Rhythm Concepts for Electronic Music | Will Edwards | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Duple & Triple Rhythms

    • 3. Simple Polyrhythms

    • 4. Multi-Clip Polyrhythms

    • 5. Dotted Delay

    • 6. Humanizing & Randomizing

    • 7. Beatmaking: House

    • 8. Beatmaking: UK Garage

    • 9. Beatmaking: 2 Step

    • 10. Wrap-Up & Tips

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

If you're learning to make beats and produce your own electronic music, this course will explain the principles of familiar beats and rhythmic theory that will help you make better tracks!

I've been an electronic musician and performer since the days of Ableton 4 and this course encapsulates rhythm fundamentals that every beginner electronic musician needs to know.  I've learned how to capture beats more easily on Push 2 and how to keep beats feeling human, without them sounding too imperfect...

In this class you'll learn:

  • What are polyrhythms
  • Humanizing vs. Quantiizing
  • Making beats (House, UK Garage & 2-Step)
  • Tips and tricks for faster Push 2 beat making

This course is ideal for any electronic musician who wants to understand (visually and intellectually) how to create both familiar/standard beats AND innovative/original beats.  From the basics on up, this course will expand your understanding of rhythms and inspire you to reinvent your beats (and maybe make a breakthrough on that old track :).

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Will Edwards

Artist. Creative Problem Solver. Musician


I am a full-time professional musician who has broad teaching experience with guitar & bass students in rock, blues, jazz and many other genres. I perform live on bass, guitar and keyboards.  In addition, I perform live electronic music improvisation.  I've devoted over 26 years to my own well-rounded musical education, focusing on a mastery of all aspects of modern music - from music theory to ear training; from live performance to composition and practice routines.

