I have been making loops for over ten years & running a beat making classes and song writing classes for over a year. I am always surprised & delighted to hear about the stumbling blocks people face when they are trying to write either a song or a beat.. or a beat to a song or a song to a beat.
I am surprised as the most common things I hear are normally very similar problems with drum beats or drum loops and they come from all genres not just problems for programmed drum beats for guitar, which is a very common one; especially if the beats are not too organic.
I am also delighted as I can give my class a list of helpful insights, hints, tips and answers that have been tried and tested.
Here are a few points that I would like you to take on board and blend into your approach:
Get yourself a drum machine or/and a trigger pad – With one of these you can really get the feel for the drum patterns and drum rhythms. There are plenty of free drum samples around, collect some audio beats or even some sample beats and assign them to the specific pads and work on some simple beats. I have come up with some really strong ideas like this even if you are a drum beginner. Drum beginners need not worry on the trigger pad, if you go out of time, you can simply quantise your beats/notes in your sequencer. This also makes beat making a little more involved and more fun. You will also be able to record and re-record and not feel the pressure to perform like a drummer does. You can have a lot more time to put in your rock drum fills or, whatever else you want as you have quantise and time on your side!
Understand what you are doing – Understanding some basic music theory will help your beat writing ability and will also give you confidence when speaking to others (whether they know the theory or not) and it will also have an impact on your self belief. You will also be able to read drum notation, which is very easy and it will improve your drum beats being able to drum other peoples’ drums, even if it is played on a pad or programmed in to the sequencer.
If you ever see someone you know and they are moving ahead of you and you think they are making better music than you but you feel you could do better. Bets are they have some music theory knowledge.
Expand your scope – Take some time out to listen to some different music styles. They will almost certainly have different drum styles. If you hate a style of music, do not force yourself to listen to it. If you are a true fan of music it should not be too hard look through your collection of music or go on to an online radio station and find a channel of a genre you know you like. Rock drum loops are probably the most versatile and will work well with a lot of cross over genre style songs. The main thing is to get out of the area most familiar to you so you can come up with something truly original and make what you do stand out from other peoples solo influence replica.