MIDI Drum Traps 'n Tips
How to make your Drum tracks Come Alive
by the TweakMeister
Browse all the
drum stuff at zZounds
SR16 Drum Machine
one of the most popular drum machines ever made, the SR-16
has been used by everyone from songwriters to live performers
to remix engineers as their drum machine of choice. The reason is simple:
it features a great selection of 233 realistic, natural drum sounds, offered
both in dry form and sampled with our incomparable digital reverbs. Our
exclusive Dynamic Articulationª feature enables a drum sound to change its
tonal content as it's played harder for truly realistic performances.
Tweak Reports: I was
first in line for this one at twice the price--Great choice for natural
sounding drums. If you are doing dance stuff pass on it. This
is a mainstream box. It has "the sound". You can hear the texture
of the shell on these drums. There is no resonant filtering though. But
that "dynamic articulation" is really well implemented. The soft hits are
really soft and the hard ones really cut. When you want your drums
to sound like drums, this is the babe. Makes a good 2nd brain for
a trigger kit, if you can go over MIDI. There are no trigger inputs,
but the MIDI response is quick. Its actually amazing this box has been out
since 1994. Alesis hit a home run here!
By the way the SR18 will be out soon to finally put the sr16 out to
pasture. I don't recommend buy an sr16 unless you know it is all you
Alesis DM5 Drum Module
Building on the immense popularity of the D4
TD20SX V-Pro Electronic Drum Set
Electronic Drum Sets
Its been long said that to get authentic sounding
drum tracks in your midi compositions you have to "think like a drummer".
This is not as easy as it might seem. Go listen to some midifiles that
are out there, where the composer can't hide behind audio drum loops. The art
of midi drumming is becoming a bit of a lost art. But for the really true
professional doing mainstream, rock, top 40, country, i.e., all the stuff that
makes money, drum loops simply will not cut it. And bringing in a drummer
and miking the kit--hours down the drain, often leaves no option but to do MIDI
drums. It is possible to get authentic, live sounding drum tracks from a keyboard,
sound module or drum machine that may fool the ear into thinking you have a
real drummer. But to get it, you need to really know drums like a drummer does.
And interestingly, many of the techniques drummers use to get their signature
sound are things that are difficult or at minimum time consuming to do with
midi sequencers. Here's a short list of drum accents:
Cymbal chokes, flams inside of rolls, playing
light "ghost hits", playing cymbals with soft mallets, rim shot in the middle
of a roll, exploiting the timbral variety of a drum by going from soft to hard
hits, tapping back and forth from the center of a cymbal to its periphery, playing
the snare slightly ahead or slightly behind beats 2 and 4 often differently
for each bar, playing with brushes on toms and cymbals, double hitting a drum
with two sticks, one slightly behind providing a "snap". That's the short
list. And the important thing about good drummers is that they they don't
repeat these accents all the time. They put them in whenever they
think they can get away with it, not only at the fill.
Example of a Tweaked
drum pattern (mp3 128 k)
The drum is an intensely dynamic instrument.
Even with the very best midi multilayered drum module, it will not come close
to the natural dynamics of a real kit. The solution to this is to have
several keymaps of the same kit, one played soft, medium and loud.
You can switch between them at different points of the song. This is often a
better answer than using a typical velocity switched kit
Most good modules and drum machines have velocity routed not only to volume,
but to a low pass filter. This makes the hard hit brighter as well as
louder. The trick here is to go into the event editor of your sequencer
and make sure every hit has its own unique velocity number. If you must
use looped patterns in your sequence, make sure you do this before you hit the
loop command. This is extremely important on cymbals as real cymbals never
sound the same twice.
Offsets to the Snare.
The drum pattern gets it's feel from a number of factors. The feel
might be described as "uptight" "tight", "in the pocket", "laid back" "loose"--there
are many more ways to describe them. Much of what gives the pattern feel
is the position of the snare relative to the center of beats 2 and 4.
