Hi there, I am back from a 6 month hiatus! Sorry guys (and girls ), but I am too short on time, and so I only write articles when I can steal a few minutes.
In this post, I want to talk about an interesting way to find drums for your songs: sampling them from other songs.
I traditionally used sample libraries and virtual instruments like Battery 3 to make my grooves. Of course, I always added some effects to give them my own style, but you can only add so many effects before the sound begins to get away from what you originally wanted.
I was listening to a few tracks the other day and I was thinking of how good the drums sounded. I tried to recreate them, but I couldn’t get the exact sound. So, instead of trying to imitate them, why not use them directly?
Battery 3 screenshot
Some people will say that this is immoral and that it violates copyright. However, remember that we live in the digital age and all these notions are pretty vague. The entire drum and bass scene was based on the amen break. The nu-jazz and acid jazz genres, use samples from old jazz recordings all the time. It has become pretty much a standard in many genres to sample someone other’s song. Of course, this doesn’t mean you will rip-off the entire track. We are talking about sampling a tiny part of the whole song here. So small, that no-one would really notice.
So, all this is pretty simple. First, you must be really accustomed to using the scissors tool of your DAW of choice. You must also be good in reading waveforms. A good help in reading waveforms are transients. These are non-harmonic elements of sound that are characterized by an instant increase in amplitude (this is not a scientific definition, but it’s pretty much the overall picture). Transients help you seperate the different elements of a groove. In fact, many algorithms, like Cubase’s, are based on transients in order to split a drum loop.
The sudden peak here is what we call a "transient"
Once you take the piece of sound you want, don’t forget that it is likely to need some more processing. Everything in a song needs processing during the mixing phase, however, your sample, taken that it is from an album recording, is already mixed and mastered. This will give it a different sound from than if it wasn’t processed at all and maybe you’ll have to keep that in mind when you reprocess it. However, all the reprocessing is actually good, because it will change again the sound of the original sample opening up new possibilites.
You might have heard of Burial, a very popular dubstep artist. I was reading a discussion some time ago, where they talked about Burial’s drums, saying that it was all the resampling and processing that gives his drums their distinct sound. And anyone who is a fan of Burial will recognize that the drums he uses are really unique. His samples, however, are not that many. I believe that he must use only a few sounds for his loops. Their timbre however, is so special, that they help consolidate his unique style. This is the power of a great sound design!
Burial’s Untrue is a really great album. Listen to it when you get the chance!