I specialize in bridging the gap between music and technology, focusing on using modern tools to demonstrate all aspects of music.  I compose and perform with Ableton and Push 2 and I have experience with Cubase, ProTools and Logic.  I'm extremely comfortable using web-based to... See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Will Edwards and welcome to this course where we're going to be talking about rhythmic concepts that are going to be able to help you take your electronic music productions to the next level. Talking about things like polyrhythms, how rhythms work, how you can humanize, and how that relates to quantizing and other technological features that are really only available to electronic musicians. In this section, what we're going to really be looking at is how this rhythm education can help inform your decisions as an artist and help you make better recordings. I have been an artist on stage, both in sort of traditional band settings, but also performing live electronic music for many years. And in this course I'm really bring together the fundamental principles that I come back to again and again, what I'm either on stage or in a lesson with my students. Thank you so much for joining me and let's get started on the course. 2. Duple & Triple Rhythms: Let's start out by talking about rhythm in its simplest form. Okay, so the first principle we want to really understand is what we call double or triple. This has to do with whether or not we're going to be looking at beat divisions of two or beat divisions of three. Now if we go over to my iPad here for a minute, I just want to write out some examples. Let's say that we've got a measure of music and we've got four quarter notes like that. Okay? So what we've got is just a simple, like four to the floor, 1234. Okay. Now we can divide any one of those beats up into smaller parts. So we could divide them into twos, in which case we get something that looks like this. And I know that this is kind of a little bit messy the way I'm writing these out. But it's really the easiest way. And you just kinda get USA the first time somebody wrote out music notes like this and was expressing rhythms to me this way. I thought it was a pretty messy way to do it, but it actually is really a much easier way to do it. Now, when you, when you see the second row of two nodes that are connected with a bar line. Those are aids, okay? So the first line, we just have this 4 to the floor 234, followed by a 1234 and K. That's what we see in the second line. But we can also take those beads and we can divide them into threes like that. So then you have one triplet, 2, 3, 4, one triplet 2, 3, 4. And if you wind it, mixing triplets with your aids, then you can one trip that 2341 triplet 2 and 3, 4, something like that where you mixing duple and triple together. 3. Simple Polyrhythms: I'm going to introduce polyrhythms here because it relates to duple and triple, and the idea of using different subdivisions to create more interesting rhythms. So I've got my drum track here and I'm going to go ahead and hit Command Shift M, create a new Miniclip. Now what I'm gonna do is I am going to select kick here. Now if I just listen to that kick. Okay, I'm going to turn that down a little bit. Let's hear that again. All right, So we just basically gotta kick here happening on the downbeat. And we can see that the grid is set up as sixteenths, right? So each beat is being turned into four individual hits. So I can utilize this grid being that it said it's sixteenths or quarters, any kinda duple rhythm so that I can place a kick at the top of every beat. So I get this sort of four to the floor sound. Okay? But what I can do is, well, and I'm going to just hit B to get out of the pencil tool. I'm going to right-click and I'm going to select that my fixed Grid be triplet grid right here. I also want to go ahead and make this into half notes. Now I get a different set of grid markers. So I'm going to hit B and I'm going to play a snare hit. But the snare hit now is happening on this triplet based grid. Let's listen to how that sounds. So you get a more interesting feel. Obviously, you could have this kind of thing where the snares always hitting at the same time as the kick. But that's not really very interesting. Likewise, you could turn this to aids or sixteenths, and you could create something that's maybe like a house beat, something like that. But what you have here, because you're pairing four on three, which is how we talk about this 43, you get a much more interesting rhythmic pattern that's always being offset. So that's the basics of polyrhythms. I would encourage you to try this in a variety of different ways. So you could pair groups of five with groups of four, groups of three with groups of five. So in the next lesson, I'm going to talk about some ways that you could explore doing this in a more broad, varied set of ways. 4. Multi-Clip Polyrhythms: So in the past video, we came up with this loop that uses triple and duple time together. So the kicks are on duple and the snare is on triple. What we're gonna do in this example is we're going to drag this loop and out, and we're just going to create, I'm going to hit X to zoom it all out like that. And so we've basically got a loop here that consists of six beats. Right? Now. I'm going to, at the same time, I'm going to duplicate my drum track. And I'm going to go ahead and Command Shift M to create a new clip. This one, I'm going to drag out to five, like so. Okay, so what I've got here is I've got one clip that represents five beats and one clip that represents six beats. This is just