3 Things To Consider When Working With Drum Samples

Producers across an extremely wide range of genres can find themselves using drum samples; sometimes as loops, sometimes as one-shots, sometimes as a combination of both.

In this article, we highlight a few things that you should consider when working with drum samples in your productions.

1. Layering Samples

You will often want to layer samples; perhaps you have found a loop that contains an excellent hi-hat pattern, but the kick drum lacks punch. In this case, you can layer an additional kick on top of the drum loop. When layering multiple drum samples on top of one another, it is important to pay close attention to syncing them properly.

This is perhaps less important with hi-hats and percussion, but if you have layered kicks or snares and they are not properly synced, the transients can end up losing impact and can sound messy. Sometimes you might want to layer multiple one-shot samples on top of one another – perhaps you like the attack of one snare, but the tail of another. By layering them you can get the best of both worlds.

If you do layer drums in this way, you might want to consider selecting the drum that has the best attack transient, and putting very short fades on the front of all the other layers. This will mean that your chosen attack transient will cut through your mix clearly.

2. Time-stretching Vs. Cutting And Pasting

There are two common reasons you will time-stretch drum loops. Either the loop is not the correct tempo for your session, or part of it is out of sync with your other rhythmic elements, as described above.

Time-stretching can leave unpleasant artifacts behind, so make sure you use the best possible time-stretching software you can to try and mitigate this problem. That said, sometimes it can be preferable to chop a loop into its component parts with an editing tool, and adjust the individual hits to your chosen tempo without time-stretching at all; this way you know that the sound quality will not degrade.

Most DAWs have a dedicated workflow that can help you to do this quickly, so explore the options available to you; for example, Pro Tools' 'Beat Detective' can perform this process in a few clicks.

3. Rearranging Out-Of-The-Box Loops

If you just use loops as they are, straight 'out-of-the-box' you will be severely limiting your creativity. Once you chop into a loop and start moving its individual elements around, the possibilities can be almost endless, after all, jungle and drum and bass are entire genres that grew out of reworking one single drum break; the 'Amen'. There are different ways of doing this.

You can chop into your loop as described above, and break it down into individual drum samples, or you can use a plug-in such as the Accusonus Regroover that is specifically designed for this purpose.

Being ready to edit loops becomes especially important if you are layering multiple layers of percussion. It is rare that you will find multiple percussive loops that will create a great groove when layered; unless you are prepared to do at least a little editing, muting and rearranging.


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