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Drum programing in the 2020s. What to use?


arthurhenry
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There's one called Superior Drummer a producer friend raves about, too.

Back when I was in a writing partnership with a publishing deal, to cut costs we set up a kit and recorded our own set of samples. I've had reduced usage out of them for a few years for various reasons, but I'm demoing an album at the moment, and still using those 15-something year old hits. They were fairly inexpertly done for our own use, but I like that they really sound like a mic'd kit, very natural.

My experience with modern software is that even if sample based, the drums can sound too good, which can actually highlight the drawbacks of programming a kit part. That said, my experience with it is pretty limited, and there may be many easy ways to take the sheen off the sound nowadays.

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2 hours ago, arthurhenry said:

...what do people use instead of drum machines now? (Or should I get it out of its box?) Thanks in advance.

What's your budget, and how much time are you willing to spend listening to the drums, in context..? The DR550 MkII is quite respectable, and may fit your needs. As far as software is concerned (Vst drums...), I have quite a selection, from free to quite expensive, and use them for different things. For my 'live' drumming and recording, I use Superior Drummer 3, on a dedicated laptop. BFD (Bloody Fine Drums...) is excellent, too, as are Melda's MDrummer.  For a little more 'quick'n'easy' I use EZ Drummer, at lower cost. For specific 'metal' drumming, Kvlt Drums are very good, at a bargain price. A free Vst..? MT Power Drum Kit is fine (and free..!). If you use Kontakt, there is DrumMic'a, from Sennheiser, which has a lot of flexibility. SMM offers the SM Drumkit; limited to a set of Ludwig shells, but good none the less.
An important distinction should be made between those that output stereo drums, and others that have an output for each element of the kit, including ambiance mics and bleed control. This enables individual treatment , for instance adding a 'slap-back' to the snare alone, or phasing effect on the cymbals. Too much choice..? Well, you did ask, and this is only the tip of the iceberg..!

 

 

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1 hour ago, BigRedX said:

According to the web site Reaper comes with sampler and drum synthesiser plug-in instruments, but I couldn't find any information on either of them in the PDF manual.

Both exist (ReaSamplomatic5000 and ReaSynDr...), but neither would be useful for drum tracks, really, especially for a beginner in this field. They surely have their uses, but the DR550 would be far more useful..!

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I use Superior Drummer 3. It's fantastic. It is quite involved if you choose to make it so. For basic stuff EZ is fine.

I don't agree that stuff sounds "too good" though. You can go all lo fi very easily if you want.

I'm of the opinion that there are 2 things which sonically have to sound great and that's the vocals and drums. Subtle changes in bass or guitar timbre are lost on the casual listener. I say that as a bass player who like all of us, searches for tone in all it's forms.

Choose whatever sounds the best to your own ears. Just remember, it's much easier to make something great sound worse/less clear than it is to make something bad sound better.

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On 30/12/2020 at 16:02, Dad3353 said:

Both exist (ReaSamplomatic5000 and ReaSynDr...), but neither would be useful for drum tracks, really, especially for a beginner in this field. They surely have their uses, but the DR550 would be far more useful..!

I would have thought that the sampler plug-in would be ideal for drums. That's how I've always done mine since I dispensed with actual drum machines in the early 90s.

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17 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

I would have thought that the sampler plug-in would be ideal for drums. That's how I've always done mine since I dispensed with actual drum machines in the early 90s.

It does samples, but only one at a time, so setting up a whole dynamic range for a snare, for instance, would be a chore. Rinse and repeat for the whole kit and it becomes less attractive. I used to use an Atari 1040 for sampling, back in the day, and the 'technology' then was excellent, and considered to be 'cutting edge', but it doesn't cut the mustard when compared to stuff like KVLT drums, or EZ-Drummer. Doing a drum set, to any reasonable standard, would take far longer with the Cockos sampler; pure folly, and simply bloody-minded, these days. It has its uses, and is very good, but not for programming drums. (OK, maybe a 'one-shot' EDM 'One-One-One' 'bass drum, but I don't call that 'programming a drum kit'. -_-...). SM Drums, for instance use sixty samples per snare, and thirty-two for a bass drum. One kit is over four hundred samples. It all mounts up very quickly; I've sampled my own Camco kit, but use Superior Drums for handling its integration in my compositions or playing the electronic kit.

