Improve Your Drum Patterns Series: Part 1 – Layering

Improve Your Drum Patterns Series:

One of the key elements to a great production is the drum patterns. Especially in urban based music. If your drum patterns don’t sound right, they can ruin the entire track. Your melodies, arrangements and everything can be on point, but if the drums sound weak, the quality of the song will suffer as a result.

That’s why I get so many questions regarding my drum sounds and drum patterns. People are constantly asking me how I get my drums to sound so punchy and clean, how I get them hitting so hard, and how I get the patterns to sound interesting. I’d usually respond with short advice, like ‘source great drum sounds’, ‘layer your drums’, ‘learn about mixing’, ‘study and practice’ etc, but none of the advice I was giving was detailed and thorough, and in retrospect, probably not very helpful.  Recently I decided to write up a detailed explanation of the techniques I personally use on my own drum patterns, to get them sounding punchy and clean.

It took me a lot of practice and studying to get to the level i’m at now, and i’m still improving every single day, but over the years I have learnt a few key techniques which I constantly use on my drums which I wish I knew a few years ago, when I was learning. I didn’t have anyone to teach me, and although there were forums and stuff like that, that I frequented, there were no real detailed guides on how to get great drum patterns. I pretty much had to learn everything myself.

That’s why I’ve created the “Improve Your Drum Patterns Series”.

Basically, the aim is for me to put my knowledge on drum production into video and words, so you guys can improve YOUR drums and get your production to the next level. I want this to be a sort of guide for improvement, something you can use as a reference to point you in the right direction.

You know this website is all about improvement, and taking the quality of your music higher, and drums seems like a natural place for us to start!

The first lesson in the “Improve your Drum Patterns” series is Layering.

Layering is one of the most fundamental techniques I (and many other producers) use to get a much thicker, fuller, and overall punchier sound from their drums. This technique can be used with virtually any sound (including melodic instruments, but that’s another lesson in itself), and it is most commonly used in Kicks, Claps, and Snares.

So what is layering?

Layering is essentially a technique which involved ‘putting together’ more than one sound, and combining them to make an entirely new sound. This can be done with anything. Piano’s with strings, a bass line and a top line synth, and especially, drum sounds, which is the focus of today’s article.

How this applies to drums, is we usually take one sound (for example a kick), then we add another kick sound to that sound and make those two sounds play together (count how many times I said sound). The two sounds combined, will usually result in a much fuller and crispier sound, and can help you achieve that ‘punch’ that might be lacking when using a single kick sound.

This is why it’s called ‘layering’. Each sound is basically a new ‘layer’, that is placed on top of the previous sound, and all these ‘layers’ combined will come together to form an entirely NEW sound.

Now, generally when I layer I use around 3 – 7 Kicks, and 2 – 5 claps, but it really depends. There’s no set number of how many kicks you have to layer to get it sounding good, and I suggest you just practice until you develop a good ear and intuition for layering and achieving the sound you want to hear.

So now that we understand the ‘idea’ behind layering, I’ve put together a video showing you exactly how the technique works. The video was shot using FL Studio (my DAW of choice), but the technique itself can be applied across any workstation or DAW you might be using, so don’t let that stop you from watching it. If you aren’t already familiar with the layering technique, or you think you might not be doing it correctly, or maybe you just want to learn something new, this video will definitely help you out.

I basically walk through the process of me creating a simple drum pattern, and showing how adding and layering extra sounds adds more punch and crispness to  the drum sounds, which will give you a great idea of how powerful this technique can be.

Layering is really a simple technique, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to learn. If your drums are lacking punch or fullness, it will be an easy way to get them sounding crispier in no time!

Here is the first video of the ‘Improve Your Drums’ series:

*Forgive me I was a little sick that day, so my voice sounds a little bit nasally, and there is some ‘sniffling’ through the video – The lesson is still clear though*

I’ve also included the FLP file and the drum sounds I used, for anyone who’d like to use them or follow along.
Click here to download the FLP file and drum sounds

You can use this FLP file to see exactly how I layered the sounds together in FL Studio (If that’s what you use). The drum pattern created in the video can be found in ‘Pattern 1’.
Even if you don’t use FL Studio, if you download the above file you can get each individual sound I used in the tutorial, and just load them up in whatever DAW you happen to be using.
Also, the files are ‘zipped’, so you’ll have to extract them somehow, either using winzip, winrar, or any other extraction program.

That’s it for today! Now you’re one step closer to getting better drum patterns!

The next part in the “Improve your Drum Patterns” series is coming soon! Also, please let me know what you thought of the article and the video. Was it helpful? Was there anything I could of explained better or more thoroughly?

As usual I always encourage feedback and I’d love to hear what you guys have to say!

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Posted on by Stuart B in Articles, Drums

5 Responses to Improve Your Drum Patterns Series: Part 1 – Layering

  1. Paul

    Thanks for the article and video bro! I just stumbled on your site from FP

    I remember checking out your Beat Making vids a while back, dope music.

    I like the combo of the written + video tutorial, I think it’s a good way of thoroughly covering the material.

    Look forward to more tutorials on layering, mixing, and arranging. Some insight on shopping/placing Beats would also be great!



    • Stuart B

      Hey Paul, Thanks for the comment!

      I will be releasing more articles soon on arrangement, and the rest of the drum series, I’m just on holidays overseas (Hong Kong) till Christmas so things will be kind of slow around here until then.

      After that though, there will be tonnes more info and some great interviews with some established producers which I’m sure everyone will love.

      Thanks for the feedback, and will defs write some on the business side (placing beats etc.) in the future!

  2. Barry

    This was a good tutorial, very helpful

  3. harry

    this tutorial was a good one for me, pls i am a novice when it comes to mixing and things like paning and stero seperation. i need some tips..thanks

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