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Producing a Convincing Drum Track

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There’s a lot that goes into producing a convincing drum track, especially when your drummer is a software sampler (such as Reason’s Redrum and NN-XT, Native Instrument’s Battery, or MOTU’s MachFive). Indeed, the shear number of techniques employed to create a great drum track would keep me writing blogs for months to come. But, rather than go on and on about how to produce realistic sounding drums, let’s cut to the chase and look at how it’s done in a Reason song file.

Using an early version of Reason (Reason 4 to be exact, so all later versions can open this song file), I’ve cooked up a beat that demonstrates how to produce and mix realistic sounding drums. I’m using only samples found in Reason’s Factory Sound Bank and Redrum as the sample playback device. You can do much more with the NN-XT in terms of the shear number of samples and velocity zoning. However, since most beginners reach for Redrum first, I decided to hold off on the NN-XT. The mix is not mastered (there’s no Mastering Combinator or Maximizer in the rack) so that you can see and hear how your drum levels should be hitting before mastering. (Mastering should be used to make a great mix sound awesome. Unfortunately, mastering is too often used to make a poor mix sound passable. But, that’s a subject for another blog.)

If you have Reason, you can open up this song file and explore the connections and settings. Of course, your drum tones and compression levels will vary with each individual mix, in relation to the other instruments in your song. For example, you might want your snare to have less compression on the initial attack of its waveform, for greater snap, or your kick to exhibit more mid frequency pop around 8 kHz. Fine adjustments such as these are easily accomplished when your devices are properly set up and routed, as they are in this song file. Alternately, if your drums aren’t properly routed, fine tuning your drum mix can be an exercise in frustration. Many of the techniques employed in this drum mix are the sorts of things that I teach in my Berklee Online courses, Producing Music with Reason and Programming and Producing Drum Beats.

Here’s a list of the production techniques used to produce this drum track:

· Compression and parametric EQ inserts
· Parallel compression
· Group effects
· Individual outputs
· Gesture sampling
· Proper levels and gain structure
· MIDI performance sample (a drum sequence created by a real drummer)

Turn your speakers up and have fun exploring this song file!

Redrum Drum Mix Demo

About
Erik “Hawk” Hawkins is an EDM artist, producer, composer, remixer, label owner, and author. His music has been used by major television networks and film studios, including ABC, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and New Line Cinema. His writing has appeared in top industry publications, including Electronic Musician, Mix, Remix, and Keyboard. He has authored several books, including tje Complete Guide to Remixing and Producing Drum Beats. His Berklee Online course, Programming and Producing Drum Beats, won an UPCEA Award in 2012. He also manages his own busy YouTube channels and has collected way too many vintage synths.
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