Getting realistic fills
What’s the best method for adding natural-sounding fills to my drum tracks?
Drummers play fills naturally, but programming them in DAWs can require careful planning. There are a few useful methods for adding human-sounding fills to more static loops. The first is by finger drumming and converting the audio to MIDI – most DAWs have this function, along with the inevitably necessary quantisation. Alternatively, make some loops, have fun playing in fills using software or hardware drum machines over the top in MIDI or audio, then cut out the best bits and sprinkle them through your track. Here are some ideas…
After you’ve made your main loop using a software drum machine, duplicate that track and kit, then simply hit record and play in fills in real time at key points in your track using the same sounds triggered via a MIDI keyboard. Quantise if necessary after recording.
If you have a box such as Elektron’s Digitakt, you can use the fill mode and the Conditional Trigs function – simply let the sequencer automate where the fills occur in the track for variation. Some drum machines have fill or variation buttons that can help.
If using a box such as an MPC for drums, you can make your main drum loop sequence, then duplicate it, shorten or lengthen it, then add or subtract different sounds from it. Then, you’ll got several fills to drop in at various points using Song mode..
If you aren’t in the mood for finger or pad drumming, record your main loop to audio in stereo and then simply chop out sections and process using distortion, filters, EQ and FX. Alternatively, use your DAW’s track automation to drop effects and EQ changes in and out.