Bored of the Usual Drum Samples

March 5, 2009 11:50 PM

Recording your own drum samples. Tips / Advice / Recommendations?

I have a rather large collection of Drum Machine / Drum Samples that have been collected over the years but I"m rather sick of them. They don't seem to have the sound I want (I want a more _real_ drum sound). But I can't play drums and don't have a drum kit.

So I was thinking of trying to borrow one or hire a kit for a weekend to record my own *sample banks* of individual hit drum sounds. Well and maybe some hi-hat patterns at different tempos as they never sound right when you program them.

Also recording them in the same Room as that which I record everything else - I thought could help with similar room ambience , mixing / issue.

Is this a good idea or a bad idea? is there something I"m over looking? (I have a couple of reasonable mics and a little outboard gear)
posted by mary8nne (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Well, the *realest* drum sound, when sampled, and triggered over and over again, doesn't sound *real* anymore. This is an inescapable fact. You can go in and record yourself smacking a snare drum, kicking a kick, thwacking a floor tom, but here's the rub: it's still a sample. The average human drummer never hits a drum or hat or cymbal in the exact same way twice in a row. That's what makes a human-played drum part *human*.

So... I don't mean to rain on your idea, but... if your rather large collection of drum samples (many of which, I'd assume, are excellently recorded, with hot-shit mics, by famous drummers or session pros) you shouldn't assume that your own single drum hits (especially since you say you "can't play drums") are going to somehow result in samples that sound better or more *real* than what you've already got.

Maybe you should try to find a drummer!

OR... stop trying to recreate the sound of a drum kit drummer playing a drum kit. Maybe you should try samples of different types of percussion. Once you start to move away from kick/snare/hat/cymbals, you might find yourself liberated... try samples of junk metal, various *ethnic* drums like darbuka or djembe or talking drum. Shaker samples, scraper samples, bells, pieces of wood... the possibilities are endless.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:00 AM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I should have been a bit clearer.

I was intending to do a Multi-sample kit with say 5-10 different snare hits and setup some random sample selection method. To get a more 'naturally' fluctuating sound.

and I do use some live percussive items.
(eg: I was hitting a lump of 2x4 last week with a tamborine to put 'under' my snares last month for RPM).

but I don't like 'ethnic' sounds. - I'm not 'ethnic', so it feels trite to just appropriate sounds from other cutlures.
posted by mary8nne at 4:18 AM on March 6, 2009

I was hitting a lump of 2x4 last week with a tamborine to put 'under' my snares last month for RPM).

Sounds like a good idea to me.

but I don't like 'ethnic' sounds. - I'm not 'ethnic', so it feels trite to just appropriate sounds from other cutlures.

Well, like the man said... if it feels trite, don't do it!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:34 AM on March 6, 2009

Recording drums is reasonably difficult. Making good drum samples is even harder. I think the best way to deal with sampled drums is to treat them like an actual drum kit--meaning you've got a close mic, an overhead mic, and a room mic synced up for each kit piece--and most of the big sample packages let you do that.

I know I sound like a shill at this point, but I really like Addictive Drums, even though their development cycle is glacial, at best. The price is right, and the samples sound great. They're completely dry, and mostly well-recorded, so you can squeeze pretty much any sounds out of them that you can get from a live kit. (Assuming you don't need brushes or flams or a host of other things that weren't included in the sample set.) Give the demo a try.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:49 AM on March 6, 2009

Someone else has also recommended FXpansion BFD. But so far most of the samples I've heard are not really the sort of kit i want.
posted by mary8nne at 7:04 AM on March 6, 2009

Can you define what "sort" of kit you want, mary8nne?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:07 AM on March 6, 2009

hmm, I don't know how to describe it but I know it when i hear it. ;) not helpful I know.

The main issue for me with a lot of 'good' kits is I don't like the snares. I want a really thuddy, dead, I think of as 70s snare (with no 'ringing out' sort of sound) and a minimal tight sort of hi-hat. and not too much room sound. - just enough to place them in 'a space'.

Ironically, I think I want 'real' drums that sound a bit like a Roland 707 Drum Machine.

Which sounds backwards I know.
posted by mary8nne at 8:23 AM on March 6, 2009

I've done this before with decent results.

Sometimes, if I have whack sounding samples, especially snares, I re-amp them. Send the signal through a guitar amp that is laying on its side with the speaker pointing up. Lay a snare drum on top of the amp. Then mic it. You can play around with eq on the amp to get the right sounds. It opens a whole new world.

Recording drums is reasonably difficult.

Yeah but for a sample bank, it doesn't need to be. If you can get a hold of a drum set, you can record the sample individually. You can also record loops of different hi hat patterns. For example 8 or 16 bars of one kind of hi-hat pattern at various tempos. When you compose a song, use that loop instead of individual hits and it won't sound so robotic. Also try layering or nudging snare samples when building an 8-bar loop. Or using multiple mics, one on top and one on the bottom (remember to flip the phase when mixing).
posted by chillmost at 8:34 AM on March 6, 2009

I've had a few attempts at Amping programmed drums and micing them to get more room feel to the programmed drums and it does work alright.

but you do sort of need the Amp in a different room to where you are doing the mixing as its hard to hear what the 'room sounds like' from within the room. (and i don't really have the spaace to do that. and my guitar amp broke.
posted by mary8nne at 8:56 AM on March 6, 2009

I want a really thuddy, dead, I think of as 70s snare (with no 'ringing out' sort of sound) and a minimal tight sort of hi-hat. and not too much room sound. - just enough to place them in 'a space'.

This is trivial to do with AD. Seriously, try the demo. If it doesn't do it for you, that's fine (hell, I hate lots of tools that would probably do the job, but don't work for me), but it can definitely make these sorts of sounds (while also giving you a few really natural-sounding kits if you ever need them).

It's a lot easier to take something that sounds good and make it sound shitty than vice-versa.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2009

I've used EasyDrummer with some success. The kits come with some very natural sounding midi included.
posted by dagosto at 7:20 PM on March 9, 2009

whats this EasyDrummer? I can't find anything about it on the interenet even on KVRAudio the big VST instrument website.
posted by mary8nne at 1:40 AM on March 10, 2009

EZdrummer (I think it used to be a watered-down version fo Drumkit from Hell).
posted by uncleozzy at 7:20 AM on March 10, 2009

Thanks for the link uncleozzy.

That's surprising it wasn't on KVR. I share a studio and it was on our main computer. I haven't used it much but I've heard good things.

There are a bunch of expansions you can buy ala carte including one by a percussionist who played on Tom Waits' Rain Dogs

I personally have really tired of the ubiquitous pad based software drum samplers and have started making my own percussion samples much like you have been describing only with synthesizers instead of sampling real drums. You can get some pretty real sounding drum sounds with adept programming. Gentle modulation of pitch or timbre can also add some realism.

Good luck with whatever you end up trying out.
posted by dagosto at 10:52 PM on March 11, 2009

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