I’ve had a few people ask me how I produced the drums Modulated Frequencies (you know, that track you can see over on the right? Why don’t you listen to it? Go on!)
It’s always incredibly lovely to have feedback, but unfortunately I don’t really have much of a secret to share, sadly. Even so, I’ll take you through my process:
First of all, you need the sampler of your choice and a good set of samples. As with anything, you can end up paying thousands of pounds for these if you really want to, but you can find cheap/free sets if you look hard enough. This is a good place to start.
With sampler loaded and ready to go, you then need to lay down the core elements of your basic rhythm. If I’m going for a rocky/dancey beat, this will normally be the bass and snare drum. For something more jazzy or free form, it could be the ride part, high hats, or pretty much any other percussive sound I want the main focus to be on.
With that done, you then need to start fleshing out the other parts around the basic rhythm. If the track is one that definitely demands a human sound, I like to make sure there’s a lot going on (drummers tend to get bored quite easily, after all,) while keeping inside obvious human limitations (two hands, two feet and one side that’s more dominant than the other.)
After this, repeatedly listen to the drum track with everything else. Are the bass parts and bass drum parts going together as nicely as you’d like? If not, decide which one you like more. If you have a particularly punchy bass/snare part you’d like, there’s no shame in changing other rhythmic parts around it, or shifting the dynamics.
From there, copy and paste as needed and create simple fills as required. This generally gives about 8-16 bars of music. From there, divide the drum track into 4 bars blocks and try to make each one a little individual. Even if it’s not something that’s overtly noticeable when listening to the track as a whole (like, say, a slight variation in high-hat emphasis,) it helps the track flow and gives it a bit more of a human sound. Dynamics are your friends here: lots of subtle shifts can help maintain the rhythmic integrity of your pattern while still allowing it to sound fresh.
Of course, with that done, you’ve only got your ‘A’ section done. Unless you have Ringo Starr in mind, your drummer will also probably want separate parts for your B/C sections to. Don’t just lay down a completely different pattern by default though – see if there’s a different element from your ‘A’ section you can base it around. As before, make sure you’ve tweaked everything so you don’t just have 8 flat, identical bars of music. You’ll hear the differences – even if no bugger else does.
Finally, go back and tweak every single one of your fills. They don’t have to be quite Keith Moon, but they do have to be lively and flow with the rest of your piece. Finished, phew! Or are you? When i get to this stage, i then intensely listen to every section against the rest of my track – just to make sure everything is as expected. Then I’m done. Until it comes to the final mix of course…
So that’s a brief run down of the slightly neurotic process i go through when creating drum tracks. If you’re a musician i’d love to know how you go about yours . Especially if there’s a smart way of automating some of the mundane areas that I’m currently missing out on.