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Idiots guide to drum tracks in DAW

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by 63telemaster, Nov 30, 2020.

  1. 63telemaster

    63telemaster Tele-Meister

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    I'm the idiot!

    I used to be really good and very quick at sequencing drum tracks on my old Atari STE using Creator/Notator software. I loved the simplicity of the vertical list of patterns on the song arrangement page and the whole process was so intuitive and easy to navigate.

    [​IMG]

    I find that trying to create drum tracks/arrangements in my DAW (Reaper) is so clunky and time consuming that after spending an hour or so trying to create a track I throw my hands in the air and walk away. Very frustrating as this stops me getting to the fun part....bass, guitars, vocals.

    I have Addictive Drums 2 Software and have tried copying patterns to Reaper and then editing/arranging but it is this part that I'm finding so clunky. I've also tried creating my own patterns playing in the beats with my midi keyboard/pads (which would be my preferred way of working) but again find the whole process confusing.

    Can anyone here point me in the direction of some good instructional videos or tips that will give me a quick and simple workflow?
     
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  2. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    At the risk of beginning to sound like one of those Apple guys... I really think you're looking for Drummer and GarageBand if you want to get a great sounding drum track together and then get to the fun part faster.

    My original computer multitrack recordings were on LeafDrums and a DAW. I stopped when I lost interest in spending hours farting around in LeafDrums to make drum tracks sound like actual drummers. GB / Drummer got me back into recording.

    I don't know your specific budget situation but given that we seem to routinely spend $100s on guitars and amps, consider getting a refurb Mac Mini and making it a dedicated recording device/DAW.

    Don't even think of it as a computer. I honestly think Apple could strip everything off a Mac Mini but GB and drummer and sell it as a "hardware DAW with integrated drummer and instruments" for double what a Mac Mini costs and people would rave about what an insanely great value it was.
     
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  3. KATT

    KATT Tele-Meister

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    I've only used Pro Tools and Cubase for drum tracks, but would imagine many midi editors are the same.

    Are you able to share a screenshot of what you are using to create the drum tracks? In Cubase and Pro Tools, the midi editor has a matrix of notes against time and I simply write in where I want each drum to play. Then once a whole section is done, I will copy and paste it in blocks in the track view.
    I use EZDrummer for the drum sounds and sometimes use the built in patterns for speed to build up a rough demo. Those patterns can be dragged and dropped into the sequencer within EZDrummer or into the DAW.
     
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  4. SRHmusic

    SRHmusic Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I've had good luck with Reaper and the free MT PowerKit2 plug in. The free version has a lot of sample grooves in 4/4 and 6/8 with intros and fills, too. You pick what you want, and can drag to a little composition bar at the bottom of the window and then drag the whole group into a MIDI track in Reaper. Then using the Reaper MIDI editor is pretty straightforward if you want to tweak it, e.g. change the snare to a cross-stick, etc.

    https://www.powerdrumkit.com/download76187.php

    Also there are some plugins for Reaper that put the drum names on the MIDI editor "keyboard" to make it a little easier. I haven't tried that yet, but might.
     
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  5. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Doctor of Teleocity

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    I use the MT Powerkit plugin mentioned above with Reaper. Its good..same idea of 4 and 8 bar loops.

    Also you can download midifiles of tunes in a style you like... then cut and paste sections of the drum track midi data to make your own loops. You can use MT Powerkit as the ‘voice’

    Beyond that there are the EZ Drummer type plugins.
     
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  6. loopfinding

    loopfinding Tele-Afflicted

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    I just lay down electronic drums in a piano roll and then crunch them up. But electronic drums usually suit the music I write. sometimes I use samples of breaks, like hip hop style. I don’t think that DAW drums trying to be realistic will ever really work for me for real drums. So I make them deliberately not human with a drum machine (like, Timmy Thomas, or big black, shibuya kei or post punk). Alternately to what others posted here, maybe you can just lay some kick-hat-snare patterns down, do what you need to do, and then get someone you know or pay someone on fiver to do them over for real.
     
