Programming a solid drum pattern is essential for any electronic musician. The drums are what drives a beat and what keeps the rhythm solid. Everything else builds upon this rhythm. If your drums are banging, it makes everything else sound on point. Here are a few tips to help you program better drum sequences.
1. Start off with the basics. Your basic drum pattern for most electronic based music from hip hop to drum and bass to house music is a kick and a snare. Find some solid samples for these two because this is the backbone of your sequence. Begin by programming a solid kick and snare pattern with variations. Program a 4 bar pattern and change it up slowly in each bar to give it some variety. For the more ambitious, an 8 bar pattern with variations and sometimes a simple fill on bar 8 will provide much satisfaction and movement.
2. Use layers. Once you have your basic kick / snare structure down, it's time to layer the drums with some other percussion. The most common would be a closed hi hat. You can add some open hi hats as well creating variations between the two as you did for the kick and snare. You can add other percussion like cow bells, bells, or some glitch drums or synths etc. to add some color to your rhythm. Remember, it's all about creating an interesting, rhythmic pattern when it comes to adding this second layer. Experiment with some 1/8 note or even 1/16 syncopation. This will show in your production as the willingness to put in that extra time and effort to make your drum pattern more interesting. You'll want to record your kick and snare and percussion on separate tracks if possible so you can EQ these later. This is a different tutorial all together.
3. Fill her up. Create some interesting fills using different toms, snares, kicks etc. My basic fill is comprised of just that..pitched toms, snares and kicks. You can add other sounds in as well to create some uniqueness. You can create mini fills for every 8 or 16 bars or so depending on your song structure, but a more complex fill would be nice during song transitions.
I used to hate programming drums, but now I love it. It takes some time and practice and getting used to but once you have it down, it's loads of fun!