How To Produce Drill Beats! (step by step, with examples)
HERE’S A STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL FOR PRODUCING INDUSTRY-QUALITY DRILL BEATS!
The term “drill music” has evolved and shaped itself for years. Originating in the southside of Chicago in 2011, drill music was full of violent themes and disses. As years went on, the term drill related more heavily to the UK style with off-set, triplet hi-hat patterns and 808 slides. Today, when someone says “drill beat,” this is often what they are referring to. Today we’re going to be breaking down the steps of making a UK/New York drill beat.
Because of the violent connotation of drill music, the melodies of the beats are often eerie and dark. This is done with minor chords. To create a minor chord progression, use notes in a minor natural scale. The tempo of drill beats is 120-145BPM.
Tip: In FL Studio, find the minor natural scale by using the stamp tool at the top of the piano roll
Click this drop-down and select “Minor Natural” then click in the piano roll which key you want to use.
The most common instruments used for drill melodies are pianos, strings, bells, and vocal samples. To create a high-quality drill melody, I recommend layering all or most of these instruments. I like to use the piano and strings for chords, and the bell for a top melody.
Drill chords are simple. Use minor chords and create tension. Do this by duplicating a minor chord and lowering the middle note by 1 half step. When repeated, this creates a dark vibe perfect for drill beats.
Use a descending bassline to bring out the dark energy in your chord progression. While the bass notes go down, it will create much more eerie energy in your melody.
Drill melodies are often repetitive and simple. For the best results, create an arpeggio of your chords. Switch up the root note of your arpeggio to match the chord progression. See the picture below for an example.
A common effect utilized in drill beats is reversing the sample. To reverse your sample while maintaining the same melody, you need to flip the melody in the piano roll. To do this in FL Studio, press alt + y and select “flip horizontally.” This will completely flip your melody so that when it is reversed, it will have the same top line.
Once you have reversed your piano roll, right-click the pattern and select “Quick render as audio clip.” This will provide you with the waveform of your sample. Drag this file into the playlist and double-click it to open the sampler, then select “reverse.”
Line up your sample with the grid and slice the reverb tail from the beginning. Now you have your reversed sample! Be creative with your reversing. Try it with top melodies, chords, vocals, instruments, drums, and whatever you can think of! Experimentation is important.
Once you layer your melodies, it’s time to add some drums.
Drill drums are very unique. While the style of drill is very particular, there is plenty of room for experimentation. This is just the basics of the genre, but please feel free to add or subtract any elements you choose.
Hi-hats are the most recognizable part of a drill beat, so this part is important. Instead of using the typical “Fill each 2 steps” pattern, drill beats use a bouncier and more unique pattern that looks like this:
This is the basic foundation of the hi-hat pattern, but there is plenty more you can do to make your own patterns unique. Experiment with velocity, pitch, rolls, and bounce notes. Here’s what a drill hi-hat pattern could look like:
Drill beats usually use some sort of snare instead of a typical trap clap. The snare is used to bounce off of the hi-hat and create a bouncy rhythm. Drill snares are placed almost exactly like generic trap snares, but there is one substantial difference.
For your second or last snare in the pattern, let it hit on the 4th beat of the measure. Another way to think of this is simply to move it right by 1 beat. This creates a unique percussive bounce between the hi-hat and snare.
Open hi-hats are a great way to layer sounds in your beat. I recommend layering your open hats with the kicks and 808s you want to emphasize. For this example, since we have not yet laid down our kick or 808, just add one open hat to the beginning of each pattern.
Use small perc sounds to fill pockets in the beat. It is also very important to make sure you are not overusing perc sounds. I recommend one or two perc sounds to fill in gaps and make your drums sound more full.
808 AND KICK:
To finish off our drill beat, we need a hard 808 and kick pattern to fill out the lower frequencies. Start with your 808 pattern and layer the kick on top.
Use a long 808 without a kick at the beginning. The sanctuary 808 is an iconic 808 in almost every pack that can be used for drill beats. You can also find hundreds of 808s right here on wavgrind.com. “Melody + Drum Kits” at the top of this site and download our FREE factory sample pack which includes 448 drum samples (and 30 royalty-free melodies.)
Once you have selected your long 808, open the envelope tab at the top of the channel rack sampler and turn down the ATT, DEC, SUS, and REL knobs. Turn the HOLD knob all the way up.
This will make sure the 808 cuts off when the note ends and does not drag out.
Make the first 3 bars of your 808 pattern very simple. Use the root notes of the chords and don’t make any crazy patterns yet.
On the 4th bar, we’re going to use some 808 slides. Here is how to make effective slides that sound good:
Start with a note on the root note. Let this note last as long as you want your slide. If you want your slide to go from C to G, add a G note above the C where you want the slide to begin. If you want a slow slide, leave the G note long. If you want a shorter slide, shorten the G note to the length of the slide that you want. Here is an example of setting up a short slide from C to G.
Now double-click the G note using the pencil tool and select the rounded triangle on the left side of the note properties box.
This will cause the note to slide from the C up to the G when played back.
Be creative with your slides! You can slide from note to note using the same bass note or you can create new bass notes by adding more nonsliding notes. There are infinite possibilities when it comes to 808 slides. The most important thing is to make sure you stay in the key of the beat.
Use a hard kick to emphasize the important 808 notes. Layer your kick on the first beat of the song to emphasize the drop, then choose which notes you think sound best when layered.
Tip: Avoid layering a kick with an 808 slide. It sounds good sometimes but can create a muddy mess.
Drill beats are specific, but can be expanded upon and experimented with greatly. By following the steps in this tutorial, you will get a basic understanding of drill beats and with that knowledge, you will be able to elevate your production and make this genre your own.
To summarize, here’s how to make drill beats:
- Create a dark melody with minor chords and reverse effects
- Add bouncy hi-hats ¾ beats apart from one another
- Layer a punchy snare on the 3rd and 4th beats, alternating
- Use a long 808 to create a simple but unique slidey pattern
- Layer a hard kick to emphasize 808s
Thanks for reading and happy producing!
Written by Jake Tompkins