Songwriting With Drum Loops: Creating The #1 Song Beautiful Mess



One great tool every songwriter has at their disposal today songwriting with drum loops.

Whether you have a computer handy, a drum controller, or a smart phone, there are amazing apps for beats that were not available even a few short years ago. Loops are a quick way to add energy and style to your new music creation but there are some pitfalls to be mindful of and avoid..

The biggest reason to try songwriting with drum loops is that they set a mood.

Wether I want to write an R & B groove ballad or an uptempo heavy metal song, that instant drum beat and sound takes me to that place where that song can begin. I don’t have to imagine the sexy groove feel or thrashing heavy beat. It’s already there as my foundation. Once I find a beat I like, I can start plying along or singing to it. Very inspiring! The IMPORTANT thing to remember at this point is the drum loop is not your song. It’s simply a mood setter.

It’s easy to get a false sense of excitement from the loop itself…

So, I periodically turn off the loop as I’m writing and make sure my melody has its own groove. Checking that I can sing the words and melody and they are just as interesting without that loop. Your melody needs to have it’s own rhythm and not rely on the rhythm of the machine beat. In fact, your lyric should have it’s own rhythm!

The loop should be an enhancer to your great song, not the other way around.

Remember, every writer with a smart phone has access to that same beat. But you are the only one with that song idea in your had. The loop is not half as original and interesting as you!

Another great reason I use loops is it forces me out of of my comfort zone.

If I’m writing a lot of ballads lately then I can turn on a beat at 120 BPM and it forces me to pick up the tempo. I remember hanging out in the writing room a few years back with Shane Minor and Sonny Lemaire. We started talking about a mutual love for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I push a button to play a loop on my computer and rapped these lines “Going out of my mind these days. Like I’m walking ‘round in a haze”, in the Pepper style of rapping. We all fell out laughing. But then it hit us, this sounded pretty cool. We had the inspiration to began a new song.

We finished the song, demoed it a lot more country, with the drummer imitating the loop rather than using the loop, and we had our first #1 hit as country writers.

Beautiful Mess by Diamond Rio was even nominated for a grammy! But the important thing to remember is we wrote a strong song independent of the drum loop. I can go out and perform the song with just my acoustic guitar and people dance in their seats.

So today if you are looking for a way to write outside your comfort zone, update your sound, or just get inspired then try downloading a drum loop app to your computer or phone. If you have a great app you are already using then leave a comment and turn us all on to it!

If you’d like to hear the original demo for “Beautiful Mess” and the #1 single by Diamond Rio just click below. Write On!



Beautiful Mess- Original Songwriter Demo

Beautiful Mess- #1 Billboard single by Diamond Rio




Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. His songs have been recorded by such artist as Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Babyface, and Kimberly Locke. 

Clay is also the co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing. 

10 thoughts on “Songwriting With Drum Loops: Creating The #1 Song Beautiful Mess

  1. Thanks for this Clay. I was wondering, if you are a singer-songwriter and demo’ing with a tighter budget is it OK to leave the loop in if it’s pretty realistic sounding like a BFD acoustic kit with some groove in it? On top of that would you ever release a track with programmed drums/a drum loop if it fit the song? Thanks for all your advice and guidance.

    1. Absolutely Mark, if your loops are working and feel good, go with it! Many songs today have loops, or a mix of loops and real drums.


  2. I thought it was interesting how you mentioned being able to write an R&B groove or a heavy metal song based on what drum beat that you listen to. I have been thinking about buying an electric guitar so that I can write my own songs. It seems like having a collection of drum loops would be an essential addition to a recording set up.

  3. I’m so in love with drums and beats that my melody suffers because it doesn’t go anywhere. I found this post by searching for what to do to avoid that – lol!

  4. As a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist (keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, voice), I find that using a variety of tools to be beneficial when songwriting. I love doing it only on piano or guitar. But sometimes I like using a drumloop (electronic or real drummer) because it can inspire a different groove and feel to the rhythm of the chord progression and/or melody. To me it’s always what’s best for the song. I’ve been writing for decades and am still in awe of the process…creating something from nothing.

  5. I never use a drum loop, just write from the heart. I was a drummer so tempos come easily to me.
    but i might give it a try thanks.

    1. Davis, even Marvin Gaye, who started as a session drummer, used the 808 Drum Machine on his records. He was the first artist to have a hit with an 808. You could always try programming your own loops like he did for fun.


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