Producing with drums & loops tutorial by Joe Gilder - Track Spark
in     by Track Spark 13-01-2016

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Producing With Drums & Loops tutorial was made by Joe Gilder for our December's goody bag.

Joe Gilder runs the website Home Studio Corner (HSC) which exists to help home studios excel. It gives you lots of ways to expand your recording knowledge, hone your recording skills, and make better recordings.

Joe has recorded in million-dollar studios, noisy churches, and tiny bedrooms, and he love’s it. Recording is such a fascinating, immensely creative process. We live in an exciting time, where a laptop and a couple hundred dollars will get you well on your way to making great-sounding recordings. The problem? It’s hard to know what to do, where to start, HOW this whole recording process is supposed to work. You may not have the time or desire to get a recording degree, but you want to learn the recording.

Tutorial transcribed

Hey there, my name is Joe Gilder. I run the website and today I want to show you one of the favourite songs I've produced lately where I incorporated both loops with real recorded drums. I haven’t done a lot of this over the years and I've kind of fallen in love with it on this project so makes me excited to explore more loop based production because it adds an element that you just can't get with one or the other. The song we're looking at here is a song called Free. It's one of my songs, it was produced and recorded all in home recording studios around Nashville which is where I'm from and it just turned out really well. I’m a typical rock guy, most of the stuff I record is drums, bass, electric guitars, keys, vocals and this one is no different except a couple of things. First, as I mentioned before we've got these loops involved and as you can see I’ve consolidated them into one big piece of audio. There's one here that runs the length of the entire song and then there’s one here in this one here that comes in during the rap section. That's the second part that's interesting, I have a friend who does a lot of hip-hop and he actually rapped verse 3 on this song. So for me, a typical straightforward rock guy adding hip-hop loops and a hip-hop rap over an otherwise fairly traditional grooving rock song ended up making it really special and different. Almost a genre defying piece of music, well maybe not genre defying but it merged these two genres together in a way that works really well. So let me play you a bit of the song first so you can hear what's going on and then I'll dissect my thought process and the approach to how I did this so you can replicate that on the songs you’re doing in your studio as well.

Here we go, it’s a song called Free, take a listen. So it continues, it goes into a pre-chorus then the chorus and it maintains that same loop going throughout the entire song. So it's a really simple drum loop and what was interesting to me is that I didn't set out to record the song this way. That's one of the beauties of producing music, things happen and these happy accidents come along. I wrote the song with my friend who is going to rap on it so I knew there would have to be some sort of tipping of the hat to hip-hop element to it but I don't know what that would be. As I was recording the scratch tracks and getting ready to go to my drummer’s house where we recorded all of these drums, I needed something to groove along to more than just a straight click. The click I had just wasn't grooving enough for me to get into playing the guitar part in a way that I thought grooved well. So I found this loop that was basically a hip-hop style loop and it just it made me bop my head a certain way that allowed me to record this guitar part in a way that felt like it had the right groove. So I literally just went through my loop library, found this one and it seemed to work at this tempo. I dragged it in, ran it for the length of the song and it all started with this loop, this exact loop and this guitar part. I recorded a scratch version, if you’re are not familiar with that it means a throwaway version just to have something there. I went back and re-recorded it once I had drums and bass in there because I could groove a little bit better once they were there. But this allowed me to set the tone for the entire song right here with these two elements. This drum loop and this guitar track and everything else was built from there. Next up for me was going to my drummer which was interesting as I sent him the tracks to listen to and to practice beforehand. When I got there he was hearing this big rock progression. He was playing this huge John Bonham drum sound which is what he was going for and I said ‘no, this is actually going to be less towards rock, more towards hip-hop but with live drums.' As soon as I said that to him, something clicked in his head and he said ‘oh I get it’. He had muted this loop when he was practicing as he thought it was just there as a guide track and that we were going to get rid of it. I said ‘no, we're probably going keep that in the song’. So the guitar in this loop along with his click is what he played along to. He ended by coming up with a groove that just worked really well. Here's where he comes in. I’ll get rid of the guitar. And here it is with the loop. I have to say that to pull off something like this you need a fantastic drummer and my friend Tim Horsley, you can check him out at if want to hire a drummer to record your stuff remotely. He is fantastic, I have not edited these drums at all and as you can see he is locked into the grid pretty well. It grooves with the loop really well also. He's not playing the exact pattern as you can see. The kick drum pattern as you can see here, is different from what he's playing on the drums. So while the loop goes like this, Tim is playing that same loop over and over, but the drum loop actually changes patterns halfway through the loop, it goes to this. So it goes from one rhythm to another. It’s changing over and over but Tim is remaining steady on top and it makes for a really interesting sound. We've got two very different kick drum sounds coming through and very different snare and clap sounds coming through but they're all working together really well.

