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I always recommend that simplicity is key when making music, but what about something specific, like a drum pattern? The traditional way for Hip Hop producers is to bang on the pads of an MPC to create their patterns and loops, however, step sequencing is also a very powerful tool. So what is the best way?
Hitting The Pads
I prefer to hit the pads when I'm starting my pattern, but not necessarily when I want to create a full pattern. I tend to start off by doing a simple pattern such as:
As you can see, I do kick-snare-kick-snare and the hats on every other note, and doing it this way I think is the best starting point. There have been times where I attempted to create an entire pattern right away but ended up with something either too fast, or sloppy. I know that practicing would have made me into a drum pattern monster, but I wasn't looking for that; rather I just wanted to make a simple pattern and then build from there.
I haven't done any step sequencing in a few years, to be honest. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I no longer need it since I now use Maschine, but Maschine has step sequencing - I just haven't bothered to use it! It can be a great way to make a pattern though, because for some producers it's much easier to just play the drum hits at specific points, if that's what you're going for.
The advantage of step sequencing is that it can be used for more than just the drums, for example if you want to record another instrument on top. Let's say you already have your drum pattern laid out and you want to have a piano sample trigger on the kick every two bars:
This is where step sequencing can come in handy because you're not trying to play it live, rather you're just lining the piano up with the kick and letting the software/hardware do all of the work.
Software vs. Hardware
When I used Cakewalk, then Reason, I would line up my samples wherever I wanted to and see what I could come up with. In a way, it was almost like I was playing a game because I would sometimes line everything up (without even listening!), and then hit play. Sometimes it would sound dope, other times wack.
Software was good for this, and I think that if you're making music solely with software and a controller, your best bet is to use step sequencing. If you're using hardware then I don't see much of a need for step sequencing, unless you're just a neat freak.
As I mentioned above, it does serve its purposes, and essentially I'm using both when I'm using Maschine. I start off by hitting the pads and creating a basic pattern, then I build it up from there by adding in an extra kick or snare at certain points, while the loop keeps playing. I guess you could say that's step sequencing.
For me, step sequencing is a thing of the past. I know that a lot of people still use it, but unless you're using nothing but software, there's really no point. If you're using something like Reason and have a MIDI controller keyboard, bang away! Not only does it make it more challenging, it will bring out your creativity, then soon you'll be a drum pattern monster. So, what do you use?
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