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Improving Your Drum Programming II
By Dan Palladino

Here's a few after-thoughts on how to improve your drum programming:

I hear an awful lot of recordings where the composer uses a very obvious two bar loop for an entire section, or even an entire song. Of course, this sounds like a machine and not a real drummer. Try making your drum patterns the same length as each section of the piece you're recording. By that I mean, if you have a basic rock tune with eight bar verses, make your drum pattern eight bars long. That way, you can vary your kick, snare and hi-hat patterns over the eight bars. For instance, you can have the kick hitting on one and three for the first four bars, and maybe add some eighth note hits on the second four bars. It will sound less machine-like because it'll be harder for the listener to identify a definite loop. You can take this concept further by using one pattern for verse one, and a slightly different one in verse two.

The same idea applies to fills too. Does a real drummer do the same exact fill everytime he makes the transition from verse to chorus? Of course not. Why not put in the extra time to have a bunch of different fills in your song? You'd be amazed at how this one concept can improve the overall sound of your recording.

Here's one last idea: If your budget allows, get your hands on some used cymbals for recording your parts. This could get a little expensive because you'll then need a couple of decent mics to record them, but I think it's worth it. You can program your drum parts on your sequencer, and then record yourself playing real cymbals on a pair of stereo tracks. This will add some realism to your recordings.

You may be saying, "Hey! All of these ideas will take up a lot more time, and it's more work." You're right. It is more work. But isn't your music worth it? Once you get used to thinking this way, you'll listen to your older recordings and wonder how you ever managed with your machiney sounding drum parts.

Hope this helps some. Good luck everyone!

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© 2003 Dan Palladino
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