How do you achieve a good drum sound?

with an artificial drum track (samples)

There’s been plenty of discussion about how to create a drum track from midi/samples etc that sounds realistic, i.e. like a real drummer in terms of playing, or is otherwise an acceptable drum / rhythm track.

But assuming you’ve got that down, where do you go from there? It’ll still sound a bit dry and dull. How can you give a drum track more ambience and realism in terms of sound? I guess I’m talking about plugins. I’ve tried Room Machine, though I’ve not been able to get a good sound from it (yet). And most reverb plugins seem to create an artificial sound.

What do you guys use? I’m more interested in room ambience than a full-blown reverb. [Any links appreciated, thanks! :;): ]



Edit: Just had a thought - playback of the drum track through a speaker system in a room, and mic’ing the result. Have yet to try…

Assuming that your timings and your basic drum sound is OK, you could try putting a very short reverb effect on it - e.g. 10-20 milliseconds. Try putting a short, single echo on it, too. Using the send/return paths of n-Track to insert the effects, keep the send levels very low and the return levels at 0 dB. The send levels should be so low that the effect is just audible when the track is solo’ed but almost impossible to detect in the mix.

If you have the drums on separate channels, try giving the drums different amounts of reverb/echo in the following, decreasing order (YMMV): snare, toms, cymbals, hat, percussion, kick - try giving the kick drum echo only - no reverb. Experiment, take your time - this is by no means easy to do and getting it right the first (couple of) time(s).

I’ve had good experience with the SIR convolution reverb plug-in and the free Classic Reverb from KjaerhusAudio, but you may have a different opinion.

regards, Nils

As a suggestion, again assuming you have got your drum ‘recordings’ all laid out, preferably with one track to each bit of drum kit…

Why not search this site and maybe that of the SoundOnSound forum to see what they recommend for EQing drum recordings.

I have a book that I bought a while back,Future Sounds, nothing special but quite practical. It suggests a good degree of EQing and compression so that the cymbols sound bright, while the snare sounds punchy, of course depending on your style of music. The book suggests experimentation - ah that old chestnut!

Good luck

I’ve wondered abnout this for a long time. Think about all of the things going on in a recording of real drums. The room sound, the sounds being picked up by all the mics (with varying latencies) the many different timbres and dynamics that are produced from each drum (think about the variation from just a snare drum - even the msot consistent player is not totally consistent, and I dislike too much consistency anyway), the way the mics respond differently to the same sound when there are other sounds going into it…You’d need a plug in that adds room sound, but a room sound that is appropriate for the way the snare drum interacts with the room and all the mics and other drums and cymbals, and another room sound for the way the HH interacts with the room and all the mics etc…with latencies and eq 9which itself might change form moment to moment) that are appropriate for each…there are so many things interacting with each other to produce that sound, that it would be a nightmare to really try to get it. All of that in addition to getting the programming right so that it doesn’t sound like a machine - well, that’s a lot easier now given multisampled drums, but even so…

Nope, try the room idea, if you have a decent sounding room.

This is why I bought a cheap set of drums last year, and am trying to learn how to play well enough to avoid embarassment…

My 2 cents.

Sound on sound article on reverb/mixing

TomS - I’ve thought of that - buying a drum kit (not sure my neighbours would appreciate it though!), or at least maybe buying a snare drum on its own, to record and combine with other samples.

Also, I’m not sure if mine’s a decent room, but I thought of blasting the drum track out of a speaker and then using two mics to get a stereo ambient recording. I’ll see how it goes.

I did once rent some time in a practice studio in order to sample some drums sounds and record loops, which was successful but not something I’ll be doing all the time.

Thanks everyone, some interesting thoughts. I’ll read that SOS article too - sounds interesting. Nils - I have the Classic Reverb plugin, will give it a go.