a different way of looking at pairing up different time signatures. This doesn't really have a lot to do with what time signature is actually in my clip settings over there. So let's go ahead. I'm just going to delete some of these here. I will go ahead and place a kick on each downbeat like so. Now if I go over to my other clip here and I were to place a snare in. It's still going to sound when I play both of these clips together. I'm not going to have a polyrhythm yet. You're going to hear they're just, they sounded exactly the same time. This bar consists of five beats, and this bar consists of six beats. But the individual beats are still lining up basically mathematically in a way that makes them land at exactly the same time. What I wanna do with this second clip is just to create some kind of accent. So I'm going to use the crash right here. Now the thing is this accent is going to come every five beats, but the kick is going to happen every six, right? So let's listen to how that sounds. So you'll notice landing here now. Now the crash lands here. Now that grasslands here. Now the crash lands here. Right? So the crashes being offset as they play, it's going to take a long time. It can take a lot of beats before these two line up on exactly the same beat. So in other words, when the crash lands on the first beat, a second time, that's going to be six times five beats, right? So six beats here, five beats here. It's going to be 30 beats before these to land on exactly the same beat. So let's see how that goes. So it took 30 beats before the crash landed. Same spot as it had started 30 beats before. When I fire both these clips, they both play it exactly the same point in time that can create really interesting patterns. What I'd like to do with this technique is create two tracks like I've done here to mini clips. Each Miniclip is very simple, easy to manage, but they are fundamentally a different loop length. And so they take a long time for them to wind up on the same beat again. And it means that Eigen have drums that are not going to get old too fast, right? The pattern is always kinda varied. Let's take a slightly different example, something that's maybe a little bit more practical. So I'm gonna go ahead and space my hi-hats out like so. I'm going to go over here and I'm actually get rid of that kick. But I'm going to put in a snare. And I'm going to put it in a snare here. And I'm gonna put a snare in there. I actually, I'll put in a, I'm going to put in it kicks up. Let's see what this sounds like. I'm gonna make it a little more interesting. Turn this into eighths, right? And change that up a little bit like so. So what you're hearing is a rhythm that's pretty hard to nail down. And sub bass is coming in at different times each time the loop comes around. It's just a great way to create drums that go on forever, but are very easy to manage because it's just really just a couple of one bar loops. That's it for polyrhythms. In the next lesson, I'm going to talk about delays and how to understand them rhythmically. 5. Dotted Delay: It's not always clear exactly what the different settings in delays really mean to you musically when you're thinking about developing a rhythm or a polyrhythm. So I want to talk about that and address that in this lesson. The method here is we're going to create some sounds with the drum channel, and we're gonna feed them into the audio channel and record them so we can look at how they work out in time. First thing is I'm going to create a clip here, command Shift M. And I'm just going to put a simple closed hi-hat here at the top of the bar. Sounds like this. Okay, that's all we want right now, but we're going to also put a delay. I'm going to grab echo and drop that onto my drums. I'm going to leave left and right linked and I'm leaving them on eighth notes. Sink is enabled. That makes it so that the left and right timing choices are based on musical time, like eight nodes coordinates instead of milliseconds, I want to change dotted to just notes and leave feedback where it is at 50 percent. I'm going to turn dry wet all the way up and let's give it a listen. The next thing is we want to record this, right? So I'm gonna go down to the audio in here on my audio track. And I am going to select drum one, turn monitored in and enable record. And then let's just record that. There we go. Stop it and look at this audio and see what we've got going on. It's not all that clear because it's a very quiet signal. So I'm gonna go ahead and do that. Well, we can see is that there's a very strong eighth note pattern, right? So we have like 123, and as we can see it fading away. So I'm gonna go ahead and just rename that. We can keep track. Going to hit Shift Tab to switch to my device view. I'm gonna change this to the timing in echo from eighths to, let's say sixteenths. And here instead of notes, I want to choose dotted. I can also do triplets, right? But let's do dotted for right now. All right, let's take a look and see what we've got here. So I'm going to gain it up, so it's much easier to see. So we can see that this is happening here on, this first echo was happening after three 16th notes. So it's happening on the fourth 16th notes, a beat one. This one's happening on the second 16th note a B2, the first 16th note of B3, and then on the downbeat of beat 4, if we're looking back at Echo and we notice that it is set at a dotted eighth note means 1.5 eighth notes. That's what dotted means. A dotted half note means one and a half half notes. A dotted quarter note means 1.5 quarter notes. So 1.5 quarter notes is basically the same as 3 eighth notes. 