through a playlist of 100 songs, you’ll be lucky if you hear one drum beat that doesn’t have a beat 1 kick. In fact, putting a kick on beat 1 is the first thing most producers do when starting a new beat. So, by simply not playing a kick on beat 1, you’re already standing out from the crowd.
MIDI screenshot: 2-bar drum loop, where bar 1 has a snare (E2) on beat 1, and bar 2 has a kick (C2) on beat 1
And to reap the rewards of this hack, you don’t even need to use it in every bar. For example, the drum beat in this song starts with a snare on beat 1. This beat 1 snare is repeated every other bar, but then the bars in between start with the usual kick on beat 1 instead. This creates a balance of predictable and unpredictable, which keeps the drums sounding fresh.
And for extra freshness, there’s also a motif. A motif is a short musical idea, and the motif here consists of two adjacent 1/16 notes. By repeating the motif, the drummer gives the beat structure and makes the rhythm more memorable.
So, if you wanna take your drums to the next level, then every now and then, play something other than a kick on beat 1. And if you’re feeling brave, play nothing at all on the occasional beat 1. Remember, it’s your drum beat, so just cos everyone else plays a kick on beat 1, that doesn’t mean you have to.
And that’s it! Hope you found this hack useful. And if you wanna get all our essential music making hacks in one place, then download our Songwriting & Producing PDF. Thanks for being here, and until next time, happy songwriting and producing!
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