When we trawl through the new releases every Friday, it’s always shocking to hear that almost all producers make the same mistake with their drums. So this video is designed to put an end to that, once and for all. But first…
A quick announcement. A huge Thank You to everyone for slamming our website during our sale last weekend. This actually broke our online store, but it’s all fixed and upgraded now, and to apologise for the inconvenience, we’ve extended our sale till the end of this weekend. So if you want 40% off everything on our website, then head on over to Online Course and Books + PDFs. But first… tea!
Hello revolutionaries, we are Kate Harmony and Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to Hack Music Theory. We help you make great music that stands out, so you can get discovered! If that sounds useful to you, then subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit that bell to get notified every Saturday, when we publish our new video. Alright, it’s time to open your DAW to hack music theory.
In Tatran’s new album “Foresee” that just dropped yesterday, Dan Mayo (who’s one of our favourite drummers!) brings the groove BIG time, reminding us that humans do it best! Now, while it’s impossible to replace a great drummer with a computer, it is possible to learn their hacks and use them in our MIDI drums. And that brings us to the No.1 mistake almost all producers make with their drums: They learn how to program them from other producers (and their MIDI drums), instead of learning from the only true source, real live drummers. So if you wanna program better drums, learn from great drummers! How? We’ll reveal that next...
We’re using Tatran’s new track “Arba” as the inspiration for this video, and what you see on the screen right now is a summarised version of Dan’s opening drum groove. So, start by setting up two bars of 4/4, with your grid set to 1/16 notes, and your tempo set to 86 BPM.
Step 1 - What to Play
Now, there’s a lot we can learn from a great drummer like Dan Mayo, so for this video, let’s just focus on one thing: Depth. So, Dan is playing a regular backbeat snare on beat 2 and beat 4. And that is actually about as deep as many producers would go with their snare pattern, but Dan adds another layer to his groove by playing three more snare accents in each bar. Then he adds a third layer to his snares, by playing ghost notes. Ghost notes are super soft snare hits, which add depth and texture to a groove. And finally, he plays a tom on beat 4 of each bar, which boosts the snare on that beat, making it sound bigger than the snare on beat 2. And with that, Dan has created four layers on his snare drum alone. That’s a lot of depth!
Step 2 - How to Play
Right, now that you’ve programmed what you wanna play, it’s time to program how you wanna play it. This involves changing each note’s velocity (which is how hard it’s hit), as that creates even more depth. Also, depending on what genre you’re working in, you could move the notes slightly off the grid for a more human feel. If you want an urgent feel, then move them a fraction before the beat. And if you want a chill vibe, move them a fraction after the beat (like we did with ours). Now, back to velocity. As an example of this, when a drummer plays two 1/16 note kicks in a row, their foot can’t kick the second note as hard as the first note*, so pull the velocity down on that second note. And another cool velocity hack is to change every single note individually, as that way each note has a slightly different velocity, which is how a drummer would play it.
*Good drummers can obviously do this, it’s just an example!
Step 3 - Watch & Learn
Conveniently, Dan Mayo actually has a YouTube channel, so head on over there to watch and learn! And if you wanna check out another one of our favourite drummers, watch Adam Deitch, who’s the drummer in Lettuce and Break Science. We’ll link to both of these drummers in the description below, so go and watch them play. And once you’ve found a couple favourite videos, slow them down, and program the MIDI for what they’re playing. Then, use those drum hacks creatively in your own music. Doing this will make your drums better than 99% of other producers’ beats. Guaranteed!
Right, now that you’ve got one section down, how do you write more sections for it, and then, how do you transition between those sections, and turn 'em into a song? Great questions, and if this is something you need help with, then check out our cutting-edge online apprenticeship course, where you’ll literally learn every step of the music making process, and most importantly, you’ll learn how to finish your songs! You’ll also gain access to our Private Network, which is a safe online space (i.e. social media platform) exclusively for our 500+ apprentices from 50+ countries. Our Network is a super supportive place for you to ask theory questions, share your music, get feedback, meet like-minded music makers, and collaborate! If all this sounds useful to you, then head on over to our Online Apprenticeship page now.
Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada
Level 1: Read our free book (below) & watch our YouTube videos
Level 2: Read our "Part 1" book & "Songwriting & Producing" PDF
Level 3: Learn our secret art of songwhispering & finish your music
Hack Music Theory is the pioneering notation-free method for making great music that stands out, so you can get discovered! Taught by award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé (and wife) Kate Harmony, from their studio in Vancouver BC, Canada. Ray is the author of critically-acclaimed book series "Hack Music Theory", and has made music with Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), Ihsahn (Emperor), Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs), Madchild (Swollen Members), and many more! Kate has the highest grade distinction in Popular Music Theory from the London College of Music, and is the only person on the planet who's been trained by Ray to teach his method. On that note, the "Hack Music Theory" YouTube channel teaches relevant and instantly-usable music theory for producers, DAW users, and all other music makers (songwriters, singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers, etc.) in all genres, from EDM to R&B, pop to hip-hop, reggae to rock, electronic to metal (and yes, we djefinitely djent!).
© 2018 Revolution Harmony
Revolution Harmony is Ray Harmony & Kate Harmony
All content (script & music) in video by Revolution Harmony
Wooohooo!!! You’re a mere 30 minutes away from being even smarter than you already are. Just head on over to your inbox now for your free download.