Fat beat in less than 10 minutes

Neil from the bigbeat collective Shaper shows you how he produces a track in Renoise. Learn to create a fat beat in less than 10 minutes.

Because Neil works blazingly fast it might be a tad bit hard to follow what he is exactly doing. So here is a walkthrough.

Loading samples

Download the BeatBattle 5 samplepack and unzip the samples into a new folder. Now navigate to that folder with the Disk Browser in Renoise. You will see a list list with .xrni and .flac files.

An Instrument is a container that can hold a number of samples, a plugin and/or a MIDI connector. You could create a drumkit by loading drum samples into an Instrument. The Instrument Editor allows you to map each of the samples to a note. In this case we will only load a single sample into one Instrument. The benefit of this approach is that it allows you to change the pitch of the sample.


To use samples and Instruments stored on disk in your song, you can drag or doubleclick them from the Disk Browser into the the box to the right of it. This box is called the Instrument List. The Instrument List consists of several numbered slots, each of which can contain one Instrument.

Neil creates an Instrument by loading the sample 07 kick2.flac into the first instrument slot, numbered 00.

Playing an Instrument with the keyboard

By default Renoise uses the computer keyboard as a virtual piano. For example, press Q for a C note, 2 for C#, W for D, etcetera. Thus, once you have setup an Instrument with a bassdrum sample, you can play it by pressing the virtual piano keys on your computer keyboard. The keyboard contains 2 octaves. You can shift octaves with * and /.

If you have a MIDI keyboard, you can use it as well, but it needs to be configured. See Attaching a MIDI Device. However for the rest of the article, I will assume you use the computer keyboard.

Tempo, metronome and playback

Set the tempo of the song to 140 BPM, enable the metronome and start/stop playback. You can access these options in the Player Control Panel. It is also possible to quickly enable and disable the metronome with the ~ key. Starting and restarting playback is one of the most important actions, that is why its default shortcut is SPACEBAR. Finally, if you notice that the cursor scrolls along with the song, press SCROLL LOCK, unless you want to record notes in real-time.

One word of advise: to prevent clipping during the rest of the article, enable Auto-adjust volume, which is all the way at the top of the window, near the Master slider.

Putting notes into the Pattern

The Pattern Editor has an overwrite protection lock. When this Record Mode is disabled, it blocks notes from getting written into the pattern. Press ESC to enable Record Mode and a red border appears around the editor.

The drum pattern Neil creates is a syncopated beat that looks like this:

syncopated beat

C-4 means note C of the 4th octave. Enter C notes with the Q key and if necessary, change to the correct octave with * and /. If you have made a mistake, you can move and delete notes with INS, DEL and BACKSPACE. Finally, you can navigate the cursor up and down with the UP and DOWN arrow keys.

Copying and pasting a bar

With the current settings every 4 lines is a quarter note. We are going to create a 4/4 beat, which means that one bar (or measure) equals 4 quarter notes. The second bar begins on line number 16.

When you have completed the first bar, select the first bar (line 00 to 15) either with the mouse or by holding SHIFT and moving up and down. Copy the selection with CTRL+C. Pressing PAGE-UP and PAGE-DOWN makes the cursor jump 16 lines. This way, you can quickly paste (CTRL+V) the copied bar on line 16, 32 and 48.

Switching to another instrument

Now that the bassdrum track is complete, Neil moves on with the rest of the drums. In the second slot he loads 13 snare2.flac.

The 00 from the C-4 00 is called the Instrument number, which refers to the selected Instrument in the Instrument List. Ofcourse you could use the mouse to switch to another Instrument, but let us speed up the workflow by using shortcuts instead: hold ALT and press UP or DOWN. This way you do not have to move away from the keyboard.

Going to a new track

So far we have put down a bassdrum in the first vertical lane called Track 01. Use the TAB key to move forward to Track 02. You can move backwards with SHIFT+TAB.

