Six drum de­sign tips

March to the beat of your own drum with these of­ten­over­looked tech­niques

Future Music - - FEATURE -

Noise grooves

As ex­pert syn­the­sists will know, noise is the per­fect raw ma­te­rial for drum de­sign. Lay down a solid stream of noise – be it from a synth, field record­ing or other source – un­der a kick drum, then use some kind of rhyth­mic plugin to chop and carve the noise into a groovy per­cus­sion layer. Add dis­tor­tion, spa­tial ef­fects, auto-pan and vir­tual am­bi­ence in or­der to give your new groove ex­tra depth and per­son­al­ity.

Bas­tar­dis­ing beat­boxes

Us­ing an 808 or 909 kick is a stan­dard move… but who wants to be stan­dard? In­stead, forge your own bass drum by lay­er­ing un­usual drum ma­chine sounds: for ex­am­ple, a pitched-down low tom for weight, a rimshot for tran­sient snap and an en­veloped open hi-hat for ‘smash’. Tune the hits to fit each other, meld those lay­ers to­gether with force­ful ana­logue over­drive, then com­press to taste.

Clap at­tack

Give stock drum-ma­chine snares some ‘live’ flavour by record­ing your­self clap­ping or fin­ger-snap­ping into a mi­cro­phone, then stack­ing sev­eral of these clicky lay­ers over the solid hit. Chop your record­ings into sep­a­rate chunks of au­dio, trans­pose each dif­fer­ently, pan them to dif­fer­ent stereo po­si­tions, but – most im­por­tantly – tweak their tim­ings off the grid, so that some fire ear­lier and oth­ers ar­rive later.

Look­ing shifty

The atonal na­ture of a fre­quency shifter makes it a per­fect pro­ces­sor for weird drum tun­ing tasks. Use one to add thick­ness to overly thin open hats and cym­bals: first, shift your sound’s fre­quency down a fair bit, then use the plugin’s wet/dry mix to cull back the shifted sig­nal un­til you’ve bal­anced the per­fect blend of thin bright­ness and den­sity. Plus, you can au­to­mate this mix amount in dif­fer­ent points in your ar­range­ment de­pend­ing upon the im­pact you want.

Dis­torted re­al­ity

When per­son­al­is­ing beats from drum ma­chines, your first pro­ces­sor should prob­a­bly be a sat­u­ra­tor or dis­tor­tion stage – and one of the juici­est ef­fects in un­der­ground dance mu­sic is the sound of a heavy bass drum dis­torted to­gether with an 808 hi-hat line or cym­bal. Take this ef­fect fur­ther with a par­al­lel ap­proach.

Na­ture’s per­cus­sion

Find your own ec­cen­tric per­cus­sion sounds by head­ing out­side with a field recorder and record­ing your­self hit­ting all man­ner of ob­jects – echoey tun­nel walls, knocky trees, thuddy bricks and clangy metal sur­faces will all pro­duce unique per­cus­sive tim­bres that you can load in your DAW, chop up and process into flavour­some hits that a dance­floor will love.

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