Essential Hip Hop Rhythms
Classic, timeless Hip Hop music is built on a solid foundation of soulful, yet addictive rhythm. So far, at Hit Talk, we’ve addressed many melodic production concepts, taking rhythm and basic beat-making skills as given. Still, many readers have asked for specifics in creating compelling rhythms and beat-making. In this tip article, we get busy revealing the techniques that result in hit drum rhythms. To illustrate, we use Adobe Audition to explain the concepts of downbeat and backbeat, plus reveal the enormous difference in feel you can create by varying the placement of the kick drum. The enlightening exercises below can be re-created using any music production software.
Fundamental Beat Structure
At left, is a 2-bar beat put together in Adobe Audition’s slick and satisfyingly intuitive sequencer. Pay attention to the kick and snare channels. The kick and snare follow what is widely considered the original rock beat: the most basic rhythmic pattern that a kit drummer can play. From this beat, you can learn the positions of the downbeat and the backbeat. It consists of a kick on the downbeat, and snare on the backbeat. The downbeat is the “1″ and “3″ counts of the bar, and the backbeat consists of the “2″ and “4″ counts of the bar. So counting “1, 2, 3, 4,” the rhythm consists of a simple “kick, snare, kick, snare” pattern. Rather than creating a straight 8th or 16th note ride pattern, we’ve spiced the beat up by arranging clicks and snaps taken from the Modernbeats Neptunian Drums 3 sample library on channel 3, making a few fast edits of the stereo image by clicking and dragging Audition’s easy-to-use clip envelopes. Though the clicks and snaps add interest to the beat, we need to heat it up bigtime. Changing the placement of the kick drum, particularly the second kick in each bar, will dramatically improve the beat’s groove.
Gin & Juice Beat: Second Kick Shifted Down
Snoopy’s Gin & Juice is one among countless classic Rap songs that uses a variation of the pattern you see at left. Essentially, we’ve shifted the second kick of each bar down the time line by one 8th note. The snare stays steady on the backbeat, but the delayed second kick gives the groove a nice, chilled vibe. Now the beat is beginning to show some soul. Though Gin & Juice contains a more complex kick rhythm, it is based on the same accents and feel as the rhythm we’ve shown you in the diagram at left. Counting the pattern in 8th notes (the bolded counts represent the kick), you get this: “1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &”. So, if shifting the kick down an 8th note creates a laid back beat, then what happens when you shift the kick ahead or earlier in time?
Second Kick Shifted Ahead
Let’s take another popular snoop joint as our counterexample. “Lay Low,” feat. Nate Dogg & Dre is a perfect example of shifting the kick ahead on the time line. If you shift the second kick ahead on the timeline, landing it on the 8th note before the downbeat you get this: “1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &”. Though it seems like such a small change, try comparing “Gin & Juice” with “Lay Low”. “Gin & Juice” is laid back, “Lay Low” on the other hand, is more energetic, and up beat. Part of the reason for that is tempo, part of the reason is additional rhythmic accents added by Dre, but the main reason is the placement of the kick. Where the kick goes, the rest of the song follows.
So above are two classic and time-proven patterns that you can use as templates for your own beat-making. They’re simple to understand and re-produce. Listening to the difference in feel of either pattern will program your mind to understand exactly how much the kick changes the feel of the beat. As Hit Talk expands, we’ll be covering increasingly complicated beat patterns and rhythms. So, stay tuned for upcoming examples that will further enhance your music production skills.