Drum and Bass Tutorial Day 1: Making a DnB Beat [7 Day Song]
Hi! I’m Dave from boyinaband.com, and welcome to my seven day song tutorial on Drum and Bass, where I’ll be taking you through the process of making a DnB song from scratch over, shockingly enough, 7 days.
At the end, I’ll post the finished song and you guys can post your completed songs as video responses and I’ll try and offer some constructive criticism to the tracks you post. I’ll also choose one of my favourites to promote in my weekly video blog!
I’ll go through things like Making the Beat, Synth patches, and a bit about music theory and arrangement of a conventional Drum and Bass song.
This is the second seven day song, after the Dubstep tutorial which had a great response, so if you’re into your wobble bass and offbeat syncopation, check out the Dubstep Seven Day Song Tutorial!
But yes; on with the tutorial.
In Day 1 I’ll be teaching you how to make a punchy Drum and Bass beat using techniques like layering, EQing and compression to build a strong, driving basis to your track.
Okay! Let’s begin.
We’ll start by setting the tempo to 170bpm – Most drum and bass is around 160-180bpm, with the vast majority at 170bpm, making it easier for DJs to mix together.
Create a Mastering suite, a Mixer 14:2 and a combinator for our first drum loop.
The best way to get a powerful sound is by layering samples. We’re going to start with a Drum loop I’ve found in the Primeloops.com Drum and Bass Drum loops sample pack, but if you don’t have the money to spend on high quality loops, there are some pretty good ones built into Reason.
Name your combinator “Chorus Loop” and create a Dr Rex loop player. This plays drum loops in the .rex2 format. Click the “open” button and select a loop from the file menu that you like.
When it’s loaded up, play the loop and click the “preview” button to listen to it at the tempo of the track. When you’re happy with it, right click Dr Rex and click “Copy pattern to track” to… uh… copy the patter to the track. It loops the pattern between the loop in and out points, so make sure you have it at the right length. I’ll set mine to a two bar loop so I can do a bit of editing more easily later on!
Okay, now we have our basic loop. It’s pretty punchy, which is great, but the kick and snare aren’t as powerful as I’d like and the hi hats are kinda slow, whereas I want a pacey chorus for this song. Right click the Reason interface and create a combinator, name it “Beat”, then create a line 6:2 mixer followed by a ReDrum instance.
I’m going to load a drum kit patch into my instance of Reason which contains some kick, snare and hi hat samples I’ve prepared for this tutorial. Some of these samples are from my free Drum and Bass sample pack available on Boyinaband.com, so be sure to head over there and look in the “free samples” category for that.
If you’re struggling to figure out how to load those samples into ReDrum after downloading them, then please check out this tutorial I made for people just like you!
I’ll just go through the samples quickly. We’ve got two kicks, 3 snares and 3 hi hats.
Kick one has a lot of click to it, Kick two has quite a bit more bassy low end, so together they’ll build a nicely rounded kick.
Snare one is a nice noisy, punchy sample with quite a long release for the meat of the snare, two has a sharp attack for the click of the snare and three is a quieter, less intrusive snare for ghost notes, which I’ll explain in a bit.
Hi hat one and two are slightly different closed hat samples, and hat 3 is more like a ride – a longer sample that we’ll use to drive the hi end.
To start with, I’m going to keep things simple and build a generic drum and bass loop, which fits nicely on top of our existing loop (remember – if it doesn’t fit on top, things will start to sound messy!) Put the kicks on the 1 and 11 and the Snares on the 5 and 13. The kick on the 11 is what makes the iconic Drum and bass song – because it’s not on the beat, it gives a bounciness to the beat – this is called syncopation. Drum and Bass, like a lot of other genres, is heavily centered around syncopated percussion.
Now for those ghost notes. If you listen to most drum and bass, there’ll usually be other syncopated snare drum hits that make the loop even bouncier. These are called ghost notes. Put the quiet snare on the 8 and 10 steps and listen to how it adds that extra bit of interest to the loop.
Okay, there’s the main part of our beat, right click and copy pattern to track. Make sure you deselect the “Enable Pattern Section” button on Reason if you want to listen to it in the window, or you’ll get both beats playing at the same time!
Now, right click on the track and click New Note Lane. Name the lane with the kick and snares on it “Beat” and the new lane “Hats”. Back in ReDrum, switch over to Pattern 2 and put in the hi hats – hat one on every odd number, two on every even number and the ride on every on-beat to drive it along (1,5,9,13).
Make sure the “Hats” note lane is selected, then copy the pattern to track. Have a listen – this is pretty cool, but the Kick and snare are a bit muffled. This is where EQing and Compression comes in.
We’re going to start splitting the samples now – right click and create a Spider Audio Merger and Splitter. Then right click and create an MClass Equalizer and Compressor. If you hold “Shift” when you create them, it stops them from automatically linking to the nearest device.
Press Tab to look at the back of the rack – drag channels 1 and 2 (our kick drums) into the Spider Audio Merger. Drag them into the Equalizer, that into the compressor and that into a spare channel in the Line 6:2 Mixer. Now, with that set up, hit all the Band Enable buttons on the Equalizer.
We’re now going to bring out some of the more prominent parts of the sound, whilst removing some of the muddier parts. Turn the Lo shelf frequency to about 80 Hz and take the gain right down. It might seem strange to remove the bass from a kick drum, but we only want the higher end of the bass sound for the kick, leaving the lower end, below 80hz, for the bass synth – separating them this way makes the track sound less muddy and more defined!
Bring up the 120Hz region with Param 1 to bring up the bassy part of the kick drum. With Param 2, Bring up around 2.5khz to emphasize the clicky attack of the kick drum. Lastly, turn the hi shelf up a bit just to brighten that kick’s click a bit more.
Okay, now the compressor – just turn the threshold to about -15dB and the ratio to full – this basically limits the sound after it has hit so the kick drum isn’t too loud.
Now we’ll do the same thing with the two main snares – again, spider merger and splitter, MClass equalizer and MClass Compressor. This time boost around 250hz for the punch of the snare and around 2.5khz for the click – since in Drum and Bass the snare and kick are generally not played simultaneously, it doesn’t matter that we’re emphasizing the same frequency range. I’ve also taken up the hi frequency by a few dB and cut the low frequency below about 30hz with a really wide bandwidth.
For the compressor take the ratio to infinity to one and turn the threshold up to about 3/4.
Just do give yourself more control over the volume of the ghost notes, drag the output of channel 5 into the line mixer too. This leaves the ReDrum output dealing with the hats.
And there you have it! A Drum and Bass beat more powerful than Chris Brown’s woman beating arm and crisper than a packet of walkers. Tune in for Day 2 where I’ll be turning the Drum into Drum and Bass with the addition of a powerful thor Reese Bass synth and the bowel-bursting Sub Bass!