CM's Top Five Tips for Tightening your Drums

If your drums are flabby rather than fat, you need to tighten up your sounds. Here's the CM guide to the top 5 ways to get the snappiest beats possible.

1. Tweak the amplitude envelope

Most samplers and virtual drum machines allow you to control the amplitude of each sound or instrument with ADSR or similar envelope controls. If the sound plays for too long after you’ve released the note, turn down the release time. If the sample is too long or doesn’t decay quickly enough, experiment with reducing the decay and sustain values.

2. Use an envelope shaper

Sequencers such as Cubase and Logic feature built-in envelope shaper plug-ins, which are particularly useful when working with drum loops or complete drum mixes. Simply put the envelope shaper on the drums bus and turn down the release value to tighten up the whole lot.

3. Use a gate

If your drums are too roomy, tame the excess ambience using a gate effect. Set any attack and hold controls to minimum, then turn down the threshold until you get the feel you’re after. Finally, adjust the release time to taste.

4. Draw your own velocity curve

If you’re working with audio clips of drums, you can usually automate the volume level of the track fairly easily. Using this technique, you can adjust the timing and shape of each drum’s decay exactly, but it takes more time and patience than other methods.

5. Limit the number of sounds playing at once

When programming realistic-sounding hi-hats, you don’t want open and closed hat sounds playing simultaneously. Many soft samplers feature a choke function with which playing a certain sound will silence another – check your sampler’s documentation. A more extreme, lo-fi approach is to simply turn down the number of voices available to your sampler so that only one sound can play at a time.

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