How to Write a Drum Beat - The 1 That Got Away (Music Theory Hack)

In this video, you’ll discover why your kick drum on beat 1 just isn’t kicking, and you’ll learn how you can overcome this obstacle. But first... Tea!

Hello, we are Kate Harmony & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony), and welcome to the Hack Music Theory show, where you are empowered with notation-free theory for making great music in DAWs.

HACK 1 - The 1 That Got Away
Playing a kick drum on beat 1 of your bar, gives your music, well... a kick. However, a kick drum on beat 1 of every bar will quickly result in your listeners acclimating to this. It’s like when your fridge turns on. You notice it at first, but then the hum blends into the background and you don’t hear it any more. So, in order to stop your beat 1 kicks from blending into the background, you need to prevent your listeners from getting used to them. And, as absence makes the heart grow fonder, the best way to keep your beat 1 kick kicking, is to leave it out of every other bar. This “missing” kick on beat 1, is what we call: The 1 That Got Away!

Yeah so these are our kicks down here on C2, and you can see we’re kicking beat 1 in bar one, but then in bar two, no kick on beat 1. And then same again for bars three and four: we’ve got a kick on beat 1 in bar three, but then in bar four, no kick on beat 1. This drum hack is so simple, but so powerful, and you can instantly apply it to any of your drum beats (by simply deleting the kick on beat 1 in every other bar), which will ensure that when you do play the kick on beat 1, it really kicks!

HACK 2 - Wear Different Hats
While open hi-hats on all the offbeat 1/8 notes will get heads bobbing, it’s definitely not enough to keep those heads coming back for more. So, to make a more advanced drum beat (which doesn’t just groove, but also offers your listeners a creative pattern to explore), you need to wear different hats. In other words, after you’ve programmed your offbeat 1/8 notes, take off your “open hats” hat, and put on your “closed hats” hat. Closed hats are great for quick notes (as the sound is short and tight), so have fun experimenting with some 1/16 note patterns on your closed hats. Also, if your tempo is slow enough (like ours here, which is 95 bpm), throw in a few 1/32 notes as well, but be sparing with these, as they’re intense!

So, we started by anchoring our closed hats into the drum beat, by playing a closed hat on beats 1 and 3 of every bar (which is conventionally where the kick would be). This adds weight to those beats, and allows the closed hats to act as a counterbalance to the offbeat open hats. Next, wherever you have the most space between kicks (for us, that’s between beat 2+ and beat 4 in bars two and four), that’s where you can really do something creative with your closed hats, as they won’t interfere with your kicks. Then lastly, sprinkle in a few 1/32 notes for extra spice (like we did here), and you’re done!

The example in this video is the bridge section from of our upcoming single “Down with the Drama”, which features the amazing Sarah Serene on vocals. If you missed any of our previous videos on this song, check out our YouTube playlist.

If you want a more in-depth lesson on how to write a drum beat, we suggest our video: 3 Hacks for Better Drum Beats.

Lastly, do you struggle to finish your music? If you do, then check out our online apprenticeship course, where you’ll learn how to effortlessly write new sections for existing sections, how to transition between them, and most importantly, how to finish your songs! For more info, just head on over to our Apprenticeship Course. Alright, enjoy the video/podcast.

Kate & Ray Harmony (AKA Revolution Harmony)
Music Teachers & Producers in Vancouver BC, Canada


1: Read our free book (below) & watch our YouTube videos
2: Read our "Part 1" book & "Songwriting & Producing" PDF
3: Learn how to become a song-whisperer, and effortlessly finish music!

Hack Music Theory is the pioneering notation-free method for making great music. Taught by award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony, and his protégé (and wife) Kate Harmony, from their studio in Vancouver BC, Canada. Ray is the author of critically-acclaimed book series "Hack Music Theory", and has made music with Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Ihsahn (Emperor), Kool Keith (Ultramagnetic MCs), Madchild (Swollen Members), and many more. Kate has the highest grade distinction in Popular Music Theory from the London College of Music, and is the only person on the planet who's been trained by Ray to teach his Hack Music Theory method! While these Hack Music Theory YouTube lessons teach music theory for producers and DAW users, they are designed to accommodate all music makers (songwriters, guitarists, etc.) and all genres, from Electronic Music to R&B, Pop to Hip-Hop, Reggae to Rock, EDM/Dance to Metal (and yes, we djefinitely Djent!).