Why Use Drum Loops? Three Benefits of Using Drum Loops for Musicians and Drummers Alike
Pfft… What’s So Special about Loops?
Every songwriter has (or, can easily get) drum loops. There’s no shortage of free drum loops out there if your music is of the electronic sort: Drum & Bass, Dubstep, Hip Hop, Rap, Dance, Chill, and so on. Of course, you generally get what you pay for. And, that is where many commercial sample libraries come in – same electronic-based styles, but one would hope of a higher quality than the beats churned up in countless software drum machines and virtual instruments in home studios across the globe. Whether you’re on a desktop or, more recently, a smart phone, beat-making apps are everywhere and often (where do you think all those free drum loops come from?).
Let’s face it, drum loops are a quick and easy way to get a beat going when you don’t have a drummer at your disposal 24/7. But, this you already know.
But, what about the styles of music that need acoustic drums? With real drummers behind them?Those are a little harder to find (well, the high-quality ones anyway), but are the ones we’ll be talking about today. Yes, we’re talking about the kind of drum loops you get when you go to a professional recording studio, set up the drum kit and mics, play around with the drum kit and mics until it sounds good, and hit “record!” Yeah, those kinds of drum loops – the ones no one will know are loops and the ones that have so many more benefits than the ones anyone with a mouse or MPC-style sequencer can create (we’re not knocking those, don’t get us wrong – we’re drummers and like to hit things for real is all).
So, let’s dig deeper and look at three reasons way why should use these kind of drum loops in your songwriting and music.
Inspiration – Drum loops are great when you want to step out of your comfort zone. There’s nothing like having a funky R&B groove cycling through 2 or 4 bars to get your head in a different place musically. Or, trying to keep up with the relentless pounding of sixteenth-note triplets on the bass drums to get you in a metal mood. Being the vibe and energy behind every great song is what makes drums so powerful in affecting our mood and attitude. The right drum loops can take you to that place where you what to be (musically and otherwise). Get the right rhythmic foundation and you’re now ready to build everything on top of it.
Of course, a drum loop is not a song. It’s up to you to take the inspiration it gives you to a new place. We hear it all the time with our different loop libraries – artists who use the same exact drum loops and produce the most wonderfully diverse and disparate compositions. THAT is what it’s all about – creating something new from the inspiration the right groove can provide.
Motivation – Another great reason to use drum loops is that they will push you out of your songwriting comfort zone. If you find yourself always writing music in the 90 bpm to 100 bpm zone, then maybe what you need is a loop at 70 bpm to change how you think. Some tempos do dominate the pop charts, namely 120 bpm or, God’s tempo as some drummers are likely to call this tempo marking). In fact, the popularity of 120 bpm as a common pop hit tempo is well-documented:
The resulting study revealed a number of interesting findings – among them, that Madonna is the overall queen of pop, songs are getting longer, louder, dancier and (barely) more energetic, and the optimal number of beats per minute over the past few decades was precisely 119.8.
** For a fascinating read on this, check out: http://evolver.fm/2011/01/10/what-makes-a-hit-song/
Other genres are likewise dominated by certain tempos. Dubstep? Set your metronome to about 138 bpm (or, around 70 bpm, depending how you want to count it) and see it that feels about right. Funk? Likely between 90-110 bpm. Disco? Back to 120 bpm (it is a pop style of music, after all).
So, get motivated and push yourself out you’re your tempo comfort zone. Take it down 20 clicks or boost it by 30, the effect it will have on your playing will be noticeable. And, you can do this whether you stay in the same songwriting genre or not – that’s when things might get really interesting!
Additionally, you’ll soon start to recognize how different tempos will naturally attract certain TYPES of drum grooves. So, in addition to having a new tempo to motivate you, you’ll also get different feels and phrases behind your songwriting efforts as well.
A Learning Tool – Drum Loops can be used as learning tool for all musicians, including drummers. What do we mean by this? Let’s look at what can be learned from drum loops, looking at it from both the non-drummer and drummer perspective alike.
Non-Drummers (those folks that play melodic instruments) usually hear and perceive music differently than drummers. OK, OK, that’s a bit of a broad brush, but most of you will agree that the drummers they know or have known have a different way of seeing how they fit in with a particular piece of music. The best drummers, of course, are fully-formed musicians and understand clearly how their drum parts should serve the music (at minimum) or enhance the music (at best). For a popular example of what this means, look no further than the ever-present Journey song “Don’t Stop Believing” – instead of a simple and static drum beat, look how Steve Smith took that song ever further musically:
But, even drummers who don’t conceptualize their role in the songwriting process as deeply as Steve have a different way of hearing what should play behind the songwriter. Drummers have two hands and two feet and will find ways of incorporating all four limbs into the life of the groove.
And, this is exactly why programmed drums in the hands of the guitarist / songwriter sometimes don’t sound right. Non-drummers aren’t acutely aware of the physical constraints a drummer works with (or against) in creating and performing drum parts. Getting your head around the “Groove DNA” of an inspiring drum loop will go a long way in teaching you what great drummers do and, more importantly, HOW they do it. Listen and learn – that’s what audio drum loops can teach that a sequenced MIDI part never can.
As for you drummers out there – yeah, we know who you are. You are the ones buying our loops to hear new stuff to improve your own playing! Whether you’re a beginner or someone who’s been hitting the skins for years, copping a feel from some of the industry’s best drummers is what we can offer you.
There’s nothing like studying the intricate phrasing, the nuanced placement of accents, or musical phrasing of an accomplished pro who earns a living doing what you love to do as well, namely playing drums! If you’re a metal player who wants to learn jazz or a rocker who wants to learn all that is funky, grabbing a few drum loops is all you need for a challenging and eye-opening workout or practice session. You can slow it down at first and gradually bring up the tempo as your limbs cooperate – you’ll quickly find how new patterns will improve your groove arsenal and how staying “locked in” to a phrase repeated several hundred times will build the type of muscle memory you’ll need to retain the new knowledge.
The drummers behind Beta Monkey’s drum loops are definitely A-list players, ones you’ll easily hear within an hour of listening to any streaming music service. We don’t give out the names, but you’ve heard their playing. Listen, learn, and improve. That’s what (our) drum loops can do for you drummers out there!
So, next time you’re in the writing room (wherever that might be), grab some high-quality drum loops, push “play” and see what comes out of you. And, remember, you’re writing the song – the drum loops are only helping you along the way of your musical discovery and journey. As long as you constantly strive to grow beyond your comfort zone, stay inspired, and remember how crucial the right rhythm will translate your musical intentions, then grab a drum loop and get to work!