MAKING A BEAT
This post show how we can make a effective classic house style drum loop heard on many classic tracks using Ableton Live.
ALL ABOUT THE DRUMS
Hi, I want to do a series on how I make a track so this we will start with DRUMS (oh Yeah), we will build a basic drum pattern and show how we can make it come to life with a bit of processing.
For this I will be using Ableton Live 10 (beta) as my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) & I will show you how to program your own beat and provide you with a bit of information/ knowledge so that you can incorporate it into your own productions. If you would like to follow this and try it out for your self you can grab a Live 9 copy at https://www.ableton.com/en/trial/ .
Within this blog for all ages & levels of music production, if your not into making music but just wondered how it was all put together then this is for you, if you want to start making music then this is for you & if you are a producer of all levels then maybe there might be a golden nugget you can take away from this, we will be starting at a basic level and getting to know how we program drum patterns and how to make them go from a static machine gun to a groovy make you dance beat. We need to make sure we continually save our work so through the process please press CTRL + S (PC) & CMD + S (MAC), if your saving for the first time a window will appear asking you to name what it is, We will name our work Series DL.
We will start with a basic pattern & we will use the classic 909 drum kit, if you have downloaded the trail version you can find this on the left hand side under the categories/ Drums there will be a file containing the 909 drums (as shown below) you simply drag the 909 Core Kit onto a MIDI in this case it will be on track 1. ( if you ever get stuck there is a information box in the lower left hand corner, each event I ask you to do will be highlighted in bold with the matching information that is within the info view)
You now need to insert a MIDI clip on Track 1 ( which was originally called MIDI but since you have dragged the 909 Core kit onto it, the MIDI track is now called 909 Core Kit), simply double click on a empty clip slot under the 909 Core Kit & you will be given a box looking like this.
In this new window and starting from the bottom you will see there is white and black keys this represents a the keys on a keyboard/ Piano. if you do not have a midi keyboard you can use then you can use the computer’s keyboard simply press the M button to activate the Computer MIDI Keyboard in the top left corner (you can see a yellow keyboard symbol when it is activated), with the button highlighted (yellow) your computer keyboard’s row of letters A-L will represent the white keys and the letters W-O will represent the black keys and with Z going down a octave and the X going up a octave, The octave you want is C1.
Right now we have established the how to get a midi clip down and load a drum kit onto it, now we need to start programming some beats, most dance music use the time signature at 4/4, this mean’s that there is basically 4 beats every bar, I won’t go into too much detail about the time signature as there is quite a lot to cover and explain so we will simply crack on with making our beat.
In the MIDI note editor press the B key on your keyboard and your mouse pointer will turn to a pencil, if it doesn’t then it doesn’t matter as a double click on a block will add a midi note.
We begin to program our beat initially over 1 bar, we simply do this by clicking on a block by placing midi notes as shown on the picture below.
If you now press your space bar this will play the clip you have just programmed in, (Note if you do not hear anything check your output within Ableton and make sure it is set to your output, options, preferences, Audio then select the correct Audio device (PC) and on MAC is File, Preferences, Audio then select the correct audio device (MAC).
Congratulations for those newbies into music production you’ve programmed your first beat (high five), We now need to add a bit of flavour and spice to our beat so we will cover this next.
To add a little something something to our beat we firstly need to extend our beat, add more notes & use a function called swing.
Firstly you will see two separate box’s to the left of the MIDI note editor called Notes & Clip press the button twice called Dupl.Loop this will double the loop the first time you pressed it to 2 bars then the second time to 4 bars, if you make a mistake at all you can hit the CTRL + Z (PC) or the CMD + Z (MAC) keys buttons this will undo your last action.
You will now see more notes on the MIDI note editor this is simply because we have overall extended our time signature of our beat program.
This is where a bit of theory come’s into practice, at the top on the sample display you will see number going from 1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 4, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, this represents the time signature as in beat’s or so called DOWN BEAT, you will also notice below that in the MIDI note editor that there are blocks split up into small squares, these are called FIXED GRID and if you right click on the MIDI note editor you will see a section with different note modes in, we will cover what this all means in another time, but simply put it if you count the blocks you will notice there are 16 blocks every bar, or 4 blocks per down beat, if you have changed the FIXED GRID please make sure that it is set to 1/16.
Now the fun part programming some more note’s in & adding a touch of magic to our beat.
Place the extra notes into the blocks as shown below & take a listen
Awesome this is a simple but very effective drum loop but it still feels robotic and needs another touch of magic adding, We will go back to the two separate box’s which are located to the left of the midi note editor where we have just programmed our loop, you will one box titled Clip locate Groove within that box and press the circle arrow button.
This will let you pick out a groove for our selected pattern, Click on Core Library, Swing and Groove, the Notator once in the folder drag and drop 16A, 16B, 16C, 16D, 16E and 16F into the Groove pool.
QUANTIZATION, VELOCITY & SWING
Quantization, Velocity & Swing can be applied from your drum pattern to the full mix. There is a lot to cover in all these area which will cover in another blog.
