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Programming Drum Beats with Your DAW


I always sequence my drum beats in real-time, using a MIDI controller, such as my keyboard or drum pads. But, I understand that not everybody feels confident enough to knock out their beats in this manner. And if you don’t feel confident about playing a drum beat, it makes perfect sense to gravitate towards a drum pattern sequencer (such as the one found on Redrum). Feeling out drum beats using step keys, as the pattern loops over and over, is a great way to get your feet wet. Plus, there’s definitely something positive to be said about the pattern sequencer “feel” and what it can add to dance, hip-hop, and other styles of electronic influenced music.

That said, I’m here to tell you that there’s a better way to pattern sequence. Using your DAW program’s snap to grid mode, Pencil Tool, and MIDI editing tools you can knock out superior sounding pattern sequences and arrange your patterns into a song in a fraction of the time that it would take you to automate all of your patterns using a traditional pattern sequencer. Students often ask me how to program beats in their DAW, and this is the secret. So, drop your virtual drum instrument’s built-in pattern sequencer and start using your DAW program’s Pencil Tool and snap to grid function instead. If you’re going to program beats, and you’re already using a pro DAW (such as Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Record, and Logic), this is a great way to drop your beats. Have fun!


Oops, I hit the maximum allotted time for a video on YouTube. Here’s the second half.




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. His writing has appeared in top industry publications, including Electronic Musician, Mix, Remix, and Keyboard. He has authored several books, including tje Complete Guide to Remixing and Producing Drum Beats. His Berklee Online course, Programming and Producing Drum Beats, won an UPCEA Award in 2012. He also manages his own busy YouTube channels and has collected way too many vintage synths.
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