Drum Sound Design in Ableton Live 101

Nick's Tutorials - Drum Design 101

I was just discussing drum design tips with the Facebook group and I wanted to share this info with you as well. If you want truly unique drums, it pays to go outside the realm of single drum hits from a sample library and explore designing your own.

The first thing to do is find 2 or 3 drums that feature elements that you like. Any more layers than 3 and you’re risking overcomplicating the sound.

Next, use basic high- and low-pass filtering along with some parametric EQ to notch out the parts of each sound that you don’t need. Generally, you should be dedicating each part to a particular frequency range, namely mids, highs and low frequencies.

Once you’ve done this, you should be left with 3 drum hits that feature some interesting element but sound wimpy on their own. Layer each of the hits together in your tool of choice, whether you use separate audio tracks or sample layers in a Drum Rack device. I prefer to work in separate audio tracks for this kind of thing because I like being able to visualize the waveforms over time.

The last thing is to glue the layers together using effects devices such as Compressors, EQ/Filters and the Saturator device in Ableton Live. The compressor is good for emphasizing either the body or the attack transient of your new drum by dialing in either longer or shorter attack and release times, further shaping the layers in a way that makes them sound like they belong with one another.

I hope this helps get your imagination going when it comes to making unique drum hits. I’ll be doing a whole video series on drum design in the near future, but this should suffice for an introduction to the concept!

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