“I don’t know what it is, but for some reason these drums sound better.”
There’s an art to getting hip hop drums right. And in a lot of cases, it's all about the nuanced detail and techniques.
Once you have a basic hip hop drum pattern, you can use a mix of: variation, augmentation, velocity, and swing to take it to the next level.
These will make your hip hop drums amazing. Using these dour techniques will take your drums from average to pro.
Let's dive in
Table Of Content: 4 Tips For Amazing Drum Patterns
- Variation: switching up your drum patterns
- Augmentation: Filling in with extra sounds
- Swing: adding some groove to your drum patterns
- Velocity: making your drum patterns a bit more human
1. Add Variation To Your Hip Hop Drums
Once you have a pattern down, a common mistake is sticking to this pattern the whole time. I’ve seen producers use the same drum pattern for the whole song.
And I get it. There’s so much more to worry about to a track that you want to get to.
The problem is, if you keep the same pattern, without variations our beat will sound boring!
No matter how great that pattern sounds, it’ll get monotonous. You want to add in small variations.
Doesn’t mean you have to completely change the pattern. Add in small variations.
Here’s our starting pattern:
Nothing too fancy but a one-two beat with some hi-hats and an open hat mixed in. Not bad but enough to build on or even for someone to rapping to.
Listening to that over and over will get monotonous. You want to add in variations such as mixing in more kicks on the second part.
Adds in a bit more flavor. A little touch of spice. Doing this every 4 bars, or 8 bars is a great way to mix up your beat.
You can even remove sounds as well. Here’s the same beat with the last snare removed.
What makes it interesting is it’s an unexpected change. When you throw in something that is not what the listener was expecting, but still fits in to the track, it adds a touch of magic.
The point is to keep your original beat, but every now and then make a slight change that the listener won’t anticipate.
2. Augment Your Hip Hop Drums
So the drum pattern is still a bit simple.
This is ok but to spice it up you want to add in more sounds around the base drum pattern.
From fills to snare rolls to extra toms, and vocal chops. There’s an endless way to round out the beat.
Let’s take another listen to our base pattern:
Now we’re going to add in a snare roll:
With a reverse crash added in:
and now with a vocal chop throw in:
And now let’s add some percussion with sticks in:
3. Add Swing To Your Beats
Swing helps to humanize the drums. In a world filled with software to create our music, it can come across as robotic and too programmed.
When you program a kick on the 1 it will play on the 1 all the time. Perfect very time. Never ever slightly off. Not a touch to early or a touch too late. Perfect every time. Never off by a micro fraction of a second. Always pinpoint dead on the 1 always.
That might sound like what you want but it’s not! In real life, a drummer is sometimes perfect, sometimes slightly off. That’s part of being human. And the best drum patterns sound real - like they were made an a human, and not a machine.
Swing adds in tiny adjustments to the timing to mimic being a real world drummer. This makes it more human like, more realistic and sound better.
Let’s take a listen to the beat.
And now - to illustrate how swing works, I’ll play the same beat with an exaggerated amount of swing so you can hear the effect
You can hear a big difference. A lot of notes are off. Again that was waaaayyy too much swing so you get an idea of what it sounds like.
In reality you want to tone it down.
Swing is funny because it’s one of those things that is hard to pinpoint but you know it makes the track sound better.
4. Add Random Volume To Your Beat
Volume, sometimes referred to as velocity. This also goes with humanizing your drums. A drummer isn’t going to play every kick or snare with the exact same velocity. But when you program it into FL Studio or Logic they default to having the same velocity.
You want that human feel with your hip hop drums. A real drummer doesn’t hit the drums with exact same force every single time. It’s always slightly different.
Make your drums the same way.
here’s what a track with every sound at the same velocity. You can see in the image has velocity for each note. There all at max.
And here’s a track with the velocity randomized. Also, in the image you can see I changed the velocity for the kicks. I changed the velocity for all the sounds, but the image shows the kicks.
So switch up the velocity in your hip hop drums to get that nice hip hop feel.
This can be a bit random - try different volumes to see how it works out. You don’t want to go to crazy with the randomness. The idea is the same kick should roughly have the same velocity each time. But it shouldn’t be the same exact velocity every single time. Also it shouldn’t be wildly different.
A little different is all that is needed.
One area where you almost always want to do this is when you have two kicks back to back. You want the first kick to lower than the second one. This is how an actual drummer plays.
Hip Hop Drums That Make Your Head Nod
Hip hop drums are the backbone of every hip hop track. Those beats that make you make the mean screw face always have the best drums.
The beats that make you do that real chill head nod and bop - those too have sick drums.
Making your audience nod you head, bop, and dance all starts with the drums.
I may sing and hum to the melody and lyrics, but I move and bop based on the hip hop drum beat. The way the kick hits, and the way the snare bangs is what get me going. The hi hats give me bounce.
The drums breath live into your track.
So if you’re a producer you need to make slamming drums, follow this tips in this post.
How Do I Make A Hip Hop Drum Beat?
I’m going to assume you have a basic beat already. If not, check out this post on 4 classic hip hop drum patterns. Let me quickly cover it here:
It’s all starts with the kick and the snare. Start with a basic kick, snare pattern and add in hi hats. Add a kick on the 1 and the 9 and the snares on the 5 and 13. Add in hi-hats for feel. That’s a basic hip hop beat.
If you need more inspiration for hip hop drum patterns, check out our Hip Hop Drum Guide. Follow those patterns to learn how to lay down a hip hop beat. Once you got those down, come back to this post to learn how to make your hip hop drums phenomenal.
Make Those Hip Hop Drums Bang
There it is, four ways to make your drum patterns phenomenal. Use those tricks to really take your hip hop drum patterns to the next level.
Where Can I Buy Drum Samples
Start with our Hip Hop Drum Guide It includes 50 drum patterns. All you need to get started making amazing drum patterns.