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10 Tips for More Unique Drum Programming

Bored of your same-old go-to drum sounds? Well, today’s blog post is for you! In modern music, drums are usually the foundation of a track and are commonly one of the loudest elements in a mix. Great-sounding drums can elevate your song into whole new realms, and nailing a groove can get an entire room head-nodding. Today, we’re going through how you can re-inspire yourself when approaching drum arrangements and give you a few tricks you may not have considered trying before.

1) Use a transient shaper/designer

Using a transient designer plugin allows you to easily manipulate your drum hits, whether it’s an electronic or acoustic sound; a transient designer can help soften the attack of a hit or make it snappier and punchier if you need it to cut through. With a very intuitive interface, the Smack Attack Transient Shaper by Waves is an excellent place to start.

2) Add different velocities to one-shot samples

Whether it’s using one of your DAW’s built-in features like Logic’s ‘Humanise’ setting under ‘Midi Transform’ or manually shifting the velocity of your midi notes, adjusting the velocity of your drum samples can create a more human feel and add dynamics to an otherwise stale groove.

Have you got a passion for producing and want to widen your knowledge? One of our courses here at Point Blank in LondonLA or online could be just the thing for you.

3) Set aside time for sound design sessions

As a producer, there’s always an ever-growing list of things you could work on… from chord sequences to fine-tuning your mixing skills; we know that lots is keeping you busy. Having said that, putting aside mini work sessions to make your own drum sounds or scouring drum packs on websites like Splice for unique samples can save you time when you’re in the zone working on a new track and give your song more impactful drums right out the gate.

4) Ditch the hi-hats for more interesting percussion

 If you ever feel like your drum programming lacks interest, consider using different percussive sounds instead of a regular hi-hat; anything from a shaker or tambourine to some hi-pitched toms could do the trick.

5) Try out a drum groove you’ve never used before

If you’ve written a song and are feeling uninspired when it comes to drums, exploring a new drum groove you’ve never used before might spark a new direction for your track… Anything from a shuffle to a bossa nova beat could be new territory worth exploring.

6) Incorporate foley samples

Whether it’s using your iPhone’s built-in microphone or a more hi-fi cardioid condenser microphone like the DR-40 X 4 Tascam, incorporating foley samples like the rattling of keys or the sound of a car blinker could help bring some new dimension to your rhythm section and add some nice ear candy.

7) Play with pre-made drum loops

While many producers skip over pre-made drum loops and opt for programming grooves themselves, playing around with loops by deleting elements like the kick and the snare and leaving only the percussion can give you a unique groove or texture and still leave you space to incorporate your own samples too.

8) Use a midi trigger or drum pad

Using drum triggers like the Roland SPD-SX and using it to play your favourite drum samples can help bring some human dynamics to your drum parts. This video of Blink 182’s drummer Travis Barker may inspire a similar set-up for your studio.

9) Creatively utilise effects like distortion or delay

While using a simple room reverb on your drum bus, maybe something you gravitate to often, exploring effects like heavy distortion or delay on some of your drum samples may help you completely transform a sound and give you a unique drum tone.

10) Record a live drummer

When programmed drums just aren’t cutting it, bringing in a live drummer and directing them on the exact feel you’re looking for can be just the thing your track needs. Beyond that, chopping up your recordings from the live drummer and transforming that into your very own samples is another way to build out the perfect producer toolkit.

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