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  7. 63telemaster

    63telemaster Tele-Meister

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    Budget is non existent at the moment as I'm an out of work guitarist since March this year so I need to make do with what I already have. My drum sounds are not the problem, it's the process particularly regarding the editing/arranging that is holding me back.

    Cubase/EZDrummer is similar enough to Reaper/Addictive Drums 2 in that I can drag and drop patterns from drum software to DAW if need be. It's more the copy/paste/edit functions that I struggle with and the linear arrangement of bars. Also building up drum tracks from scratch by tapping in kick parts, snare parts etc and keeping them on separate tracks....this was so easy in the Atari. I know I can set up the drums to route each drum (mic) to its own track but the midi data all ends up in the same midi matrix which makes editing/looping parts a nightmare.

    Perhaps if I could find some simple editing, arranging software in which I can create my drum tracks and then import the midi into Reaper.
     
  8. loopfinding

    loopfinding Tele-Afflicted

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    doing midi drums on separate tracks (either seperate midi instrument channels routed down to one audio channel, or one midi file and the drum rack split into individual tracks on a bus) in ableton live is trivial. also, you can import drum breaks, get the quantization markers right, and then convert where the transients are to a midi file automatically (not extremely accurate and only converts to kick/snare/hat, but from that point you can mess with it and copypasta).
     
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  9. 63telemaster

    63telemaster Tele-Meister

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    Thanks everyone for your help, I'm getting somewhere now.

    Yes midifiles, I forgot about those. That is actually a great idea as the song structures are pretty much there. Just had a play and I can work with that :)

    Yep found out now how to explode the midi data into separate tracks in Reaper....mother and child tracks :cool: One thing I've not got my head around is how to run just one instance of Addictive Drums instead of having multiple instances for kick, snare, HH etc :confused:
     
  10. KATT

    KATT Tele-Meister

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    Why do you want each drum on a separate track? Does that not make it more difficult to edit and loop as you have to do so for every track? To me it would be more difficult doing it that way, just as having a different track for each piano key on a midi piano part would make looping, copying and pasting etc. extremely difficult. Perhaps I have misunderstood!
     
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  11. 63telemaster

    63telemaster Tele-Meister

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    A couple of reasons for this. First going back to the way I would work on Atari where I would create separate patterns for verse/chorus etc and then write kick/snare etc tracks within that pattern. I'd be able to loop a kick for the total pattern length and then add snare parts (for instance) without looping. Hope that explains. Another reason for having separate tracks is that I like to be able to add separate processing to each drum sound.

    I've had a play around today and found out how to import and edit GM midi files in Reaper to isolate the drum parts, export them to Addictive Drums 2 to use its "Transform" feature and then export them back to Reaper with each drum/mic outputting on its own track. I still need to find a nice simple way of writing my own drum parts but at least I'm getting somewhere.
     
  12. Sean65

    Sean65 Tele-Holic

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    It should be pretty painless.

    I produce on Live 10 and it takes a few minutes to program a bass drum, snare, hats etc, adjust velocity, add some groove. I do this for one bar then copy and paste it for the required loop length, e.g. 4 bars / 8 bars.
     
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  13. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    I use REAPER. Sometimes I use the canned stuff from MT Drummer or EZ Drummer, and sometimes I use a MIDI keyboard to lay down beats just by hitting the keys that correspond to the different drum sounds. I start with bass drum and snare and add as I go. I can open up multiple drum tracks if I want, or put them all on one. Sometimes I open up the piano roll and do minor tweaking to get things in better time, especially if I played the drums manually. You can drag a beat over a scoche to make it line up better with the grid, for example.

    Sometimes you can get a nice sample, too. Either finding canned free files from various sources, or I've also just recorded a measure or two from a song I like where it starts out with drums and nothing else. I grab a measure or two, recorded as audio, not MIDI, clip it so it fits the grid correctly, and then I can copy/paste it to get a song's worth of beats.

