Programming great sounding drums and avoiding pre made sample loops is easier than it seems.
in this lesson we will avoid complicated time signatures and stick to the basic 4/4 time signature. For those unfamiliar with time signatures read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_signature
what we will need
single drum hits (samples) depending on the style of music that were making. we at least will need a "kick" a "snare" and a closed and opened "hat"
http://freesound.iua.upf.edu/ <-- is a wonderful free resource to get all kinds of neat sounds
the next thing we need is a "sequencer" or a program that will allow us to combine the different single drum hits in to a "loop"
one very popular program for this purpose is FL studio , and you can download a free demo at http://www.flstudio.com/ .Although the demo version will not allow you to save your work projects , it will allow you to "render" your drum loop to a "wav" file.
So now that we've got everything we need
here come the big secrets :)
The difference between pro sounding loops and drums that you may hear in cheezy midi files is that there is "groove" or live quality to the pro loops , where as the midi file is 100 % quantized and stiff.
So the big secret is NEVER to make all your snares and hats 100% quantized .. offsetting notes by a millimeter forward or back will add to the live feel
the second very important but often over looked thing in programmed drums is "Ghost notes". Ghost notes are basicly drum hits that are very low in volume and are positioned a bit before and/or a bit after the actual hit. These ghost notes create something of a "flam" that breathes just a little more life in to a programed loop.
To clarify a ghost note pretend that "CAPITAL LETTERS" are the actual hits and "lower case" are ghost notes K=KICK S=SNARE |=16th note space
Here is a simple pattern K|||sS|||||K||sS||K|
So a 32nd note (or a few millimeters)prior to the actual snare hit, put in another snare and lower its volume by 10 db . Do the same for the KICK but put the "ghost kick" a 16th note after the KICK hits
I really hope this got across since its extremely difficult to explain with text but is very important.
The thing not to forget is that your loops (unless you're making techno/house/dance) will benefit if you add a little bit of swing , say 15-30 %
when programming the closed hi hats make sure that you "randomize" the timing of the hats (so that some of the hats are 100% quantized) and some are just a bit late or early..also very important that you vary the loudness(velocity) of the hats DO NOT HAVE THEM hitting at the same volume through the whole loop..Close your eyes , pretend you're hitting a hi hat , and try to remember which notes you "pretend" to hit harder and translate that to your loop(sequencer). its amazing that people that have never player real drums in their life make the correct rythmic accents
WORD OF ADVICE , is to listen to something great , maybe your favorite record or favorite loop,,, theres no shame in ripping off someones drum loop , its the only way to really learn ...
and don't settle for something that sounds worse than your reference ..theres no reason why your loop should sound worse than a loop sold on samples cds
the rythm at least should sound pro, ... because getting a certain sound is a totally different ball game that hopefully we'll cover next time.. first you have to understand what makes a good loop ,..and hopefully this lesson will help you figure that out
for questions or comments mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org www.addasong.com/flint