Rhythm Creation - Music Production and Sound Reocording

One thing I try to do when creating drums for my tracks is to really try and get a BIG sound. I love big fat drum sounds. The drum tracks are the first part of a track that I lay down and I believe that if I can get the drums to sound great to me before putting any other sounds on, I know that my track will sound great to me also. One way I try to get a great drum track is by manipulating every single drum sound and layering it up so for example my main snare sound could have as many as five or six different snare samples in there. These are my tips and also my routine that I use for creating multi layered drum samples.

I use the Redrum in Reason for my drum layering because if you flip it over you can link the gate out on one sample to a gate in on another sample. This means that when sample one gets hit all the samples linked through these gate outs/ins will play together. This means that I can then manipulate each drum sound individually on the front of Redrum and play them together very easily. Whatever software or hardware you use, you need some way of editing each drum sound you are going to layer as well as some easy way to play all sounds together. This should make drum layering a much easier process.

Now you need some samples and there are loads to be had for free around the internet (Free Sound Samples). I doesn’t matter if some of these drum sounds you download sound weak or sound too much like a drum machine as when we layer them up they will sound stronger and very different. You need a good selection of different hits organised into categories (Kicks, Snare etc) so that you can choose a few that you like to layer up easily.

I start off by loading a single hit and manipulate it to how I want it to sound. Usually this is by pitching the drum sound up or down, changing the length, change the tone etc. Just do what sounds good to you for that particular drum sound. Don’t be afraid to change it drastically, or edit it in a audio editor either.

Now I find another drum sound that sounds nice with my first sound, I link the samples together (explained above) and listen to them together. You want to get a nice sounding mix between these two drum sounds so you can hear them both at the level you want to hear each of them. Now edit our new drum sample exactly like we did with the first by changing the pitch etc until we find something that sounds like what we want and mixes nicely with the other drum sound (re-adjust the levels if you have to). Now repeat this by layering up even more samples until you are happy with the overall sound of all samples together.

After this add any processing (for example a bit of compression or EQ). The example above shows a very basic drum layering technique and the more you do this yourself the more you will find different combinations of samples that will sound great with each other and find your own techniques that give you your own sound.

Here are some more of my tips that I use for multi-layering certain drums.

Snare Drum layering - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:sonofwil
  • Multi-layering kick drums can be trickiest as when we add more and more kicks our drum sound can actually sound weaker and more muffled as they are all fighting for space. You can stop this from happening by EQing each kick to have different dominant frequencies. For example if you are layering 3 kicks, on kick one increase the volume of 30Hz to 60Hz (or decrease the frequencies outside this band), on kick two increase the volume of 80Hz to 120Hz and on kick three increase say 150Hz to 180Hz. This will give each of our kicks a different space in the mix between them.
  • Try layering bass sounds with your kicks. Create a very quick bass sound so it’s the length of your kick, filter out any high frequencies and then layering it together with your kick can give a nice low end sounding kick if done properly.
  • For snares reduce one sample in length so it’s very short with hardly any tail (a snare that sounds poppy or cracky at the start) and layer this with another sound that has a nice sounding tail will create a very nice effect. This works great too with layering different crash and ride cymbals as well as other drums.
  • Pitch up and down the same sample. For example take sample one and pitch it down, then take the same sample in another channel and pitch it up. Try this with already layered samples, by exporting your multi layered samples then reimporting.
  • and finally experiment with different drum sounds as much as you can, drum layering seriously increases the number of samples and styles of drum hits available to us for music production and is well worth having a mess around with.
There is a lot to the art of drum layering, but I think once you know the basics you will develop your own techniques and way of doing it and in the process the sound of your music will benefit and you will create your own sounding style by creating different drum sounds that others don’t have.

Tutorial written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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