How to Use Drum Loops to Energize Your Songwriting
Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Nothing. No ideas. No inspiration. Just you and your guitar in hand (or any other instrument for that matter) and nothing is happening. In the rehearsal space, someone in the band is always “on” and the one to kick start anyone else needing that little something to get the creative juices going.
But, in a home recording situation, it’s usually just you, your gear, and the computer screen. And, that’s exactly when you need a nudge, a boost, or a kick to get a song or idea going. You might have some song ideas bouncing around in your head, but you’re missing that vibe that comes from interacting with other musicians. And, who usually is the one to supply that vibe and energy? That’s right – the drummer! The right drum groove – no matter if it’s laid-back or chill or flat-out pounding with rock-n-roll abandon – is the one thing that will get you moving and flowing with the creative process of songwriting.
Simply put, drums can make or break the music you’re looking to write and record. The influence the groove imparts cannot be overstated. If the drum part is there, dripping with energy, vibe, and pocket, it’s impossible to resist its gravitational pull.
So, don’t fight it – let the grooves take you along for the ride! Here are five ways you can make that process happen in your songwriting sessions and use drum loops to energize your songwriting.
1. Go with the Flow!
When using loops, follow them. Resist the temptation to make them fit your preconceived ideas and play off of them. Interact with them rather adjusting and altering the loops. One obvious way to do this is lay out and arrange your drum loops before you record anything. But, doesn’t that limit you as a songwriter? Isn’t it like constructing the frame before you paint the picture? Yes, but that’s precisely the point! Most of the time we are paralyzed when presented with too many options. We freeze. We hesitate. We succumb to the dreaded “paralysis by analysis” situation and progress simply stops.
So, go with the flow and let the drum loops take you where they want to go, rather than the other way around. Trust in the process and the process will happen. It’s difficult to be certain, but it’s one way to simplify the decision-making process and let the creative muse take over and guide you.
2. Or Not!
Any DAW on the market has the native ability to edit, transform, and manipulate loops. Whether you’re in Logic, Cubase, or Ableton Live, go ahead and see how much you can do to transform the loops to your liking. This is a good way to see how much tempo affects the vibe of a drum part or performance. You will likely find out that drum loops often “stretch up” (that is, adjust to an increase in tempo) more so than they “stretch down” (go down in bpm tempo). It’s usually dependent on the original loop source material (closed hi-hat loops, with the tight transients can be tempo-adjusted without audible artifacts much greater than say a beat with a washy ride cymbal going on). The ability to time-shift will yield different results in different DAWs but any attempt will likely result in breathing some new and fresh air to any loop.
So, experimentation is the name of the game here – push the loops to their audio limit and see what happens. It might be enough to get your music up and running in ways you had never expected.
3. Explore a New Drum Mix
All Beta Monkey drum loops will sit nicely in the mix of their intended genre. The metal drums found in the Double Bass Mania Series were recorded and mixed for metal and will certainly be in their element for all metal guitarists/songwriters looking to write something heavy. Likewise, the retro mix of the Classic Backbeats Series is at home in any music looking to go back to the pure, clean tones of recorded drums from previous generations. That’s what they were intended for and of course will serve the sound of those particular genres effectively.
But sometimes using the mix of one genre in entirely disparate one produces some musically interesting and intriguing results. You might find a mix you wouldn’t normally reach for to be the exact one to serve the music you’re writing.
Another approach might be to experiment with some processing. Take a warm and natural acoustic drum mix and try a heavy dose of compression. You will soon discover that the drums take on an entirely different character, a character that inspires you and gives you that “vibe” mentioned earlier in the article. All of our library mixes will take to additional processing well, so be bold and explore a new drum mix.
4. Create Your Own Custom Drum Groove Library
All drum sample libraries offer hundreds of drum parts recorded with specific feels and varying tempos. Take any of the Beta Monkey drum loop collections, for example. In any given pack, you’ll find multiple subfolders arranged by the genre of groove and its native tempo (that is, the actual bpm marking the drummer tracked the drums at).
We’ve designed the folder and file naming conventions to be as intuitive as possible – an aspect of our libraries that help streamline the creative process of building the drum track and a feature that we often receive praise from our users. But, what if you want to make things a little more customized and more to your own specific musical needs?
Why not create a “go to” folder of your favorite loops found in the library? Try creating a custom folder of “meat and potatoes” simple grooves. Or, organize a folder of more syncopated ones. Maybe a folder of anything with a triplet-feel, swing, or shuffle? You get the idea. This way, if you do have a specific riff or musical phrase in mind, you can quickly go to the “meat and potatoes” or “busy, crazy syncopation” folder without skipping a beat. Not only will you speed up your productivity, but you might create expand your potential groove pools in ways we could never have imagined when constructing our libraries.
So, take an hour or so and go through the loops and actively listen for potential song starters. Set up your custom folders, copy/paste, and create your own personalized groove library. They’ll be there the next time inspiration strikes.
5. It’s the Real Thing
It’s hard to deny that virtual drummer software has evolved much over the years. Programs like Addictive Drums, EZdrummer and BFD are more than capable solutions to creating drum tracks. But, there’s one thing they never will capture – the rhythmic intelligence, energy and feel of a seasoned drummer. The accumulated years of experience, coupled with natural intuition and talent, a great drummer possesses is special and certainly would be difficult (maybe impossible) to program in MIDI. The primal expression of a human hitting, whether slamming away or gently massaging and coaxing the tones out of the drums, is what draws us in and gives the drums the power that has connected the human experience across time, culture or geography. You think virtual software can capture that essence? It doesn’t. It can’t. It won’t.
And, that is precisely what you get when you reach for live, acoustic drum loops – pure musical energy, nuance, and sensibility. There are infinite variables in drumming and great drummer know and exploit this. Hit the drum here, hit the drum there – vary, repeat, embellish, reduce – it’s all part of how a drummer’s mind work. That said, when it’s the right creative choices rhythmically, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Need a reminder? Here a few of our favorite grooves:
Shameless Plug Alert! On our Drum Werks XVII: Signature Rock Grooves library, you can hear how we interpreted those all-time greatest drum beats with one of L.A.’s most in-demand studio drummers!
In this age of machines taking over so many aspects of our lives, remind yourself that it still hasn’t happened with live drummers. Capturing those performances in drum loops is the closest you’ll get to the real thing, short of being in the same room as one.
Without question, writing and composing music when it’s just you and the computer screen can be a challenge at times. There’s no musical (and personal!) interaction with other players to motivate or push you. Without the human element, it’s easy to stall and never get anything going musically.
That’s where the energy and inspiration of grabbing some drum loops can get you out of this situation. And, we’re not talking the sequenced, rendered from MIDI, ultra-quantized drum loops you’ll get at some many companies on the internet – we’re talking the live, acoustic, played by the hands of a living, breathing, and sweating human being we call a drummer type of drum loops. You know, the kind you can get from us ever since we set out to inspire the world in 2002 (with new releases still coming).
So, let’s get you going and get your drum tracks going in a new direction as well. While drum loops will never replace sitting in the rehearsal space and interacting with a drummer or percussionist in the most natural and organic way possible, it’s arguably the next best option.
Unless you love to painstakingly pencil in and edit MIDI notes to capture the musical sensibilities and intricacies of a seasoned drummer, we have an easier and more effective solution:
Download, listen, and enjoy the real thing.