Songwriters are always looking for new ways to find inspiration. Sometimes your life is full of big events that seem to leap onto the page as great new songs. Other times you write stories about friends, family, enemies, fictional characters, etc. But every once in a while, we all hit that dreaded creative wall and get stuck in the rut of writer’s block. No matter what we try to do, we can’t seem to come up with anything catchy, clever or interesting. What can you do at these moments when your ink has run dry and the usual tricks just don’t pan out into memorable songs?
A great way to rekindle the creative flame is by writing a song starting with a drum beat. This is because it gets you thinking a little outside your normal chords-and-melody box. Starting a song with a drum groove provides you with a base to build from instead of just writing a song from nothing at all. A drum track can get you into a certain mood which you can then channel into a song. It can also inspire you to write some music that maybe you never would have come up with without it.
Overall, writing a song from a drum track is a great creative tool. Here are a few tips to help facilitate the process.
Decide on the mood and style
Before you set out to write a song over a drum beat, you should first decide what kind of vibe you’re going for. There are a lot of options when it comes to drums, so you’ll want to get somewhat specific with what you’re looking to start from. Ask yourself a few questions, such as:
What time signature do you want? Do you want a standard 4/4 groove, something in 6/8 or a more unique time signature like 5/4 or 7/8?
What tempo should it be? You don’t have to pinpoint an exact BPM quite yet, but you’ll probably want a ballpark of how fast or slow you want the song to be.
What style are you going for? Drums vary greatly from style to style, and most genres have “standard” and typical drum patterns that are used often. Do you want a straight ahead rock groove with a backbeat, or maybe a swinging jazz drum track played with brushes? You might want a country snare beat or a heavy hip-hop drum track.
It’s good to remember that none of these decisions will lock you into one stylistic box. You can always change your mind as your song progresses, or do something revolutionary like write a rap song over a country drum beat. Right now, the idea is just to narrow down your many options so you have something to start with.
Creating the drum track
Once you have an idea of what you’re going for, step two is getting the drum track itself. There are many ways to do this. You could hire a drummer to play at a local recording studio, but that can get pretty expensive and time-consuming if you don’t know exactly what you want. You can also sequence or play the track yourself. If you’re not too experienced with programming drum parts, you might want to skip this option, as well. Sequencing drums can take a long time and be very frustrating if the final product doesn’t sound “natural.” Plus, you won’t ever feel the spontaneity that you’d get from a real drummer who would play with fills, dynamics and variety.
DrumTracks.com offers a great alternative to expensive studios and disappointing programmed drums. We have hundreds of full-length drum tracks played by real drummers which include various song sections, fills and dynamics. They’re a great place to start for songwriting inspiration, and even if they don’t end up fitting the exact form of your tune, they are recorded and edited to a click track–changing them is as easy as dragging and dropping sections.
Looping and writing
Now that you have your drum track and it’s in the style of your choosing, you get to start writing! The songwriting process is uniquely personal and varies from artist to artist. But what you probably want to do is take your drum track and drop it into a DAW like Pro Tools. This way you can set the program to loop the drum track or specific sections of the drum track so that you can compose over an endless beat that will never interrupt your creative process. It could be a good idea to loop just the verse beat for a while, then the chorus, etc. That way you can focus on one section at a time. Try writing chords or riffs over the beat. Or if you’re more of a lyrics-first person, you could even write a melody and lyrics just based on the drum beat and figure out the chords and harmony later.
Finishing it up
The beauty of writing a song to a drum beat is that once you’re finished composing, you’ve already started the recording process! When your song is complete, you have a drum track ready and waiting for you, so you can immediately start laying down tracks for your new song.
Let DrumTracks.com help kickstart your creative process. Sign up for a free account today and start browsing our huge library of drum tracks!