Great Drum Tracks with MIDI Drum Loops
One of the most challenging aspects of home studio recording is to get a natural and great sounding drum track. Now, if you have access to an actual drummer, you’re half-way there (the natural part is there, but getting great sounds is for another article or book). But, the challenges of making loops, both audio and MIDI, to sound right for your music are clearly apparent. A robotic and stiff sounding drum track will not only throw off your track but really will suck any inspiration right out of the project.
Since drums are the foundation of virtually all modern music (regardless of style – rock, pop, dance, metal, blues, country, fusion and so on), the first thing you need to get right is great-sounding and, more important, natural drum tracks. Our mission at SlamTracks is to bring natural MIDI drum loops that will have even the most critical ears left wondering: Those are MIDI drums?
How Slam Tracks MIDI Drums Can Help
The Spice of Life: Variety!
One problem with most midi drum loop collections (or even programming them yourself) is the lack of variety. The thing about drummers is that they have a peculiar way of thinking. Drummers don’t just play the same pattern over and over again. You’d sometimes like them to, but drummers are looking to express themselves too after all. It may be a little hihat accent here or there, some subtle ghosting to spice up a straight-ahead beat, or even the overall differences in attack on various parts of a drum track. In short, they like to mix it up throughout a song. And, this doesn’t even touch fills where most drummers with any creativity will surely mix it up as songs progress and sections transition. To get that real world variety that is essential to an authentic drum track, all SlamTrack MIDI drum loop collections have the variety your drum track needs to makes it sound real.
Hundreds of distinct, live-played loops were captured, from basic ideas to more extreme ones. Often different groove or fill ideas are presented in multiple variations so you have many choices when it comes to adding the variety an interesting drum track needs. You’ll always find more than one version of each groove pattern and fills will always have multiple variations on a rhymtic theme.
And, this is just the drum collections out of the box. You can always create combinations of the loops, with literally endless possibilities (well, mathematically, there is likely a limit to the permutations of a given rhymtic figure, but you’re not likely to ever get to that point!).
The Beauty of Being Random
Often, what makes a drum track sound natural is the very slight variation of an existing groove or fill pattern. It doesn’t take much to create a fresh and new drum pattern from an existing one. It can be as simple as changing voices, for example. Take a fill pattern and move all the kick hits to become snare or tom hits. Or, take a snare pattern and move a few of the hits to the toms. Simple voice substitution is easy and can really make one loop become three, five, or more. Of course, some may not work and you may never need to do this. But, it’s always an option. Just think like the drummer, stay true to the original intent of the figure, and you likely won’t go wrong.
Controlled Randomness: Live Feel that Defies Sequencing
The subtle differences in timing for every drum hit is how we know we are listening to a live drummer. Every great drummer has a special and sought-after perception of time that is what ultimately pleases our ears and gets feet tapping. While these subtle timing differences are clear on a track grid in ProTools or Logic, we can’t usually perceive them with our ears with any definite accuracy. Even the most refined ears would be hard-pressed to know with certainty that there is a 5 ms or smaller timing variation between the notes in a groove. But, it is precisely these small variations, either ahead or behind the beat, that we feel. And, when they are consistent and relevant to the musical context, do they ever feel good!
The variation you hear in SlamTrack grooves are what they are: human. And, because they are human, we are able to connect in such a different and more meaningful way as listeners. Now, couldn’t you just use the MIDI randomize function in your DAW? Wouldn’t that add variety and randomness to make a track to come to life? Of course you could and it would certainly sound better than a flat-out quantized groove. But, the problem is (and those of you who have tried this can surely attest) the humanize/randomize function is an approximation of a human feel. But, it often misses the essence of the controlled and directed randomness that make great grooves great. Think John Bonham of Led Zep fame had metronomic precision? Think if you lined up his grooves in a modern DAW grid that would line up perfectly? No. Of course not. But, would they line up in a pleasingly random way that supported the conext of the song? Well, you already know that answer.
True human feel and vibe can only come from one source: us.
Why Dynamics Matter
We know real drummers play off of the metronome, but they also “play the drum.” And, by that, we’re not just referring to striking the drum. It’s goes beyond that. “Playing the drum” means they control the velocity of strikes and velocity to bring out the sound that fits best with the music. Even with today’s amazing drum virtual instruments, there are still sweet spots that defy the velocity value notated. While all the velocities in the VI are needed for the most natural grooves, certain ones will work best at certain times and in certain musical passages. Though subtle, these differences in dynamics will be felt and perceived.
If you sequence your own beats, you can always try changing the velocity of various hits to bring about a live feel. But, think about how many velocities you will have to hand edit even in a relatively simple one-bar fill. Try editing life into your MIDI drum grooves this way and you see how much of your inspiration survives! It is a sure way to lose sight of what you were after in the first place.
(almost) Real Drums
When it comes down to it, MIDI drums will never be as good as the real thing. No matter what. Not today and not tomorrow. But, what we hope we can do for you is make the “almost real” of your MIDI drum tracks as “humanly real” as possible. Our feel, our sensibilities, our rhythmic knowledge – that is what we bring to you in our drum loop collections. We hear the difference and we trust you will too.
And, while we know many of you will spend hours upon hours trying to make a sequenced MIDI pattern sound as real as possible, we want to save you those hours and get you back to what you wanted to do in the first place: write and play music.
That’s where SlamTracks.com and our MIDI drum loops comes in… to help you get the great drum tracks that you deserve and need.