As you’ll already know, most EDM tracks, especially from aspiring producers, tend to follow a set drum pattern, which is why many critics of the genre describe it as ‘repetitive.’
However, there is an extensive range of techniques you can learn when creating your drum patterns that can help you add variety to your tracks, helping them stand from the crowd and bring a bit of life into your productions.
Today, we’re going to explore a variety of these techniques and how you can implement them into your own workflow. For this piece, we’re going to be using Live 9 and a basic MIDI rack in your setup. We’re also going to assume you have a basic knowledge of using Live 9 and have your instruments and VSTs loaded and ready to go.
Let’s jump straight into it!
Setting Up Your Workflow
Start by opening Live 9 and opening a new project, simply so you can play with the techniques we’re going to show you. You can use a standard basic Drum Track for this, or a custom one if you’ve already chosen the samples you want to use.
Click the first slot to add your MIDI Clip. The default Live 9 settings mean your clip will begin as a single bar in length with a sixteenth-note interval.
Click the ‘widen grid key’ twice, and we can then use the Draw tool to create a techno-styled kick drum quickly. You can do this by clicking on the note grid where you can see the kick drum key.
Simply hold the left-click mouse button down and drag right until you reach the end of the bar. All the notes you’ve created here should stay selected, but you’ll want to turn off the Draw mode and then put all the notes on maximum velocity. You can do this by dragging them all upwards by ‘click-dragging’.
Of course, this is where you’d normally go back to editing in a narrower timing grid, but before you do this, you can add your claps on the second and fourth quarter notes. If you want, select both of these claps and drag them slightly off the grid to the left.
This is a pro technique since the claps will be playing ever so slightly early which helps the beat already start to sound dynamic and feels as though the beat is progressing. You’ve now created your basic rhythm.
Now change your workflow, so you’re looking at an eighth-note grid by right-clicking on the note grid and choosing this option. This is so we can add the percussion sounds to your pattern. Percussions generally fall around the eighth notes, even just before or after the beat to create that forward-driving feeling.
Before we move onto the next bit, play around here with the key of your track, as well as the drum pads you’re using to make sure you’re able to create the sounds you’re trying to create.
Creating a Dynamic Drum Pattern
Now change your grid back to the sixteenth-note view and use your draw tool to create four back-to-back shaker sounds in the first beat. As we mentioned above, when you click to create a note, you can also hold down your left click to change the velocity of it. In this case, play around with it in an up direction, so your shaker sounds have a bit of emphasis.
Now duplicate this pattern across your bar so you should have sixteen shaker sounds back-to-back in one bar. Of course, this will still sound like a standard drum pattern, but now we have the basics, it’s time to start creating a more dynamic sound.
Ideally, you’re going to want to pay attention to the gaps that are currently in your bar. Think about the sort of sounds you want to add in these areas. Some of the samples or instruments you could use include;
• Bass Hits
• Hats (open and closed)
And pretty much any other drum sounds you want to add. Any new notes you add can be placed on the sixteenth-note intervals that can be found between the eighth-notes. This technique is known as syncopation and will help to bring a bit of life to your drum patterns. Now you have enough sound to start creating your actual drum pattern.
When you’re creating your instrument sounds, don’t forget you don’t have to use the instruments available on Live 9. You can download and import sample packs from the internet or creating your own drum sounds by recording them with a microphone!
Creating Dynamic Timings
While we’ve so far been working with a four-bar setup, double this clip length, so we’re now working with eight bars. Towards the end of your pattern, add some open hats and snares. Now double your clip length to 16-bars.
Of course, at this point, you need to duplicate your basic pattern to the end, with a few minor yet essential changes on the eighth-notes and sixteenth-notes. Towards the end of the 16th bar, select a tiny percentage of the note, perhaps no more than a quarter of a note.
Here you can play around with what sounds good to you. Perhaps you want to reverse the order in which your sounds are played, adding a groovy little ‘break down’ every 16 bars. This can be done easily using the Inversion option.
Of course, since every track will sound different, especially depending on the sounds you’re using, but you can experiment at any change of this progress to find what works best for you. Since you’re creating your own unique sounds, this will typically be a case of trial and error.
Now that you have a full drum pattern you can work with for the entirety of your EDM track, you can make edits throughout to suit certain aspects of your song.
For example, by removing the percussions, hats, and snares (or any parts that you want to cut down on), you can create the ‘breakdown’ section of your track.
This can be done easily by selecting all the parts of your drum pattern are in a certain key, and then pressing ‘0’ to deactivate them, so they’re basically muted. This creates to a minimal version of your drum pattern. You can even create patterns where you’re adding one instrument back into the pattern as the song progresses, creating a ‘build-up’ feeling that’s ready for your drop.
As we said before, this entire process is a lot of trial and error to see what works best for you but using the techniques and sequencing that you’ve learned today; you’ll be able to create effective and hard-hitting drum patterns for your next EDM masterpieces.