How to Write a Song Starting With a Drum Beat

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

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!

Drum Tracks With The Slapstik

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Pushing your boundaries is fun… It’s even more fun with a slapstik! Drummers – if you haven’t heard about this neat new contraption, don’t worry. I’m here to tell you all about it!

The slapstik http://www.theslapstik.com/ is a new and exciting tool that can bring your creativity to a whole other level! It basically consists of a regular drumstick, with a small bendable attachment on the end that lets you create upstrokes and down-strokes on the hi-hat, or anywhere else on the drum kit, with amazing speed and agility. It is intended to be used in the dominant hand, with a regular drumstick in the other hand. With the slapstik you can produce AMAZING new rhythms, and styles that haven’t even been invented yet!! – and anyone can use it! Whether you’ve played the drums for 7 years, or 7 days, you’ll find sounds coming out of your sticks you never thought could be possible!

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Recording the Bass Drum – it’s Bass-ick

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

For me, the bass drum is the heart of the song. It’s what drives the song and keeps the mix together. So, when I’m setting out to record my music, I need to make sure I get the perfect kick. But how? The truth is, there’s no right or wrong way about it. Once you know the basic rules, observation, experimentation and and brainstorming are the key. But what are the basic rules?

First, you need to make sure the kick is tuned properly. It needs to sound great naturally before you try to get a good sound through the mic. A good source will produce a good recording.
Once the the drum is tuned and set, choose your mic. A dynamic mic, which can handle loud sound pressure levels, is the typical choice. Classic dynamic mics for the kick drum are the AKG D112, Shure Beta 52, and the Sennheiser 421. If you decide to go with a condenser mic, be mindful that the sound pressure may hurt the fragile condenser diaphragm. Follow the basic rule of thumb; use it only if you can put your ear in front of the sound sourse without hurting your hearing. That being said, good condenser mics to use are the Neumann 47 FET and PZM microphones.

Bass Drum Recording
Yamaha SubKick Low-Frequency Capture Device

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Drum tips from the drum tech.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Tuning Your DrumsPaul Hurd is a Los Angeles based drum tech who has worked for years with Drum Paradise, one of LA’s top of the line drum providers for session musicians and recording artists in the area. Hurd shared with DrumTracks.com some of his tricks of the trade he’s learned from being a drum tech and working in the music industry.

Say a drummer is setting out to get a new kit. Do you have any advice for them to get the perfect matching kit?

I would say the most important thing for a beginning drummer would be to get a drum kit that is well balanced. If you are getting a small drum kit, you want to match it with an equally balanced kick drum. SO the rack toms and cymbals can be placed at a level that ergonomics come into play. Being physically comfortable behind your drum set is the first thing you should think about when getting your kit. Be aware of your size and your musical needs. It’s very important to get into the headspace of what’s going to be comfortable for you while you’re drumming.

What’s the difference between buying a kit for live performance and recording?

It’s important to find a kit that’s versatile and can be used for both recording and playing live. The first thing is absolute experimentation with recording. There’s so many different styles and configurations that can be applied to recording. Drums come in so many different sizes, shell configurations, that you would want to experiment with your sounds and use your ears. I’ve found experimenting and finding what most comfortable works is best.

As a drum tech, you’ve set up drums for many artists in the Los Angeles recording studios including Henson, The Village, The Record Plant; What’s would you consider to be #1 thing you have to keep in mind when setting up drums for recording artists?

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Drum Tracks sounds from the 60′s

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Recording Session

Everyone always seems to be moving forward in music. New ideas are being brought to the table every day in the music business. Technology changes, things become digitalized. People replace live drummers with machines. But what about when we want to bring it back? I thought it’d be a good idea to take a minute and look back to what has worked in the past and use it today. Drum tracks for the future, using the tricks of the trade from the past. Good idea? I thought so.

Sometimes I get sound alike projects where customers are looking for the old sounds of the sixties. As a producer, I have to go into the studio and set up the kit to get that “old sound”. Here are tricks I have found to work to get that 60’s drum sound:

  1. I use my Rogers Dyna-Sonic snare drum that captures that old sound
  2. I use two condenser mics as left and right overheads and a SM57 in front of bass drum
  3. I try to make the drums sound as natural as possible and capture that sound

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Rock Drum Tracks – That’s how you do it.

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

I thought rock and roll is strong rhythmic popular music that evolved from jazz and the blues. Apparently, I was wrong:

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Go China!

But Drummers Do!

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Admit it. We’ve all used drum loops or drum samples at some point in our songs. It’s a quick fix to the huge problem of finding the right player and place to record your own custom drum tracks.

At first, drum loops and samples sound really good. Most of them are being recorded in commercial studios with professional drummers so they sound flawless. Most loop libraries are taking well known session drummers and putting them in a box for you. Drum loops have individual creative characteristics like live drums do, but that manufactured beat wasn’t created with you in mind.

You know those hit songs you can identify in the first five seconds? Think for a minute why those songs stay so fresh in your ears. The answer is simple. Those songs have a unique sound and way of performing that even your grandma won’t forget. When you’re tired of sharing the same drum loop with a thousand other songwriters, custom drum tracks will be worth the effort and the money. A live drummer creating custom drum tracks will get you a unique sound, something that belongs only to you and separates you from the crowd of everyday songwriters.

Find a drummer or an easy way to record your custom drum tracks at http://drumsforyou.com.