Production Lesson #1 – Making Drum Beats in Cubase

I had a couple of requests to go over some basic production techniques. I thought I’d start with a basic drum beat, if you like this lesson and find it useful let me know in the comment section below and I’ll continue this series over the coming weeks.

How to make a basic drum beat in Cubase

  1. Load the program and open an empty project. Before we begin adding tracks let’s set up the projects tempo (how fast the pulse of track is) and the time signature (how many beats per bar). In this lesson we will be using 4/4 time signature at 100bpm.
  2. Load a drum kit from one of the VST plug-in instruments (Project>Add Track>Instrument). Select Groove Agent or HALion Sonic from the instrument drop down menu. We will be using Groove Agent for this lesson.

Cubase 1

  1. Select a ‘Load Preset’ kit from the drop down menu. From the available kits select one for this project; we will be using the ‘Maple Kit’.

Cubase 2

  1. There are a couple of ways to build a drum beat. The first is to play the part in using either a USB keyboard or the computer keyboard. In this tutorial we will look at using the computer keyboard. To activate or deactivate this function simply press Alt+K. You should then see the keyboard next to the transport window.
  1. Most drum parts incorporate a combination of kick/bass drum, snare drum and hi-hat so we will focus on these elements. Although kits aren’t standardised most VST drum kits are laid out as follows;

 

Bass / Kick drum; ‘Q’, Snare drum; ‘W’ & ‘E’, Hi-Hat; Closed ‘5’, Half-Open ‘6’, Open ‘7

Experiment with these controls to come up with a simple beat. We can use the second method in part 8 to embellish the recorded parts

  1. Once you have created your basic beat you can record it by hitting record on the transport bar (short cut: * Num Pad). If you’d like a count-in hit the button marked with a ||* at the top right on the transport bar (short cut: !). To have the metronome/click play during the recording hit the click button on the transport bar (short cut: C). We will start with a basic four to the floor kick drum pattern. Once you have performed the part you’ll see a new region next to the instrument.

Cubase 4

  1. Now we are going to look at the second way of entering note into a MIDI instrument. Simply double click on the region to open the ‘Piano Roll’. If the played in parts aren’t in time you can quantize them by setting the grid to ¼, selecting the notes and hitting apply quantize (the button with a play symbol in a circle).

Cubase 5

  1. Now we are going to add a snare drum to beats 2 and 4. To do this hold down Alt (to load the pencil tool) and click the grid on beats 2 and 4. It you can’t find the right sound you can drag the note up and down the keyboard until you find it.

Cubase 6

  1. Now let’s add some hi-hats on the off-beat. Set the grid to 1/8 to divide the main beats into quavers. Now using the pencil tool add closed hi-hats on the quavers between the main beats (F#1). If you want some variety feel free to change the sound to different hi-hats (G#1 or A#1).

Cubase 7

  1. Now we have a basic beat laid out you can add more sounds as you see fit. If you want smaller notes simply change the grid to 1/16. Experiment with adding toms, percussion and cymbals to get different effects.
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