Create Exciting Drum Tracks In Minutes...

I’m a fan of live drums, and there’s nothing better than locking into a solid groove, played by a fantastic drummer.  However, most of us don’t have the luxury of daily access to a phenomenal drummer.

For many artists, composers and producers, it’s often difficult to record live drums because, unlike most other instruments, they require a large investment: multiple preamps, compressors, EQ’s, microphones, cables, stands, and a good sounding room.

LAYING THE FOUNDATION

This presents a problem... because drums are the foundation upon which everything else in the recording is built.  If the drums are loose, or slightly out of time with the other instruments, the track won’t feel right.  If the drums are poorly recorded, the rhythm won’t make an impact. 

When you build a house, you don’t start with the wrap-around porch.  You start with the foundation, and the foundation of a 1 story house is going to be much different than the foundation of a 10 story high-rise.  Regardless, once the foundation has cured, and everything is level, then you frame the structure... and that’s why drum plug-ins are so important.

THE “GLORIFIED CLICK”

Because I’m often asked what I use to create my drum tracks, today I want to walk you through my process.  Not only does this process allow me to lay down tracks very quickly, but these recordings generate consistent placements for me on various TV Shows.

Over the years I’ve worked with many producers who start their track by just programming a kick and snare.  This is nothing more than a better sounding click track.  However, the real ‘feel’ of the groove happens between the quarter notes.  You don’t swing quarter notes, you swing the 8th notes.  

Also, the intensity of the performance is often dictated by everything else the drummer is playing.  Is he grooving on the hi-hat, or bashing away on the ride?  Is it a straight groove, or does this section rely heavily on the toms?  These elements play a massive role in influencing the writing process, as well as the sounds, and tones, that the other instruments will use.

PLUG-IN THOSE DRUMS

Now, I own pretty much every popular drum plug-in available… Superior Drums, Addictive Drums, and Slate Drums.  And, while any of them would make an absolutely incredible addition to your studio, my ‘go-to’ plug-in is DrumCore by Sonoma Wireworks.

DrumCore has been the foundation that I’ve used to build my tracks for the last 7 or 8 years.  Is it the be-all-end-all of programmed drums?  No.  Is it the only one you’ll ever use?  No.  But for me, as a writer who is tasked with producing high-quality content, that’s going to end up on your TV in a matter of weeks, this is the one I always start with.  

Why?  Because instead of using midi to trigger drum samples, DrumCore features an extensive library of live drum loops.  And, like I mentioned earlier… I LOVE live drums.  

IN SESSION

So, let me take you through a standard writing/production session.

I’ll generally come up with some initial musical idea, and for this example, let’s say that the idea is based around a simple guitar riff.  I’ll tap out the tempo on my phone’s metronome, open a new ProTools Session using my tracking template (which has all my tracks, inputs, and routing already laid out), and then open the DrumCore plug-in.  

I’ll quickly preview various drum grooves until I find one that fits, or closely fits, what I’m looking for, and then drag that loop into my session.  One of the many great features of DrumCore is that it will automatically stretch or compress that audio to the tempo the session, with no digital ‘gunk.’  

Then I’ll play along, and work out B and C Section ideas.  If the groove I originally imported was a Verse groove, then I’ll see if the Chorus or Bridge grooves fit with my new sections.  If there’s something missing in the original audio, like a pushed kick, then I’ll grab the kick sample, and add it in manually.  

Each performance pack in DrumCore also includes a healthy does of drum fills.  I’ll find a few that work, and pull them into the session as well.  Then, by simply moving these audio files around, I can create an authentic, live drum track that is perfectly locked to the grid, all in less than 5 minutes.

SUPPORTING THE SCENE

From here, I’ll build upon that foundation.  Drums are ALWAYS the first instrument that’s completely laid out in my sessions, and I’ve found no other drum program allows me to create incredible sounding tracks, as quickly and as easily, as DrumCore.

In the sync world, the most important element is the rhythm.  Even after being mixed below the dialog and sound design in the scene, it’s the rhythm of the track that keeps the motion going.  And for my productions, I prefer the feel of a live drum track over a perfectly quantized, programmed one.

You may have your own process of building your tracks, and creating great drum grooves… and if it’s working for you, don’t change it.  However, if you’re searching for drum options, or quicker ways to build music beds, this may be one process that could help you immensely.

What do you use to build your tracks?  Share with us your experiences and advice in the Comments Section Below.

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