Beat Programming

Learn how to produce Dance Beats in an easy way. We have created an easy way for you to get the groove. See and listen to the examples.

  1.  Basic Dance Rhythm
  2. Further Construction
  3. Metrical Displacement
  4. Rhythmical Ambiguity
  5. Further Examples
  6. Tempo and Time Signatures

It can be said that dance music is formed mostly around its drum rhythms. They form the fundamental basis for any dance music record. They lay down the basic foundations, determine the tempo, often determine the genre of music and are ultimately what the listening audience will keep time and dance too.

Because of this, it stands to reason that the rhythms in a dance music record need to be composed in such a way that they not only provide the rhythm of the record but they also maintain the attention of the record and this is no easy achievement.

In our current ‘MTV’ generation, our attention span is shorter than it ever has been and simply listening back to the same repetitious loop is going to switch listeners off rather than turn them on.

So, whilst your typical dance music record may on the surface only appear to have a simple drum pattern, more critical listening will reveal a much more complex and involved combination of production techniques and programming. This underlying, and almost subconscious, rhythmical and production complexity play an incredibly important role in any dance music record.

Indeed, since its not uncommon for some genres of dance music to rely entirely on the drum pattern alone, if the drum were simply repetitive and too overtly simple, it would wane our interest quickly and the record wouldn’t allow for sustained listening.

However, contrary to popular belief, much of the interest and sustained listening power for a typical dance music rhythm is not created through the use of strange or obscure timbres. Rather it’s accomplished through the use of a number of carefully developed production techniques.

These techniques range from the metrical displacement of drum hits, through to asymmetrical rhythms, positioning and even cautiously crafted modulation with filters, pitch and/or echo. In fact, it’s fair to say that these techniques form the very basis of production for all dance music genres.

Although dance music has become dislocated over the years and subsequently pigeonholed into numerous genres of music ranging from House to Trance, to Techno to Progressive and so on, the drum rhythms, or at least the theory behind their construction remains the same.

In almost every instance, the only difference in drums between one genre and the next is the timbres and the number used rather than the placements of the instrument on the metrical bar.

Consequently, for this application we’re going to examine the composition and production behind programming dance music rhythms. We’re going to examine the placement of the instruments on the metrical bar, and also uncover the uses of modulation, ambiguity, asymmetry and displacement. We’re going to reveal and study the tricks that are used by every professional dance musician on the planet when programming drums.

And although for this particular application we’ll only be programming a few genres, the theory behind programming drums for dance music can be viewed the same a traditional music theory. It’s immaterial whether your writing jazz, pop or classical music – the music theory behind it remains the same, and it’s the same for dance music rhythm theory – no matter what the genre – the theory behind their composition and production remains the same.

Curated by:

Rick Snoman