Rugged Drums & Chord Progression

In this article I’ll expand on the Menacing Note Combos tutorial by using the sounds and note combinations in a chord progression. But first, I’ll put together a rugged drum pattern.

Step 1 – Drums

Here is a standard pattern. The snare is on the 2 and 4 as usual, and the hat is on the off-beats. The drum sounds for this tutorial come from the Anno Domini Drum Kit Volume 3.

Next I’m going to add Closed Hat 6, which has a bit of sound before the actual hat hits, as you can see in the screenshot below. So if I put it in the step sequencer, the timing will be off.

So what I’m going to do is turn off my DAW’s snap feature and slide the hat in place so that the hat hits on beat. The sound before the hit is a cool lead-in, sort of like a really small riser or reverse reverb effect. I’ll put this hat on every beat except the first one for a cool mechanical sound. This one sound makes this drum pattern more unique.

Step 2 – Crash and Clap

To make the pattern seem longer, I’m adding a crash sound on the first beat and a clap sound on the last beat.  But this isn’t an ordinary crash. I took a hat sound and stretched it, and then I played around with the time-stretch type in the channel settings window in the step sequencer. The Monophonic type gave some digital lo-fi textures.

In the audio example, you’ll hear two hits of this sound without any time stretching followed by the time-stretched version on top of the beat.

Step 3 – Instruments

Now I’ll bring in some melodic parts from the previous tutorial, Menacing Note Combos. In that tutorial, I shared some tension-building note intervals and instruments that we’ll use here. I'll start by placing our sound from that tutorial on each bar.

Since it would be boring to have every bar be the same, I’ll remove the bass in the second and fourth bars. Plus, the fourth bar will feature a different rhythm on the sitar, as shown in the screenshot. The tempo-synced echo it has plays with the track well.


Step 4 - Chord Progression

We can turn this into something interesting to listen to over and over by having the bass filter rise, and by doing a Chord Progression. After some experimentation here’s the progression I arrived at:

First Bar: Tritone, as it’s always been.

Second Bar: Tritone. Here it makes sense to do the same chord again, because this bar already has been changed significantly with the removal of the bass. In my opinion, playing the same chord twice makes the listener expect it a third time, which makes a change in the third bar more powerful.

Third Bar: Semitone. Here we switch to a semitone, the most stressful interval.

Fourth Bar: Minor Third. Playing a minor third on the fourth bar provides relief from the semitone, plus it’s nice to hear something more common after all the tritone strangeness.


Author Bio: Sean Duncan is an electronic music producer and freelance writer from Seattle, WA. 

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