5 Tips On Creating Convincing Sequenced Drum Parts

By James D Deacon

Many people would rightly claim that the excellent advantage associated with sequenced, electronic drums is which they don’t pressure you to utilize ‘realistic’ drum patterns or sounds. Much dance music, for instance, is built around incredibly quick, precise patterns and sounds which bear only the loosest connection to anything you can actually create by striking a stretched skin with a wooden stick. The ability to create rhythms through programming, layer by layer and step by step, certainly offers great scope for the imagination and flexibility from the technical and sonic restrictions imposed by having to play and record actual drumming.

Nevertheless, it’s typically the case that the sound and feel of a real drum part is required, and circumstances – time, space, lack of facilities or lack of a drummer – force people who don’t play the drums themselves to knock

something up on a sequencer. And though a sequenced part will never be a perfect imitation, there are a range of things you can do to make it sound more genuine.

1. Bear in mind the physical limitations to which real drummers are subject. Obviously, individual drummers have only two arms and two legs, and are therefore only ‘four-note polyphonic’ in synth-speak – but there are additionally other restrictions on what is physically possible. Many common rock and pop rhythms combine a steady eight- or 16-to-the-bar hi-hat or cymbal rhythm. Above a particular tempo, this will always involve using both hands, commonly playing alternate notes, so it’s essential to think about which hand is doing what; you can’t hit the hi-hat at the same time as the snare or crash cymbal, for instance, if you’re using both hands to keep up a steady rhythm on the hi-hat.

2. For the similar reason, there are particular sounds which can’t be combined realistically inside the same pattern. You can not switch instantaneously between brushes and sticks, for instance, or between using a normal hi-hat and one together with a tambourine clipped to the top. Sticks can be employed to produce rimshots, but brushes and beaters can’t, so it would certainly be unusual to mix rimshots and brushed snare. Nor is it popular to combine hi-hat and ride cymbal in the same pattern – they’re usually set up on opposite sides of a drum kit. You would not usually do loud crashes on the similar cymbal in quick succession, either; if you need successive crashes, use two different cymbal sounds.

3. Keep in mind that the force with which drums are struck may not be constant. To a certain degree, there will be random variance in the velocity of each and every hit, but there will also be more expected variations. In pop and rock drumming, for instance, the first beat of the bar is often emphasized, whilst reggae rhythms are characterized by a heavier third beat. There are also physical limitations on how hard you can hit a drum: beats played in quick succession will have a tendency to be quiet, because you can’t raise the sticks as high, or get so much travel with the bass drum pedal, between hits.

4. Furthermore, don’t overlook dynamics within the song. In dance music, the percussion are usually compressed to the level where they are totally even in volume during, and any dynamic modifications are effected by basically dropping out elements of the rhythm. Real drummers, however, make use of crescendos and other dynamic effects to include feel to a track;often, for instance, they will build up the volume heading into a refrain.

5. Utilize sounds which are suitable to the dynamic level of a particular drum sequence. Some percussion instruments, like crash cymbals, are nearly impossible to play quietly, while others, like rimshots, bongos and handclaps, are unavoidably relatively quiet. A sequenced full-on drum assault will therefore sound a little fake if it is centered around huge,reverberating rimshots or triangles.

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