Tools for rhythm-making

Started by mgriffin, February 02, 2008, 10:19:45 AM

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There are so many ways to make rhythmic sounds electronically, with drum machines and Reason probably being the two most popular.  I think another common tool is the "sort of a beatbox, sort of a sequencer, sort of a beat-sound synth/sampler" like the Akai MPC series or Korg Electribe series.

I've been starting to work on a couple of projects along these lines and the tools I've been using so far include:

1. Reaktor
Not so much for traditional beats, as for pulsing or surging rhythmic/ambient atmospheres

2. Impulse
This is a simple drum synth built into Ableton Live, which isn't the best rhythm-building tool I've found but I spend so much time in Live anyway, I can't help tinkering with this

3. Ultrabeat
This is the percussion module built into Logic Studio, and it's quite good, really very powerful and probably something I will concentrate on using more

I'm curious what people here are using to create their rhythmic sounds, or rhythmic patterns, or both.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) | |


I've used mostly hardware drum boxes in the past, including the Elektron Drummachine, Jomox Xbase08, Quasimidi 309 and a Korg Electribe, not so much for the sounds themselves but more for the Roland-like XOX interface for constructing drum lines, which I find a lot of fun. Right now I have no drum box so over the last year I've been trying out the step sequencer in Reason to trigger synthetic percussion sounds. I've also got a copy of Logic Express on the way and it also has the Ultrabeat app Mike mentions so look forward to trying that out.
Jonathan Block


I mostly use the Roland HPD-15 Handsonic for creating percussion parts. I will sometimes pull out my old Sequential TOM to lay down a basic rhythm and then lay down percussion parts over that. I don't use the TOM part in the end. I just use it to keep me from trying to fill in everything with my first percussion part. Sort of a reference point. I tend to play to much when I first start laying down percussion.     Harry
A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing.


My hands, I record myself playing my drums and gamelan instruments and edit out the best parts, then I make Apple loops out of them. Sometimes I will process them first to make them sound more synthetic if that's the sound I am after. Feed them into logic and start working on the rest.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

I probably spend more time making music as a percussionist than anything else, my current set up consists of a selection of Remo drums (Tubanos, Djembe, Dumbek & Klong Ya) as well as tablas, box drums, tamborra, and anything else I can rattles, shake or hit.

On the electronic side, I too use a Roland HPD-15 and a Korg Wavedrum.

For sequenced beats I use Reaktor, Stylus and BFD, but as my set-up moves more and more outside of the computer I am looking for a good drum machine/groove box. I would love a machine drum, but they are $$$ and the new Linn Drum 2 looks promising, but seeing the prototype at NAMM, the thing is freakin huge...last choice, but most probale would be an electribe like everyone else.

"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK



I very much recommend FLstudio (formerly known as Fruity Loops)

It's a fantastic program for 'beat based' stuff, I do all my Formbank stuff with it.



I knew a bunch of wise guys would say "I actually play real drums with my hands."  ;)

I suppose that is an option, yes.  In fact, I've been known to set up a microphone next to something drum-like, and strike it (the drum-like thing, not the microphone).

I also failed to list the Nord Modular which I've used for this stuff a bit too, though (like I said with Reaktor) not for traditional complex drum beats.

And actually I've been working on designing my own beat-box sort of application within Reaktor.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) | |


I avoid real-sounding drums/percussion 99% of the time.

Many of my rhythm-oriented tracks are created with pattern
gating. I like that method because you can feed anything into it
... pads, leads, whatever. Electribes are good for gating an input
signal, but there is a lot of software too.
The Circular Ruins / Lammergeyer / Nunc Stans

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

Pattern gatting is cool, the Moogerfooger Murf is really cool for that too...except that with no tap or precise tempo it is totaly organic and a pain to sync...

"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Gemini Ambience

Previously my studio was software-only and I was using Spectrasonics Stylus RMX for all my rhythms and percussion. The beauty of RMX is that you could create just about any type of loop you wanted and converted it to a Rex file, and then convert it via the SAGE converter that comes with RMX, and then load the loop into RMX.

Now that I'm switching over to a hardware and software set-up, I have a Roland MC-808 and MC-505 which I plan on using for most of my rhythm and percussion sounds. I'm not sure which I prefer yet...the 808 is like having Stylus RMX in a box.  hehe  I like step programming for percussion loops and other rhythmic elements, so in that regard I really like how fast you can program in patterns via the Rolands, versus the amount of drag/drop/shuffle in RMX. Both have their ups/downs, but so far I'm enjoying the Rolands a bit more.


Quote from: mgriffin on February 03, 2008, 08:44:04 AM
I knew a bunch of wise guys would say "I actually play real drums with my hands."  ;)

I wasn't trying to be a wise guy, just stating how I work.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell


Before I started my long break in 2004 - I was using Fruity Loops heavily (version 3.0 I think... older version even for then...) - I also liked Rebirth becuase it was so easy to work with.    On very rare occassions I break out my Alesis SR-16 which I personally think has a very lifeless and dull sound unless I really mess with it in effects...  I've always regretted that purchase.  Oh well!

John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] .: owner / artist .: .: .:


Great thread! I too fell in love with Reason's beat making abiltys. I enjoy the flexible routing in Reason as well as its back panel where all the magic happens.
I have in the past sampled acoustic drums and all sorts of hand percussion but found them a bit akward when actually applying them to composition(s).
Currently, I'm stuck in Live and for good reason. It's a fun work environment and to me its more of an instrument than other DAW's.
As far as sequencing, I still find myself going back to Reason because of the quick workflow as that is what I taught myself in.
I'd like to venture into hardware at some point such as the LinnDrum 2, JoeMox etc. I love the feel of real knobs etc. We'll see what happens for now, I've got my hands full.


I've been using dfhSuperior triggered by Jamstix running in Samplitude Pro.
I've also been using a Korg padKontrol more and more.
Great fun.



Reaktor is my favorite soft synth, and it's wacky beat making synths are great.  I also love using Waldorf Attack as well as DR008.  My Yamaha RM1X is handy as well, but its interface is not the easiest for me.


Sonic Charge Microtonic is an excellent VST/midi drum machine. It was designed by the same guy who designed the Redrum in Reason and works along similar principles.


I just picked up a used Alesis Micron.
Its sound is ok, but nothing amazing compared to other digital synths.
However, its rhythm abilities set it apart. Has handy phrase recording and other interesting rhythmic/sequence/pattern stuff on board. Lots of rhythmic presets. I was surprised how good it is. Fine little synth for the money, especially if you want something with rhythms.
The Circular Ruins / Lammergeyer / Nunc Stans


The Micron is a great little synth. Its strong point is definitely the rhythmic possibilities. But I think it does a pretty good job of analog emulation. Unfortunately the editing interface is a bit of a drag given its size. And the editor (at least on a Mac) doesn't help much.
Jonathan Block


(Native Instruments) Battery 2.


Rhythmic/Beat generation tends to vary for me since, by accident, I'll often end up with some percussive/drum-like loop after trying to obtain, say a giant distorted synth pad by running a guitar through a feedback loop containing various fx devices!. Connecting gear and running plug-ins sometimes leads to sh*t you realy don't expect!

But as far as "trying" to produce drum sounds, I tend to use Attack and Impluse (the drumbox in Ableton) the most.