    I also find that building up the drums can be the most boring part. Working with the piano scroll to fine tune parts is very tedious to me. When I listen to really good music that I admire, and where I know it was mostly done by one person in their bedroom, such as EDM artists, it is often the drum tracks that really make the whole song shine. I hear how they must have worked hard on every measure to have all kinds of interesting changes and movement in the drum parts. I just don't have the patience for that. If I can come up with or cut/paste a good beat, a good intro fill, a good outro, and a few variation fills, I'm pretty happy to start cutting and pasting them as needed to build up a song. I figure if something I laid down were really going somewhere beyond demo quality or posting for fun on SoundCloud, I'd ultimately delete the working drum tracks I used and have a real drummer or electronic drums programmer lay down new, improved drum tracks for me.
     
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  14. archtop_fjk

    archtop_fjk Tele-Holic

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    What I've come to realize (as a naive guitar player) is that drums is not just a steady beat but in fact is it's own "piece of music" that must integrate closely with all of the other instruments (especially bass). To me, basing a song on a steady drum track is like basing a song around a single chord. Nothing wrong with that mind you, but to me it's a bit boring.

    I've used drum machines for my recordings (e.g. Boss DR-670) and could finger tap the beat to go along with my guitar parts. The problem was that it didn't sound natural and it was hard to get good fills and transitions that didn't sound canned.

    That's why I got a set of e-drums (a Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit). Not only am I learning a new instrument, but my basic drumming sounds at least as good as the drum machine I used to use. Plus, there is the possibility of employing MIDI to use drum sounds not available on the basic Alesis drum module (haven't explored that yet).

    I've also thought about trying out EZ Drummer, which seems like a good way to build up a basic drum track. However, I prefer laying down the rhythm guitar tracks first then the drums, as I find it harder to go the other way if I'm developing a new recording. Is there a way to use EZ Drummer to lay down a drum track over an existing guitar track? Would probably need to do it section by section and adjust things to fit the guitar track.
     
  15. cnlbb

    cnlbb Tele-Afflicted

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    Same, but this is one of the areas that Live shines in. They're making up ground in other areas and there's a reason I use it exclusively these days, but I would feel a bit odd suggesting that someone use Live cause the drums are easy to program while ignoring some other things that remain weirdly unintuitive.
     
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  16. Tuneup

    Tuneup Tele-Meister

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  17. Toast

    Toast Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm in the same boat as you with drum sequencers on Reaper. Another reason for separate drum tracks is to be able to manipulate the individual velocities of each drum track. Anyway, the best thing I did for improving my understanding of Reaper was to buy software that allows me to download tutorial videos off YT. Trying to watch online videos on YT, especially if you want to watch them repeatedly, is an exercise in frustration. Better to download them and throw them on an external hard drive for repeat viewings. One of the things I don't like about Reaper is that the interface changes fairly often (usually with every update, which are frequent). It makes trying to figure things out a bit more difficult.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
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  18. suthol

    suthol Friend of Leo's

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    I haven't had problems with the changes in reaper, the change in colours in R6 was a shock but the change in location for the effects on the input side made sense as did the track monitor default being on.

    I too prefer the drum components to each have their own track
     
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  19. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    Yes, if you care about mixing, for gods sake give your drums each their own track. Put them into a drum bus after you premix them so you'll have control over each drum yet can ride your master drum fader for sweet-spot level. You'll thank yourself when you're putting the finishing touches on the project.

    With MIDI drums, the hard part is crafting a live-sounding feel. Quantizing your drum tracks, as most know, guarantees sterility and mechanical-sounding tracks. I like to keep the kick dead-on with the upbeat and put the snare just a tiny bit behind the backbeat to form a pocket, unless you're pushing the snare ahead of the beat to create drama/excitement in a bridge or solo break. ... The cymbals need to hit a little behind the beat too, and it helps to vary the ride volumes.

    For dynamics, I've had better luck automating the Room track up and down rather than the drum bus itself — seems to sound more natural. ... It's not a waste of time to experiment with the compression on your drum bus, experimenting with attack and release until you find the sweet spot.

    For eighth- and especially sixteenth-note fills, it helps to nudge the second note in every series a tiny bit behind the beat. The more you syncopate that way, the more your groove will swing.

    Just my observations after some years of EZDrummer — JMO, YMMV, do what works for you. :D
     
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  20. wewwllad

    wewwllad TDPRI Member

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    As someone who has used Live exclusively for like 5 years, it is super unintuitive.
     
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