Simple Hack to Make MIDI / Drum Machine Patterns Sound Much Groovier

by Owen Critchley

loUdtHuD recording artist/producer


The Simple, Quick, Unusual and Ultra Useful Home Recording Tips Series for Easy Home Recording Blueprint Members


Hi everyone,

I’ve been working on all kinds of recording projects and a recent one reminded me of a simple trick I thought you might find useful.

It’s a simple thing I sometimes do with MIDI hi-hat parts when I want to quickly give them a more human, groovier sound.


MIDI hi-hat patterns can sound like those rotating water sprinklers out in the yard. Ever notice that?


MIDI and/or drum machine hi-hats can sound particularly artificial and cold in the more organic styles like singer/songwriter, rock, folk, blues and reggae. Why?

This is because on a MIDI/drum machine, the volume and actual sound of each strike of the hi-hat is identical. This is the very definition of artificial and is definitely not how a human plays.

This can really kill the mood in certain songs and it kind of screams, “I’m a homemade demo!”

So, here’s a little simple (and quick) hack to make those parts groove that you can try and maybe add to your back of tricks:


Instead of creating MIDI hi-hat pattern like: “tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip” 8th notes, or “tip-a-tip-a-tip-a-tip” sixteenth notes, try this:


  • STEP 1. start by making a MUCH sparser and simpler pattern.

(the dashes below represent empty beats (silence) in your hi-hat pattern)

Like this: “tip-a-tip __ __ __ tip-tip __ __ __ tip-a  __ __ __ tip-tip”


  • STEP 2. Add a bit of echo to your simplified pattern.
    Play with the amount of echo you add so the volume of your repeats (the echos) of each hi-hat hit rise and fall and tumble in and around the actual pattern.

This tumbling of “real” and “echo” creates a more complex and much groovier sound. Each hit-hat strike sounds a little different as well as sounding like each strike is being hit a little softer or harder than its neighbors. Much more human and also adds a coolness factor.


And here’s the finished version of this song using that MIDI drum pattern.

Very simply produced for this project, but still grooves quite nicely with that little touch of echo on the hi-hat part:



QUESTION: “Did you record that using the Easy Home Recording Blueprint Method?”

ANSWER: Oh yes. In fact, the bass, drums and strings were recorded on an iPhone when I was stuck somewhere for hours waiting for someone to come and get me, lol. So it was really a stripped down and easy setup for this one.

QUESTION: “Owen, that’s a cover version, right? How did you get the licensing/copyright permission for it? I’m always nervous about doing covers of existing songs.”

ANSWER: It has gotten so easy to get the licensing stuff and permissions now. Such a relief. I now use Easy Song Licensing for everything. I signed up here and then they got me my cover-song licensing permissions by the next day..

QUESTION: “Where did that footage and scenery in that video come from? Pretty cool. Did you have it filmed?”

ANSWER: It’s beautiful isn’t it? I got a membership over at and then we downloaded whatever we wanted from film makers all over the world. Royalty free. My favourite is the drone footage they have. It’s a great way to create a very slick looking music video for not much money. It sure beats those random slide-show music videos people continue to make for some reason. We got a year’s membership to access their HD film clips here.



Simple Hack to Make MIDI / Drum Machine Patterns Sound Much Groovier