Whenever I go digging for new records, I’m always looking for something that sounds great. It could be a piano loop or a horn section, but also it could be the actual cover of the album itself – afros mean the record is dope. But I actually don’t go looking for records that have drum breaks on them. I think the biggest reason is because I have tons of drum sounds on my computer, so when I make my loops I just hit the pads myself and come up with something. Drum breaks, however, are something that I started really getting into more in the past few years…
1. The Work Is Done For You
If you were to use drum breaks for your own productions, the biggest advantage you will have is that the majority of the work is done for you. That “magic” that you want to add to your beats is right there in front of you, with a drum break that is ready to go. Some breaks are of course better than others, so you must be careful in which breaks you use, but once you get the right one, you can’t possibly make a terrible beat.
There’s been plenty of times where I sat down to make some beats but once I got Maschine all fired up, I actually didn’t know where to start. It could have been that I wasn’t motivated or I just couldn’t find a good sample, but when I would use a drum break, it actually eased my mind because I knew that I was a simple step away from creating a dope track.
Looping a break and then throwing some other samples on top, or even if you play some keyboard sounds along with it may seem too easy to most of you, but what’s wrong with that? I’m not saying that you should make all of your beats this way, but if you’re in a situation where you have a dope loop and all you need to do is throw a few sounds on top, then why not? The bottom line is that your beat will sound amazing.
2. They Sound Great
One of the best things about drum breaks is that they sounds amazing. When I get my MP3 player ready for the gym, I usually just put a bunch of songs on there and I’m out the door. One day when I was getting ready to hit the bench press, the next song that came on my player was this:
ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” got me all fired up, but more importantly I had forgotten about that drum break! Not only did it help me push some heavy weight, but now it was in mind that I needed to sample that break later on when I made a beat. Listen to how great that drum break sounds. You could use it as is or slice it up every which way, but the fact remains that a break like that could change your whole beat easily by making it so much better.
3. They’ve Been Used Before
Since drum breaks sound so awesome, everyone has used them. It used to be that only Hip Hop producers would dare sample famous (and not so famous) drum breaks to use in their own beats, but now you see all genres of music sampling breaks. Actually, now you have Pop artists sampling Hip Hop artists, who sampled the original artist!
Even though some breaks have been sampled already, (and most of them have), it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sample them yourself. Take for example James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” break, probably the most widely used drum break of all-time:
I’ve heard that break used probably a million times, yet it STILL makes any track dope. I know that some breaks can get tiresome if they’ve been sampled over and over, but there’s no doubt that by using a break like that, your track will shine.
4. There Are Plenty Of Them
There are tons of breaks out there, and the best part about it is that there are still many that have yet to be found! It amazes me that after all of these years of producers and vinyl heads digging all over the world, there are still drum breaks that are out there, somewhere deep in a pile of someone’s trash, a break is waiting to be found.
A few years back there was a whole bunch of deejays – guys from the Beat Junkies, Babu, Dilla (I think), Cut Chemist, and many others that went to Brazil to dig for records! There were rumors that in Brazil there was this huge amount of vinyl going around, stuff that nobody in this part of the world had, so of course lots of deejays ended up going there. And I’m sure they found dope drum breaks.
5. You Can Chop Them
In the past I used to find parts of a song to sample, and I would jack the drums. I would chop up the drums and make them my own, but I wasn’t aiming to sample actual drum breaks because I was looking for drum hits that were “open” and sounded clean enough that I could use them as is. Once I started diving into drum break territory, that all changed.
Using the drum breaks as is, like “Funky Drummer”, for example, is a great way of making a hot track, but why not chop it up and make something yourself? I’ve done plenty of beats where I took a break but chopped it up and banged out my own drum pattern, instead of using the break intact. I also would take the chopped up drum parts and try to recreate the drum pattern of the original break. I know it may sound stupid to some, but I think it’s a good idea because even though the pattern is the same, it’s ME playing the pattern, rather than just using the original.
Whether you loop drum breaks or chop them up until they become something completely different, they’re a great way of spicing up your own productions. Just remember that even though you may think you found a break that no one else has, you’re probably wrong! But there are plenty out there still to be found – so start looking.