A beat drop is a magic touch in many a composition that can elevate a track from good to unforgettable, with beat drops being the ultimate weapon in a beatmaker’s arsenal to help ignite an emotional reaction in the listener.
Mastering these transitions, particularly when it comes to crafting a bone-rattling beat drop, is a real journey that takes one from a beginner with a passion for music to a seasoned professional leaving a distinct imprint.
This process involves understanding the underlying theory, honing technical skills, fostering creativity, and developing an intuitive sense for what resonates with your audience. So when it comes to that all-important beat drop though, can you tell the difference between noob, intermediate, and professional producers? Luckily, we have Fabio from Noize back again to help us differentiate between the amateurs and the pros when it comes to meticulously crafting a truly memorable drop.
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So let’s dive in.
Beginner Beat Drop
This is what many drops will sound like, and there are a few things here that are creating the drop. It’s the “break” before the drop that makes it happen. It’s that real change in energy.
For anyone new, this is the section before the chorus–the part that often has the most impact. Fortunately, there are some very easy things that you can do to create this contrast:
The first is to take your kick, duplicate it, and add a low cut. This will result in a little different version of the kick that’s a little lighter. This means that when the kick comes back in, you’ve reintroduced the low frequencies giving it that noticeable bass impact.
If you’re going to do this with the kick, you oughta do it with the bass too. Same process, creating a duplicate bass with the low frequency cut. It makes a pretty big difference, but here’s something else you can do too: on the last bar before the drop (the last four beats of the kick), cut and mute the kick and the bass, leaving a small bit of silence. We’d recommend doing it for a few parts, but with the kick and the bass, it tends to have the most impact.
You should notice how when the kick and bass are removed completely for one bar, it makes the drop feel even bigger. This helps get the listener pumped up for the reintroduction of those other parts.
Intermediate Beat Drop
There are a few things going on here. The first part we’ll get into is the snare roll. It creates a nice tension up until the one-bar break before the drop. It acts as a bit of a riser, increasing that anticipation for the energy of the next section.
In the gap before the drop, there used to be silence. But instead, we’ve introduced a kind of weird vocal chop (take a listen). The vocal track by itself was a bit unexciting. So we’ve added another layer underneath with Little Alterboy (pitch shifter) to bump it up 12 semitones. Then we also used a tape delay on 1/16th with the Dry all the way down, the Wet all the way up, and the Feedback all the way down to zero.
What this does is create a higher-pitch delay that’s coming in but with a 1/16th after each hit of the vocal. It’s a little random and weird, but we think it fits pretty perfectly with the track in this example.
So we actually took the end of that vocal chop and created a riser from it. Here’s what we did:
First, we chopped out just the last section, copied and pasted to a new channel, and then added an Echo Boy by Soundtoys with the following settings: Wet all the way up, Feedback very high, an 1/8th dotted, on Ambient mode, and then in order to be able to control the echo, we Bounced in Place (highlight the section, then Ctrl+B, or right click and select “Bounce in Place,” hit Enter, and this renders it into a longer piece of audio with a tail that gets a little out of control as you can probably see, but at the end of it we put on a fade).
But we also recognize that it needs a little processing. First, we added a Compressor to deal with the increase in volume as the delay feeds back on itself. We used Endless Smile by Dada Life which is like a Filter, a Delay, and Reverb all in one. We wanted to thin it out a bit about 3/4 of the way through and then bring it back before it completely fades out. We also added a Channel EQ just to roll off some of the low frequencies.
One final thing we did on this intermediate drop was to just add a touch of white noise on the first beat. This gives just a touch of high-frequency energy and presence which helps to re-engage the listener.
Pro Beat Drop
First we’ll get into the drums. We grouped them together and then added a Valhalla Vintage Verb. We’re actually washing out the drums using a long Decay while automating the mix. It helps give you that “arena-like” feel, if you know what we mean.
What we love about this effect is that it breaks up the drums and allows you to focus some more on the other elements of the track without them disappearing in an inorganic way.
We added a second snare roll to the snare roll we already had, but just at the very end, for that little added bit of energy.
We also added a mega Lead but with some changes. Here’s what we did: Throughout the drop, the lead is actually getting kind of washed out with Endless Smile and RC-20. Then on the drop, we’re using Effectrix with a Tonal Delay and Stutter together to create a gated rhythm.
The Tonal Delay is tuned to the root note of the key of the record, and the Stutter is at a 3 over 4 (triplet rhythm) on and off. The reason we believe this makes the drop more “pro” is because we’ve taken a very engaging sound, applied it throughout the breakdown and then found a way to include it in the drop. This adds yet another layer, and a little something more for the listener and the audience to engage with out there on the dance floor.
Lastly, we applied a couple subtle tricks that likely only pros will be able to detect.
On the breakdown we used FabFilter Simplon to slowly reduce the high frequencies which makes everything a little more dull. And when the drop comes in it opens up again giving us that high-end energy and presence. We’ll make the effect super noticeable so that you can easily hear it, but we’d recommend a much more subtle application. Overall, it’s a great way to shift that energy from one section to the next.
16 bars before the drop, we’re slowly reducing the volume, actually all the way to -4 dB using gain automation. So when the drop comes back in, it’ll be 4 dB louder. But because the decrease in volume is so gradual, the listener shouldn’t really notice it.