Create Soul-Destroying Drum Beats for Heavily Palm-Muted Riffs

Learn a method of writing drums for your heavy metal songs. Perfect for song-writers who do not play the drums.

Ultimate Guitar
Learn a method of writing drums for your heavy metal songs. Perfect for song-writers who do not play the drums. Listen to this very simple and fun palm-muted metal riff: Heavy Palm-Muted Riff.MP3 It is very repetitive and the perfect type of riff to sing or play a guitar solo over. In my case, I wrote this riff to have death vocals sung over. There are tons of possibilities but whatever you do, you will probably want an awesome drum beat to accompany it. Am I right? Since you are such a great guitarist and composer, you have probably got a ton of these kinds of sweet, bouncy riffs lying around all over the place. If you do not have a drummer to write beats for you, your next best option is to use drum samples to write the beats yourself. As a guitarist there is always the possibility that you have no idea how to write a drum beat. I know I did not when I first started. I wrote crazy nonsense for drum beats back in the day. When I finally got a drummer and let him listen to my songs, he told me that he would need five arms and unbelievable penile control to play those beats. I have been playing in my current band (Zoltan) for many years now and I often hear people tell my drummer how impressive his drum work is. Since I write all the drum parts for my band, I feel like they are actually complimenting me and now I want you to get the same results. So let us get to it! The first thing that I like to do when writing a beat for this type of riff is have the bass drum (also known as a kick drum) play along with all of the palm-muted guitar notes. A riff like this is really all about the rhythm. Having the kick drum in perfect synchronization with the guitars is an excellent way to accentuate that rhythm. Here is the result: Kick Drum.MP3 The sweet thing about having the kick drum play in sync with the guitars is that it makes it easier to hear what the guitars are playing. In other words you are getting heaviness and clarity at the same time. You cannot beat that! Now let us add in some snare and hi-hat. It is common for the hi-hat to play once on every beat and the snare on whichever beats you want to accent. An example would be to hit the snare on every second and fourth beat. This would sound like "tss-pah-tss-pah." You could do this and it would sound just fine with the riff we are using but I personally want to make it into a slow brutal riff, so instead I am going to play the hi-hat on only half of the beats (the first and third beats only) and have the snare hit only once per bar on the third beat. Hihat & Snare.MP3 The x-shaped notes at the top are the hi-hats. The snare is the note on the third space (counting from the bottom, as is the usual practice in music theory). The hi-hat and snare usually work together to create the overall feeling of the drum beat, which is why I add them together instead of one at a time. If you do not feel that you are ready to think of two things at once, then think about just using the snare on the spots you want to accent and then add in the hi-hat in a very straight pattern. You will definitely get the hang of it over time. So now we actually have a complete beat but it is far from sounding soul-destroying. Everything else you might do from here onward could be considered simple tweaking. There are countless ways you could go about tweaking this very basic beat to sound the way you want it to. I will show you how I went about it but remember that there is no wrong way to write a drum beat. This is just one method that I like to use when it comes to these types of heavily muted riffs. The first thing I would like to do is make it sound heavier overall. The hi-hat is just not doing it for me so let us replace it with crash cymbals. Crash Cymbals.MP3 You can see at the top that the old hi-hats are gone. Those new x-shaped notes you see are both crash cymbals. Next, I am thinking of adding variety by completely changing up the feeling in the second half. Instead of continuing on with the crash cymbals I am going to revert back to the hi-hat and I am going to have it and the snare play twice as fast. So there will be hi-hats on every beat and snares on every second and fourth beat. Below is what the second half of the beat looks like in notation. The old hats are back but there are twice as many of them now and twice as many snares now accompany them. Latter Half Variation.MP3 Nice. There is still one problem with this beat. Where there are no muted heavy chords, the drum beat just kind of stops. We can fill that in with some simple snare and cymbal hits. There they are at the end of every fourth bar. Sustained Note Hits.MP3 The beat actually sounds quite complete now but even with the second half changed up, it still sounds boring to me. The last step to make your beat really rock is to add decorations. It is up to you how and where to add decorations. It will vary for each person and each song. Decorations are a completely free-style process but they often contain well-known structures such as drum rolls and fills. This is the time to go crazy with your imagination and write stuff that makes you say, "That's insane!" Before going too crazy, here are a few guidelines to help make sure your beat is actually playable by a human drummer. 1. Most drummers are limited to the use of one drum stick per arm and only two arms. Make certain your beat never requires more than two drums (not including the kick drum) or cymbals being hit simultaneously. 2. Do not write a machine-gun kick drum beat that is any faster than the speed you can drum your palms on your lap. 3. If you want to have an opening and closing hi-hat, you will only have one foot available for the kick drum. Here are the additions I made. The top staff is the slow first part of the drum beat while the bottom staff is the faster second part. During the slow section, the first addition I made was a bunch of ride cymbal hits played at the same time as the kick drum. Right after that I threw in a quick hi-hat. That's all that is contained in the first red circle in the fourth bar. Right after the first red circle comes the snare and cymbal hits that accompany the sustained guitar notes. You can see that there is a single kick drum note in between the two hits. In the faster section, the changes occur right before the snare and cymbal hits where I placed a kick drum to lead into them. The first hit after that is usually a snare and a crash. Look closely and you will notice that the cymbal has moved to the third space above the staff. That is not a crash cymbal but a china cymbal. It is a small change but it goes a long way in eliminating a repetitive sound. Before the second snare hit are three rapid kick drums and then another kick at the very end. Final Beat.MP3 You are now ready to create soul-destroying drum beats for most heavy palm-muted riffs such as this one. I hope you found this article of great use. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Bonus.MP3 About the Author: Jahan Zoltan Honma is a recording artist and freelance composer based in Niigata City, Japan. You can learn more about Jahan at and listen to some free music at Zoltan's SoundCloud.