When you listen to it they almost blend into one another. Obviously in the intro to the song we've got the loop going and it's obvious it's a loop. Then when the drums come in that’s pretty obvious as well. Neither the drums nor the loop are as front-and-centre by themselves. Listen to what happens when we mute the drums. The loops doesn't really carry its weight entirely. It's a little anaemic, it's not having enough volume. The same thing if we mute the loop, the drums don't quite carry it either. They're still a little distant, a little far away from the mix. Everything else is up front. The guitar, the organ, the keyboard on the left, the bass. They're all up-front in-your-face sounding good but the drums are little far. This took a lot of playing around with in the mix but I realized I had to blend them together and bring both down a little bit so that they're both combining together and getting more in your face. When I play them both together, now they’re suddenly nice and upfront like you want them, but each one individually does not do that. I think that's really important, you want to hear both. You don't want one to overshadow the other and have to sacrifice a little bit of volume on each of them to make sure the overall volume works well in the mix. Now it just sits right on top of the mix which is where you want it to be, especially with those big, thumping kick drums.

We decided we’d track the drums and we were setting up, getting the arrangement ready and we decided to pull in another drum loop for the rap section. Since most of the song is just me singing along to a band, having the drum loop there is nice but since we’re adding in a rap here for verse 3, it almost made sense to make it over the top hip-hop if that makes sense. So what we decided to do is add an over the top hip-hop drum loop that has a lot of high hats and tipping the hat towards the hip-hop world in this section. So here's the loop we came up with and added to the song. We’re coming to the rap here. You can see that in the kick pattern there's a lot of similarities but there's also a lot of differences. More hyper kick drum parts and then obviously that high hat wasn't there in the other loop as well. You combine the two together, bring in the drums so it's a fairly subtle addition to the drum world.

If you had asked me ten years ago ‘hey, can you mix and match all these different loops, we’ll have three different kick drums going on at once’? I would have said ‘no, that's not right, that's not proper, you just need one’. Well that's not true because this is working really well. All these kick drums mixed together making one big wall of awesome. Let me play the whole thing so you can get an idea of what the section sounds like. We’ll go a couple bars coming into the rap. The last line of the chorus going into that, you can feel that as we keep adding the loops in the rap, it builds up energy and just ends up rocking your face off. I’m thrilled with this song. As I’m shooting this video it’s not even released yet. It’ll be released I believe at the same time that this video will be put out. It’s part of an EP called Free, the name of the song is Free and you can check it out and It’ll be available there for free if you want to check it out and share it with your buddies.

I wanted to make sure I showed you how cool it can be to use loops. The hip-hop guys, the electronic guys, they get IT. They’re Loopmasters. They’ll put together a song with 50,000 loops and it'll sound amazing but if you're on the other side of that fence and you're quote unquote ‘a traditional rock guy’ and you like to record things with microphones, I think you're missing out if you don't step into the loop world. Now, I'm preaching to myself because as I mentioned at the beginning of this video, I'm not a big loop guy. I don't use a lot of loops in my productions and I think that's been a mistake on my part. I just fell into using this loop on this song and bringing in the second loop and I'm in love with the whole process. It isn’t right for every style of music and every song but I think there are some major creative possibilities for you if you learn to incorporate loops in places where loops might not make a lot of sense. For example if you are one of the electronic guys or hip-hop guys doing a lot of loop based production, you can bring a lot of value to your buddy who mainly does rock or even country or some other style of music that does tend to use a lot of loops. The more you work together, there'll be some really interesting things that come out of that. On the flip side, for rock guys like myself, it would make a lot of sense for me to spend more time listening to loop productions, using loops in my productions and connecting with people who are really good at putting loops together. Like I said, something magical happened on this song. Whether you like the music, the style or the message is irrelevant. It connected with me and allowed me to take this long to a level that wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for these two loop tracks. If I mute them out, the song is different and doesn't work but adding them in changed everything. I’m really happy that I did it.

I hope this was encouraging for you. I hope that it gave you some ideas. Maybe about a song you’re working on right now if it's missing something. Maybe it's a loop, spend 30 minutes going through a loop library finding the right loop and dropping in and making it work with the song. I think you'd be surprised how much fun it is and how much new life it can breathe into your song.

Thanks for watching this, I hope it was really valuable for you. If you’d like to connect with me, head over to, that's me there. You can check it out, it’s a blog I run specifically for home recording folks. There’s over a thousand articles and videos and there's courses you can check out. There’s lots of good stuff that will help you make better music out of a home recording studio. You can also hit me up on Twitter and Facebook, those links are down here. I’d love to connect with you and see if this video inspired something awesome from you. If so, let me know. Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook, I’d love to hear about it. I'm ‘JoeGilderMusic’ over there and if you want to check out my music and specifically the song I used in this video, you can check that out over at It'll take you to this page that will look different because the EP will be released. It'll be right in this area here called Free. It should be right at the top if you check this out or if you're watching ten years in the future they'll be ten more albums but go check out Free because it’s really good. Right, that's it from me, thank you so much for watching, go and make some good music.