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I compose and produce my own electronic music and I generally only have trouble with one aspect of music: the drums. Drums are the only major instrument that I have no formal in so its definitely the toughest part for me. Even though I create all my beats and patterns using audio samples of different drum sounds, I feel like they lack that variation or that life that comes from live drummers.

What are some tips to make the drums sound more like a live drummer? Or are there any ways to replicate this sound or feel?

I know the feeling is personal to each person but can't think of a better word at the moment.

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migrated from Jan 27 '14 at 15:15

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shoot all these answers are really good. I'm going to wait a little to see how people vote – Travis Dtfsu Crum Oct 26 '12 at 14:26
up vote 3 down vote accepted

A popular technique to do this is to layer breaks into the beat. These really help fill out the frequencies and give the whole beat a 'groove' as these breaks tend to be sampled from older tracks where the drums are played live. For instance, in drum and bass, a big % of the tracks use breaks such as the Amen, The Think Break, Apache Indian, Funky Drummer etc e.g.


A sample CD of some vintage breaks can be found here:

If these breaks don't quite fit you can always chop them up using recycle: and use the .REX file in your DAW to position the hits where you want them. A lot of sample CDs these days come with REX files as well.

If you are looking for a software solution you can use any of the drum romplers available such as

EZ drummer:

Addictive drums:

Rayzoon jamstix:

Jamstix also has algorithms for different 'drummers' i.e. they incorporate a human feel to the drums so they sound less static.

You can then purchase MIDI loops from places such as groove monkee: and then use them in conjunction with the romplers. These are particularly good as they are not quantised so they have a 'played live' feel to them.

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For me I found that when I started using the DFH superior sounds I felt the "sound" aspect had been more or less taken care of, as the sounds in that library ( which is pretty old at this stage so there may be even better ones now ) are very hard to tell from the "real thing"

... as regards the feel, it depends on what genre you are recording and which actual drum you are recording, ie kick being typically easier than snare.

With some drum/genre combinations you can replicate the feel of what a real drummer would do if you listen carefully and patiently tailor each hit wrt velocity and nudging the timing ( and possibly using groove quantize ) .... but a good electronic pad will surely make this easier. It really does take a lot of patience and attention to detail to get it right though.

In case you havent realised it already it's usually vital that you ensure that you have a max of 4 drums being hit at a time ( 2 hands and 2 feet ) as this is a dead giveaway unless you are trying to replicate drum overdubs

Another obvious thing which you probably already realize is to listen carefully to some good drummers to see what they are doing and imagine what they'd do on your track.

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You can use Cubase or Sonar (and probably other DAW's) to allow the beat to move with the groove.

In Cubase, the Quantise function lets you go from being precisely on the beat to some way off :-)

In Sonar it is "Groove Quantise"

This will at least feel more realistic, but really what you want to do is try to play the beats you want to hear and feel where you have a slight delay in moving from the snare to a tom, for example, and build those delays in. Or if you don't have a drumkit, try listening to some real drum samples to get inspiration.

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Don't forget to accent some drum hits here and there :) – Friend Of George Oct 26 '12 at 1:57
playing (parts of) the groove with a midi keyboard or trigger pads is even better. "feel" the groove. – Karoly Horvath Apr 25 '14 at 13:13

The easiest way is obviously adding "swing" through the DAW or plugin. I find 1/16 helps my stuff "come to life".

Also layering drum parts, shifting some slightly, can have a huge effect. Even a drum part doubled, with one slightly shifted, can make a huge difference.

Remember to not be super rigid on your beats. Add closed or open high hats on off beats or using some type of poly rhythm can also be helpful.

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