A good set of high quality drum samples that include different types of kicks, 808s, high-hats, snares, percussion, and fx will make your tracks sound much better.
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For a long time i was using the drum and synth sounds that came with my Korg Triton. More recently i switched to a combination of virtual instruments (like xpand2) mixed with sounds i get from sample packs. The drum sounds on my Triton didnt sound half as good as the drum sounds i could get from a good sample pack.
Working with high quality drum samples and loops is an easy way to make your tracks sound much better.
Layering Loops with Individual Drum Samples
I feel like my tracks started to sound alot better, when i started using the drum sounds i got from sample packs.
I would just place the individual drum samples on the grid in pro tools and create a beat. I also started layering them on top of loops.
One way i use drum loops in my tracks is by layering multiple loops on top of each other. I use high and lowpass filters to separate the parts of the beat that i like (like the highhats, percussion, or kick), then layer them on top of each other. This lets you get a full, complicated drum sound, that you hear in drum n bass.
I like to use some chorusing (or spectral chorus) on the high end to make it sound really metallic, so it stands out in the mix.
After i have a couple loops that are mixed pretty well together, I’ll add in another layer of individual drum sounds placed on the grid in protools.
I like to add a nice 808 on top of the loops, another snare with alot of reverb, a high-hat that uses chorusing or flange, and i also like to use high-end synth sounds as percussion.
For example, it sounds good to chop up a synth that has alot of frequencies above 10k and use it as percussion to fill out the high-end.
This is similar to what Phil Spector did with his “wall of sound”. He created instrumentation that filled out each frequency range and made each part of the song sound full.
Drum loops are also nice because of the convenience. They can give you a quick idea of how your song will sound with a groove, once you get a few basic parts of the song down. It will also give you ideas about where to take the song.
Listening to your tracks with a groove will often take you in different directions with your bassline or melody, which might lead you to alter or change it.
How I add effects to my Drum Samples
Adding EQ and effects to your drums is an important part of mixing your track. There are no rules on how to add effects, but here’s what i tend to do.
808s – alot of times i’ll cut the top end off an 808, then use a different acoustic sounding kick drum on top of it. I usually add a little bit of a short reverb to the kick. Distortion can also sound really good on 808s. They use this alot to get a trap or hiphop sound.
Kicks – I will often add a boxier sounding kick on top of my 808. I’ll sometimes add some reverb or distortion.
Hi-hat – I’ve been adding chorus or flange effects to my hi-hats to make them really wide, so they stand out in the high end. I’ll also add a bit of reverb. Spectral chorus makes everything sound really metallic and stand out in the mix.
Percussion – Another thing i’ve been doing lately is adding some really high frequency synth sounds as percussion. I just chop up a high frequency synth sound in a percussion pattern.
Layering Drum Loops
Complicated drum patterns are an important part of drum n bass music. There are alot of 16th note snare hits of differing volumes on the 3rd and 4th beat in this style.
The drum n bass sound comes from a often sampled breakbeat called the ‘amen break’. (listen to it here)
One way to get this complex, offbeat drum sound, is to layer multiple drum loops on top of each other. EQ the different loops, so they mix better together.
Try muting and unmuting the loops and cutting them up into little pieces . Also try copying and pasting interesting parts of the loop and repeating them to add some variation.
Try using high pass, low pass, and bandpass filters to mix your parts in better. Also pick a few loops that have elements in different parts of the frequency spectrum.