How to Make Drums In Your DAW Sound Real

Drums

Thanks to technology, computers are getting better and better in today’s world. New music software and recording equipment also allow you to get a similar sound to an orchestra. Any instrument your mind can think of is available. You can even create your own sound only from your DAW.

As a music producer, you need to learn how to make a specific sound in the way you want it to sound.

One of the most essential parts of music production is how the drums sound. In this article I’ll tell you how to make your drums sound more realistic.

Recording live drums could be one option, but it is probably not accessible to most of you as you need the drums, an excellent acoustic room, a good microphone to record, plus you would need a good drummer. 

But this article will focus on the drums, which you can already program inside the DAW.

Learn How To Play Drums

The first thing I would suggest for you to program more realistic drums on the DAW is actually to learn how to play drums in real life. You need to think like a drummer and understand the limits of the human body while drumming (unfortunately, we only have two hands).

In order to learn, you can take some classes with a drum teacher or even a friend who knows how to teach drums. 

Watch videos on YouTube, buy and read books about drumming, practice, and spend time learning different songs.

If you can’t make too much noise, an electronic drum set is ideal for practicing.

As a drummer, you have more sense of the direction you need to take for a more realistic drum sound. 

Also, you can use your drum set or even just a surface to emulate playing to get an idea of what feels natural so you can add it up to your writing.

Use Velocity

The velocity is how hard a specific note hits. 

Some people get confused with velocity and volume, so to make it clear, the volume is how loud the entire instrument is.

Even a little velocity change of each hit can make the sound a lot less robotic. 

A real drummer won’t be able to hit with the very same velocity every time. 

Plus, a real drummer would want to change the velocity to add emotions and energy, make the drums come alive, and make the drums sound more pleasant to the listener.

Here is a little example of a high hat pattern in which I changed the velocity of some notes.

Another good way to make a drum pattern with a velocity change is to use the electronic drum set you used to practice or just a midi keyboard.

Use Panning

Panning is where the sound is coming from in the stereo image.

So, for example, if the sound would come louder from the left or louder from the right. 

An actual drum set makes a stereo sound, so you should accordingly pan the drums you program in the DAW. 

Understand Your Genre

Every genre has its drum style and even drum set. 

Rock drums don’t sound like jazz drums. Learn how your genre drums should sound. You can improve the basic idea of how they should sound by putting specific notice to the drums in a song within the particular genre you want to focus on

Use Reverb

There are different types of reverbs, but the kind you should pick is to add a space. 

Usually, it is called room reverb or hall reverb, which they try to emulate in a specific space. And by adding one of those, you can make the drums sound like they’ve been recorded in a particular room or area.

Just remember to apply the same reverb on all the drums you programmed so they would sound reliable and glued together.

I do it by making a reverb channel and routing all the drums to it. 

Later I choose how much I want on each part.

Use High-Quality Drums Plugins Or Sample Packs.

The stock plugins and samples In your DAW sometimes can be acceptable, but most of the time can sound corny. You can buy a sample pack or a specific plugin made for your genre, and there are sales now and then, so you can get them really cheap. Some are even free but don’t compromise on quality. 

And sure, you can also record a drum kit yourself, but you need to learn how to record correctly, and you need a good microphone.

Don’t Quantize The Notes.

If you decide to record the patterns with a midi keyboard, pad, or electronic drum set, don’t fall for the temptation to quantize all the notes you have recorded. Those slightly off-beat notes are vital for realistic sound, plus they are fantastic for life and groove. 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it 100% but keep it in good taste.

If you choose to write down the beat manually, you should move notes slightly off the grid.

Make Some Changes

Don’t use the same pattern all over the track. Make changes to the drums on some parts of the song structure. 

Making changes will help your track gain more life and be less boring.

Add A Drum Loop To The Arrangement

You can add real drum loops over the drums you programmed to make them fuller and more realistic. They can be found on some sample packs or sample sites.

Record cheap percussion

You can use cheap percussion or even improvise them. For example, a cheap tambourine or making a shaker from a plastic bottle and rocks can improve the overall sound. 

Conclusion 

Making realistic drums sound can add life and emotions to your music.

You can use those simple tactics above to get the authentic drum sound that you desire.

As I wrote above, practicing real drums can improve your drums’ senses. In addition, you should practice and try the other tips to reach a better and more realistic drum sound.

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