How to make minimal percussion out of a tom sample

Turn a humble 808 tom tom into something altogether different

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Typically, 4/4 styles of dance music draw on a familiar lexicon of drum sounds, but to get the minimal feel it helps to throw in some abstract percussion that's not quite as recognisable. There are plenty of sample libraries catering to minimal styles, but making your own sounds is quicker and more fun than trawling through endless loops.

The secret to getting authentic minimal house and techno sounds is probably more obvious than you think. Start with material that has a good solid transient, then use a fast envelope to isolate that part of the sound. You can then adjust the pitch of this to take it out of its usual range, and this combination of truncation and transposition results in a new, more abstract sonic character.

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Step 1. We start with a very straightforward low tom sound sampled from D16's excellent TR-808 emulation Nepheton. This is a very recognisable sound, but by tweaking its amplitude envelope and pitch, we can turn it into something else. Turn the sampler's Sustain down to -infdB.

Step 2. Try playing the sound on the upper reaches of the keyboard - this gives us punchy, tonal percussion sound. Turn the Decay time down to between 20 and 50ms - this just lets the transient through before the volume diminishes completely.

Step 3. Sequence a pattern to accompany our existing beat. Here we're playing a very simple rhythm on G6 that gives us a bit of interplay between the kick, the bass, and our new percussion sound. The percussion sounds unnaturally dry, so let's add some reverb.

Step 4. Here we're using Live's Reverb with a Decay Time of 360ms, and a Dry/Wet level of 18%. However, the reverb is too wide, so we need to rein it in with an instance of Utility. A Width setting of 22% helps the percussion sit with the other elements in the mix.

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