5 Tips for Crafting Drum Parts for Original Songs

by Darren Perkins, owner/drummer, Red Drum Music Studios in Melbourne AUS

February 16, 2018 in Songwriting & Copyright

5 Tips for Crafting Drum Parts for Original Songs

Composing songs involves a lot of steps, ending up with that unique blend of your own music. Many songwriters are not as adept in all instruments like drums, but without the drum parts, the song may feel incomplete. Thankfully, you can accomplish this in 5 easy steps.

1. Base It on the Song Genre

You do not craft the drum parts of a new song until the basics are already determined. Otherwise it can be very difficult to do so. Once you have a pretty good idea, you can compose the drum part based on the melody, the lyrical theme, backing chord structure and the tentative song structure. 

These will determine whether you need a metal drum sequence or a much slower one, ie if you are working on a ballad. It is pretty common sense that the drum part should suit the genre so that you do not have metal drum lines on a pop song. After all, this part should fit in the bigger context of the entire song, so even if the drum sequence is cool, you have to make sure it goes together. If you are not sure what beat patterns suit a specific genre, a drum teacher can help you out.

2. Understand the Structure of the Melody

Drummers like to show off their technical expertise through complex drum sequences to wow other musicians and fans. However, although a drum solo might be impressive, creating drum parts of a song is not about featuring only the drums. In a song, the melody, its flow, meter, and rhythm, should influence the drum parts. Much like with other instruments, they should all complement the melody of the song, even if the song is only instrumental. 

In this part, you would just need to simply do a trial and error, trying out how specific drum lines suit parts of the melody. A contrasting melody and drum part will simply sound wrong and you will just need to try something else out.

3. Decide on the Arrangement First

While it does not need to be set in stone yet, having a clear idea of the arrangement is important in composing the drum parts. You should at least have decided which instruments to use, whether you use piano, one or more guitar tracks, and even other percussion instruments in the mix. These decisions will highly influence how the drum part fits in.

First of all, a song with a lot of instrumental movement might benefit from a simpler drum part as a substitute. Overwhelming the song is not a good idea. Moreover, you want to highlight a complex piano part or guitar track by allowing it to shine instead of burying it with similarly complex drum sequences. You can also highlight different parts of every part of the song so that if the verses have a nice guitar part, you can make the chorus more dramatic by adding dominant drum lines.

Second, you can use your drum parts to add momentum to a song. This means during the verses, there are only sparse bass drum parts but by the chorus, it gradually picks up and highlights this part of the song due to more complex drum lines. You may also compose a constant vibe of the drum part during the whole song.

4. Select the Beat Patterns

The next part is the actual composition of the drum parts. You need to choose 2 or 3 drum lines for the verses, and another pattern for the chorus. At times, the bridge of the song also has different drum lines.  If you want your song to sound professional and complex, it is very important to put together various drum patterns; even if you are not an expert drummer, there should be quite a few that you can play.

5. Decide On Using Rolls  

Drum beats are played to create a rhythmic feel to the song, while rolls have a different function altogether. Use them so that you can add variety to your drum parts, act as a fill, and even hint at a coming change in the song. It may not be as simple to add, but when done well, it makes the song sound more complex and interesting.

Songwriters who are not specifically drummers do not have to find this part of composing difficult because, in 5 simple steps, they can already add some depth to their songs with the use of the drums.

This piece was contributed by Darren Perkins, owner/drummer, Red Drum Music Studios, Melbourne Australia, http://reddrummusic.com.au. Darren has been teaching drums and performing on the kit for over 40 years.