I could do an entire premium course on advanced drum sound design, but today I’m going to give you just a few tips.
Start with Great Drum Sounds!
You need to pick the best drum samples that you possibly can to give you a great starting point. You know how the saying goes, “Garbage in, Garbage out.” A bad sample can never sound good, any matter how much processing you do.
So if you are recording your drums, then I am assuming you are off to a great start. If you want to layer in some drum samples, you need to make sure you are picking up the best drum sounds possible.
For a quick reference on some great sounding samples, check out the Drum Samples Website – you can literally find any sound in any genre. I love that resource.
Tune, Tune, Tune
You should get into the habit of tuning your drum sounds. Every sample has a unique pitch to it, and it will sound that much better if you can get it in key with the song.
Tuning your samples is especially essential when you are layering them on top of your recorded drums. Nothing sounds worse than a recorded drum and a drum sample that aren’t in tune with each other or the song.
For whatever reason, if that doesn’t work out, then I’ll try moving up the scale until I find something that works. I would point out that while you’re was trying to tune the sample, it’s better to have the song playing instead of soloing it. I think it’s obvious, but I thought I should mention it anyway.
If I’m layering sample, I might make one sample one note of the scale and the other a different note of the scale. Think of this as a harmony of sorts.
Layering Samples For Specific Characteristics.
Did you know that you can layer samples simply for their characteristics? For example, you may like the snap of one sample and the weight of another sample. Why not put a couple of them together to create a super duper mega drum sample? – Muhuhahaha.
This technique is super useful for making some clean samples that cut through your mix, and it can also do an excellent job of avoiding phase issues. I use this specifically for kicks and snares.
Tips for layering Snares.
I’m into working on a lot of rock and hip-hop music, so I tend to like my snares to be super heavy. I honestly will go 3-4 layers deep with my snare drums.
So once I get the snare drum recording to the point where I love how it sounds. You know, you’ve played with the mic placement and got it to the point where it sounds pro, but it just needs a little something extra.
At that point, I’ll go through my drum sample library and choose a snare that I like that has “weight” to it. This is the sample that, when combing with the recording, will make up the body of the sound.
From there I’ll move onto to finding a sample that has some attack or punch. I’ll even go as far as cutting off the body of the sound and just keep the attack (which is what I’m looking for).
Another trick that most people don’t know of is that you can layer in some white noise on top of your snare to give it some more brightness. Try it out; I think you are going to love it.
The last stage to getting the “ultimate” snare drum is that you can layer in a kick drum underneath to give it some extra weight. You can try to tune it up a bit and layer it in ever so slightly. If it does not fit with the vibe of your song, try using a tom sample as this can often be the right timbre for specific genres of music.
Go Forth and Layer!
Check out this video on Layering Drum Samples in Ableton. I thought it could help.