54 comments sorted by best / new / date

    way too boring imo, it's exactly what every *core band does
    if you're writing drums for metal, take wise note of what chris says in the first few moments and find a way to spice it up without detracting from the song typically, the way to do this, and the way to make an interesting drum track, is not by layering the bass drum over the same rhythm as the guitar
    Definitely one of my favorite metal drummers (I'm a guitarist btw). It's not often that you stop and think "man, that drum riff was so original." Also, I like his super tight snare sound, because you're able to hear every little stroke so clearly.
    As a drummer first then guitarist, this was pretty generic sounding. Not to dump on you or anything, I just find it really boring.
    No matter what others say, i belive that this could turn into a great help for any guitarist that needs to write his own drums, so it would be aprecciated if there could be more lessons. For example, about breaks, different rhtyms etc etc.
    agreed with aelkeris. as a recording guitarist who doesnt play the drums, i find that dragging and dropping drum riffs for Superior Drummer and random midi maps i found online can be stale. i dont THINK like a drummer, so its hard for me to come up with interesting drum tracks like this.
    well then if youre not a drummer, then thats the challenge. is trying to write intersting rhythms maybe the way a drummer wouldnt't necessarily play it. i didnt enjoy this article at all i think the last thing this world needs is more kids coming up and saying kicks that do nothing but follow heavy chugs are awesome
    I'm in the same position. Besides, this is a very simple example. You could easily change up things. The point is, HOW TO THINK like a drummer. In other words, what parts should be rhythmically emphasized and what should keep pushing the song forward as a steady beat? That's not easy for a guitar player to grasp without some help.
    A little overstated saying it is "soul-destroying" when it is more or less quite straightforward and plain. It's simple and easy to construct something basic from these rules certainly. That may be the reason why it sounds somewhat generic like most nouncore music.
    Yeah, I'm pretty much in the same boat as this - the way I see it is that this article is great IF you want to only write a very specific style of drum pattern over a specific style of riff (e.g. metalcore breakdowns, basically). Other than that, it doesn't really teach you anything. We have more in-depth resources in the Recordings forum if users search for them, no offence to the author of the article!
    A great article to demonstrate how drums can really spice up a simple riff, nice stuff!
    Nothing wrong with the lesson, except that the title is about as misleading as UG's headlines. Nothing particularly soul-destroying, or even really intriguing about these beats. Keep going though, perhaps we'll see more in the next lesson?
    You do realize that, more often than not, guest writers don't pick the title, right? UG staff picks the titles.
    That's not true, Sam. The author, as far as I understand, has control over pretty much everything they submit - the UG article staff just proof-read, accept or decline a submission, and upload it to the site.
    I thought they've been times where the UG CC's picked the title for the author. I've seen a few articles, where the first comment is something to the effect of the author saying, "I didn't pick this title, nor do I support it". /shrug However, I may be wrong.
    Oh I'm aware. However, the last paragraph of the article states that: "You are now ready to create soul-destroying drum beats [...]" So wether or not the headline was written by the UG staff, the description came straight from the guest article. As mentioned, I hope the following article is more interesting and analytic.
    "Create Soul-Destroying Drum Beats for Heavily Palm-Muted Riffs" "Create Soul-Destroying Drum Beats" "Drum Beats" "Beats" I thought a drummer would be more appreciative of the word rhythm. Guess not.
