Beat Loop Basics

Upon initiating my research I figured the most basic thing to start with would be creating a beat loop. As most forum goers said “start with a beat and work up from there.” So after searching for a good explanation of how to do this, I came upon the little jewel I linked below. It is a basic tutorial on how to make beat loops for different genres utilizing a “step sequencer”. It goes over what bars are, where you should place certain sounds and has been an excellent introduction piece for me. It is based on fruity loops, but if you are following in my footsteps, the Caustic 2 equivalent is the beat box machine.

So to get started, I first set off to understand the concept of  how a beat (also known as a measure) and a bar are related. It seems that a bar is just the technical term for a section of your composition. In the case of the beatbox machine, there are 4 beats in every bar. In Caustic you can fill each beat with 4 notes from each of the drum samples provided. Despite the freedom, as the tutorial below suggests, there are some basics you can stick to as a beginner. Also keep in mind there is a lot of trial and error and there is never truly a set standard you HAVE to stick to.

In terms of hip hop beats (something I’ve always found myself interested trying to make) it seems as though there are 2 main things to keep in mind: sample placement and bpm. I always wondered “hey why can’t I get my beat to sound remotely hip hoppy?” Well it turns out I was generally on the correct track, but my amount of Beats per Minute (or BPM) were to high! I always had it set at around 120 BPM (Caustics default), where it should have stayed around 90BPM.

As for where to place what sample in what beat, there appear to be 3 basic sounds for most music composition: Drum Kicks, Snare Drums and High Hat Cymbals. When researching where to put each sound, I found people confusingly telling me to place a specific sample in 1, 2, 3, or 4. If you’re a novice like me your thinking “what the hell does that mean?” Well it simply refers to which beat to place them in. The basic hip hop beat formula is to place a kick in beat 1 and 3 with a snare in beats 2 and 4. I need to double check but I believe if someone tells you to place a kick on 1 – 3, they would be referring to placing the sample in beat 1 note 3.

I am going to goof around with the beatbox machine today and hopefully have something basic to post online in the near future.

Feel free to read the source where all of the information I just blogged about came from. It will most likely make more sense coming straight from a pro. Good luck and I’ll be back soon.

Beat Loops Tutorial

2 thoughts on “Beat Loop Basics

  1. Hi, I just found your blog through my google alerts for Caustic.

    My name is Rej and I’m the author of the app. I also live in Australia (if by any chance you’re in Brisbane, give me a holler via email if you’re interested in dropping by my “office” and getting a sneak peek at new things…)

    Anyway, to expand a bit on what you said in the post. The simplified view is that a bar is the basic building block for music and it is comprised of a certain amount of beats. 99% of popular music uses 4 beats to make a bar (called 4/4 time) and that’s what Caustic uses too. The patterns in Caustic are by default 1 bar long for simplicity (though this can be changed)

    When people say stuff like “put a kick on 1 and 3”, they’re talking in beats as that’s the standard unit for music (That’s what a metronome counts as it clicks). The beatbox pattern grid in Caustic is divided into 16 vertical slices by default (called “16th notes” because they represent 1/16th of the length of the bar). Which means, in 4/4 time it takes 4 16th notes to make one beat. So to place something on the beat, you have to put one “trigger block” and skip 3 grids. If you want to visualize “beats” instead of “16th notes”, press the little black note button above the grid a few times until it shows a ball with a simple vertical line (no little flag(s)). The grid should now be divided into 4 and this shows your beats. Placing things right on the beats isn’t very interesting however, so most software defaults to 16th notes to give you more flexibility as you’ve found out.

    Anyway I won’t ramble too much, I’ll leave you to play around. Experimenting is the best way to learn.

    Feel free to post a link to your blog on my website’s “off-topic” forum if you wish. I’m sure many people are starting out too and would learn from your adventures. I’m terrible at hip-hop so I can’t teach you much there, but it sounds like you’re already pretty good at searching for what you need.

    Rej – SingleCellSoftware

    • Rej,

      Thanks for dropping by my blog, it was awesome to receive an email/comment from the Caustic creator. Also thank you for clarifying all of this terminology, I’ll throw up a post with updated information as to not confuse other beginners. Unfortunately I’m down in Melbourne, but when I visit Brisbane next I’ll give you a holler.


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