Home Recording Tips – Drums

Recording at home is hard – as a musician I find myself having to be producer, sound engineer, arranger, mastering engineer and IT department. That said it is a lot of fun and does bring it’s own rewards, even if they’re not financial.

Let’s face it most project studios are potential money pits ha ha.

Anyway here are some drum programming tips to hopefully help get the best out of your recordings.

(I’ll update as I go)

1-o-> Metronome no, drum beat yes –

Getting your groove on when recording can be difficult when trying to play to a metronome – in fact I find it near impossible.

So first thing I do is setup a basic drum beat, usually kick, snare and hihat. That way I can zone in on the kick.

Using midi to control my drums means that I can edit the drums afterwards to get a bit of variation in there.

Don’t spend too much time trying to get the drums correct before recording, just a loose version will do.

Fills,extra programming and sample choices can be made later.

2.-o-> Creative Drum Programming

Programming drums can be tiresome so get a collection together or buy some books on drumming.

As I’m not really a drummer midi drum programming was my only way – but searching midi files is a long process and auditioning each file is a pain.

So instead I decided to learn how to write drums using the drum notator in Sonar.

First I bought some drum books – each book had examples of beats and fills.

I programmed some of these as practice and listened back to get and idea of how they sounded.

It’s all about the ear.

Oh and a very simple rule – if you want drums that sound like a drummer only use the limbs a drummer has.

It’s obvious but it’s impossible for a drummer to hit a Tom, Snare and Hi-Hat all at once.

Also be physically realistic with your beats, think about how a drummer would play it, can he play it?

2a.-o-> Creative Drum Programming – part 2

Creating a realistic drum track can be quite hard or very easy – it all depends on the song – use your ears.

Sometimes a simple oompah oompah will do the trick.

Simplistic drums allow the rest od the music work – over worked drums can be tiresome and sometimes will detract from the song.

That said simple drums can become mid numbing so variation is needed.

A simple trick I use is to create my basic drum track before I start recording, I try and make this so that I can play along.

I record everything.

When I’m happy with that I then start to tinker with the drums.

Most of the time it’s just a case of adding a simple fill here and there, usually end of verse and chorus.

For the verse’s I’ll usually have closed hi-hats with occasional open hat.

Chorus I’ll change the close hi-hats for open and add extra cymbals.

On verse and chorus  I’ll look at the kick and decide wether I can drop or add for each bar – I solo the bass sometimes and try and program so that the kick and bass are together –

I know should be like that in recording but remember a basic drum is more for getting going.

The beauty of re-programming your drums afterwards is that you can zone in on whatever the bass is doing – adding and taking away.

Same goes for snare and toms.


Really there’s a lot you can do with midi and a decent drum rompler.

Programming is fun, it shouldn’t be a pain and a decent drum track can make or break a recording.

Simple is best, if you’re not too confident stick to simple rather than over egg.

Finding a decent midi library of drum fills and beats is a way to go.

Personally I’d rather program from scractch.

Each to his or her own though.

Have Fun…

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