Drums are probably the most sought after sounds in electronic music. Everyone wants the punchiest and coolest sounding drums to use in their productions. Instead of using the same drums everyone else is using, you can create your own natural drum samples instead – and stand out from the pack. It’s not as hard as it sounds either, so listen up!
What You Need
Basically, the only things you need are a microphone, an audio interface to record sound through and a DAW software to record into. That’s it. You might also want to have yourself available as the drummer.
As for microphones, pretty much any microphone will work: a vocal mic, a dynamic microphone or small/large diaphragm condenser microphones. Condensers are especially nice for capturing all kinds of drum sounds from huge lows to sizzling highs.
Sound-wise, you could record anything and everything. You don’t need a real drum kit either. You just need things that make a sound. These could include metals such as silverware and tools, pieces of wood, a salt shaker, groceries, your hands for snaps and claps, etc.
Create instruments from familiar, everyday things!
Anything you can find that you think would make a cool sound is fine. If you have access to real drums, that’s a bonus, as it could be hard to get a true snare sound elsewhere for example (though I have successfully created a badass snare from a half-full water bottle, and shaking the bottle in various ways to make the water slam against the “walls” of the bottle, so use your imagination).
Let’s say you are working on a track that has a specific tempo. You could then set up a click track to aid you with recording drum hits straight on the grid, if you don’t have some kind of beat going already.
After all is set, it’s go time. Just set the gain from your microphone preamp to a comfortable level (peaking at -6dB max), arm the necessary track for recording and press record!
Think about all your drum and percussion sounds you have gathered as instruments, and play them while recording, and you’ll get a musical result.
When you are done recording, you should have a bunch of sounds and hits available to you and ready to be chopped up, re-arranged and layered.
Now remember when I told you to establish a click track so all your hits would fit the tempo? It will ease your workflow exponentially when you advance to the phase of cutting the audio, arranging it to other parts of your song and layering drum hits with each other, as they’ll all fall to grid beautifully.
You could use an automatic transient detection tool such as Beat Detective in Pro Tools that automatically finds the first transient of all drum hits in the selected region and chops them up automatically. This is especially handy if you want to bounce your freshly-made drum sounds as individual audio hits for your personal drum library.
At this point, you could take it a step further and pull your fresh samples into a sampler, such as Native Instruments Kontakt, for further mangling and processing, and affecting the pitch, the ADSR envelope, velocity and other functions in it.
To put the cherry on top of the cake, you could insert a tape machine plug on your sounds to make them really pop out, adjust EQ and compression, apply stereo effects and polish them further in any way you want.
You Have The Edge
When building your own personal drum library, one thing is for certain – nobody in this world possesses the sounds you have. Nobody. Think about that. Your sound will become truly unique when you create your own drums.
While there’s nothing wrong in using the sample packs that everyone else (unfortunately) is using, making your own sounds WILL bring you an edge. I strongly recommend at least giving it a shot, as I personally find the whole process too much fun, and genuinely inspiring.
Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction in creating totally killer hi-hats or claps sounding cleaner and better than anything else out there.
I hope I have injected a bit of inspiration into you and set you on your path in creating your own drum samples, as it sure does inspire me, every time.
What do you think about creating your own drum samples? Do you think it sounds challenging, or easy? Do you use third party sample packs in your music? Discuss below and I’ll join in!