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My questions are as follows ...

  1. As A guitarist (Mostly electric with heavy distortion) what minimum knowledge of drums do I need to be able to create or chose drums beats that suits the song I am practicing.

  2. I have seen many resources for dedicated drum lessons but those are lengthy and needs hands on practice with drum kit. Are there any good (free or paid) lessons or websites focusing on the basics of drums required for a guitarist?

  3. Is there some set of very common drum beats that sounds well for most of the metal songs? If yes then how can I find them. Note that I am talking about the time I practice not the actual performance time.

  4. I have heard that drum machines have some pre-existing beats/patterns. Is there are common set of drum patterns across most machines? If yes then what are they and can I find them without a drum machine? (Like guitar-pro files or other software)

Note that I already know staff notation and tablature for guitar. I am playing guitar for about 2 years and I don't have a friend who is a drummer. I am aware of backing tracks for songs and I am not talking about them. I need to have a basic understanding of drums so that I can chose which of the drum patterns will be good for the lick I am practicing.

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Welcome to Musical Practice and Performance, Tanmoy! –  Wheat Williams Apr 12 '13 at 13:45
    
There are essentially two questions here: 1) how to gain an understanding of the basics of playing the drums for a non-drummer and 2) using that, how to find and use loops and backing tracks to play over for rehearsal. –  Wheat Williams Apr 12 '13 at 13:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The vast majority of metal, and rock for that matter, use a basic 4/4 beat. So if you can't get your hands on a proper DAW you can at least make do with something much more basic.

When I am away from my main computer, or travelling, I have a pretty good metronome which I can set to run 4/4 time, have fills at specific points, and an outro and it works for most purposes.

You can also run happily with a sampling looper - which obviously sounds better, and much more realistic.

Much better, though, is a full featured DAW. I use Cubase, and it lets me use samples, generated effects, full recorded backing tracks or any combination of the above. Many magazines (eg Guitarist) release backing tracks which you can drop straight into the DAW and play along to.

And as for the first part of your question - as a guitarist you don't need to know anything about drums, but I feel any knowledge is useful in any case. A DAW lets you create drum beats without knowing anything about drums.

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As for the second question, finding practice loops, If you have a computer-based DAW that you can use for practicing (GarageBand, Cubase, etc.), there are companies that sell libraries of loops recorded by real drummers in a VST/AU software package that you can use for practice, or for composing songs. I have no personal experience with these, but one example is ToonTrack.com, which sells a number of popular modules in their EZDrummer and Superior Drummer lines, several of which are libraries of hard rock and metal phrases.

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As other answers pointed out, you don't necessarily need to learn anything about drums. Software packs provide you enough beats to play along.

However, if you don't have such software, or you don't feel like buying such software, here are a few beats that are very common in this genre. Write them down on Guitar Pro, or any other software able to generate MIDI drums, and you're good to go.

Some notes:

  • Every symbol should be taken as a 16th note;
  • All beats are in a 4/4 time signature;
  • o marks a regular note, x marks an accent (crash cymbal, for instance);
  • The first line goes for cymbals (hi-hat, or ride), the middle line goes to the snare drum, and the bottom line to the bass/kick drum.

The standard 16th note bass drum

x---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|
----o-------o---|----o-------o---|----o-------o---|----o-------o---|
oooooooooooooooo|oooooooooooooooo|oooooooooooooooo|oooooooooooooooo|

This four bar repeating beat is very common. Usually, there's some fill or slight difference in the last bar. This beat is common mostly due to being very flexible.

You may use it:

  • At slower tempos (120~150 bpm, probably with 8th notes on the cymbals, instead of quarter notes) to play along heavy, slow rhythms.
  • At faster tempos (150+ bpm) to play along fast-paced, powerful, rhythms. Example: Remembered by Firewind, the beat just after the introduction.
  • For very fast-paced songs, you may add snare drums on every quarter note. Example: Electric Messiah, by Symphony X, the first beat you hear.
  • For very fast tempos, but slow/heavy rhythms, the snares hit only on the 3rd quarter note, instead of every 2nd and 4th.

The rock-inspired single bass drum

x---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|
----o-------o---|----o-------o---|----o-------o---|----o-------o---|
o-------o-o-----|o-------o-o-----|o-------o-o-----|o-------o-o-----|

This beat is lighter, and works well on most tempos. Fear of the Dark, by Iron Maiden, or Head Up High, by Firewind, use similar beats. Fear of the Dark moves around some kick drums, while Head Up High uses 8th notes on the cymbals, instead of quarters.

The gallop feel

x---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|
----o-------o---|----o-------o---|----o-------o---|----o-------o---|
o-oo--ooo-oo--oo|o-oo--ooo-oo--oo|o-oo--ooo-oo--oo|o-oo--ooo-oo--oo|

This is also a common beat. It usually goes along similar gallops on the guitars. Example: More Than Meets the Eye, by Testament, just after the intro.

The double tempo

x---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|o---o---o---o---|
--o---o---o---o-|--o---o---o---o-|--o---o---o---o-|--o---o---o---o-|
o---o---o---oo--|o---o---o---oo--|o---o---o---oo--|o---o---o---oo--|

I called it double tempo because the snare hits in every upbeat, while the bass drum kicks in every beat, which feels like the tempo is doubled. This is usually seen either in heavier styles, or folk styles. Fits well in fast-paced tempos. Example: Beer Beer, by Korpiklaani.

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