For a tight, near jazz feel go into your event editor and select all the snares
and move them a few midi ticks ahead. Do it while you are playing the
pattern to you can instantly hear the result. For a ballad feel, usually
a tad behind the pocket, move the snares the other way. The groove will
Stop the Hi Hat machine
Whenever there is a drum fill and only use a pedal hat. This is what
happens with a drummer if he needs his sticks to go somewhere else. One thing
drummers do not do, ever, is to play the same hi-hat pattern from the beginning
to the end of a song without stopping. So why did you loop the same hi
hat track throughout your composition? They also don't use the same tom
roll every 8 bars.
Tweak's Electronic Drum Kit is a Yamaha DTXpress
and acoustic snare and cymbals
Drummers, by nature, have only two hands and
two feet. This means at any given moment in time, there should be no more
than 4 notes sounding. Drummers instinctively know this and if they are
going to get a great drum sound they have to do things with these 4 hits to
make them really stand out. Drummers don't have 64 different percussion
instruments they can play simultaneously. With MIDI, you are rather unlimited.
This is a problem that leads many a midiphile astray! Its a great idea
to impose limits on yourself so every song does not sound "over drummed"
If you force yourself to think this way, you will appreciate what drummers do
with a trap kit of 10 basic sounds and 4 notes.
You've probably heard that to get "natural"
sounding tracks you need to turn quantize functions off and keep them off.
Don't buy it! Let the Tweak correct the record here. Very few of
us have the ability to lay down a consistent drum groove on a keyboard without
some form of correction. The trick is to fully use quantize tools to the
max to get the authentic drum sound. What you should try to avoid is quantizing
the entire drum track. Instead, select only individual drum lines and
quantize them. For instance, quantize all the kiks and perhaps all the
closed hi hats, but leave the rest unquantized. Then go back and see where
your snares are. Quantize some of them, but manually adjust others to
be ahead and behind the beat and add flams on certain hits. Your sequencer
has a "groove quantize" function. This allows you to consistently add
offsets to 8th, 12th and 16th notes. Perfect for tweaking the kik and
hats. However after quantizing your work is not done. Now you go
back and manually add the accents, leading notes, the flams, the soft notes,
fix the rolls and change velocities on any hits that sound the same. Do the
crash cymbals last and experiments with sliding it ahead and behind the downbeat.
Sliding it ahead a few ticks often adds incredible excitement to a climax, and
moving it behind makes it sound like a royally expected crash.
Use Alternate Drum Controllers:
I just got a Yamaha DTxpress midi drum kit
and it has really changed the way I think about drumming forever. There's allot
of different options these days and those really serious about make great drum
tracks might consider them It's a lot easier to think like a drummer when
you are one! One of the big advantages of A MIDI trap kit is that you
have to play it like a drummer--you get to feel the rush of bashing to the song,
kicking it in the butt to make it move, playing harder when the break approaches,
slamming the cymbals exactly when needed. And the really cool thing about
these controllers is that, unlike real drums, you can play them all night long
at a reduced volume or with headphones, and that you don't really have to be
a great drummer to immediately dig the benefits. Put your sequencer in
loop recording mode and just do the kicks, the snares then hats, etc. Then quantize
away all your errors. There will still be enough uniqueness left over
to have a living and breathing drum track at the end.
Rich the TweakMeister
Go to Page
write Original Drum
Tracks Fast and Furious in a MIDI Sequencer
Go to Page
"Percussion music is revolution. Sound and rhythm
have too long been submissive to the restrictions of nineteenth century
music. Today we are fighting for their emancipation. Tomorrow,
with electronic music in our ears, we will hear freedom"
John Cage Silence (original quote1939)
More Articles on Recording and Composition by Tweak
Recording and Composition INDEX
Recording Process Made Simple
Inspiration and Style
Step-by-Step: How to write a Song
Write Drum tracks without a Drummer
Hip Hop Beat Construction Made Simple
Hip Hop Production and Mixing
Hip Hop Drum Tweaks
Using Electronic Drum Kits
How to Record Vocals
Preparing for a Vocal Session
Using Effects Processors
Buying a MultiTrack: Watch Out!
Using an AW1600 Recorder
Podcasting from your Home Studio
MultiTrack Recorder Price List
Outboard FX Price List
Studio Racks List