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How to make a simple House beat

How to make a simple House beat

There are many questions in the world that sadly I am unable to answer. What is dark matter? Why did Michael Jackson own the skeleton of The Elephant Man? Was Phil Spector’s use of a pistol really the best way to motivate a musician? With all of these questions I draw a blank, but If someone was to ask, “Can you give me some pointers about how to make a simple house beat?” I would say, thankfully, with that one I may be able to help. So with that in mind here is a sound clip and some grid pictures of a house beat that I made earlier and some general drum programming tips. Although it is written in Ableton, you can just copy the beat into your own software to recreate.

Pic 1 - The basic loop

Pic 1 – The basic loop

Even though there are a few variants to the genre of House, they all share common ground as far as the drum pattern is concerned. This pattern will work on just about any house dance floor and you can change the sounds to suit your own particular style. In general, classic analog drum machines such as the Roland 808, 909 and the 707 work well. Layering can also work very well, for instance adding a clap from an old disco record . It’s also worth experimenting with tuning and attack/ decay envelopes to fine tune the groove because something as simple as lengthening or shortening the decay on a hi-hat can lend quite a different feel to the proceedings.

Although most DAW’s have their own groove shuffles there is nothing quite like customising your own rhythms by hand. Drums that are strictly quantised are as dull as having a health and safety manual read to you by a retired judge, so move things around a bit. Here, (see Pic 2) I have pulled the snare/ clap forward a few milliseconds to push the groove slightly forward and emphasise the downbeat on the two and four. It’s all quite subtle, but in moving a few things off the quantise grid you give the beat it’s own unique feel.

Pic 2 – Cut it loose

Notice also on Pic 2 that the ghost hi-hats and ghost snare are placed off the quantise grid in certain parts. The use of ghost hits, which are drums triggered at a lower velocity, are important to bring out the swing of the beat and propel the groove forward. Using different sounds for ghost hits helps to give further interest and texture. This in a way mimics a real drummer as they would naturally vary the velocity of their hits as they are playing. If you want to take your drum programming further, set up your drum sampler so that it triggers different hits according to velocity. For instance, have four different snare drums, one that’s being hit softly, the next a little harder and so on. Doing this gives your drums a much more dynamic and realistic feel and is a must if you ever want to imitate the sound of a real drummer. Most modern sample players have already done a lot of the hard work for you, but if you are building your own custom kits it’s a point worth baring in mind.

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To process the drums I have put them through a compressor to glue and tighten the sound. Doing this helps to sonically bind the drums together and give them a little more power. I’ve also added some distortion to lend a little warmth and grit. I’ve applied this quite subtly, but you can take it all the way to Black Sabbath levels if you want to make it really crunchy. A little small room reverb has been added to the clap and hats to bring them to life a bit, but I wanted to keep the drums dryish as cluttering them with reverb can steal space later from your mix. If you need more effects as your track progresses you can dose liberally should you feel so inclined.

Try playing around with different sounds while the beat is in play as different sounds can lend a completely new feel to the same pattern. As with any music making endeavour that you plan to take to a wider audience, make sure you check the EQ settings on a good set of monitors, as if you rely solely on PC speakers you could end up sending the club’s bass cones flying fifteen feet across the dance floor.

This obviously is just a starting point and as you are progressing your arrangement you can add drum fills, drop parts in and out etc. Varying the ghost hits is a good way of accenting the rhythm of the track without pulling focus from the main groove.

About The Author

Red Dog Music

Dawsons Music is delighted to announce that the Red Dog Music brand is now part of the Dawsons family. This is an exciting opportunity to bring both communities together and create a stronger, wider network of people passionate about music gear. We both share a common heritage to support musicians throughout the UK and Dawsons want to support Red Dog Music customers in their continued musical journey.

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