Skip to main content

How to Produce Music: The Complete Guide to Drift Phonk

Dive deep into the Drift Phonk genre with our music production guide. Uncover the secrets of Phonk sampling, instrument arrangement, and creative mixing to produce captivating Drift Phonk tracks.

Watch how to create Drift Phonk Bass & Drums using Soundtrap and the KXRDINAL Sound Pack

Drift Phonk, a subgenre of electronic music, captivates with its funky samples and use of the iconic Roland 808 cowbell. This guide dives into the esoteric art of producing Drift Phonk, covering sampling, arrangement, and mixing. With this advice, you'll grasp how to create tracks in this thrilling sub-genre.

What Is Drift Phonk?

Drift Phonk is a subgenre of Phonk, which originated from the Memphis Hip Hop scene and used chopped and screwed rap vocals over jazz and funk-infused beats. Drift Phonk has similar characteristics to Phonk. but uses a darker and more distorted sound, with cowbells and high bass as distinctive ingredients.

The style was made popular on social media, particularly TikTok, in the late 2010s and is often accompanied by lo-fi videos of street cars drifting, hence the name “DRIFT Phonk”.

Soundtrap offers multiple sound packs that feature Phonk and Drift Phonk loops and samples. Check out the popular Memphis Sound Pack in the Soundtrap studio here.

The importance of sampling in Phonk

In Drift Phonk music, creative sampling defines its style. Find samples from the Soundtrap loops library, or upload your own audio, to create that Drift Phonk atmosphere. Think about using vocal samples and chops to capture the true Phonk vibe in your productions. Soundtrap has tons of premade vocal samples to infuse your Phonk beats with. Just search for “Phonk Vox” in the Loops Library and browse through the results. 

The 808 cowbell sound is key in this subgenre. Load the cowbell sound into the Soundtrap Sampler to play it up and down the keyboard for unique Phonk melodies. You will find premade Cowbell One Shots in Soundtrap’s Loops Library with the rest of the Phonk packs.

You can sample the 808 cowbell directly from the loop tab or synthesize your own for more flexibility. However, many popular tracks simply use the classic 808 cowbell we all know and love.

Explore the vast amounts of Phonk loops and samples available to you in Soundtrap. Use them as song starters or top-offs. Let your creativity guide you!

The elements of Drift Phonk

Tempo is crucial in electronic music like drift phonk. It dictates which tracks DJs can mix easily. Sure, you can mix a slow house record into a fast drum and bass track, but it's not common, so genres tend to stick within a specific bpm range. Drift phonk tempos usually range from 120 to 140 BPM with strong rhythmic beats from a drum machine, like Soundtrap’s beatmaker. 

Speaking of drum machines, they play a huge role in Phonk, especially the Roland 808. It's used for its cowbell melodies, booming kicks, snappy snares, and crisp hi-hats. If you don’t have access to your own Roland, don’t worry, Soundtrap has virtual drum kits that simulate the classic 808 sound. 

Soundtrap also has an 808 Bass Instrument with Glide. These virtual instruments will give you a strong headstart to making great-sounding Phonk music. 

There are three main elements in drift phonk: the beat and wood bass (usually from an 808), the lead sound (often an 808 cowbell), and atmospheric background sounds (from samples or synths). 

Don't neglect the sounds in the background; they add to the energetic yet foreboding atmosphere. Just make sure the bass and beat stays front and center!

The fun part is experimenting and getting creative with the atmosphere. That's where background samples and synthesizers come in.

A car drifting while listening to drift phonk

Drifting with race cars goes hand in hand with the Drift Phonk genre on Social Media

The vital role of atmosphere in Drift Phonk

Drift Phonk relies heavily on the atmosphere. Sure, the track's foundation is mostly Roland 808 drum machine samples, but it's the atmospheric elements from synths and samples that make it unique.

The backbone of any Phonk track is a driving drum beat, mechanical embellishments, and an upbeat cowbell melody. Drift Phonk, however, has a dark, foreboding vibe achieved through background samples. Some use choir samples for a dramatic sound (for example, check out Dxrk ダーク - RAVE), while others chop up hip-hop vocals for a different feel.

To create an atmosphere in Drift Phonk, go for a lo-fi sound. Many tracks seem ripped from old cassette tapes with heavy saturation and pitch distortions. Producers often use plugins like RC Retro Color to get that vintage degradation. A too-clean Drift Phonk track just won't fit in with the rest.

At first glance, Drift Phonk seems simple to produce. But crafting the right atmosphere takes time, skill, and experimentation. You don't need massive synth pads; small sound design details can do the trick. Just play around and find a sound that reflects your style while meeting Drift Phonk listeners' expectations.

Sound design of Drift Phonk

If you need to become a sound designer pro, Drift Phonk is a sub-genre where you can get by with sample packs or preset sounds. The main elements of a Phonk track can be found in Soundtrap packs like KXrdinal or Memphis. These premade loops and sounds are made by professional musicians and can be used however you like. 

Try layering and texturing techniques for atmospheric sounds. You might create a dark synthesizer pad by combining multiple synth sounds, as a choir layered with a polyphonic synthesizer. But keep in mind that if you're using tape saturation on the master channel (popular in this genre), excessive layering can muddy up the mix.

Given Fonk music's saturated and distorted sound, use layering sparingly and keep arrangements simple. Remember that mastering can squash your sounds further, making a mix muddy and undefined if there's too much atmosphere. Experiment with layering synths and samples to create an atmosphere, but be careful not to make the mix too busy.

Find the phonk groove

When making Drift Fonk, a strong rhythmic foundation is key. It needs a mechanical drum machine groove to drive the track. A dark atmosphere adds spice, but the drums and bass are the main dish.

Many Drift Fonk producers start with 808 drum samples. The patterns should be interesting but not too complex. Focus on a driving rhythm that keeps the song moving. If it's too basic, it'll get boring. But, if it's too fancy, you'll lose the crucial groove.

You can also keep listeners engaged with syncopation and rhythmic variations. But first, nail the basic groove. If you're struggling, try one of the premade drum loops in Soundtrap. 

Drift Phonk is like house and techno - the tracks are built on a simple rhythmic idea. If your track lacks a solid unifying groove, you might not get the sound you want.

Mixing and mastering Drift Phonk

Mixing and mastering drift phonk tracks can be a bit different from conventional genres. Like Lo-Fi Hip-Hop, drift phonk often has a low-quality sound with lots of distortion and saturation. 

You can have some elements slightly off or imperfect due to the genre's love for Lo-Fi. In Soundtrap, you have the option to auto-master your track when you export it.  This will set your master volume to the right level and make sure that your track sounds rich and full.

Working with a mastering engineer can be helpful since it's hard to make objective decisions about a track you've written and mixed yourself.

However, if you choose the DIY route, drift phonk is perfect for it. Listeners want that somewhat lo-fi, saturated sound, so you don't need to be an amazing mastering engineer to get things perfectly right.

There you have it! By this point, you should be well prepared to make your first Drift Phonk. Enter the Soundtrap studio for FREE right away and explore the different Phonk sounds an instruments available.

Soundtrap — the online music studio

Making music is more than just a hobby — it’s a form of self-expression, a way to unleash your creativity, and a means for you to bring your unique voice to the world.

Soundtrap is the ultimate audio production software for music makers and producers to easily collaborate and create music online, with thousands of audio loops, instruments, and samples only a click away. 

Get started with Soundtrap today!