Making a Hip Hop Beat in Renoise‘s Drum Machine

Programming a Drum Machine Pattern

One of the tools that helped define the sound of hip hop is the drum machine– specifically the Roland 808 and 909. Each one had a unique set of synthesized drum sounds that producers could sequence into danceable beats.

Renoise has the sounds of these two iconic machines built in, and we can use them to explore sequencing a beat in the timeline.

We are going to learn how to use Renoise’s built in samples to make a basic hip hop rhythm. The skills in this tutorial can form the basis of your approach to creating any danceable beat.

Play the drum samples on your computer keyboard

Renoise is designed to let you play samples with your regular computer keyboard. Press a few keys to hear the sounds they make!

Start with the Z key, this is usually the starting place for Renoise’s sample banks. In the 808 Kit, Z triggers the kick drum.

See if you can find out which keys trigger a snare, a hi hat, and a clap.

[You can read more about using your computer keyboard in Renoise here]
Play the drum samples on your computer keyboard

Record Mode

You can put Renoise in Record mode by pressing the

Esc

button on your keyboard. Notice how a red line now surrounds the pattern editor. This means that any key presses you make will record a sample.

Record Mode

Kicks on 1 & 3, Snares on 2 & 4

The very most basic rhythm you can make is to put snare hits on the 2 & 4, and kick drums on the 1 & 3. It will sound a little boring at first, but we’ll make it more interesting in a little bit.

This basic structure is like the “backbone” of your song’s rhythm, tying together all of the other instruments and percussion.

Kicks on 1 & 3, Snares on 2 & 4

Recording a Pattern: Always Start with the Snares

The snare drum is the easiest one to start with because it almost always lands on the 2nd and 4th beat in a measure. This is the part of the rhythm where people clap their hands along to the beat.

In Renoise, you will want to put a snare hit at lines 4 and 12.

Find the key on your keyboard that triggers the snare sound, move your cursor to line 4 and press the key. Move your cursor to line 12 and do it again.

When you’re done, press Esc to leave record mode, and then spacebar to listen to the recording.

Recording a Pattern: Always Start with the Snares

Recording the Kick Drum

Putting a kick drum on the 1 and 3 gives your beat a basic structure, but it will sound a little boring at first. Hip hop rhythms use the kick drum to add interesting syncopation as well see in the next step.

For now, place a kick at lines 0 and 8.

Recording the Kick Drum

Add some funk!

Add a kick at lines 7 and 10 to make your beat bounce!

You can also let your timeline play and manually play kick drums where you think they sound good. This will add a more human feel to your beat. Just be careful that you don’t go too far off the beat!

Add some funk!

Recording your hi-hats using the Step Counter

Now we’re going to record a closed hi-hat sound at every even-numbered line. You could enter them individually, but let’s do something tricky. We’ll use the Step Counter to enter them automatically.

Change the step counter from 0 to 2.

 

Recording your hi-hats using the Step Counter

Let the Step Counter Enter Hi-Hats on Every Other Line

Then put your cursor on line 0 and press the key for the closed hi-hat.

This should automatically place closed hi-hats at every other line, creating a 16th note rhythm.

Press space to listen back to your rhythm.

 

Let the Step Counter Enter Hi-Hats on Every Other Line

Boom. Bap. Repeat!

By now it should be starting to sound like the hip hop beats you’re used to hearing. Let’s copy your beat to the rest of your pattern.

Select all of the notes in lines 0-15 on all of your tracks by dragging a box around them.

Press Cmd+C on Mac or Ctrl+C on Windows to copy your pattern.

Put your cursor on line 16 in track 1 and press Cmd+V (Mac) Ctrl+V (Win) to paste your pattern. Repeat this for lines 32 and 48.

Now your drum rhythm will play for the full length of the pattern. If you want to change it up, try moving the spots where the drums hit to bring some unpredictability to your beat!

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