Want to learn how to make epic face punching drums? In this Pro-tips series, I am going to share with you 12 of my Percussion Pro-tips. These tips will be PACKED with juicy knowledge bombs, key concepts and insider secrets in the world of percussion sound design. I’ve split these tips into a 3 part series, which are the foundation and inspiration for my Blitz Beats Ultra Class and Percussion Sound Design Template, which you can check out and grab here!
Choose the best percussion samples as possible as your starting points. Garbage in = garbage out and no amount of processing can make a bad sample sound good (just like no amount of plastic surgery can save Lindsay Lohan…but I digress). A favorite sample pack of mine at the moment is the Vengeance Essential Dubstep Volume 2 (for anything that needs a neck-snapping huge snare). The snares are absolutely devastating and make great source sounds.
If you’re using audio for your drums, it’s very important that you do 2 things:
1) Open up your Preferences, go to the Record/Warp/Launch tab, and de-select “Create Fades on Clip Edges”. This is on by default, and you need to turn it off. When clip fades are on they put a 4 ms crossfade at the beginning and end of each clip. This makes your drum less punchy and takes away transient attack. Fades are useful when chopping samples to prevent clicking, however they are not good for percussion that is meant to have a sharp attack.
2) Disable Warping. When you load a percussion sample in, double click it to go to the Sample Display, and de-select “Warp”. It will be on by default and is only necessary for altering the timing of a sample. In the case of percussion “one shots”, timing alterations are not necessary and Warping will only degrade your audio quality and consume unnecessary CPU.
Tune your drums. Each drum has a distinct pitch and it’ll sound much better if it’s in key with your tune. First you must find out the tuning of your current drum sample. Use the Spectrum Device and look for the highest amplitude peak in the frequency spectrum. If you hover your cursor over it, it’ll show you the pitch and Hz in the lower left corner. Then, you can use the transpose function for your Audio Clip or Simpler/Sampler to re-pitch the drum to a new pitch. Repitch the drum to a chromatic increment of the key of the song.
For example, if my song is in G minor, then I’ll try tuning the drum to the root of G, or if that doesn’t sound good, then I’ll try moving up the scale of G minor: G, A, B♭, C, D, E♭, and F. While you’re doing this, it’s important that you’re playing the drum with the song rather than soloing it. If you are layering multiple samples for your drum (as I do), then make sure you do this for each sample. When layering I often tune different samples to different pitches. One snare layer may be tuned to G, and one to C for example. This can create some very interesting effects as you’re more or less making a “chord” out of your drum.
Top and tail. Topping and tailing is when you use only a portion of a sample for each layer of your drum. For example, I may find one sample that I really like the attack of, and another sample that I really like the body of. Rather than have both of them run for the entire length of the drum, cut out the un-needed bits. You’ll need to be working in audio to do this correctly because you need to be able to see the waveforms. Also enable Clip Fades by right clicking on the samples, as you’ll need them to avoid clicking when slicing mid-way through a waveform. This technique can be useful for making very clean sounding drums and can also avoid phase issues when layering kick drums. I use this technique on both kicks and snares.
Want to take your percussion sound design to next level?