Tips & Tutorials | May 30, 2014
EDM producers are on a continual quest to create powerful, impactful sounding drums. Many producers — from Pendulum to Noisia to Skrillex to BT to Morgan Page and many more — have developed their own signature sounds largely based on the way their drums are mixed.
Designing a single drum sound can be quite involved, making use of everything from filters to distortions to sub-bass tones to high frequencies. Layers are key to the sound design of an effective kick, snare or hi-hat.
|PRO TIP: The BreakTweaker Factory Library contains thousands of pre-layered, pre-mixed drum sounds to save you the time. Using these as source material for additional layers can help take your drums to a new level!|
Raw sample libraries provide elements that can be layered, and drum synthesizers / samplers can help you out, but how do you go about it? Let’s take a look at designing two typical drum sounds using BreakTweaker, starting with a minimal kick drum since the kick usually comes first.
First, it’s important to define the key elements a minimal-style kick drum should have in order to sound competitive with the general aesthetic of the genre. It should have:
A deep, sub bass presence. Minimal, as opposed to other genres (Drum and Bass / Dubstep) can often rely more on the kick drum than the bass synth for that presence. Let’s call this Layer 1.
A healthy punch that hits the listener’s ear without creating too much mud. Let’s call this Layer 2.
Enough high end snap to help it cut through the ambient synths and reverbs minimal EDM often utilizes. Let’s call this Layer 3.
These elements can each be considered a separate layer that you have to create. Now that we’ve established that these are our three layers, let’s design them! Each track in BreakTweaker allows us to create and edit up to three layers for that optimum drum sound.
We’ve got our finished kick drum loaded into our sampler / synth, and our track is sounding pretty powerful.
However, we aren’t done yet. To finish off our kick drum, apply a transient shaper. A transient shaper is a tool that allows dynamic control over the initial attack of a sound and the resulting decay/sustain. Increasing the Sustain can increase the perceived power of a kick drum in particular.
Overall, what we’ve designed is an effective kick drum, that as we can see in this spectrum analyzer has plenty of bass presence, a well-managed mid range, and some important peaks in the higher end which will help it cut through a dense mix, especially when combined with sidechaining.