The drums are a substantial foundation for almost all modern music. Keeping a pounding rhythm has been around since tribal dances first started stomping on the ground, whereas today a much cleaner and more professional drum sound populates music. No matter the genre, any time drums are featured there is something you can do to your recordings to help them cross the threshold from amateur to radio worthy. You don’t need lots of expensive high-tech equipment to make this happen you just need to be ware of some of the tweaks used in the industry to make drums sound the way that they do. Here are handful you may want to try for yourself in your DAW.
If you’ve recorded a drum track or maybe you’ve dropped in a sample, you can’t expect it to sound perfect straight away. Much of the mastering that happens after is what gets the drums to have the low and bold sound you hear in dance tracks. Similarly, in metal where you want a lot of low noises the drums can seem a little to treble heavy in the recording. Altering the frequency fixes these problems. Raising the low end, a touch and steadily rounding out the high frequency sounds will give your drum a punchier sound that is much more desirable.
If you aren’t making dance music, your drums will sound a little wooden if they aren’t actually real drums. Though there are some great emulators out there for this problem in particular, you can’t beat the authenticity of a true drum track. From the swing in the rhythm to the collaboration of sound between kicks, snares and cymbals, anyone with a good ear will be able to tell the difference between the real thing and an imitation so its worth finding good samples online if you can’t record your own.
Add Bass and More
When you hear the sound of drums in electronica or noise rock, they probably aren’t alone. It’s a very common practice to add other sounds to the drums in the recording process to create a unique sound. Chiptune musicians will commonly use 8-bit noises on their snares, avant-garde artists may use brief vocal samples to add an ethereal feel to the beat. One of the most common additions is ow synth bass for that hip-hop hum we know so well.
If your drums sound like they were recorded in your bedroom (because they were) then you might want to alter the reverb. Reverb can be your friend or foe depending on what you are trying to achieve. Dampen it for a quaint indie sound or maximise it for a huge stadium sound, or use it to simply enhance a single element – take the Run’s House snare for example.
Know When to Quantise
The music making tools we have today are clearly a huge help when it comes to particular issues. Timing is obviously a big part of playing drums and quantising gives this job to the computer to figure out. If you want a natural sound however this should be avoided as the imperfections are what make beats sound human. If you want some computerised acid madness however, artists like Aphex Twin quantise constantly.