How do I make a breakbeat?

All it took was eight seconds to change the landscape of hip hop, dubstep, and many other forms of electronic dance music. The Amen Break is widely regarded as one of the most used breakbeat samples in the history of electronic music. The name “breakbeat” is derived from the break given to the drummer during which he would break from the main parts of the song or piece to solo, usually adding an accent on the first beat or every other beat of each measure or every other measure of their solo.

In the case of the Amen Break, Gregory Coleman was the drummer, The Winstons were the band, and it was their reimagined version of “Amen, Brother” from which the now-infamous drum break was taken. Coleman plays the familiar, then the unexpected, over a scant four bars to provide a sort of syncopated beat that has become so popular in EDM today. Then the song proceeds as if nothing had happened.

The song was released in 1969, but it wasn’t until DJ Kool Herc began to play the same record on two turntables that the eight-second sample was turned into an extended drum loop several years later. Other DJs got into the act and perfected the practice in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, including Afrika Bambaataa and Grand Wizard Theodore.

It wasn’t just the DJs that took advantage of the new beats. Breakdancers appreciated the extended periods of time where they could show their moves and other artists began to incorporate the break. As the technology advanced, and more people had access to the necessary tools, this led to a multitude of subgenres in the EDM marketplace, including breakbeat hardcore, jungle, and drum n bass.

Making a Breakbeat

As we mentioned earlier, electronic music technology has grown by leaps and bounds since those early days of hip hop. With digital audio workstations (DAW) like Ableton Live 10, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, and Cubase, EDM enthusiasts can start creating their own music in a matter of minutes. But when it comes to breakbeat, it takes more than just laying down the kick and snare drum beats.

What makes the breakbeat – and the host of sub-genres that use it – so invigorating is the uneven beat it produces. Set the snare and kick drum beats correctly, then add a well-timed hi-hat and vocal samples and you can be on your way.

Of course, if you don’t have experience with a DAW, that should be the first step. In addition to the DAWs mentioned above, there are a few inexpensive or even free options to give you a solid foundation to build on. In fact, we’d recommend a “starter” DAW like GarageBand because it is so much cheaper than the industry standards like Ableton or Logic Pro.

Then it’s just practice, practice, and more practice. Like almost any other form of EDM, you’ll need to become very familiar with your DAW. Breakbeat is a staple in the house genre, and if that’s the kind of music you want to produce, the flexibility and versatility a robust DAW allows will make things that much easier.

Or you can take the time to learn the drums and just create backbeats on the fly as Mr. Coleman did 50 years ago. There’s also a third way: The Recording Connection Ableton Electronic Music Production and Logic Pro Electronic Music Production programs.

Learn Like a Pro

At Recording Connection, you will be paired with an industry veteran that has already been through the years of hard work to make a living in the music business. This mentor will remove the trial-and-error of learning on your own as well as introducing you to tricks of the trade to make the process a little easier.

However, our programs and workshops are anything but easy. You are expected to be in the studio, working one-on-one with your mentor, anywhere from 10 to 40 hours a week. You’ll need to show up on time, do what you say you’re going to do, and use your time wisely.

It’s a big commitment, but Recording Connection has gone to great lengths to make our programs as accessible as possible. Our programs are 24-or 36-weeks long so you don’t have to spend four years of your life at university. We cost less than those universities and have locations in 48 different states (including the District of Columbia) and across Canada.

We did this to make sure everyone who wants to learn to make EDM, become an audio engineer, or learn about the music business from industry insiders has the opportunity. It’s up to you to take advantage of it. Apply today.

Get your music production certification and build your music production and audio engineering skills by learning with an industry professional near you.