Drum samples can be a great way to save a bad recording or take a good recording to the next level. However, it can be a tricky subject for some, especially drummers want their drum sound to be purely their drum kit. The amount of drum samples I use really depends on how consistent the drummer is and also on the genre. A lo-fi indie sound isn’t going to benefit from prestien sounding drums, but some heavier genres with walls of distorted guitars need those consistent punchy samples in order to cut through the mix. Here’s a few methods that I have been using to incorporate drum samples into my mixes.
This first method is something that i’ve been using a lot more recently. The idea is to get drum samples during the same drum recording session. This way you know your sample is going to work and be in tune and in phase with the rest of your drums. I tend to record the samples about half way through the session, this way the drummer is warmed up and will be hitting the drums how they’d hit then during the take, sometimes if you record the samples at the start of the session, before the drummer is warmed up they could end up hitting the drums lighter, resulting in less tone resonating from the drum. I’ll get the drummer to do each drum at about 4 different velocities. During mixing i’ll pick the nicest sounding hit and blend it back into the drums. The point of blending in the same sample is so that it adds extra consistency to the take. It also helps for sections that are suffering from too much bleed, which can limit the amount of processing that you can use. You can process this sample heavier and not worry about killing the dynamics or increasing the bleed, and then just blend it in. To make sure that the sample it completely in phase it’s a good idea to zoom into the wave form and make sure that the sample is completely aligned with the snare take. It’s also worth listening all the way through, while the logic drum replacer is pretty accurate, there can still be a few errors. It only takes a few milliseconds of error to make your sample out of phase.
It’s easy to forget to take drum samples and sometimes when mixing a track that you have not recorded, they won’t come with any. In this case I tend to use third party samples such as Steven Slate Drums. Once you have loaded up the midi you can go through and audition different samples until you find one that works with the track. One thing to remember is to make sure to tune the samples to match the actual drums.