Knowing how to write, record, arrange, mix, and program killer drumbeats is critical, whether you're into hip-hop, urban, rock, alternative, dance, electronic, jazz, blues, or country. The beats in these styles of music serve as the rhythmic focus around which all of the other instruments play. Without a great drum beat, even the best song can fall short of its full potential and lack the impact, excitement, and energy necessary to make it a bona fide hit.
Programming and Producing Drum Beats teaches the steps involved in writing and producing amazing drum beats for any style of popular music. You will learn every aspect of producing a drum beat—from understanding each drum in a traditional rock drum kit and the role it plays in a beat, to mixing and editing a multi-track drum session, and applying the advanced beat-making strategies and techniques available in professional DAW software programs. The course explores how drums are most commonly played, MIDI drum sequencing tricks used by the pros, and the proper use of compression, EQ, and parallel effects when mixing drums. It also explores how to think like a drummer, so that writing style- and song-appropriate drum grooves becomes second nature.
The material is taught through careful analysis of what goes into making a great sounding drum beat, from studying the drums themselves, to the tools and techniques employed by top producers to get that bigger-than-life drum sound. Artists studied include Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, Digital Underground, NWA, Jack Johnson, Deee-Lite, Prince, Gloria Estefan, NIN, Beastie Boys, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, De La Soul, and Soul 2 Soul. In addition, the course textbook, Producing Beats: Writing and Mixing Killer Drum Grooves, includes a CD-R with demonstration tracks and free MIDI and audio samples from Big Fish Audio, KEYFAX, Multi-loops, and Smart Loops.
Throughout the course, you will be responsible for producing a variety of drum beats in different styles, using different types of production techniques, and culminating in a final production project due in the last week of class. Armed with the production skills and knowledge acquired in this course, you will be able to compose and produce polished, professional-sounding drumbeats.
By the end of this course, you will be able to:
- Identify the different components of a drumbeats used in popular music, including drums, cymbals, percussion, and electronic samples and loops
- Apply the mechanics of playing real drums to writing realistic MIDI beats
- Create drum beats using different types of MIDI controllers and techniques, including real-time and programmed beats
- Compose drum patterns and fills that work well with the rest of the groove and support your song structure
- Identify common rhythms and tempos of popular music styles
- Employ cutting edge production techniques to produce beats in a variety of styles
- Mix drums for maximum punch and presence, using time-tested EQ, compression, and parallel effects techniques
Lesson 1: Building Blocks
- Drum Beat Building Blocks
- You and Your DAW
- Virtual Drum Instruments
- NN-XT Sampler Virtual Drum Instrument
- Mixing Basics
- Tools Checklist
Lesson 2: Writing Real-Time MIDI Beats
- MIDI Controllers
- Strategies for Recording Real-Time MIDI Drumbeats
- Using Quantize and Input Quantize Effectively
- Real-Time MIDI Drumbeat Recording
- Real-Time Sequencing Tips
Lesson 3: Anatomy of a Drum Kit
- One Drum at a Time
- Playing the Drums
- Sticks, Brushes, and Mallets
- Finding Drum Sounds
- Introducing Drum Notation
Lesson 4: Programming Beats
- Analog Drum Machine Sounds
- Digital Drum Machine Sounds
- Step Sequencers
- DAW Step Sequencer
- Tips for Programming Step Sequencer Beats
Lesson 5: Percussion
- Percussion Parts in Popular Music
- Identifying Percussion Instruments
- Playing Percussion Instruments
- Orchestral and Marching Band Percussion
- Finding Percussion Sounds
Lesson 6: MIDI Samples
- What's a MIDI Sample?
- Setting Up MIDI Sample Drums
- Finding and Making MIDI Samples
- Tricks for Working with MIDI Samples
Lesson 7: Working with Loops
- Beat Matching
- Beat Matching Methods: Tuning, Recycling, and Warping
- Finding Loops
- Tips for Choosing Compatible Loops
Lesson 8: Grooves and Groove Quantize
- Definition of Groove
- Straight Quantize
- Groove Quantize
- Applying Groove Quantize
- Tips for Using Groove Quantize
Lesson 9: Enhancing Live Recorded Drums
- Adding to Live Multitrack Drums
- Synchronizing The Elements
- Tips for Enhancing Live Drums
Lesson 10: Rhythm Section Considerations
- Dissecting the Rhythm Section
- Copycat Cool
- Copy Beat Checklist
Lesson 11: Song Structure
- Good Drum Song Structure
- Drum Fill Tricks
- Production Techniques Review
- Final Checklist
Lesson 12: Mixing
- Essential Drum Mixing Techniques
- Advanced Drum Mixing Techniques
- Mixing Tips
- Mastering in Brief
Author & Instructor
Erik "Hawk" Hawkins is an EDM artist, producer, composer, remixer, label owner, and author. His music has been used by major television networks and film studios, including ABC, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and New Line Cinema.
Dozens of his articles have appeared in the Industry's top publications, including Electronic Musician, Mix, Remix, and Keyboard. He has authored several books, including Complete Guide to Remixing and Producing Drum Beats. His Berklee Online course, Programming and Producing Drum Beats, won the 2012 UPCEA Award. He also manages his own busy YouTube channels and has collected way too many vintage synths.
Some of Hawk’s Web sites: https://www.youtube.com/c/erikhawk, https://www.facebook.com/erikhawkmusic, https://twitter.com/erikhawk, https://soundcloud.com/erikhawkmusic, https://www.instagram.com/erikhawkmusic
Students should have a basic working knowledge of their DAW of choice. They need to know how to import audio and MIDI files and sequence MIDI performances, in addition to understanding the basics of their program's audio mixer section (such as panning, setting fader levels, and how to insert a plug-in). To meet the DAW proficiency requirements, you may benefit from taking any of the following courses: Pro Tools 101, Pro Tools 110, Producing Music with Logic, Producing Music with Reason, Producing Music with Cubase, Producing Music with Ableton Live.
Producing Drum Beats: Writing and Mixing Killer Drum Grooves by Erik Hawkins, Berklee Press/Hal Leonard
- A ReWire compatible DAW software program with comprehensive MIDI and audio capabilities. For example, Pro Tools, Cubase, SONAR, Logic, Ableton Live, Digital Performer, or Reason. Must-have DAW features include a MIDI sequencer; multitrack audio; import/export audio and MIDI; grid edit mode; mixer mode; compression, EQ, and reverb plug-ins; aux input channels; REX file support; and automation.
- A virtual drum instrument that can load samples, or a full-featured virtual workstation or sampler that can load drum preset patches. For example, the EXS24 in Logic, Xpand in Pro Tools, or the NN-XT in Record and Reason. If your DAW does not contain a virtual drum instrument, you should use the NN-XT Sampler device in Reason.
- MIDI controller keyboard or pad controller such as the M-Audio Axiom 49 or the Korg padKONTROL
- 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
- 10 GB hard drive space
- Speakers or headphones
- Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( http://www.speedtest.net to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)
For requirements specific to your DAW, refer to the technical specifications from the manufacturer's website.
Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.
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