Edited by Dad3353
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As I said in my OP in this thread, I don't know about Reaper, and the downloadable manual didn't appear to have anything on their sampler plug-in. However as a Logic user I am familiar with EXS24 the sampler plug-in that comes with it, and not only does it come ready with a good number of kits all set up with GSM mapped sounds with velocity splits, but the vast majority the commercial drum sound libraries (certainly all the ones I have used) provide their samples in EXS24 instruments, and also for all the other major sampler plus-ins. I would hope that would include the Reaper sampler. 

Also, in the days when computers still had 3.5" disc drives EXS24 had the very useful ability to directly read Akai sample discs and translate the samples and instrument settings into EXS24 format, for even more options for drum kits.

Besides IME, while they are pretty good, no commercial drum sample set is perfect for my needs and I always end up changing several sounds in a kit for ones I like better from elsewhere (either other ready-made kits or samples of my own).

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36 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

... I don't know about Reaper,...

Here's a screenshot of the Cockos Sampler. I've loaded a single bass drum WAV (from an Alesis kit...), which I can play with a MIDI signal. I'd have to repeat this n number of times for each velocity required, and for each kit piece, for each drum kit, and match each one to its MIDI command. It can be done, probably, and, in years gone by, that's how it was done, but no longer, unless one is very, very nostalgic...

4FxApQZ.jpg

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OK, that makes sense. AFAIKS all the parameters are there make up a multi-sample drum kit, but the user interface isn't as user-friendly as EXS24 and if there are no kits already set up for you one you get Reaper, I can see that being a pain. Most of the kits I use were done on the Akai and then transferred to EXS24 so I did all the hard work in the days when there was no alternative. I suppose that's one of the differences between having a £60 DAW (Reaper) and a £200 one (Logic).

As someone who has never used any of the drum programming plug-ins you mentioned, how easy is it to customise the kits supplied? For instance if I liked the sounds of most of the drums from one kit but wanted to replace one or two drums (complete with velocity splits) from another kit or completely replace a drum with a multi-sample I have made myself? Also how easy is it to use key mapping that is different to the standard MIDI one? Most of my kits were created in the days before the standard MIDI drum mapping became commonplace and therefore I am used to my drum sounds being on completely different keys to what had become the "norm".

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2 hours ago, BigRedX said:

... how easy is it to customise the kits supplied?...

All of the functionality you mention and more besides, are what make the ToonTrack stuff so User-friendly. EZ-Drummer, Superior Drummer 2, and 3 even more so, make this type of customisation a doddle (that's exactly what I use when making up a personised kit...). There are a few others that allow mods and sample-loading (M-Drummer, BFD..?), but, in general, the less one pays, the less one is able to do this easily, if at all. I find it difficult to not recommend Superior Drummer 3 for those serious about virtual drums, either through a DAW or an electro-pad kit. At just under £300, it's reasonable; its little brother , EZ-Drummer 2, is good value at just over £100. There are far more expensive kits, too, but my budget (and my proficiency :$ ...) don't stretch that far. 

Edited by Dad3353
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  • 2 weeks later...

kit.jpeg.105fd2673a8324aa637fda398d90006c.jpegYou could try one of these 🙂

 

Joking aside, in case you decide to get it out the bag, a great upgrade to your 550 is the DR880 which is a fantastic DM,  if mine broke today i would have another by tomorrow, all my tracks use this, i love it. sorry cant help with software though.

Edited by funkgod
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