How to Make Melodic Trap Beats_Part 1 (Drums)
Trap Drums are not complicated at all. There are a few basic elements that we need to make a bouncy trap beat. A trap drum kit consists of a kick, clap and hi-hat at its core. You can add other snares, vocal one-shots and percussion samples to fit your style. Our three core drum sounds need to be punchy and short. Trap beats have a tempo of 140-160BPM. We will make our beat in 140BPM.
1. The Kick
Trap kick drum selection is extremely important. The kick needs to sit perfectly with our bass/sub in the mix. A short kick drum with a very emphasised attack would cut through the mix much easier than a sub heavy low-kick. Drag your sample into an audio track and start laying them according to Ableton's grid. You can turn the metronome on for reference.
As you can see in the image above, we have altered the clip gain of a few kicks to give them a human feel. We are also using fades on the tail to articulate a few samples differently. We are not altering the clip gain of the kick on the first beat of the sample to create an accent.
We are also adding a transient shaper on our kick track to enhance its attack. You can use any transient designer plugin, but we are using Bitter Sweet V3 which is a free plugin. You can analyse the settings we are using, for reference, in the image provided below. Do not push your transient designer too much, it can easily make things sound worse. We are pushing the attack just by 6% to maintain the characteristics of the original sound.
We are also adding a saturator on our kick to add some more girth and presence. Distorted kicks are staple in the trap genre.
The clap acts like an anchor to our beat. Select a clap sample with some punch. You can also use an 808 style clap with a little bit of distortion. Drag your clap into an empty audio track and lay them on every third beat of the bar.
As you can see in the image above, we are using fade to vary our claps. You can use the clip gain here too, to create variations. We are also high passing our clap at 346Hz to eliminate the undesirable low frequencies. Always listen to your sound while high passing. If you are too drastic with your filter then it will make the clap sound thin and weak.
We are using midi for our hat because it will easier for us to create rolls and and pitch variations later. Drag you hat sample into the device view of an empty midi track in Ableton. your sample will open up in a simpler.
We are using a 808 style closed hat sample here. We are laying down a very simple 8th note hat pattern as a starting point.
As you can see in the image above, we have varied the velocities these hats, keeping an accent on the fist beat of every bar.
Another characteristic of any bouncy trap beat is a hi hat roll. We are using some pitch and velocity variations on these rolls, to make our beat interesting.
If you hat sample has any low rumble in the spectrum then use a high pass filter to preserve the frequencies we require.
A lot of trap beats use different snares to create variations and add bounce. We are using a short high-pitched snare for our beat. Drag your snare sample into an empty audio track. We will use the clip gain and fade to create some variation. We will also have the snare much lower in the mix, than our clap so that it almost sounds like a ghost-note. You can adjust the level of your snare according to you liking.
We are also high passing the snare track to remove the unrequited low frequencies.
Percussion samples will make your track stand out from the rest. Interesting percussion samples easily spice up any boring trap beat. You can use multiple percussion hits at different velocities to add some uniqueness to your sound. Percussions can also be used to create transitions and fills in your beat, although that technique is quite common among producers. We will be using a cowbell for our percussion requirements. Certain perc sounds like cowbells can be tuned to the key of our beat. We will program our cowbell hits first by dragging our samples into an empty audio track and then inserting a tuner on the same channel. Now when we play our cowbell, the note will show up on the tuner. Then we can use the clip transposition setting to set the pitch correctly. For our project we will tune the cowbell to an E note. Look at the image provided below for reference.
Once you have programmed the individual parts you can go in and make some fine tweaks. You can also add some processing. We will be grouping our drums to keep the arrangement view organised.
As you can see in the image above, we have added a drum buss on our Drums group to add some harmonic excitement and punchiness to the beat as a whole. This adds some similar characteristics to every sound in the groove, giving them a similar colour. It is very important to be very moderate with your processing at this stage. We can fine tune the settings once we have finished the whole beat, then we will have a context for our drums should sound.
Watch this space for Part 2 and 3, where we will go over the bass and melody programming for a trap beat. We will also upload the whole project (Ableton Live Set) as a free download, once all three parts are uploaded.
If you want to follow along with our Ableton project file, then click on the link provided below to download the .alp file: