#1
I'm a guitar player, doing home recording, have a drum machine.

I'm trying to get "good" at programming beats to go along with my original songs. But I don't really know what to program. I mean, most of the time I do "kick - snare - kick snare" and it all sounds pretty much the same no matter how I embellish it with toms or cymbals or whatever. Sometimes I do "kick - snare - kick-kick - snare" but that's not much different. And I'm pretty much at my limit...

Is there a good place to get a basic handle on the world of drum beats, particularly alt / rock / groove / funk?

Thanks,

Ken
#2
For bass drum placement there a couple of simple trick you can make use of. You can simply follow the bass guitar, if it's got a decent rhythm to it. You can also just put the bass drum on any accented beats within the bar.

Hope that gives you a little inspiration
#3
The best thing you can do is pick apart songs you think do a good job in terms of drumming. Build up a library of beats that can fit into many different situations and edit them to fit the individual song even better. Make sure to really analyze the relationship of the drums to the bass, the guitar and even the vocals.

Also, make sure not to make the drums sound robotic, most software includes a feature to "Humanize" a programmed drum track using varying dynamics and timing; just enough to sound more realistic but doesn't harm the quality of the song.
#4
try this out: write down every 16th note in a 4 bar phrase - 1 e & ah 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a
now place the bass drum and other cymbals and drums on different accents along and you will get unique ideas
#5
freedrumlessons.com has a lot of nice beats in those lessons.

Or, you could just find some rock songs and listen to them.

Even though you'll probably not get all of the variation and stuff if you're not used to that, you'll hardly not get some original bass-snare patterns.
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#6
Assuming your tracks are in 4/4, generally the only thing you definitely need to have (the majority of the time) is snare on counts 2 and 4, or only on count 3 (half time). As somebody else said, having the kick follow the bass, or to accent certain beats. Generally you'll find the cymbals or floor tom will play a simple pattern, e.g. all quarter, 8th or 16th notes.

You shouldn't go too far wrong with just doing the above, however its hardly a set-in-stone thing. Just try to figure out what the drums are doing in songs you enjoy, and then use trial and error to implement that into your own work