A product of post-disco Chicago, house is one of the earliest forms of electronic dance music. The first house records were relatively simplistic and created with old school drum machines and synths, an affordable alternative to the relative expense of recording live musicians, and were lo-fi affairs by today’s standards.
The meaning of “deep house” has evolved over the years. The likes of Larry Heard in the 80s and 90s were chilled-out, soulful. In more recent times, the more upfront, bass line-driven dance floor tracks created by artists such as Dusky became common place. However, its fundamental formula has always been consistent: four on the floor kick drums, syncopated hi-hats, and funky bass lines.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to compose a deep house beat in BandLab’s web Mix Editor, a completely free DAW on your browser that features virtual instruments, drum kits and samples designed to make creating your own music easy.
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1. Creating a kickin’ kick drum
We’ll begin by creating a virtual instrument track, setting the instrument category to Drum Pads, and the instrument to 909 kit.
We’ll stick with the project’s default tempo of 120BPM, which is perfect for deep house, and lay down kicks on every beat of the bar to give us that insistent 4/4 rhythm.
2. Adding syncopated hats
A big part of house music is the accentuated off-beat, which typically involves an open hi-hat on every other 8th note. Once we’ve added these open hats between the kicks, we’ve got the foundation around which the majority of house tracks are based on.
Some styles of house, such as garage, will add conspicuously swung closed hats, but deep house is all about creating a solid, rolling groove, and as such closed hats aren’t a necessity, so we’ll stick with just the open hats in this case.
3. Layering claps
Next we’ll add claps to the second and fourth beats. This completes the classic house trifecta of kicks, hats and claps, giving us that familiar house groove that’s been a staple of dance music since the 80s.
So far we’ve only used sounds from the classic Roland TR-909 drum machine, which remains popular in house and techno music to this day, but house producers will often spice up 909 hits with other sounds to get a more individual feel.
4. Adding spicy snares
If we’re to get away from a pure 909 sound, we’re going to need another kit. Add another virtual instrument track, and this time set it to Drum Pads and Classic House Kit. This kit features a beautiful snare sound that layers perfectly with our kick and clap, so sequence it on the second and fourth beats of the bar too.
The only issue with this snare is that it stands out too much in the mix, so turn the Classic House Kit’s channel down to -11.5dB or so.
5. It’s shaker time!
While house music percussion is primarily focused on synthetic, drum machine sounds, house producers will often use more organic rhythmic elements such as shaker loops to add a human touch to proceedings.
Open the Loops menu, select the Loops tab, and search for “house shaker”. Latin House Shaker is ideal for our needs, so drag the sample onto a new audio track. BandLab will automatically timestretch the 123 BPM loop to our project’s 120 BPM tempo, and the shaker sits with the drum machine sounds perfectly.
6. Getting our groove on
So now we have a deep house beat, let’s add a couple of musical elements to hear how it sounds in context. Search for “Penumbra Chords 02” in Loops, and drag the audio onto a new track.
We also need some bass, so search for “Afrobeat Bass 01” and drag it onto another audio track.
The chords and bass have a relatively loose feel, giving them a bit of groove with the rigid house beat, and overall we’ve got the beginnings of a dark and dreamy deep house track!
That’s just one way of creating a deep house beat on BandLab. You can fork any of the beats to create your own take on the genre.
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