Grime emerged from UK’s urban underground over the last decade, and it could well be on its way to becoming one of Britain’s finest musical exports since the Beatles. From its rapid fire, syncopated beat to its hard-hitting lyrics, Grime’s increasing prominence in mainstream music has placed grime legends like Skepta and Stormzy among rap’s royalty.
Grime’s hard-edged, sinister sound takes influences from US hip-hop and trap, but its roots lie in UK garage, which became the de facto home of urban MCs in the mid to late 90s following on from jungle and hardcore UK hip-hop.
Both grime and dubstep evolved from garage in the early 00s, and they have several elements in common – halftime 140 BPM beats, heavy bass, dark atmospherics and intricate drum work.
In this tutorial we’ll show you how to build a grime beat in BandLab’s web Mix Editor, a completely free online DAW that features virtual instruments, drum kits and samples designed to make creating your own music easy.
1. Programming a half-time kick pattern
We’ll begin by selecting a virtual instrument track, then set its category to Drum Pads, and the instrument to 606 Kit. The 606 Kit features solid kick and snare sounds that will provide the foundation to our beat.
We set the project tempo to 138BPM, then add kicks to the first beat of the first and second bars, and an additional kick on the fourth eight note of the second bar.
2. Adding snare layers
We’ll also put 606 snares on the third beat of the first and second bar, layering them with a clav-style percussion sound which enhances the snare’s attack.
This snare could do with some additional character, so we create a new instrument track, this time selecting Vintage Hip Hop Kit from the Drum Pads category.
We trigger the rim shot on the third beat of the first and second bar to complement the 606 snare. This new layer is slightly too loud, so we turn its track volume down to -2dB.
3. Sequencing hi-hats
For the hats we want a clean sound, so we add another instrument track, this time selecting Drum Pads and 808 Kit. We program the closed hat on eight notes.
Then set the View > Grid Size setting to 1/32 notes and program a 32nd note roll at the end of each bar.
To give this a slinky feel we turn down the velocity of every other note to 47 with the Edit Note Velocity tool.
4. Adding music to work with
Naturally you’ll want your grime beat to have a big bass line. Before we add that, though, let’s put a musical element into the project. This will help us decide what key to work in, and gives us a musical framework to work the bass line around.
To find a suitable music sample, we open the Loops panel, select the Loops tab at the top of the panel, and type ‘grime’ into the search field. Grime Leads 22 sounds appropriate, so we drag it into the project.
This sample is in the key of F minor, and when we add it to the project BandLab automatically sets the project’s global key to F minor. It also automatically timestretches the loop from its original 140 BPM tempo to the slightly slower 138 BPM of our project.
We want the beat to dominate the mix, so let’s turn down the level of this track to -4dB.
5. Making a bass line
Now we have a key to work in, let’s add a weighty 808 bass. We create a new instrument track, this time setting the instrument to Synth Bass and 808 Kick. We know our track is in F minor, so we program in a part that starts on F3 and follows the rhythm of the 606 kick.
The first time this plays it drops down to a fifth in the octave below, and the second time around a flattened third is added to give us a little taste of darkness at the end of the sequence.
6. Spicing things up with FX
Grime music tends to be quite heavy on the atmosphere, so let’s add an FX sample to give us a bit more vibe and pump the energy levels up a little. We can find something appropriate using the same method we used to get a music loop, searching for ‘grime’ in the loop library. Grime Bass 19 has the feel we’re after, so we drop it into the project.
Turn its track down to -6dB so that it sits more subtly in the mix.
Watch this space for more tips, tricks and tutorials on more beatmaking basics on BandLab. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more video tutorials on music production techniques.