1.5 eighth notes is the same as three 16th notes. And that's exactly what we see here in this example, is 316th notes. Then we have an echo, then we have three 16th notes, and then an echo, three-sixteenths notes, and an echo, so on and so forth. So you can use delays that gives you this kind of control over having dotted or note values, triple values. And you can use the delay itself to start to explore creating polyrhythms or creating more interesting rhythms as you go. 6. Humanizing & Randomizing: In this lesson, I want to talk about using random velocities and what that does for your drum track. Now this is not strictly a music theory thing, but the velocity is basically going to have an impact on how your, how your DOM track sounds. Velocity is more or less going to have an impact on how hard the individual hits within your kid come across. And using random velocities, It's just a nice way to kind of insert a little bit of humanity. I've got my drums on here and I'm in my note view, selected my high app. You can hear it's just repeating and turn to repeat off. And I'm just going to populate these out like that. And if I go ahead and tighten up my loop like that sounds kind of allows me like a jackhammer. But if I go back to my velocity and I turn that on, you'll find that it, it, it kinda humanizes a little bit. So let's hear how that sounds. Right? So it immediately creates a little bit of variation. And again, muted. Just sounds like a machine gun with the random included. So that's not strictly a music theory principle, but the idea is sort of theoretical that if we introduce randomness, then we'll get something that sounds more human, sounds more compelling. So now in the next several lessons, what I'm gonna do is I'm going to show you how to construct somewhat stereotypical beads for a variety of different EDM genres and subgenres. The most common ones that I usually get questions on from people. So you'll have a sense of how to create those beats that's coming up in the next several lessons. 7. Beatmaking: House: So in this lesson, I'm just going to show you how to build a basic house b. And this is going to be based on duple time. And it's kind of that boots and cats kick to snare with open hats and closed hats. I'm going to load up just to an 80 eight, simple 800 eight to get this off the ground. Okay. And I'm gonna go ahead and select my kick. And I'm going to set my push to quarter notes. And I'm going to set my clip length to one bar. Okay? Just like that. Now I'm gonna take my snare and I'm going to place it on three. Okay, I'm gonna take my Close Tab. Got my clothes half open half closed hat. Right? Open hat is going to be on 24. Now if we speed this up, kind of that boots in cabs five, typical house now, doing it with the 800 eight is gonna get you one kind of sound. If you did this with sampled, sampled kit, maybe from a break somewhere that you get a sample of, might sound a little more authentic. But that's the nuts and bolts of it. You basically have this kick snare, open hat and clothes hat pattern. And then you can set the tempo generally for this kind of vibe. Maybe start around 120 on to maybe high 30s, something like that. But this is a great fundamental beat to know how to program. It's not really music theory, but you've got to have a way of programming and basic beat. This is the simplest place to start. 8. Beatmaking: UK Garage: So in this lesson, I want to go over how to build a garage beat. Okay, So this is based on UK garage. And this is going to sound a lot like a house beat to begin with. But then it evolves. And just a couple of close tie hats totally changed the whole biome. So let's go ahead and look at some myths. Start with my kick. All right? And I am going to start with the kick on every beat. So I'm going to start with quarter notes down here. And I'm just going to play out four quarter notes. And I'm going to go to the clip and I'm going to reduce it's linked to one bar. So I've got this four to the floor. So far. It's like house right? Now I'm going to grab my snare, and I've put snare on 24. So still basically like house, but we don't have that open half closed hats. What a dynamic thing that happens in house That really was inherited from disk. So the next step in order to really kinda give this a UK sound is we have to first put into sixteenths. Okay, so now if we put it in aids, we noticed that the distribution across the pads changes. If we put it into sixteenths, we get again now we've got one Ananda, so we've got force for paths for beat E1 to EN, for pets, for B2, 3M, 4M, right? So there's four pads representing one beat. So we have the snare on down of two. And the down of. What we wanna do is we want to take our high hat here. And we're gonna put it on the right before our eyes, before. Okay? And we're also going to put one right here. So you can see this doesn't really sound at all like house, even though the kick and snare patterns are pretty much the same. So this is a pretty good place to start if you want to come up with a UK garage beat. Definitely got a different flavor from House. And in the next lesson I'm going to show you how to make a two-step beat, which is kind of an evolution from here as well. And then, and then we'll be done. 9. Beatmaking: 2 Step: The last thing we're going to look at is two-step. And it is again an evolution from garage. It's going to use some syncopation. And the one thing that I really noticed about to step that we didn't see with garage was there's this departure from four to the floor. Okay. We're going to start by putting a kick on the downbeat of one and the end of