How can I make the drum tracks sound real?

I EQ em, compress them, give em room; but they still sound drum-machine like; I ask because I've heard music made with them sounding quite real and nice

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marceloll4gtr 2 years ago | 0 comments

15 answers

  • Mark One
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    65 answers
    139 votes received
    10 votes

    You can use the MIDI effect 'Velocity' to give the pattern some gentle variation without having to edit each individual note (try the random parameter on low settings).

    I also try to play all my drum tracks using keyboard or drum pad so that there's already a lot of loose notes, then I use the quantise settings (Cmd+shift+U), select an appropriate grid but only use say 10% quantise, then I can select the notes I want to tighten up and keep pressing (Cmd+U) until the notes are tight enough.

    Sounds long-winded but is actually very quick once you get the hang of it.

    Also when compressing the track set the compressor to an effect chain (Cmd+G) then set up an empty chain so that the compressor runs in parallel with an uncompressed signal. Use moderate to severe settings and adjust the relative volume of the compressor chain so that it slightly boosts the raw signal. This 'parallel' or 'upward' compression retains the dynamics of the track better while boosting and balancing the overall sound.

    M-A-R-K

    Ableton user for 7 years... and counting : )

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    7 votes

    First of all it depends on what samples/drum VST you use. If you use samples that don't sound real, you can compress and EQ all you want but they still won't sound real :) I like Battery 3, it has a bunch of nice sounding acoustic kits. I'm sure there's better ones out there though.

    Also, try dragging the drums slightly off the beat markers so the drum hits are not drum-machine-tight using alt+click (btw I think it's ctrl-click on mac, not sure though) so they don't snap to the beat markers, or press ctrl/command+4 to turn off the grid in the midi editor so you don't have to keep pushing alt all the time (I actually spend hours of my life making drum patterns slightly off-beat :D), and slightly change the velocity of almost every drum hit (in some VSTs this will trigger different samples so you don't get the machine-gun effect :)).

    I think these are the most important factors to make drums sound real, EQing and compressing will not necesseraly make them sound more real. Room (reverb) is important too though, makes them sound like they're recorded in an actual room. Doesn't have to be a lot of reverb though. Hope this helps!

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • bobbilly
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    3 votes

    For real drums you might wanna check Addictive Drums from XLN audio or EZdrummer  from Toontrack. These plugins work really well with Ableton and besides that they offer various very good recorded drum kits (vintage, modern etc) with some of the best mics in good studios they also offer midi patterns played by real drummers. You can edit/arrange the midi files by just drag them in your Ableton project. You might as well route the midi to some of the drum rack presets which come with Ableton and you will see that it will make a lot of difference if the midi is played by a human (with pads or electric drumkit). Taking a detailed look at some of those midi patterns, though tight sounding, you will see that the notes are not 100% perfectly aligned on the grid in the score as well the velocity has little variance over repeating notes (the more tighter, the more closer in velocity and timing).

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • gdomusic
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    28 answers
    53 votes received
    3 votes

    Everybody has already posted some really great ideas on humanizing your beats. Acoustic instruments change in tone, volume and rhythm. By manipulating these, you will get more realistic sounding parts. 

    Raising the velocity parameter for the sample's volume usually isn't enough to make the sample realistically interact with the music. It needs to change more dynamically. One way to do this is to manipulate the timbre of the sample. Try setting a low pass filter and raise the velocity sensitivity so that the filter opens up the harder you play the sample. This is very useful for making a harder hit have more treble and a softer hit being less bright (like a real instrument). You can also layer your samples by velocity. This is how the drum racks are built in the Session drums, but you can do this on your own with a little thought and careful sample selection.

    Get off the grid. Real drummers aren't quantized. This is especially important on your hat and snare parts.Try quantizing to  a percentage. I use 60% as  a general setting when quantizing my tracks.