With the snaredrum selected and the cursor in Track 02, enter C-4 01 notes on lines 04 and 12. Like before, copy and paste the bar until you have filled the whole track. It is getting a bit repetitive now, so here is another trick: CTRL+P will paste automatically until the end of the pattern is reached.

Back to the bassdrum track. To obtain a "groove effect", Neil adds an extra kick on line 13 of each bar, which is one line below the snare drum on the other track.

You should always give each track a specific name. For example doubleclick on the Track 01 label and replace it with 'bassdrum'. For the sake of brevity I will refer to to the original names in the rest of the article.

Adding volume commands

Moving on to the hihats (RX17HatClosed.flac) on Track 03. We will employ a new trick to quickly enter a large number of notes. Until now every note you entered caused the cursor to move one line down. The Edit Step changes that amount of lines. We want to move 4 lines, so press CTRL+4. Now simply hold Q until the whole track is filled with C-4 02 notes.

Jump back to the top of the track (HOME), move to line 02 and repeat. Notice that we could as well have set Edit Step to 2 lines instead, but this way we have formed a mental image (I know, lame excuse).

Anyway, now the interesting part: adding volume commands. Back to line 02, move the cursor sideways until you highlight the first . (dot). You are now in the Volume Column, which is a column of 2 digit fields. We are going to halve the volume of every 2nd note by entering 40 in the volume fields. 40? Yes, 40. Just hold 4 and you will see. Here is what the bar will look like:

volume fields

Next, Neil adds a bit of variation. Remove the bassdrum at line 29 and half a pattern further down at line 61. On Track 04 you can put an RX17Crash.flac on the first line.


At the bottom of the screen there is a panel that we have not paid attention to yet. Assuming you are still on the track with the crash cymbal, open the TrackDSPs tab. There is a slider label Volume which you have to lower a bit to make the cymbal, in fact the whole track, less loud.


If you are done, go to Track 01 and add an EQ 10 device from the list. To keep things simple, Neil does not adhere to substractive mixing standards, but naively pumps up the lower frequencies. The lower three frequency ranges from the EQ 10 device are to be nudged to around +2 dB. Track 02 with the snaredrums need a little boost in the upper frequencies, you can use a EQ 5 for this one.

Done for now

At this point the video has barely reached the 5 minute mark. Just look how much we have covered already! We actually created a pretty decent beat at the moment. You see, this straightforward and fast workflow is the main attraction of a tracker.

As the video continues, Neil blends in a breakbeat and tacks on a synth bassline, which touches upon some topics that are outside the scope (and length) of this article. A follow-up to this article is necessary to cover the rest of video. Ofcourse, you can follow through the rest of the video tutorial yourself, because it is not that hard at all.

Update: The follow-up tutorial about the 2nd half of the video is now available. Groovy bassline in less than 5 minutes

Good luck and until next time!

Credits to Neil 'Celsius' Gaeggeler of Shaper for creating the original video tutorial.



thank you very much, very useful tutorial waitin' the part2!
This tutorial inspired me to buy Renoise. (Today, in fact.) I'd spent hours trying to use Cubase and Ableton Live because I heard they were good, but learning how to use either one was so tedious. I knew Venetian Snares used Renoise, so I downloaded it and searched for some video tutorials. The moment I watched this video, everything clicked. I was making beats and digging deep into the program in no time. Thanks Neil! I can't wait for part two.
Great! But where is the BeatBattle 5 samplepack?
Sorry, the downloads have recently been moved to a different location. Here it is: http://files.renoise.com/beatbattle5/bb5_samplepack.zip
Great video, thank you for sharing your knowledges.
cheers for the vid, decent beat too
Wonderful, thanks. I only just now installed Renoise (Need I blush saying how much I've appreciated MPT?) and this was a great intro. cheers KC: aka WillowBear
Great video, great tutorials. Thank you very much.
Damn this guy works fast! Good tutorial!
everytime ı has wanted to do this.
Was an informative post. Thank you.