two. Let me go ahead and just bring my clip down. Okay. So we've got this almost like heartbeat sounds. Turn this up just a little bit. Now we're going to put a snare on 24, but we also put it on the last 16th of RB2. See you get that syncopated kinda like galloping anxiety that comes from this kind of impede the final step, which I think really, again, just like the hi-hat in the last beat in look at UK garage. The way the hi-hat really took that on a totally different direction from house is with the hi-hat here. So the hi-hat here, we're going to actually have it on the end of every beat. And there you have it. That is your sort of basic run-of-the-mill two-step beat. So between house and garage and 2-step, you can definitely get different vibes. And one thing you want to try and do is maybe write a track and then put these beats under them one by one. See which works best. You know, you might think you're writing one contract, but one of these three rhythms actually works better underneath. 10. Wrap-Up & Tips: So we've learned a lot in this section. We've learned about the concepts of duple and triple. How to work with different rhythms, how to create polyrhythms. And we've looked at creating beats for specific sub genres. I want to give you a couple of pointers and then kind of a, a, a project that you could work on a couple of pointers. One thing that I find particularly valuable is that you can quantize specific drum pads. So let's say that you play out a beat. I'll give you an example here where I will delete this. I'm gonna go ahead and I'm just going to play a beat to my metronome, but it's not going to be quantized automatically. Okay, so let's go ahead and we'll start with the metronome on simple beam. Now, if you notice here, one of my snares is actually off kilter. So I'm going to, just for the sake of making this all appear clearer, I'm going to go ahead and change it to so you can see it all on my brush. Now let's say I don't really want to quantize the whole thing. I don't want to quantize the kick. And let's say I have other instruments like hi-hat stuff. Then what I can do is I can just hold the snare. I can hit Quantize, and it just quantizes the snare. That's one of my favorite tips. And other really cool thing is that you can record a loop and you can enable fixed length to take the last portion of what you record it. Let me show you what I mean. So if I go ahead and I'm just I'm just going to play that, but I'm going to set my fixed length to one bar, two bar. So now I'm just going to play along. And what's going to happen is when I enable fixed length, it's going to stop recording. And it's going to have collected the last two bars, whatever I set on fixed length, it's gonna, it's gonna kinda make that the part that plays, that's part of my loop. What I like about this is I can just play. And as soon as I realized, oh, I did something I liked. Then I just hit fixed length and I got the last two bars and that becomes my loop. Let me show you what I mean. So what's happened there is that it became immediately aware that I wanted to save the last two measures of what I played and kind of make that the repeatable part just makes it a lot easier when you're when you're playing on the fly. And I wouldn't feel that confident about my finger drumming. Sometimes I don't want it to be super quantized. But I also like once I get into the groove, I feel like I'm playing better. And then I realized that, you know, a couple of bars in, I'm actually playing my best stuff. I want that to be the stuff that gets kept. So in order to take in everything we've learned about rhythm, you want to try to apply these principles of duple and triple to this kind of an exercise. Tried to do some finger drumming. Maybe taken note of why the quantizing is off. Try to see how it sounds. If you randomize the kicker, randomizes the snare, randomize the high hats the way we did see it. What quantizing, maybe leaving the snare and kick as they are, but quantizing the hi-hat might do to your track. That's one of my favorites to kind of make it sound tight, but also have it sound human. Look into using polyrhythms, but basically just take out maybe an old track. You have started a new track and generate the rhythm with these principles. Is it in 3, four, is it in 448? Could you do something with polyrhythms? Ask yourself that and try to work through it. Then investigate what needs, quantizing what doesn't. Try to get comfortable using this fixed length technique. And also try to get comfortable with how you could use quantize in more conservative ways versus just quantizing everything that goes into your push right off the bat. Try to generate a lot of rhythmic ideas. Maybe explore changing up their time signatures. And then when you have something that you'd like to share it, share it with someone that you trust. Share on the discussion board with this course, share it with me. I love hearing feedback and music that my students are making, and I'm happy to answer questions, give you feedback, or just be kind of a sounding board. What do you think about this? When you think about that, let me know, get in touch, but share it with somebody because the collaborative process of making music is really important. And with rhythm, a lot of the best ideas come from collaboration and, and kind of stealing ideas from each other. He's a really great way to build up your rhythmic chops. Alright, so that's it for this course. And let me know if you have any questions, of course, as always, reach out to me if you've got constructive criticism, I'd love to hear from you and I hope to see you again soon.