Tutorials 5 Ways You Can Improve Your Drums Right Now


The Beat Strangler
*** illest o.g. ***
Battle Points: 1

I love drums, and I love working on them when I'm making beats. When I'm creating a drum pattern, however, I find it's too easy for me to get lazy and I end up with a boring drum loop - and then a boring beat.

There's plenty of things you can do to spice up your drums, such as using various plug-ins, but there's much better ways, like making them better right from the start. By tightening up your drums right away, you won't have to rely on a plug-in or any kind of software trickery.

1. Compress, But Not Too Much

One of the first things that Hip Hop producers do to their drums is compress them. The problem is that most of you compress the hell out of them, and they end up sounding like they're severely over processed. The best example is the Beatnuts' "Watch Out Now" track. The drums on that song are good for that beat, but you don't want to be using that all the time.

Compression is a great tool, but that's just what it is - a tool. Hammers and screw drivers are great tools too, but I don't use those to eat my food with. So with your drums, it's wise to add compression, but apply only what's needed.

You could use certain default settings each time, but I won't give you absolute numbers since your drum track will always vary. Instead, use a preset that comes with your compressor plug-in (if you're using software), and then tweak from there. If you're using a hardware compressor, tweak it as you see fit, but again, very little.

2. Make Your Kick Match Your Bass

A long time ago when I was making a beat, I had sampled a kick that I really liked because it was nice and thick. I then built up my drum track and added a bassline. When I played it back together, I realized that the kick and the bass fit so perfectly. That's because, even though it was unintentional, they were in the same frequency range.

Since then, that's one of the things that I always try to accomplish when making a beat. No matter what kick I have, I try my best to get it to match the same frequency and thickness as my bassline. I know it's hard to do, because it all depends on what kick sound you have, plus whatever bass tone you're using, but you have to try.

If you can nail that, your drums will sound so much nicer along with everything else, trust me.

3. Do Simple Patterns

It's very tempting to want to bang away at the pads or keys and come up with a wicked drum pattern, but why? If you take a look at someone like Araabmuzik, that guy is super fast on the MPC with his patterns. Take a look:

I know you're probably not making really fast patterns like that in the lab, but it can be tempting to do so. What I always recommend is that you start off with a simple pattern, such as:

KICK - SNARE - KICK - SNARE (Hat on every other note)

It's simple. And that's the best way because now you can build upon that. I've done patterns where I was going nuts with the drums, but I never liked the way it turned out. There's a time and place for crazy drums, and in the studio is not one of them because you want something that you can control.

As you continue on, add another kick or snare, then change up the hats, if needed. Before you know it, you will have a full drum pattern that sounds really dope.

4. Layer Your Drums

I always wondered how some producers were able to get certain snares. I always thought maybe they had a drum set so they could get a dry drum hit, then tweak it with all sorts of gear. Maybe some do that, but the majority just layer their drum sounds.

If you find a nice snare, for example, you could use it as is, but someone else might be using the same one (and they probably are). But if you were to take that snare and layer it with another, completely different snare, or maybe 2 or 3 others, then you would have something that no one else has.

The beauty of layering is that there's so many different combinations that the possibilities seem endless!

5. Use Drum Breaks

If you're struggling trying to build a pattern, or to spice up your drum loop, then why not use drum breaks? It's always fun using breaks because there's lots of classics out there, and even though lots of them have been used thousands of times, there's always a new way to flip them. Even if you use the break like everyone else has, it will still make your beat sound great.

If you were to use James Brown's "Funky Drummer" break, how can anyone say your beat sucks? That's a classic break, and even though it's decades old and has been sampled many times, no one can get tired of that break.

Use drum breaks and listen to your beats. Guaranteed you will be nodding your head.

Further Reading Related to Beat Making
Last edited:
ProducerSpot Halloween

Johan Brodd

Battle Points: 1
I agree with most of what has been said, I hardly ever use breaks directly as samples for my beats, instead I lay out the drums to match the break beat as closely as possible. Influenced by the classics, with my own twist. :)


The Beat Strangler
*** illest o.g. ***
Battle Points: 1
Thanks for the feedback! You have a point though. I've done that too, trying to match my own drums to the break, it really helps.


The two elements that I feel have helped me the most with my drums are tape compression and learning how to stack drums properly... Especially with the kick drum. The way that the kick drum hits is... well you already know.

I used to use sampled drums a lot, but now I try to stay away from that as I feel very comfortable getting the sounds I want from scratch. Tape Distortion plays a huge role in this process. The Tape setting from the Scream Distortion Device in Reason is money for this. You don't even need to crank up the distortion or the compression that much to get a really desirable sound. When I A:B it to the original signal, the difference is crazy. So much warmer and more powerful, but with a lower dynamic ceiling.

Another big part of getting legit drum sounds from scratch is stacking the right way. To do this, you really need to have attention to detail. Definitely not as easy as throwing two sounds together. I try to pick out drums that contrast with each other well from a frequency perspective when stacking. What's the point of stacking two drums that sound the same pretty much. With that being said, they need to compliment each other well. From there, I think you really need to figure out the right distribution between the drum sounds you are trying to stack. If you are mixing an 808 style drum with a normal kick, which one is going to be dominant? Also, I think you really need to look at the envelopes of the drums you are stacking. You might be better served for one of the drum sounds to have more of an attack, and for the other to be more sustained. I also think that you should try to limit your stacking. Usually I can get what I want with only two sounds. The more sounds that you stack together, the more definition of sound you lose.

Since I employed those two strategies above, I'm very happy with the way that my drums slap through the speaker. I will say that they lack a certain character that is present in sampled drums though. To me, that is the trade off between the sampled world and the digital world. Although sampled drums have that character, they don't quite measure up to what you can do on your own sonically. Ideally, you can blend these two worlds... But from my experience that can be a timely and messy process that may not produce the results you desire.

Members online

illmuzik on youtube

ProducerSpot Halloween