An evolution of New York-style house music, garage is a UK-based genre of dance music that developed in the mid to late 90s. Initially known as “speed garage”, it began as an uptempo take on the swung, shuffling rhythms of 4×4 house, and mutated into drum ‘n’ bass style “broken beats” known as “2-step garage” or “UK garage”. Tracks in this style that crossed over into the mainstream include Tina Moore’s “Never Gonna Let You Go (Kelly G Bump-N-Go Dub)“, Artful Dodger feat. Craig David’s “Re-Rewind” and So Solid’s Crew’s “21 Seconds“.

Garage beats in this style are focused around kick and snare interplay rather than the continuous kick drums of its house music inspiration. They are usually faster with tempos in the 130 BPM plus range. UK garage would itself spawn dubstep, and dubstep’s roots can be heard in tracks like Horsepower Productions’ “Fists of Fury” and Ghost’s “The Club“.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to create a garage beat from scratch in BandLab, a free online digital audio workstation that allows you to share your beats with friends anywhere in the world. BandLab can be accessed on both smartphones and web browsers, making it easy for collaborators to add vocals to your tracks. 

Here are six easy steps that show you how to make a garage beat that you can use as a foundation for your own track. You can open this project yourself by forking the track below, and use it for the basis of your own productions!

1. Setting up the project

Once you’ve created a BandLab account and logged in, you can use the + Create button to make a new project. You’ll be asked how you want to start your new track. Select the Instruments option, then set the instrument category to Drum Pads and the instrument to Classic House Kit.

How to create a garage beat on BandLab: Setting up the project

Then, set the project tempo to 135PM – you can do this by dragging on the tempo or clicking on it and entering a new value. 

How to create a garage beat on BandLab: setting up the project

2. Creating a MIDI clip to work with

Click View and make sure the Snap to Grid option is selected. Right-click on the instrument track and select Create Region. Drag the handle at the bottom right hand corner of the newly created MIDI clip to shorten its length to two bars. Double click the clip to enter the MIDI Editor.

Creating a MIDI clip to work with

3. Making a basic 2-step rhythm

First we’ll lay down a basic 2-step kick and snare pattern on the first bar. This rhythm features snares on the second and fourth beats of the bar – double-click on the grid to add these. The kicks of a 2-step pattern fall on the first beat, and the 8th note between the third and fourth beats. Again, double-click to add these. This gives us the fundamental 2-step groove that we’ll embellish with more sounds and hits. 

Making a basic 2-step rhythm

4. Funking things up

By itself the 2-step rhythm sounds a little plain and static, so let’s add another kick to give it some bounce. Add a kick on the last sixteenth note before the third beat. Open hi-hats are often used in garage to give it that cutting high-end. Add open hats on the 2nd, 4th and 8th eighth notes. This is beginning to sound like a UK garage beat!

Funking things up

5. Closed hats

However, the beat loses its momentum on the third beat, and we need something to keep it rolling. Add a closed hat on the second 16th note of the third beat. This keeps the beat bouncing the whole way through the bar, and makes it feel danceable. This one-bar groove works, but it’d be more satisfying as a two-bar groove. Let’s copy out this first bar and create a variation on it to give us a two-bar groove.

Closed hats

6. Making a two-bar groove

To select all the MIDI notes on the first bar, hold [command] on Mac or [ctrl] on Windows and press [A]. When the notes have been selected, hold [option] on Mac or [alt] on Windows and drag them onto the second bar. On the second bar, move the first open hat down to the kick so that it plays a kick instead. Then, double click the final open hat to delete it. This gives us a funky two-bar groove that can serve as the foundation for your own UK garage-style track.

Making a two-bar groove

Remember, you can open this project by forking it here, and experiment with it yourself. Have fun!

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Read more: Beats from scratch: How to produce a Lil Uzi Vert style beat on BandLab