Great, natural sounding drums from software/tracking: how?
June 2, 2006 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I want a fake drummer who doesn't sound fake, on the cheap. Drum samples and software ideas: help me out!

I want good, exciting, natural-sounding drum tracks on (some of) my recordings.

I have a one-man kitchen table recording studio. 1BR apartment in a complex. Buying drums and learning to play them is not a practical solution.

I have used some drum machines, hardware and software, but nothing fancy. I've used the drum machine in Reason to reasonable effect for synth drums, but for blues/rock/acoustic tracks, the drums sound weak and mechanical.

So what are my options for faking a real drummer on the cheap? I've heard of BDF (from prior AskMes), but that's a few hundred clams. Any alternatives?
posted by cortex to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
That's BFD, actually. I haven't tried it, but one alternative is Groove Agent. I expect the price is similar though.
posted by edlundart at 11:33 AM on June 2, 2006

Acid for PC has lots of samples out there, and Garageband for Macs really have some awesome drums available.
posted by visual mechanic at 11:45 AM on June 2, 2006

ns kit isn't the greatest set of samples you'll ever find, but it's free (well, the stripped-down version is free). You might also want to check out some of the Sonic Implants kits, like Blue Jay. I've got one, and it's not half bad, for the price. As far as programming drums goes, though, you've just got to have the feel for it. The best samples in the world aren't going to make you sound good if you're programming them badly. I used to use FruityLoops to sequence drums, but since I've Switched™, banging them away on a MIDI keyboard works pretty well.

(Also, in case you're wondering how to use nskit or the Sonic Implants samples, the easiest way, in my opinion, is as SoundFonts. If you're running Windows, sfz is a pretty great VSTi which should plug right into your multitrack program. If you're using Garageband on a Mac, you can use the soundfont as-is, more or less.)

In any case, it takes time to develop the skills to play a sequenced kit without sounding mechanical. Keep working at it! Seriously, I don't think I'd be able to sequence drums with any sort of realism if I didn't drum at least a little. Do you have any friends with drum kits? Spend a few hours banging away. Maybe take a couple lessons. It'll help.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:51 AM on June 2, 2006

Response by poster: I have spent a few hours banging away on drum kits, and while I don't have drummer instincts, I'm comfortable laying out a drum sequence.

Working out the tiny nuances of a drum track is the hard part, as that goes—I'd be interested in techniques/software that makes that process easier and more intuitive than hand-tweaking each note in, say, a drumpattern->sequencer Reason track.

On the tracking side, I'm interested, for example, in any ideas/apps that approach drum track building from an iterative/prodcedural perspective—building/altering drum tracks up from parts in a more nuanced manner than "4 bars of A, 3 of B and then a turnaround bar of C". (This is the sort of thing I could conceivably do on my own, if I wanted to spend the time and energy doing the research and programming. But for that matter I could mic and sample a friend's drumkit, if we're going DIY—I'm just inclined to think others have done it first, better.)
posted by cortex at 12:13 PM on June 2, 2006

Response by poster: (Also, physically, at a kit, I am an execrable drummer. Three limbs at once fries my brain. If anybody needs someone to just play kick-snare-k-kick-snare, though, I'm ready to gig.)
posted by cortex at 12:14 PM on June 2, 2006

Reason now has the Reason Drums samples, these are great sounds and they ship with some very good drum grooves to use them with. BFD, as a whole, is much better sounding but also a lot more money. Other than that, I've tried Battery 2, which sounds great but the interface is a bit cryptic and NI seems to have a problem with customer support. I have not tried Drumkit From Hell, but it seems to be well regarded.

I suspect that getting good drum track has a lot more to do with be able to program them well, rather then the sounds themselves. In this respect and in terms of price the Reason Drums are great value.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:52 PM on June 2, 2006

Here are two links that might help you out on the software side:

How to make your Drum tracks Come Alive


Making It Real - Percussion
posted by chimmyc at 2:18 PM on June 2, 2006

This doesn't answer your question directly, but I think it's better to ditch the goal of emulating an acoustic kit and just make your drums sound fake/cool/weird. A digital drummer is a different instrument to an acoustic drumer. And I feel like listeners are rarely fooled by a fake drummer pretending to be a live one. Of course, YMMV.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:03 PM on June 2, 2006

I like Hydrogen, but most software drum machines have the same features.

Good samples, mixing, and careful thought in programming the rhythm really make a drum track sound good. I recommend Freesound for top quality, open-license samples of all kinds. Look for the "High Quality Cymbals" pack... it's great.
posted by phrontist at 5:49 PM on June 2, 2006

I use a portable digital drum set (Yamaha DD55) as a midi controller to trigger samples in the computer or sometimes just record it's built in samples thru an analog line. Not a perfect solution by any means, but does allow flexibility between imperfect solutions. One side note; I have found it valuable to tell myself to relax a bit and listen to the drums as part of the mix before getting too anal about it.
posted by bullnipple at 4:08 AM on August 13, 2006

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