Some interesting stuff here:


That’s a good link, Mark. I especially like the comments on “fake-ism”:


As I said before, “feel before real”. In other words, if it doesn’t feel right when you try to make it sound real, go ahead and let it sound fake. Most of the people who are concerned about your drums sounding real aren’t going to be fooled by even the best programming anyway. Everyone else doesn’t care if the drums are real; they just know whether or not their feet are tapping and heads bobbing to the music

I’d add one thing to the ideas he presents - use not just sounds that are not of this world, but beats too. No harm in making the drum machine do things that a human being cannot. In fact, I see that as the primary role of drum machines. They are best used not to mimic a human drummer, but to do things that only a drum machine can do.

this is the part i usually try to spend a bit more time on:


Next, consider if the drum part as a whole is too repetitive. Usually this is a dead giveaway for a programmed part. In some styles of music, repetitive drums are not really a problem. In others, such as rock, metal, or jazz, it’s death. If you’ve laid out the basic loop through the track, go through and start removing a hit, adding a hit, changing a velocity, or making some kind of random change at different points in the song especially in the secondary hits. Always check to make sure it sounds appropriate. This will really help greatly to break up the monotony.

who cares if it sounds fake… just try to make it sound interesting
Quote (J.W. @ Oct. 13 2005,08:48)
TomS - I've thought of that - buying a drum kit (not sure my neighbours would appreciate it though!), or at least maybe buying a snare drum on its own, to record and combine with other samples.

Hmmm... if so I'd buy a hihat first of all. This is what makes most programmed drums yell FAAAAKE to my ears at least.
IMO, YMMV and all that.

Snare and cymbals, yes, those with a programmed kick will sound pretty real.

One thiing I’ve found in programming drums - using a loop based approach such as is found in FL or Orion is dangerous, since there is a temptation just to loop and loop and loop…whereas in n-Track one can step program bar after bar, and while that takes more time, you almost inevitably introduce different kick patterns and the like from bar to bar.

Terje,s right on the money. Hi-hats are usually a dead givaway. Next are cymbals that cut off early.

Put a phase shifter on the hi-hat and cymbals. That helps A LOT when done just right.

Anyway, how many drummers play a hi-hat by hitting the shoulder (the flat part) of the top cymbal with the tip of the stick? Most play on the edge for that swish yet almost no sampled hi-hats sound that way.

One thing I’ve found in programming drums is that I absolutely detest it. I haven’t messed with loops yet but from the outside it looks like a fabulous tool to arrange up a song quickly and at the same time rid yourself of most of the tediousness of programming every single hit. Whip up a quick song outline, tweak variations to taste.

I think programmed drums are A LOT harder to spot than cymbals. What do most people do with their kicks & snares & whatnot ? They compress & limit them to death. Velocities my butt :) Concentrate on the brightwork first & foremost. Of course there are variations in timbre depending on how or where you hit a real drum, but in a thick rock mix, who’s really gonna notice besides a few of us soundnerdgeeks ?

'K, I’ll shut up now :)

EDIT: Hi phoo. Rude of you to interrupt. You should’ve waited 'til I was finished. Jeez, some people… :)

It’s the nine hour time delay. You are always WAY ahead of me.

Which means you suddenly did a 9hrs 8mins time/space jump. What’s your secret ?

Fat. It’s just that simple. :)

:laugh: :laugh: :laugh: I’ll start saving right this instant :)

To pick up on some of the comments since my last post…

I have a cheap set of drums at my disposal and my son is doing pretty good at the old skin bashing lessons.

However, there are problems. Recording drums is a real time consumer. Also, these are cheap drums, so the high hat, in particular, sounds, well, cheap :)

When using sound fonts and alike, remember that the sound was originally sampled from a, well, set of drums, in a room, with probably quite dry accoustic qualities.

This is whay there is a need for EQ and a few effects to fill the frequencies you want filled and provide the depth and punch (reverb and compression)

If it’s all sounding a bit too machine like, I find the best way is to switch off the ‘lock to grid’ thing and move those midi hits around a bit to make them more 'human’

Having said all that, you could spend loads of time getting a perfect sound, but will your audience appreciate your efforts? I think you have to weigh the benefits against the time (and expense) expended

Hmm…I’m not after perfection though. Rough is good enough to me. It’ s the general thump of a drumkit being played in a room that I’m trying to get, which willl add a lot to the sound or a track, and is something everyone, audiophile or not, will notice.

Anyway I found this site with some studio tips, including mic’ing drums being played out of speakers in a room. One guy even had them playing outside in a valley and mic’ed the echoes rebounding around the hills!