How to Make a Deep House Drum Beat

Probably the most important part of a deep house track is the drum beat. If you take away the drums, you don’t even have a ‘deep house’ track! The drums are what get people dancing along to your song.

If you’re making a deep house tune, it’s VITAL you get this right. If you don’t, people won’t be able to ‘groove’ and dance to your track. It will be flat and boring.

The point is, to make a great deep house track, you need to nail the drums, and in this article, I’ll show you what goes into making a great dance beat.

What BPM is Deep House?

Deep House songs are typically paced between 120 and 125 BPM (Beats per Minute). This tempo range makes it easy for the listener to dance along to, as it is not too slow and tedious, but also, not too fast and overwhelming.

You can make deep house tracks outside of this tempo range, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Often, it’s the tempo that defines the genre in the first place. The guidelines are there for a reason, and I don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel to make great-sounding music.

Of course, don’t let me limit your creativity. If you want to make a deep house track at 128 BPM, go ahead! I’m not saying it’s a crime or anything. But I do think it is much easier to make a deep house track if you stay within the boundaries. Those ‘boundaries’ are, a lot of the time, what forces your mind to be creative and come up with new ideas!

What Makes a Good House Beat?

House drum beats are defined by their four-on-the-floor pattern and swing, which creates danceability and groove. The kick, clap/snare, and hi-hat are the key elements in a house drum pattern, creating a rhythm that is easy to dance along to.

The four-on-the-floor drum pattern is simple to make. A kick is placed on every downbeat. A clap/snare hit is then placed on every second kick. Finally, a hi-hat (this can be open or closed depending on the vibe you want to create. I recommend experimenting with this!) is placed on the offbeat between each kick.

Here is what a basic four-on-the-floor pattern sounds like:

This is only 3 samples: the kick, the clap, and the hi-hat. It’s very basic, but that’s because there are no ‘peripheral’ elements to support the main elements, which is what adds that ‘shuffle’ feeling.

Now, specifically in deep house, there is often something added to make the beat a little more groovier: the shaker loop. Here’s an example of a shaker loop I found on Splice (with some sidechain added by a plugin called Kickstart):

(Tambourine loops can also be used in place of shaker loops. Have a play around and see what sounds best to you!)

Meduza use these often in their iconic tracks. Have a listen to the drums of ‘Lose Control’ and listen for the shaker loops (00:00 – 00:31):

Notice how the shakers are panned out to the sides, giving the beat a ‘wide’ feel (as opposed to a ‘narrow’ feel).

Swing

To have danceable drums, you need swing. Swing is when certain notes (or in this case, drum samples) are delayed by a few milliseconds. This creates a feeling of ‘groove’, and ‘humanisation’, and takes away the robotic, computer-ish feeling that electronic music can often have. The imperfections make the beat flow better.

FL Studio has a ‘swing’ slider on the channel rack, which makes it easy to add swing to drum patterns. Play around with it and see how it sounds at different levels!

Just Remember This

Ultimately, you want your deep house drums to be groovy and danceable. They are the foundation of the track, the driving force behind it. If your drums don’t make you want to dance, you should probably keep tweaking them until they do.

How to Mix Deep House Drums

Now you have your beat, the next step is to mix the elements, so they sound great together as one, cohesive unit.

The most important thing you want to get right when mixing your drum beat is the volume of each element. If anything is too loud, it’ll throw the listener off. If anything is too quiet, the listener won’t be able to hear it.

I like to use a method called ‘Top-Down Mixing’. This is where you start with the most important element, and base everything else around it. You start with the most important thing, then move on to the second-most important thing, and so on.

The most important element in your deep house drums is the kick. This is the foundation of the beat. It’s what defines the ‘four-on-the-floor’ pattern. Therefore, we should start with the kick.

Gain Staging

The first thing we do is ‘gain stage’ the kick sample. All this means is we set the input volume to -9dB. You can choose whatever number you prefer, but I like -9dB because it leaves plenty of headroom for the rest of the mix.

Gain-staging is VERY important. Do not skip this step!

Remember, we are setting the INPUT volume, not the ‘output’ volume. This is done differently in every DAW, but in FL Studio, it means we are touching this slider (NOT the faders on the mixer):

(The slider next to this is for panning left and right, just so you know!)

Repeat the gain-staging process for each of your samples. Set their input volumes to -9dB.

Mixing the Next Elements

After gain-staging is done, we can finally start mixing each element together. Assign each element to its own mixer channel, where we can control the volume with faders.

We’re going to keep the kick at the same volume it is for now, and base everything else around it.

Following our top-down mixing approach, the next important thing after the kick is the clap/snare. Using the volume faders, lower the volume of the clap/snare until it sounds right with the kick. This doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect – just make sure it sounds decent enough.

After the clap/snare, we move on to the hi-hat. Follow the same process – use the faders to adjust the volume, so the hi-hat ‘fits’ with the kick and clap/snare. Again, it doesn’t have to be the most perfect thing ever, just make it good enough!

Sometimes, after we have mixed the clap/snare and the hi-hat, we need to lower the volume of the kick so it isn’t too loud. That’s okay – do what sounds best!

Now the most important parts are mixed. Follow along with the top-down mixing approach, repeating this process with each element in order of how important they are. This is where your own preference comes in – their importance is something you have to decide for yourself.

The golden rule is to trust your ears. If it sounds good, it IS good. Use the volume faders as a visual guide, but remember that you listen to music, not see it. Your ears have the final say.

After you have done each element, you should have a well-mixed drum sequence ready to go!

In Conclusion

The most important things you need to get right when making a deep house drum pattern is to make it groovy and danceable, and make sure the mix sounds decent enough to the listener’s ears so nothing is sticking out.

If you can nail those things, you should have a very solid foundation to build the rest of your deep house track upon!

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