Making your own drum samples is a great way to get a punchy, natural sound in the mix. By adding in samples of the same kit you’re recording, it allows you to lower the close mics and the cymbal bleed that is captured by them, leading to a cleaner drum sound. Not all bleed is bad, but typically I don’t like a lot of over-compressed hi-hat in my snare track and gates can be tough to dial in.
RECORDING THE SAMPLE
The most important part of this process is to get a GREAT sounding drum and signal chain. Get the drummer to play multiple velocities, multiple times. For example: play 10 hard rim shots on the snare, 10 hard hits, 10 medium hits, and 10 soft hits. You won’t use them all, but it gives the drummer a few hits to find the right velocity. I usually find the best 4 samples of each velocity for each drum and make a custom sample pack totally unique for the project. You can find tutorials online on how to make your custom samples compatible with popular drum replacement tools such as Slate Trigger or Drumagog.
SEPARATE CLOSE MICS FROM OH/ROOM
Due to the speed of sound, when you’re recording a drum hit the close mics hear the sound first while the overheads and room mics (being further away) hear it milliseconds after. To mimic this, one thing I do is put the ambient samples on a separate track and add some pre-delay to them. I zoom into to the waveforms of the drums and look at the difference in time between when the close mic and the room mic. I found out what that difference is in samples and add the same amount of delay to my ambient samples. You can use this technique on any session to make sure the ambience of the sample is being triggered at the same time as ambience of the real performance.
Don't forget effects cymbals, such as a splash or a ride bell. Getting a sample of a drummer’s effect cymbals can be useful by eliminating the need to mic that particular cymbal. If the drummer hits a splash cymbal 4 times in a song, it can sometimes be easier to trigger a clean sample of that splash then to have to throw a mic on it and introduce possible phase issues into the mix. Just use your ears to pan it accurately in the stereo image of the kit. While this certainly doesn’t work for every performance, I find it works great for seldomly hit splashes, chinas, and ride bells.
Don’t rely on automation, use your ears first and your eyes second. Programs like Trigger and Drumagog are amazing, but don’t expect them to be 100% accurate. Use you ears and listen for “flams” between the sample and the live track. If you hear something off, chances are there is a mis-trigger or phase issue. Zoom in close to double check!
Hope that helps! Thanks guys,
Check out James' band Forester to hear his drums sounds!