Drums more Man than Machine
October 11, 2007 4:44 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my drums sound more real and more human in Reason?

I'm currently without a drummer but I'd still like to have drum parts to play over, so I decided to try using Reason to program some drum tracks. I have soundbanks and patches where the individual sounds sound very real and good, but whenever I try to program them the part ends up sounding pretty bad. For instance, I can never create a hi-hat part that doesn't sound artificial, and everything else just sounds like it's being played by a machine. What are some tips and tricks to make programmed drum parts sound real and human?
posted by god particle to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You've probably seen this.
But at the very end they mention note by note recording/editing. There are quite a few really good drum sequencing guys over at MeFiMusic who could e-mail, if you don't get your answers here. In fact you could post your "experiments" over there for some good feedback.
posted by snsranch at 4:53 PM on October 11, 2007

Flapjax's comment here is some pretty solid advice!
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:16 PM on October 11, 2007

Play your drum part manually on a midi keyboard (or a midikeys computer keyboard midi keyboard) one or two fingers at a time. If it's close enough, leave it. If it's too far off the beat, then quantize it less than 100%. Do a few tests quantizing it varying amounts until it's just wrong enough in a way that feels right.
posted by umbĂș at 6:00 PM on October 11, 2007

have you considered using some loops/pre-recorded drum samples? Especially if you are just filling in until you get a real drummer, seems like the best way. You don't have to leave them as they are, either. Get creative, chop them up, rearrange them, effect them, time-stretch, layer them. Etc and so forth.
posted by Espoo2 at 6:31 PM on October 11, 2007

As well as all the good advice above to mess things up, three things;

- Remember how many arms and legs a drummer has and never use more hits at a time than a drummer could physically do. Sounds kind of duh obvious but you'd be amazed at how many don't do this and how can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it weird it makes tracks sound. Hi-hat, snare and crash? I don't think so!

- If you can, do some time behind a kit to get a feel for how you would really drum yourself. Helps you get a feel for your drum sound if your head is using stuff it'd really play were it to be sitting at the back of a band with sticks in hand wondering why rest of body looks good while belly slowly expands...

- Push the crashes back a little bit so your bass pedal hits just before the crash. Real drummers do this naturally. Sequencing packages invariably don't.
posted by merocet at 6:50 PM on October 11, 2007

if you're samples are good enough sounding as is i'd just play them in manually on the keyboard, one at a time (cos i'm unco-ordinated) to get a loose timing feel, and then play around with the volumes/velocity of various hits - make sure the velocity of each hit isn't constant. also, panning, keep the kick and snare centre, pan the high hat to one side, and the cymbals to the other - but not too wide. i think subtlety is the key to make it all sound human rather than disjointed and robotised.

I recall getting a great loose drum sound by using samples of three differnt brush hits of a snare, and randomly playing either hit whenever i wanted to hear a snare hit, try the same for each drum sound - kick, snare, highhat, crash. a lot sample libraries have numerous varietions of each drum hit.

the best way to make a drum kit not sound like its being played by a machine is to play it yourself though, either on a real kit, or samples on a keyboard - dont over quantise it.
posted by robotot at 7:58 PM on October 11, 2007

If you're recording this, you can get a more "present" room sound by just playing your all-electronic track(s) back over the monitors and mic'ing the room. Of course, depending on your sound, studio, and samples, it also might be counterproductive.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 8:56 PM on October 11, 2007

I use Tracktion, not Reason, but some of these techniques might still be useful to you:

- Try applying a very light chorus or flanger effect to a drum track to create variation in the sound over time.

- Try panning drum sounds somewhat left or right.

- As robotot suggested, try alternating between multiple samples of the same drum sound.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:46 PM on October 11, 2007

I wrote a post about this topic a few years ago. A bit out of date and repeats some of the above info, but still relevant.

I still use FruityLoops for drums tracks on all my recordings.
posted by scottandrew at 12:00 AM on October 12, 2007

It'll cost you a hundred bucks at best, but Oberheim's Drummer module is pretty friggin' kickass.
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:01 PM on November 9, 2007

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