Making Trap Beats in Reason

The Trap music genre seems to be constantly evolving... and borrowing from other more established styles too. In this tutorial, G. W. Childs shows how to make Trap style beats in Propellerhead Reason.  

Trap is very steadily gaining ground as a genre and getting a lot of much needed attention. Already rivaling Dubstep within the clubs, you can rest assured you will be hearing much more of Trap, if you're not listening to some already. One of the things I'm loving about the new Trap being released within the last couple of years is the way that other genres within the EDM umbrella are being mixed in. It's like having a little bit of Hip Hop with a little bit of Trance, with a little bit of Dubstep, and a little bit of symphony... And, it's evolving more and more every couple of months. 

In this tutorial, I'd like to show you how I'm using Reason to create some really nice Trap beats, that are being accompanied by some darkness, all within Redrum. You might be wondering why I'm not using Kong. Well, Redrum actually made it much easier, to be honest, and I had enough channels to get almost everything in on one unit. And, also, Redrum is so easy to automate that it was just the logical choice because of all the pitching that goes on with Trap. Let me show you what I did! Maybe you can modify it more and put out something really cool!

Setup and Basic Beat

Normally, I'm extremely into building my own kit. But, for demonstration sake, and length, I thought I'd build from an existing kit within the Reason Factory sound bank. I started with Hip Hop Kit 07, which has some very nice 808-ish kick drums. This kit also has several variations on the settings of one Kick drum, so there's a lot that we can remove from this patch! But, before we get into patch modification, let's actually lay down the basic beat. We've got more than enough here for that!

Pic 1

I set my clock tempo to 140. In Trap, the beats sound like they are moving at a slower tempo, when in fact, they are just playing at half time. Well, if you don't count the hi-hat. I chose to bypass using the Redrum Pattern Sequencer because everything is so spread out, and I want a lot of variation. Using Redrum Channels (Kick) and Redrum Channel 3, I played out a very basic Hip Hop beat. Again, I played at half-time, so you'll notice in the picture below that the kick tends to gravitate around the first beat, and the snare tends to be on the 3rd beat of each measure. You will absolutely want to vary this a bit, however. 

Pic 2

Take a listen to what I did...

Nope, not much originality there. But, we're still building, right? 

Hi-Hat and Embellishment

Now, it's time to add one of the signature sounds to this beat that will give us the Trap feel that we're looking for. To start this off, let's go with the hi-hat. I'll draw in the hi-hat using Channel 1 on Redrum playing a couple of notes with a 16th note snap. You'll want to do this in Edit mode, within the sequencer page of Reason (F6). Just set the Snap drop-down menu to 1/16 and fill in every note you can.

Pic 3

I set my drum pattern for 4 measures long, and I would recommend at least this length, so that your beat doesn't get boring and repetitive. Once you've got 4-8 beats drawn in, you can drag select the existing hi-hat hits that you've drawn in, and then Option-drag these hi-hats over, as shown below, so that you can fill up the beat with a hi-hat playing 16th notes.

Pic 4

Once you've got hi-hats playing for the entirety of your pattern, it's time to start adding in some 32nd note hi-hat variations. To do this, just switch the Snap over to 1/32, or 32nd notes. Once selected, delete 2-4 sixteenth notes out of your hi-hats that you just created. Two 32nd notes can appear in place of every one 16th note that you delete. Once you've got four 32nd notes in a row playing, you'll hear those quick variations in the hi-hat that Trap music is known for. Extra Credit: If you want, draw in some 1/8th note sections as well. Adding in some additional variation may give you even more ideas.

Pic 5

Once you have a hi-hat groove, with 32nd note variations happening through your first 2 measures, try copying over a set of hi-hats to four more measures of just kick and snare. You can go with a direct copy, or you can customize your 32nd note bursts so that you have a longer, less repetitious groove. Let's hear where we're at, so far.

Pic 6


Now, we need to loosen things up a bit, it's time to add a little bit of groove, from Reason, using ReGroove. This will make things a little less mechanical, and just give it 'that feel'. I, personally, prefer a little less ReGroove. But, even a small amount can make a huge difference. I'll click on the ReGroove Mixer button on the right side of the Transport bar, and then set my Redrum track to accept groove information on channel A1.

Pic 7

Once ReGroove is set up to influence our Redrum track, it's time to assign an actual groove. As I mentioned earlier, I go light. I'll use the MPC-60 51% Shuffle groove. This will slightly loosed the drum beat, but still allow us to keep those 32nd note bursts we added in.

Pic 8

Alright, let's hear where we are so far...

From here, there are several things that we could add in that will set us even farther down the path of Trap. You can add in some voice samples, some synth samples, and even some orchestral samples. What's so crazy is that you can put together a really nice ensemble all in Redrum. And, because you can automate the pitching, you can get those pitched fills and crazy synth parts filling up your mix in so many different ways. 

Sound Designer, Musician, Author... G.W. Childs has worn many hats. Beginning in the U.S. Army back in 1991, at the age of 18, G.W. began learning electronics, communications and then ultimately audio and video editing from the Department of Defense. Upon leaving the military G.W. went on to work for many exciting companies like Lu... Read More


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