Knowing how to play and program drum patterns is one of the most essential skills in music production.
The ability to work with the most popular and best drum patterns not only opens up new moods and feelings in your music, it also helps you start new projects and ideas quicker.
But what are the best drum patterns? What are the most common drum patterns you need to know? And how do you use them to break down genre barriers in your productions?
Here’s the 10 best drum patterns popular in music today that every producer should know.
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1. Four on the floor
The four on the floor drum pattern is everywhere. It’s no accident that the first beat on this list is the most recognizable drum pattern in popular music.
The quarter note kick drum pulse that gives this beat its name creates an irresistible groove at any tempo. Four on the floor is versatile, danceable and easy to build on.
2. The trap beat
No list of popular drum patterns would be complete without the trap beat—a drum pattern that’s no stranger to every corner of the charts these days (Even country).
The trap beat—a drum pattern that’s no stranger to every corner of the charts these days
This drum pattern is a go-to for moody bombast and rolling movement that’s the perfect match for melodic loop diggers.
3. The Bo Diddley beat
The Bo Diddley beat, invented by (you guessed it) Bo Diddley, gives songs a bouncy groove few other drum patterns can.
This unique beat rides on a 3/2 feel that originated in Afro-Cuban music. The Bo Diddley beat excels at moderate to low tempo and gives songs a ‘throwback’ feel and tumbling momentum.
4. The two beat
The two beat is a straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense beat that works best at medium and high tempos. The pared-down pattern provides a driving dancy pulse to your tracks. The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights is a fantastic example of the two beat in action.
The two beat is a straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense beat.
Contrary to its name the two beat is actually… one beat. The name two beat refers to the accenting of the second and 4th beats. The minimal metronomic march gives the rest of your track plenty of room to breath while providing some tasty drum drive to your tunes.
An absolute hallmark of 90s golden age hip-hop, the boom-bap beat rose to prominence through crate digging and sampling or drum breaks from vintage vinyl.
It’s no surprise that timeless boom-bap patterns continue to resonate today.
First popularized on the Shabba Ranks track “Dem Bow”, the Dembow provides a hypnotic and danceable rhythm that’s still popular today including “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran and “Despacito”. To name a couple.
The Dem Bow relies on groups of three, three and two to create its signature groove and works well at medium to high tempos accompanied by simple and repetitive melodic parts—great for writing dance beats that don’t rely on a backbeat.
7. Impeach the President
This famous drum break first appeared in the Honeydrippers song of the same name. It’s often hailed by drummers and percussion enthusiasts as one of the best drum patterns ever written.
The Impeach the President pattern mixes equal parts texture, swing and syncopation. It’s versatile enough to work at different tempos.
Major artists including Billie Eilish and Alanis Morisette have used this beat to great effect. Even though it was first written in the 70s, it still works today across pop. Could it be… the perfect beat?
8. Iconic eighths
Arguably on the grooviest grooves to ever groove, iconic eighths masterfully employs syncopation to create space and anticipation all in one simple drum pattern.
Iconic eighths will give your track a joyful mood and brings out an infectious urge to bob your head as you listen along. Fantastic if you’re looking for that earworm effect on your next track.
9. 12/8 feel
It’s not often you think about emotion when it comes to drum patterns. That topic is usually reserved for vocals or melodies that cut right to the core. But 12/8 feel brings the emotion back to your drums.
12/8 feel is a pillar of some of the best ballads in music and as the name suggests, you really feel all twelve eighth notes. The lower the tempo, the greater the feel. Try 12/8 feel on next time you’re looking to write an epic tear-jerker or heartfelt anthem.
10. Shuffle feel
The shuffle feel drum pattern is common in jazz and blues music and gives a tough, driving feel to your tracks.
The distinct shuffle feel comes from removing the middle triplet which gives the pattern a rolling feel. Even though it originated in Jazz and Blues, the shuffle feel works in a wide range of tempo and can be found across many genres because of its ability to create momentum and groove.
Drum pattern recognition
Growing your drum pattern repertoire will help you discover new paths for your productions and be efficient in the studio when it comes to laying down drums across your projects.
These 10 best and most popular drum patterns are a great place to start, but don’t be afraid to add your own variations and explore lesser-known drum patterns as well.
Various contributors from the LANDR team of music mentors.
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