My feeling as a music producer is that in Electronic Music today there is WAAAY too much to-the-beat quantization. For the uninitiated, “quantizing” is the process of aligning the hits of a musical phrase to the song tempo and its subdivisions (quarters, eights of a note etc). Sure, there are plenty of people out there who are happy to dance to the strict “uhmp-tz-uhmps” embedded in the majority of dance tracks. But why not try to feed the crowd something that’s even more contagious in setting booties in motion?
The syncopation found in funk, hip hop and Afrobeat drumming makes those genres so much more compelling to dance to, and with today’s technologies, you don’t really need a human drummer to emulate that.
My advice to the up-and-coming EDM producer is to initially work on drum loops separately from the tracks. Make a selection of drum hits and existing loops that you like, and create combinations of them, slowly building your own library and paying particular attention to how slight delays on the various beats and backbeats affect the way the drum pattern “feels.”
It’s always good to keep the first hit (normally a kick) perfectly quantized to the first beat to keep the rhythm consistent, but you can experiment with pretty much any other tempo subdivision – and don’t forget about the triplet option, which can introduce a completely unexpected element.
Most modern sequencers allow you to lay down the samples on a grid, zoom in, cut and move the elements around, while some let you use and create quantizing templates that can automatically apply a more or less noticeable syncopation to your loops. In the EDM genre, nailing a drum loop is already a big step towards a dance-floor hit, and syncopation is an element no electronic producer should overlook.