Hi. I wanted to share a song I have been working on. It’s pretty cheesy and a bit repetitive, but I had fun putting everything together. This is not a professionally done recording. It is something I did at home. I recorded both guitar tracks, played bass with a pick, used some drum loops from EZ drummer, and programmed in a synth part at the end.
I feel like the structure of this tune is one of its stronger qualities. It’s basic but it’s a solid starting point I feel like. What do you think I could do to improve this piece? Some ideas I have are to make each verse like a mini solo and then keep the longer solo at the end of the song. Also maybe add another layer to one of the choruses so it’s not so much of the same thing for each one.
Any advice for learning how to program drums? I have very little experience playing drums. What would be a good way to develop the skill of programming drums?
Overall, I am looking for general critiques on this song. I have never put everything together as a solo artist before, so a lot of this is new to me. If you listened to this song, I would like to thank you for your time.
Well, what’s the end goal and how much time do you have? Better yet, what is your least favorite aspect of it?
If you’re going for a certain style, I would listen to bands in that genre and really pay attention to the drums, and try to learn as much as you can as to how the drums are played. Sounds like a non-answer, but you really need to get a feel for how the drums are played and what’s possible from a technique perspective, as well as personal taste.
Pick some songs you like and try to reproduce the drums. Try to capture the subtleties (relative velocities of different strikes, detuning the drums, how open is the hi-hat here and does it change or stay static, where do the different elements (snare, kick, hat, etc.) sit in the pocket, and so on) as well as the overall groove. This ends up being just as much about practicing hearing the drums in detail, as about writing or programming them.
If you do this with several songs, you will probably start to see some patterns that you can generalize from, as far as the rhythmic functions of the different elements. The patterns are often genre-specific. In fact, I find that the drummer mostly determines the genre. If you’re playing a blues song, and the drummer is playing a country beat, then you’re playing a country song whether you want to or not. I’m not up on all the varieties of metal anymore, but if that statement holds for different metal genres also, then you can start to tease apart those differences, and start to be more innovative in writing your own parts.
I took it a step further to get things moving more quickly using Guitar Pro - when I’m writing, usually some artist or song comes to mind for one or another segment. I’ll go look for guitar pro files from those artists that also have the drums tabbed out and drop them into a tabbed out version of why I’m writing, learn the patterns and tailor them to fit better. Also just watching a lot of YouTube videos of common drumming patterns that include tabs, and writing them out in GP.
Random question: What do you think of electric drum kits for learning basic drumming techniques? Can you get a decent idea of what’s technically “possible” on the drums experimenting on an electric kit?
What do you think of the idea of being a solo artist? Not like as a career, but kind of like a side project from a hobbyist standpoint. Do you think it requires too many skills for one person to master? By that I mean like programming the drums, playing bass, piano skills, etc. Sometimes I feel like I have my hands full just trying to work on guitar technique.
There really is no end goal with this track. It was just sort of a spontaneous project for personal enjoyment. Maybe someday the song will be complete or maybe I will put it on the shelf for a while.
In regards to my least favorite aspect of it, I would say the drums could be completely redone. There needs to be some adjustments to the choruses so they don’t all sound nearly identical. The verses could potentially be turned into mini solos. Or like a verse could be say half only rhythm and then half with a lead. The solo at the end of the tune could also be tweaked a little if necessary.
I don’t think this is necessary at all. I’ve picked up enough from listening and analyzing drummers that I like, and the cool thing is that most drummers can only really have 4 “hits” at a time (two hands, two legs), then past that you can listen to some of the fastest single stroke / double stroke drumming, and figure out from there what’s possible. Off the top of my head I think the fastest single stroke is like 260 BPM 16th notes give or take for like the top 5% of drummers. Double stroke I think maybe 240? And that’s only 2 hits back to back (obviously with a same length rest in between). Past that, things like velocity matter in that the faster the drumming, the less velocity (less hard) the drumming will be, as like I keep saying about guitar (contested I know), drummers DEFINITELY are less loud when they’re close to their fastest. If you have max velocity on faster parts, it’ll definitely sound programmed.
I would recommend looking through drumeo’s channel. Lots of great content starting from beginners to advanced on creating grooves, fills, etc. This is one of my top 5 drummers of all time (probably):
This is what I’ve done for the last 15 years or so? There’s more to master obviously, but the cool thing is that it mitigates burnout if you can be cognizant of when you’re getting frustrated, and shift focus. I noticed that my playing got better when I could just put the guitar down when I wasn’t motivated on it, and instead did something else (like the production side). It sounds like a lot, but you’ve already started doing it anyways from what you’ve said. The mixing / mastering side has always been the hardest for me, but it could come easily to you (especially with so much content on youtube nowadays, I like URM academy).
An easy fix for riff based songs (which I think this is to some degree) is to add fills that “double” the riff being played and syncopate the rhythm a little bit, then just before the song loses the overall groove, go back to a backbeat groove.
