Drop (music)

A drop or beat drop in popular music, especially electronic dance music styles, is a point in a music track where a sudden change of rhythm or bass line occurs, which typically is preceded by a build section and break.[1]

According to NPR, a drop is the "...moment in a dance track when tension is released and the beat kicks in..., releasing the enormous energy accrued during a song's progression...after the momentum build, the pitch rising, the tension mounting, bigger, louder, until suddenly — the drop."[2] Billboard magazine defines a drop as the "...moment of instrumental build[-up] when the bass and rhythm hit hardest. It's why arenas full of people suddenly start jumping up and down."[3]

Related terms, typically describing certain types of drops, include a "beat-up" (so-named because it is a point where the volume of the foundational kick drum (bass drum) beat is increased, after it has been faded down during a break or buildup) and "climax" (a single, particularly striking drop done late in the track).


The drop "...grew out of '70s rock".[4] A subtype of the drop, the bass drop, was used in the Miami bass subgenre of hip hop music in the 1980s. The bass drop was produced using the Roland TR-808's deep drum machine kick drum sound.[5] Since then, the TR-808 bass drop has been incorporated into a number of hip hop and electronic dance music genres, either produced by a TR-808 or using a sample of a TR-808 bass drop.[6] The use of "drops" "...developed in the 2010s through the EDM festival anthem: simply called "the drop."[7]


Electronic dance music

Many genres of EDM can have more than one drop during a track, especially if the song is built on a "dance-pop" verse/chorus with vocals; a drop of some kind is typically heard somewhere during each chorus as the high point of that verse/chorus cycle. Most genres, however, tend to emphasize a single drop as the beginning of the high point, or climax, of the entire track; in vocal subgenres this is typically the last repetition of the chorus, while in nonvocal genres it typically occurs in the last quarter of the track.

  • In trance, eurodance, hardstyle, hardcore, progressive house, funky house and other dance genres where the focus and emphasis is more on melodies and chord progressions, it is known as a climax. This is where the main melody and accompanying melodies come in with the drums and usually a syncopated bassline, giving the track a 'bouncy' feel.
  • In dubstep, the drop involves a heavy full bass line and commonly a "wobble" or "vowel" bass accompanied by a strong shuffling beat. In other dubstep styles there can be powerful chords and/or emotional melodies combined with varies of common dubstep bass lines.
  • Electronic music DJs sometimes perform what is called a "double drop": beatmatching two tracks in such a way that the drop, and hence the respective climaxes of both tracks, occur at the same time.[8]

Hip hop

In hip hop and other forms of electronic music, a reintroduction of the full bass line and drums after pulling them back for a verse or buildup is known as a drop. There are usually more than one in songs from these genres; the first drop and the climax are particularly emphasized.


In metalcore subgenres, bass drops are often utilized under the first chord of a breakdown, to emphasize the breakdown and give it a pronounced presence. A bass drop in this genre may be done using electronic drums with a sample pad triggered by the drummer or a backing track, either which is sent to a venue's PA system.[9]

Rock and pop

  • In rock music, the drop is characterized by an increase in the speed or activity of the bassline and usually a big boost to volume in the keyboard or guitar, and/or adding distortion or overdrive to the rhythm guitar. The song's volume and tempo change.
  • In pop music, Billboard magazine states that in 2016, the "pop-drop" is the "...post-chorus musical interlude that blends techniques from electronic dance music to hip-hop, and it's taken the chorus' place in pop music. The pop-drop is the new climax of the song, right where we would expect to hear the chorus, and it is absolutely everywhere...It's set up by what's known as the "pre-chorus," which typically cues a sing-along refrain. Then where we expect the chorus, we get yet another section of build, a kind of pseudo-chorus that further heightens expectations. Finally, the pop-drop lands. The singer literally drops out, replaced by synthesizers and chopped-up, distorted vocal samples that vaguely reference the earlier lyrics", over a syncopated beat.[10]


Similar terms

In a DJ set at a club or festival, a name drop is a pre-recorded statement of the DJ's stage name (e.g., DJ Qbert) which is played in between songs to make dancers aware of her or his stage name. Name drops range in complexity from a simple statement like "This is DJ Xshosa" to a sophisticated recording with the vocals processed by effects such as digital delay, pitch-shifting the voice down an octave, and done over background beats, scratching and samples from music or catchphrases from movies.


  1. Walmsley, Derek (2010). "Dubstep". La guida alla musica moderna di Wire (in Italian). p. 103. ISBN 9788876381805.
  2. Yenigun, Sam (31 December 2010). "The 5 Deadliest Drops Of 2010". www.npr.org. NPR. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  3. Harding, Charlie (19 December 2016). "How the Pop-Drop Became the Sound of 2016". www.billboard.com. Billboard. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  4. Harding, Charlie (19 December 2016). "How the Pop-Drop Became the Sound of 2016". www.billboard.com. Billboard. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  5. Spin, February 1990, page 24
  6. 808 (documentary film)
  7. Harding, Charlie (19 December 2016). "How the Pop-Drop Became the Sound of 2016". www.billboard.com. Billboard. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  8. Steventon, John (2010). DJing For Dummies (2nd ed.). Chichester, West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-470-66405-6.
  9. Peterson, Elaine (2010). "Musical Representations of Physical Pain". Maldynia: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Illness of Chronic Pain. Hoboken: CRC Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-4398-3631-6.
  10. Harding, Charlie (19 December 2016). "How the Pop-Drop Became the Sound of 2016". www.billboard.com. Billboard. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
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