    Grab some drum loops that you like the feel of or a section of a song you like the groove of and use Live's built in tools to analyze the parts and see where the hits are falling on the grid. You can do this by selecting the clip and slicing to midi (probably slice to transient would be best in this instance). Say you want to know the kick, snare and hat parts: slice the part to midi, copy to to two more tracks (3 total) and then go through and find the parts. Use the first track for the kicks. Minimize the note on the piano roll to an 8th or 16th and delete all the notes on the piano roll that are not kicks. The samples will be in ascending order, even if they are the same note or part. Just take all the kicks and place them on one note. You will a detailed view of where exactly the drummer was placing his kicks. Repeat the process on the other parts you are interested in.

    Another way to do this is to simply highlight the clip and right click to extract groove. In your groove pool for the session will now be a midi clip with rhythmic and velocity information for the part. It's worth taking a look at. 

     

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Manstud
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    2 votes

    You could also give life to your drumtrack using a Groove with some very light Random parameter, and avoid the "loop sensation" of short patterns.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • estevan carlos benson
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    5 votes received
    2 votes

    There are going to be many ways to approach this.  First of all, the samples should be of a quality that you believe is close enough to sounding "real" as you prefer.  Some qualities to look for a good drum patch are multiple samples for each drum hit.  Effective drum patches should include sample of the drums at different velocity levels.  Next, pay attention to the velocity information of your MIDI data.  A human player is going to have nuance in their performance.  You should program that in there.  Additionally, I consider your style.  "Realistic" doesn't necessarily mean too much.  Different styles of mixing drums could get you very different results depending on what you want.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • marceloll4gtr
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    3 answers
    4 votes received
    2 votes

    I'm very aware of the toontracks series, but I intend to use the Live's drum kits that are also multisampled; I intend to do everything with Live (intro) because I heard stuff made with it that sounded great; wheres the fun of buying more software or plugins when Live has everything you need...?

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • marceloll4gtr
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    3 answers
    4 votes received
    1 vote

    I think you got it. Among the things I ve been thinkin, there were those you mention, I also thought slightly change the pitch as a way to humanize the drum sound; I'm using the Live's drum kits like the sessions drums included in Live intro's library; thanks a lot.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • alexjholland
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    1 vote

    Sure, I'll tell you what I do. I mix drum samples with my own single-slice programmed beats on top.

    - Dropping a drum sample in alone is rubbish, unoriginal and very inflexible.

    - But purely single-slice beats tend to sound mechanical and fake.

    So I have a big collection of drum beats that I filter, usually removing the bassdrum, to get a nice natural rolling snare and a few ride bells, then program my drum, bass and percussion over the top - mixing them separately.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • pal.soreng@gmail.com
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    1 vote

    I think the dynamics thing is important. When you have the main beat going, try to add some kicks and snares with very small velocity values. This can sound nice with good multi-sampled kits. I believe real drummers call it "ghost notes".

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • igarrett502
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    2 votes received
    1 vote

    Ocean Way Drums are fantastic, but also the most expensive.  I like some of the kits in SampleTank also.  Personally Marcel, Ableton has some great sounding electronic drum sounds and clips, but if you are going for real drum sounds, you're probably not gonna find them in Ableton.  Live is a great sequencer, and has some cool effects, but you should definitely broaden your horizon and look at some VST's to add in to the mix. 

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • marceloll4gtr
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    4 votes received
    1 vote

    Hey thanks for the info; anyway the Ableton's kits sound good enough and you can make good stuff with them; yes VSTs like ezdrummer or ocean way are known to be good and probably the choice to consider. As for 'real' I mean to get drum tracks good enough that someone who's not into music won't realize it's not an actual recorded drum kit played by a drummer. Keep it going! love.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • spadeAspade
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    1 vote

    I like to record my drums into arrangement view with just a metronome count in and then adjust the rest of my song to my swung tempo

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • austin12
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    1 vote received
    1 vote

    Good info , say if i was into making some drum and bass music, what kind of drum sound/style should i go for, natural sounding drums? Any EQ tips for this genre? Thanks

    2 years ago | 1 comment
  • Hauke
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    4 answers
    4 votes received
    1 vote

    I will warm this up since I am struggling with the same problem. Here are good tips already. I also use the free M4L device Humanizer. It's just one knob where you can set the time how much the notes should be shifted randomized. 

    Also: EQ and compression are no techniques to make drums sound real.

    5 months ago | 0 comments

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