2 Minute Tutorials: How to Quickly Make Boring Drums More Interesting

Welcome to Two Minute Tutorials, a weekly electronic music production series that aims to provide producers with short and effective tutorials. These tutorials are succinct and to the point and should help quickly when you are feeling stuck. Two Minute Tutorials will help increase your productivity and hopefully the overall quality of your music. Join us over on Youtube where you can subscribe to my channel to never miss a tutorial!

This Weeks Tutorial: How to Quickly Make Your Boring Drums more interesting

Arguably the most important element in dance music is drums. Drums are vital for creating a groove and maintaining energy in electronic music. Drums help to carry the track’s momentum.  This helps to add and maintain listeners’ interest in your music. However, drums in electronic music are very repetitive. Drums can become monotonous and drag down the energy and excitement of a track if not properly written. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can add variation to your drums. This variation will help to make them more interesting both consciously and subconsciously to your listeners.

Making your drums more interesting step one: Velocity

If a human is playing an instrument, the amount of force used to play that instrument will vary. The amount of force used to play the instrument is known as the velocity. The difference in velocity can change the volume, pitch, and the way that the instrument reacts overall. Similarly, we can change the velocity in our drum loops while producing electronic music. By changing velocity in our drum loops, we make the loop more interesting and less repetitive-sounding. This also helps to make our drums sound more human-like.

Panning

The relationship between keeping your instruments center, and panning from left and right can create a stereo field that will be more interesting to your listeners. Panning certain instruments, samples, or sounds left or right in your drum loops can create a sense of distance and width.

Ghost Notes

Another tip to making your drums more interesting is working with ghost notes. Ghost notes are simply quieter notes that aren’t necessarily loud or noticeable, but add a bit variation to your loop. Adding very subtle or quiet drum hits to your loops can add variation on an almost subconscious level. If the notes are almost inaudible, they won’t necessarily be noticed. They will, however, be adding a small layer that can help the overall swing and groove of your track. Setting the velocity of offset notes to a really low amount is a simple way to achieve this. I wouldn’t suggest using ghost notes on the main elements of your loop, but rather on backbeat structuring notes or notes that aren’t pertinent to the structure of the drum loop.

Humanization

All the tips mentioned above will help with humanization. By working with and optimizing these practices, you can create the sense that your drum loop is less repetitive and less boring. Optimizing these processes will help with the feeling that drums are simply electronically programmed. In turn, they will help your drums sound more human-like and authentic.

When implementing any of these tips, keep in mind that subtlety is key, but experimenting is also encouraged!


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