Sorry for the late reply and spastic answers, I’ve been a bit busy lol. Let me know if this helps.
I’ve done quite a lot of drum programming. I was planning on writing something up for you @CalvinScarified (which I will still do) but I wanted give the above quote from @Pepepicks66 a big thumbs up. I actually can’t play drum at all and I have no plans on wasting my time learning…but I understand what is involved in playing so I don’t have issues programming realistic drums.
so to that end, I wouldn’t go down the rabbit hole of playing an electric kit to first ‘learn’ drums, then program. Go straight to programming the drums, it should get you the desired end result in much less time.
Additional thought about realistic drumming I forgot to mention: be aware of where on the drum set the limbs are. Feet are easy, as 99% of drummers will keep the right foot on the kick and left on the hi hat (which enables “pedal hi hat” sounds) or move the left foot to a double kick. Hands however, tend to be more all over the place. So visualize what the hands are doing, even at slow speeds, and don’t program things that are huge moves at drastic speeds. Like, hitting 8th notes at like 240 BPM or whatever with one hand on a tom makes sense, alternating between two adjacent toms (like literally inches apart) might be possible with minor speed loss, but say alternating one hand between a floor tom on drummer’s right with hi hat on drummer’s left is a huge span.
Hope that makes sense, I’ll clarify if it doesn’t.
This is what I did, but after a while, I got really into the drums and now my intention is to get good on drums and see where that leads.
If the intention is to just get better at programming drums, I wouldn’t go this way as it will take a very long time!
It might be helpful to try and transcribe the drums for some songs that you like. Program the beats as best you can. I did this for just a few Nirvana songs years ago. It helped me get a feel for what a drummer would do.
Cool stuff! I’m currently writing songs for the first time in years (using reaper and a metal zone directly into my daw) and I’m spending a few weeks learning to track and edit the guitars ( manually and with dynamic split using stretch markers). That may seem like “cheating” but it helps get the song ideas more solid - when everything is 100% in time it’s easier to hear what works and what doesn’t.
Great idea here. I was going to mention when I got started programming drums I did similar things. Just finding songs I like with relatively ‘simple’ drums, just to get an idea of what drummers actually do. Also, I love Dave Grohl He does a great job of controlling the feel of the music. Drums can dictate that on a level other instruments can’t. I think @induction said something similar earlier.
That’s exactly it. It’ll really get you listening in a way you may not have before.
A couple of things I forgot to mention earlier. Velocity editing is your friend! For example if you have an 8th note high hat or ride pattern. Try accenting beat 1 and 3 and have a listen to the difference it makes.
Same with fills. Don’t have all your hits the same velocity. Even if you want all the hits to be loud and punchy, it can help to have every second hit at a lower velocity, to help reduce the robotic effect of the same sample being repeated. Add some accents in there and have a listen to the difference it makes.
Edit - I now just notice that everything I’ve said, has already been said d’oh!
Wow! This has all been really inspiring. Thank you all for your help. Sorry for the delayed reply here.
Yeah that makes sense that one could get good at programming drums first if that is the goal, before learning to play a physical drum kit. Cool.
Good idea about transcribing the drums for familiar tunes. Another idea might be to transcribe the bass guitar if I am looking to improve at writing bass lines as well? Sort of cover the song from the ground up in a way?
In my opinion, a good bass track is almost as critical as a good drum track. I’d rather the guitar be the weakest element in a mix compared to the other two. Luckily, programmed / sampled drums are more or less the norm now production-wise, but bass is a toss-up; there are some sampled basses available, but it’s something else to program (and I honestly hate programming the most, very tedious). The benefit is that the sound can be better than a bad “real” bass take, but won’t be as good as a great “real” bass take.
All that is to say: if you’re wanting a good production, the bass has to be on point. If you’re not stoked on bass playing, then maybe programmed bass would be better. I feel like I’ve more or less become a “real” bass player now in my attempt to up my production quality, to include more difficult bass lines.
But this is my very “cork sniffy” take on production. Obviously there have been very successful songs / albums with subpar bass, or straight up non-existent (Metallica’s “… And Justice For All” comes to mind).
Right on. Yeah I was mostly thinking of going down the rabbit hole of learning to physically play songs on a “real” bass. It would require an investment of time, but it might be worth a shot. Although, programming might be fun to tool around with as well.
I was just thinking it might be cool to cover some simple songs from scratch. By that I mean, program in the drums, and then physically play and/or record the bass and the guitar parts.
@CalvinScarified Not sure what kind of music you listen to, but old punk (think Misfits, Ramones, etc) is great because they mostly had really rushed / makeshift productions, and barely any musicianship (I say this lovingly, lol). Also, plenty of songs that are around 2 minutes long, so by the time you feel like you’re over the song, you’re probably close to done.