Drums. Without drums, Hip Hop (and every other music genre), would be doomed. Drums are the foundation of pretty much every song ever, so why is it that a lot of us create the same type of drum patterns? Maybe we all feed off of each other, or maybe we’re possessed by beatmaking demons who only allow basic 4-bar patterns! Who knows…
1. Learn From The Masters
Whether it’s producers like Marley Marl, Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, or drummers like Neil Pert, John Bonham, or Keith Moon, these are the guys that know what they’re doing. It makes total sense to me to learn from them because they’re the best at what they do. Take a look at this clip of Neil Pert, the drummer from Rush:
This guy is clearly nuts when it comes to drums. He had so many drumkits surrounding him that he might as well have 8 arms because at times it seemed like he did. He’s basically like an octopus that transformed into a drummer. Just imagine what he could do with all the groupies!
In this video, Pete Rock is talking about his beats and the MPC:
If you don’t know who Pete Rock is, punch yourself in the face. I’ll wait. How does it feel? Good, I’m glad it hurts. Pete Rock is one of the greatest Hip Hop producers of all time and it’s because he can take any sample, chop it up, add just the right amount of spices, and serve it to you on a platinum platter.
The whole point of learning from the masters is that you could get ideas from what they’re doing. It could be the smallest thing that you notice, or it could be you’re just inspired by how amazingly skilled they are, either way, it’s supposed to help you make better drums.
2. Play The Drums
I messed around with actual drums when I was younger, but only for fun and only for a few minutes. But when I did, it was actually intimidating! The drums felt like these huge things that I was scared to hit because I thought maybe they would come to life, then I would pass out from being scared, then everyone would have to call 911 and try to bring me back to life.
When I’ve seen people play the drums live, it’s really dope. It doesn’t even come close to playing drums on a studio controller, not close at all. If you’re able to get your hands on someone’s sticks (I said sticks), and bang away at some real drums, go for it. You’re going to be horrible but at least you might come up with some ideas of your own when you finally do play drums on your stupid little controller.
3. Use A Drum Machine
Just as a controller can’t compare to real drums, the same thing goes for drum machines, which are way better than controllers or software. Not to knock software, but there’s something about being able to touch buttons, push them, caress them, lick them, and do all sort of sick things to them, instead of just clicking a mouse.
A great and cheap (used) drum machine, is the classic Alesis SR-16:
Drum machines are old school and they’re awesome. You could buy some cheap ones online if you look around enough, maybe something in the $50 range (or less). It doesn’t matter if it’s in bad shape and the previous owner left some weird white sticky substance on it, just buy it. You never know what you might find, and you never know what kind of sounds it might contain. It might have sounds that would be great to sample into your pathetic controller.
4. Use A Controller
If you hate drums, drum machines, and don’t want to learn from the masters, and if you insist, it’s up to you. Use a controller. But use a new controller. If you have Maschine, then get yourself the MPC Renaissance, or a MIDI keyboard, for example. As long as you’re using something new, you’ll have the chance to learn something new, the sounds that come with the controller might be awesome, and you might end up with a much better workflow, which in turn will give you much better drums.
I’m not hating on controllers, I’m just saying that most of us use them and in order to make better drums, it’s best to try other things. Or stick with your tiny useless controller.
#5 is up to you. I want to hear what you think is a way for you to make better drums. Learn how to play the spoons? Beatboxing? Pushups? Eating more protein?
These are great ways to learn how to make better drums. Drums are essential in any Hip Hop track, and if you plan on making dope beats for the rest of your life, make sure that your drums don’t blow! So, what’s your #5?