A bed track is the foundation of a great song. At its essence, a bed track is the part of the song that provides the harmonic and rhythmic structure. Bed tracks can be just bass and percussion, or can include additional melodic elements. Once you have created bed tracks, you'll be able to send out the song out to co-writers, or arrange and produce the rest of it yourself.
One quick and easy way to write songs is by using loops to build bed tracks. I recently discovered Audiobase.com, a site that's full of royalty free loops for every genre and style. I was really impressed with the quality and diversity of their library, which includes everything from hard hitting club rhythms to didgeridoo samples. Here's a quick tutorial on how to build bed tracks using a few of the loops from their site.
Start out by finding a melodic idea you like in a loop collection, either a melody or a bassline. I really liked a lot of the loops from Audiobase's Handcrafted Vol. 1, a collection of loops created on the OP-1 and other analog synths.
Most loops from Audiobase are coded with the key of the loop, or the notes played in the loop. The first melodic phrase you use will determine the key of your song. (This is where knowing a bit of music theory will comes in handy). The other melodies that you build around this loop will have to be harmonically compatible with the song's key.
I've chosen to start with a funky synthesized bassline with a tempo of 126 bpm. At this point, it's a good idea to choose the tempo of your song; you may need to adjust the loops you find to match the tempo you'd like to work at.
Next, begin to build a rhythm, so you can establish the groove of the song. Now is a perfect time to search through percussive loop packs for your rhythms. You'll want to choose one or two basic rhythms that will establish the main groove in your song. On the Audiobase.com site, I liked the sounds of the Asian Dynasty One and Two packs, and the Visiting Clubs packs. The electro rhythm I used came from the Asian Dynasty Volume One loop pack, a collection of underground techno loops by Japanese producers.
In your DAW, you can EQ and compress this groove, so it sits right with the bass.
Next, you'll want to find percussive elements to add to your bed track. These could be snare hits, hi hats, toms or any other rhythms you feel suits the track.
In my session, I found two hi hat patterns that I felt added to electro rhythm; these were also included in the Asian Dynasty loop pack. I panned the hi hat patterns left and right, and Eqed them a bit to fit with the track. As you're adding more percussion, you'll want to pay attention to the tuning of the drums. You may have to adjust the pitch of your drums to match the melodic components of your track.
From this point on, you should have have an exciting bed track that you can use as the basis of a new song. You'll want to use software and hardware to add additional melodies to your track, or perhaps send the bed track off to another producer or vocalist for a collaboration.
Track production may go quicker if you take the time to sort through your loop packs; you may even want to make a folder of a collection of your favourite loops. This way, when you're ready to build bed tracks, you'll have an arsenal of ace-sounding loops all ready to be used in the mix.
Using loops are a great way to easily build inspiring bed tracks. I'd highly recommend the collection of Audiobase loops for producers who are looking to expand their collection of samples. Good luck finding great sounding loops, and composing new bed tracks!