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Composing (Crafting) Drum Parts For Original Songs - Part 3 Of 3

Time for the final installment of this 3-part series. As with the previous installments, it's provided in 2 formats - hi-def video and text. Unlike the previous installments, part 3 depends heavily on video demonstrations & charts.

Bottom line....you won't find those in the text version.

For this 3rd installment, I strongly advise viewing the video, then utilizing the text as supplemental review.

Video Link - https://youtu.be/Y_R7SLHzsLA



Parts 1 and 2 of this series dealt primarily with the theory & thought process behind crafting drum parts. Now it's time to dissect a specific example. "Pentatonic Playground", an instrumental of mine, will be the example used here. I've chosen one of my songs for a specific reason. Since I made every decision for every part of this arrangement, I have the best possible insight into why those choices were made. Hopefully, that insight makes for a better, more informative tutorial.


Choosing A Direction

"Pentatonic Playground" is a rock-alternative instrumental. It was never intended to have mainstream appeal. I'm telling you this because, as a writer or a drummer, it's important to understand where you're trying to go with an arrangement. Simply put.....you can't accomplish a goal, without first having one. Knowing that I was striving for uniqueness, provided me with a basic direction. Even though I didn't have specific drum parts in mind yet, I understood that I probably wasn't going to achieve uniqueness by utilizing cookie-cutter drum parts. I would have to stretch my creative muscles a bit.


About The Song

1) The structure of the song is pretty basic.

verse / chorus / bridge / verse / double- chorus / ending

2) My songs generally evolve from one of the following starting points:

- a chord progression

- a riff/pattern

- a section of melody

- a central theme

This particular song grew from a riff that I stumbled upon while practicing stretch scale patterns. Major pentatonic patterns to be exact.....hence the title of the song. All of the verse & chorus guitar parts are based upon variations of that pattern, in the key of G.

3) Even though "unique" was the overall goal, a contrast in feel & flow from section-to-section often makes for a more interesting song. Some song sections (the verses) would have a decidedly unique feel, while others would employ a more comfortable feel & flow.


The Breakdown

OK! I've given you some background information on the song and a general overview of what I intended. Now it's time to break it down into specifics.....section-by-section. I'll try to provide you with insights into what decisions were made and why.


The Verses

- Rather than construct a separate introduction for this song, I started it with the distinctive guitar riff/pattern that inspired it.

The pattern does a nice job of setting up the unusual feel I wanted.

- I was interested in establishing a fairly consistent flow throughout the verses, so the drums don't build. They simply begin, along with the riff, then remain constant throughout the entire verse sections.

- I decided on a 2-measure beat, set in 4/4 time. I'll talk a bit more about the characteristics of this beat after the demonstration. It utilizes cymbal bell, snare & bass drum. Snare & bass drum were components from the start, but I did consider other options for the right-hand element. I tried high-hat, but it seemed overly staccato. Ride cymbal was too ringy and lacked the high-end clarity I desired. Cymbal bell seemed the best choice. It sounded crisp & distinctive, yet subtle.

As promised, I'd like to talk a bit more about the characteristics of this 2 measure pattern.

Unlike more traditional beats.....

a ) there is no snare on primary counts 2 & 4, except at the end of each 2-measure sequence

b ) the bell line is mostly 1/4 notes, but is sprinkled with groupings of 16th notes.

The end result is a pattern with a half-time feel. When played in combination with the verse guitar riff, it creates the impression of circular flow. This effect is a direct result of its unusual structure. Let's look at it from a slightly different perspective. Even though I wrote it as 2 - 4/4 measures, it could also be viewed as 2 - 3/4 measures.........followed by 1 - 2/4 measure.

Those consecutive 3/4 measures give it that circular (revolving) characteristic. The final 2/4 measure adds a resolved/finalized feel to it every 8 counts. However we chose to view it, the bottom line is this. It contributes to the song in a positive way and works nicely with the other verse elements. When constructing parts for new songs, your top priority should always be .........how the individual element impacts the song as a whole.

In this particular case, it's win-win. The pattern is cool & it works well within the context of the song.

In addition to what's shown on the chart, 3 cymbal crashes were used.....

- one marks the entry of a lead guitar melody

- a 2nd marks the exit

- and a 3rd is combined with a roll & utilized at the end of the verse section. The roll fills an intentionally vacant musical space and also serves to announce the coming change into the chorus section. The final crash, following the roll, marks/accents the actual point of that change.

As you can see, each element is there for a reason.


The Chorus

My intent was for the overall momentum of the song to pick up at the choruses. They're meant to represent the high point of the song's energy. In part, I accomplished that by shifting the drum track into a more traditional sounding, straight-time structure. The primary guitar parts also change. The chorus guitars create a smoother, more traditionally melodic flow.

They lack that busy, dysfunctional feel generated by the verse guitar arrangement.

The chorus section drums are essentially made-up of two, 2-measure beat patterns........sprinkled with roll/crash combinations.

Coming up next, I'll list some of the specific choices made & connect them to the various concepts discussed back in parts 1 & 2 of this tutorial.

- The 1st roll/crash combination fills a space, adds variety to the drum line and announces entry into the second half

of the chorus section.

- The 2nd roll/crash combination fills a space, adds variety and announces/marks the beginning of a new song section - the bridge.

- Overall, crashes are used more frequently in the chorus sections. They re-enforce accents, add color and assist in raising the energy level & volume of the sections.


The Bridge

Because this tutorial's already a bit lengthy, I'll briefly summarize the final song sections. After that, I'll provide you with a direct link to the actual song - "Pentatonic Playground". That'll allow you to hear the finished drum track within the context of completed arrangement.

The bridge section enters immediately following the first chorus. The drum part consists of variations on the chorus patterns. There's not a dramatic change in the feel of the drums.......only a subtle one. This is the only section of the song that was intended to have a melodic, flowing, pretty feel to it. For the most part, that's accomplished by means of the surrounding instruments (strings, chord-based guitar, etc.). The bridge drums weren't supposed to stand out. They simply needed to blend into the background & work well with everything else.


Summary of 2nd Verse / Final Choruses & Ending

- The basic beat patterns are almost identical to that of their earlier counterparts.

- Since I didn't add much variation with the patterns themselves, I got it done in other ways. Several new elements were introduced in these final sections, allowing me to achieve the variety, color & additional momentum I wanted.

1) Intermittent breaths were introduced in the final verse section.

2) A tambourine track was added at the beginning of the final chorus. Once introduced, both the tambourine & breath elements remained in for the duration of the song.

3) The final choruses & ending are interlaced with additional rolls & crashes, which assist in raising the overall momentum of the sections.


The Finished Song

As promised, here's the direct link to "Pentatonic Playground"



Tom Hoffman

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