    Remember when metal bands had riffs instead of rhythms? I miss those days. All you need now is some syncopated chugging, triggered drums and a heaping serving of cheese aggression. How does one even have death or thrash metal without precise, intricate riffing? It's 2013 already, are we not past the point where bands can shoe horn chugging into a song in lieu of a riff or melody or something? It's like these kinds of bands want the aesthetics of metal, but they don't care much for actually playing it. I'd actually take nothing but super sterile blast beats over half time backbeats, because at least bands have shown you can throw any type of riffing over a blast. When someone wants to make their carbon copy breakdown interesting, they just add or remove a note. Big deal. You'd think having some super groovy drums would have people kicking out the jams or doing something rhythmically cool/funky, but nah. Straight forward 'white boy' rhythms with no soul. Rhythmic metal is almost always the antithesis of the word 'groove'.
    It's really sad to hear the complaints if have about Indy repeated in a rant about metal, funny that a bunch of repetitive shit is popping up just when these genres are popular and booming with activity, it's almost as though more doesn't automatically mean better.
    I have honestly no idea what this means or what you're getting at, certainly not the 'just when' or what 'more' is a reference. Indy as in Indiana Jones, indie music, Indy racing, what are we talking about? My post was mostly bored ranting, I know there are lots of metal bands that don't fit my description.
    This is the problem, nobody writes with a drummer anymore. Guitarists write riffs then plug in some generic blast beat from crappy third party software. Go find a real drummer with some groove and feel and timinig. You may be surprised how much fun it can be.
    I've been playing this stuff all day, and yet my soul is unharmed. Must be my PC.
    Jahan Honma
    Hey, everyone. Thanks a lot for all the constructive criticism, those who offered it. Some people felt it was too basic and I can understand why those people feel that way. This is, after all, a lesson on how a person who does not play drums can write them. So, I think it works.
    Doesn't work. This would be useable for 4/4 timesignature, but since your riff is 15/16, and mostly the drums are too (they're 4/4 at some points and just 13/16 at others). For prog you don't use drum patterns this simple. PS. Maybe you should learn the basics, like how time signatures works, before posting a lesson.
    What are you talking about? Listen to the accents and look at the number of beats in the bar; it's a 4/4 riff... which, in case you missed it, is denoted by the time signature written at the beginning of the staff.
    when i copy that exact riff to guitar pro, the bar is incomplete. It says 4/4, but it really isn't if you count carefully. You have 5 16th notes, then 2 8th notes and finally 6 16th notes. that makes a 15/16 time signature.
    You missed the dotted 8th rest after the five 16th notes. Just listen to the song. Does it sound like 15/16? Or just use your brains. If you can read rhythms well, you can see where the beats are. At first I didn't see that dot in the dotted 8th rest but I knew it had to be there. And after looking at it more carefully, you can see that there is a dot.
    OK, it's light gray, almost white. In other words the program used to create those is crap. Dots should be the same color as everything else, not so light that you barely see them.
    For all guitarists who want to learn to write drums, I'd really recommend listening to Haunted Shores.
    Meh, pretty bland, unimaginative,and generic, I prefer it when the drums add a unique "groove" to the riff that would be absent without them.
    It is wrong it's 15/16 not 4/4. And the notation is terrible.
    Dude you are wrong. The notation is correct. You missed the dotted 8th rest after the five 16th notes. People should learn to read rhythms before whining about them. And even if you didn't see the dot, you could just guess there is a dot - otherwise it wouldn't make any sense. I mean, listen to the recording and look at the notation.
    lol i just said it's wrong, no whining boy and if i would have seen a dot, i wouldn't have mentioned anything. people should learn to think so
    So, again, we have a guy blaming the article writer, because he couldn't see what was written properly. Use your eyes, man. Don't blame someone else because you 1) didn't listen properly to the example AND 2) you didn't read it properly.
    yeah blaming(m everything else than liking is blameing and whining(m i said it's wrong, because a sixteenth is missing and i meant the notation, so no need for listing. And as i said the notation is terrible.
    The dots aren't visible enough, no one is disputing that, and I don't think anyone would dispute that being unable to notice something's in 4/4 warrants some more time working on rythms (or a study of the riff/song if it's simply that mind blowing) if that's what you meant. No offense meant I learnt quite a bit by ****ing up and studying those **** ups, musicians just focus so much on their own feel and technique that most of these issues boil down to can you get this yes or no, followed by the offering of a few personal tricks, if we where patient logical people we'd be practicing minding our own bussines or asking you better questions to figure out good practice excersises but here we are. Personally the "why" fascinates me but the impetus in music culture seems to be just do it. We don't give a shit about you or your excuses, your just an electonic name tag that we happen to notice made a mess up that we don't feel good leaving uncorrected, we only tell you these things out of the love of our info-charity bloated egos.