Below is a brief explanation on what each one does and we will apply some to our drum pattern to give it what I call it the little something something.
QUANTIZATION – Is a process of aligning notes onto a defined grid e.g 1/16, this is so what ever you place onto the defined grid will all play in sync.
VELOCITY – Is a term used for how hard a instrument is hit, in Ableton it ranges from 1 – 127 with 1 being the quietest & 127 being the loudest, Velocity is so important when it comes to the groove of your music.
SWING – Swing also known as Shuffle, is used to created a jazzy feel to our music, In Ableton & Logic they mainly use the swing function that originated from the famous Roger Linn’s LM-1 Drum Computer, This drum machine implemented swing by taking a bar of music that was cut up into 16th (1/16 the FIXED GRID we are in) and offsetting the notes by a certain percentage to allow a groove/ Swing to occur and with 50% being zero effect. These are known by 16A 50%, 16B 54%, 16C 58%, 16D 62%, 16E 66%, 16F 71%.
We will take a look at this next.
ADDING THE LITTLE SOMETHING SOMETHING.
We now can add whatever elements we would like to suit & what we are wanting to achieve with our music/ pattern. We add swing by locating the clip box next to MIDI note editor and look for the clip box below the word Groove , click on this box and all the swing templates that are in the Groove pool, if we first select 16A and press play we will notice there is actually nothing happening this is because 16A is at 50% and has no effect on the pattern, If we select 16F and press play we will notice that there is a massive amount of swing applied maybe too much but as its music if you like it then stick with it, pick one of the groove that suit’s your liking, for me I am sticking with 16D, We will then look at the MIDI note editor and whilst looking at your pattern press Commit under the tab where you selected your groove from.
As you can see the notes on ever even number making up the
16ths are effected, this is what adds flavor to our pattern & we can take it even further by changing some velocities of our drum pattern.
There are numerous ways that we can change our velocities but for this example we will keep it simple and make it nice and easy, in the lower left hand corner of the screen you will see 2 tabs, one is for the MIDI note editor and the other is for the Device View Selector click on the tab that says 909 Core kit .
We are now are going to use a nice easy way that will make our notes in the MIDI note editor be effected as though a Human is playing the drums. We simply do this by adding a MIDI effect in front of our 909 Core Kit & applying some setting which will mimic how a human would play, First add the effect in front of the 909 Core Kit and apply the settings as shown below.
If you press play now you will hear slight fluctuation in the drums velocities & how far we have come from being a static robotic drum pattern to a groovy nice to dance to pattern. Next we will finish up by adding a bit of processing leveling out the peaks & also making it sound a little phatter by adding some grit to it via saturation.
Processing can be used if you feel you want more out of the pattern, this could range from reverb, saturation, delay to compression all adding the final touch to your drums or mix, I usually make all my processing changes at the mix down stage which is after all my arrangement & elements have been placed down and with what I am happy with. We will do the processing now so that you can use it in your productions if wanted and to see how settle difference with using a certain combination of effects can make your mix from being averagely good to being great. The key is small touches to compliment the work we have done so far. I won’t be going into a lot of detail about how the effects work we will cover that in another blog post but I will show you a quick starter guide with the final result being what I would leave it as.
To start we need to add Audio Effects after the 909 Core Kit, we do this be locating & clicking on the Audio effects tab in the browser side bar, you will then be able to select any of the audio effects by clicking and dragging one AFTER your 909 Core KIT, for this example we will keep it simple and select in the correct order Reverb, Saturator & Glue Compressor.
Then simply match the Audio effects parameters to the ones below and press play.
You will notice a slight change to the overall character of the drum pattern, try playing the drums and turning off a effect via the yellow circle in the top left of the effect & try notice the difference (please note to really listen to the difference please use headphone’s or some Studio Monitors). We added a small amount of Reverb so that it makes our drum’s come alive as though they was being played in a room. Next we added a saturator with a medium curve, this add bite & some grit to our drum by allowing the quieter sounds in the mix to pop out, then it is followed by a Glue compressor this has a very quick attack time of 0.01seconds & a release set to auto & a mild ratio of 2:1. The last thing is to make the levels the same as what they was before we added the effects, If we look at the mixer we will notice the Track Volume & next to that the Peak level indicator, turn off all the Audio effects by simply clicking on the yellow circles in the upper left off every Audio effect, they should now be grey. Press play and take a look at the Peak level displayed.
This concludes how we make basic & classic drum pattern’s in Ableton Live, you can apply this to any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), and achieve similar results depending on the effects, drums and patterns you use. If you’ve have enjoyed this I encourage you to take it further, mess about with what we have done, decrease the threshold of the glue compressor to -20 and crank up the make up gain to 11 keep a eye on the output making sure it doesn’t go above 0.00dB, add more decay time to the reverb to make it sound like your playing in a big hall or even add more effects or add more to the drum pattern, it is limitless to the combinations that are at your disposal, make sure you save your work for the next blog.
If you’ve found value in this or if there are any suggestions you’d like me to cover in my next blog please comment below, share & like with all your friends.