How to make beats with a Drum Machine (free tutorial)

While software VST plugins have revolutionized music production over the past decade it’s never been easier or cheaper to make beats with a real hardware drum machine and making beats using hardware is more popular than ever.

Get started making killer beats with a real drum machine:

In the two videos below you can watch music producer and Arturia marketing supervisor Bryan Borcherds explain how to create beats and rhythms with hardware drum machines. In this two part tutorial Bryan focuses on the Arturia Drumbrute Impact. He starts with a brief overview of the main Drumbrute Impact features before exploring how to get started making a variety of beats and how to ensure your rhythms evolve to keep your listeners satisfied.

If you’ve never used a hardware drum machine before then these sit back and watch these video tutorials to quickly get up to speed with some of the core concepts and techniques involved in making beats using hardware drum machines.

Make Beats (Free Live Tutorial Part 1)

  • 1:03 – Introduction
  • 2:20 – Advantage of hardware drum machine vs software drum machine
  • 3:10 – Introduction to the Drumbrute Impact
  • 3:26 – Kick drum audition
  • 4:37 – Snare 1 audition
  • 5:10 – Snare 2 audition
  • 5:45 – Hi and Low Toms audition
  • 6:40 – Cymbal & Cowbell audition
  • 7:14 – Closed/open Hi Hats audition
  • 7:20 – FM Drum audition
  • 7:30 – Using drum chokes
  • 7:55 – The FM Drum explained
  • 8:39 – Playing a first beat and tweaking the sounds in realtime
  • 9:29 – Creating a drum beat from scratch
  • 9:47 – Starting with a blank pattern
  • 9:58 – Punching drum hits in with the step sequencer (kick on steps 1, 5, 9 and 13)
  • 10:20 – Adding a snare (steps 5 and 13) and adjusting the level (volume)
  • 10:54 – Add snare 2 by recording live into the Drumbrute Impact
  • 11:20 – Velocities/accents explained
  • 12:30 – Entering hi hats notes using the touchstrip
  • 13:09 – Using ‘Accent’ to humanize the hi hats
  • 13:45 – Use the touchstrip to add individual timing breakdowns to a step
  • 15:40 – Adjust the tempo of a beat
  • 16:45 – Turn on the metronome
  • 17:05 – Turn on record mode and enter drum hits using the drum pads
  • 19:20 – Shifting notes off the grid for a omre human feel
  • 20:19 – Adding swing to the hats
  • 23:04 – Randomize
  • 24:45 – The Transport section
  • 25:48 – The Metronome explained indepth
  • 27:30 – Increasing the number of steps from 16
  • 28:24 – Copy and paste your parts
  • 29:55 – Record beats with quantize on/off
  • 34:16 – Using the Drumbrute Impact ‘Color’ mode
  • 37:20 – Using distortion
  • 40:17 – Connecting the Drumbrute Impact to other gear
  • 46:25 – Song mode
  • 47:40 – Polyrhythm

Make Beats (Free Live Tutorial Part 2)

  • 0:13 – How to change and edit accents
  • 1:35 – Differences between Arturia Drumbrute Impact and the original Drumbrute
  • 2:40 – More questions and answers about the Drumbrute Impact

Thanks to the Arturia team for the tutorial (and the Drumbrute Impact!).

Keep in mind that many of the features and techniques covered in these videos are applicable to other drum machines too.

Key to using drum machines to make killer beats is approaching them with a willingness to experiment and being willing to devote some time to learning the more advanced (and therefore often more neglected) features of your drum machine so that you can make beats that sound unique to you.

If you’ve not yet bought your first hardware drum machine you might be interested in my guide to cheap drum machines for making techno. Also check out my introduction to Native Instrument’s Maschine range, my guide to the UNO drum machine and my guide to Behringher’s drum machines.

Last but not least, if you’re a complete beginner to beat making then check out the video below in which producer Alex Rome breaks down some basic beats as found in countless tracks starting with a basic “four on the floor” house music pattern.

3 Drum Patterns Every Newbie Producer Should Know:

3 Drum Patterns Every Producer Should Know

Tip: Watch the video above to get up to speed but under no circumstances should you ever feel constrained by what has gone before. While it’s true that certain patterns, sounds and tempos do suit certain genres, and it’s good to have an understanding of what other producers did/do, there are no hard and fast rules and when it comes to creating electronic music – do not be afraid to deviate from the norm and blaze your own trail!

Once you’ve got the basics down check out this tutorial video from music producer Nick Chen in which he walks you through 9 essential drum patterns as found in hip hop, regatton/dancehall, house, techno, future bass, RnB, dubstep, trap and Drum & Bass.

More beat making tips: