Songwriting Techniques 5: Rhythm

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Rhythm’. The bass and drum parts form the foundation of the track and a strong rhythm section can make all the difference to your track. In this post we will be looking at how these sound sources can used when composing in various genres, here are this weeks 5 ideas of how to get your bass and drums parts working effectively together:

1. Try matching your bass notes with the hits of the kick drum. This helps to give extra punch to these beats and locks these two elements together.

On the title track from his latest album Colors, Beck has the funk influenced kick drum pattern locked on with the bass guitar.

2. Use the root notes of the chords on the strongest beats in correspondence with the drums, you can then fill the gaps in between these strong beats with extra notes from the chord, the third and fifth notes would be a good place to start.

In the 2003 hit Time Is Running Out, Muse employ this method effectively. In the verse you can hear that the first note played of each chord is the root note of the chord before others are added in-between to drive the section forward.

3. If you have a simple drum part which plays mainly on the beat you could try having the bass focused on the off beats, this can work particularly well in electronic dance genres.

In the track Lights & Music by Cut Copy the distorted bass synth at numerous points is playing off the beat, this part helps to drive the track forward.

4. When working in a music software program you can use preset drum loops to help you get started. As you build up your own track around these drums loops you can gradually replace them with your own parts and eventually delete the original loops.

5. Anything that makes a sound can be used as percussion, and you can use everyday items to make new percussion instruments. For example, you could use an empty wine bottle hit with a drum stick or put dried rice in a tin can - be creative as there is no right or wrong here.