Whether you are making big room Berghain techno or jacking FUSE London house music, the drums set the tone of your record. When you sit down to start your track, be clear on where you want that track to be played - what is your vision for it? What sound system do you see it on? Is it a Festival track or for an underground bunker in Berlin, Amsterdam or Detroit.
Place yourself on the dance floor and start to sculpt your drums. Imagine how it will feel to hear it there. To get started, follow our tips on drum programming taken from our Artist Development Program course.
Source great samples and drum loops
Source content is really important. We highly recommend Samples from Mars for new and interesting content that is all analogue and modeled on vintage equipment. Also check out Riemann Kollektion by Florian Mendl. They make incredible sample packs.
Check out Detroit Techno Pioneer Claude Young's Detroit Sound Science Sample Pack too. These custom sound design tools are perfect for any genre of music creation, handmade by the electronic music legend himself.
Sounds.com is a subscription service, offering a vast library of samples from over 200 trusted suppliers including Native Instruments, The Loop Loft, MVP Loops and Symphonic Distribution.
Get the kick right from the start
The kick drum is important to get right from the start. It is the bedrock of your track. There is nothing worse than having to change the kick halfway through a track. It is possible, but keep in mind that all other sounds added onto the track have been selected to match with the kick that you have started with.
When choosing your kick, remember that Ableton includes packs with all the classic Roland drum kits. Choose a 606 kick if you like house or deep sounding kicks heard in DC10 records. If you are into harder detroit style techno, the 909 kick is the one for you. The 808 falls a little bit in between, but bear in mind that it can be a bit difficult to mix with. The more experience you have with the 808, the better you will become at producing a great track with that kick.
Set up multiple drum racks
You can have as many drum racks as you like in your project. Make the most of this feature by having one drum rack per drum part. For example, in the first drum rack you can select all the kick drums that you like and drag them into the slots.
In the second drum rack, you can add hi hats. In the third drum rack, you can add toms or percs and so on. This will give you a lot of pre-selected sounds to work with while you make your track and test different sounds during your project.
Make polyrhythmic beats in Ableton
While kick drums and hi hats can add drive to your composition, percussion adds groove and keeps your track interesting throughout.
Music is built on 4/4 rhythm for a reason, it’s familiar and easy to dance to. A useful way to break the rhythmic frame is with polyrhythms.
By combining different recurring rhythms (or loop lengths) together, polyrhythms create subtly shifting patterns. They are the generating principle behind many African music genres and they have become a fundamental technique in electronic music - especially Techno.
Polyrhythms will make your tracks more interesting. We highly advise you to explore polyrhythm and additive rhythm programming in addition to production techniques for creating a clean and balanced rhythm section.
Sculpt drum EQ immediately
Sculpt your drums from the get go. Instead of adjusting the EQ during the last mixing stage of the track, bring the EQ feature into your drum channel and balance the sounds immediately. This will make the post-production stage so much easier and all other sounds will blend better with your percussion.
The main reason for doing this is to create space in the project from the very start. Remove the frequencies that aren’t necessary in each sample. Drag and drop an EQ eight in the channel, activate the high pass, then the low pass, and narrow the cues on each point available. Your drums will sound clear and crisp.
Interested in learning more about drum programming? Sign up to our Artist Development Program where you will learn all the ins and outs of creating a great sounding drum kit.