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Creating Drum tracks ITB, something I'm working with now

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Currently staying at a friend's vacant home while I wait for water damage to be repaired at my own place. 

I've brought a small studio setup over and am working on gettng better at creating drum tracks in the box. 


The screenshot is from the last track I worked on. I plan on using this way of working again and refining it.

I am very open to suggestions, comments, different ways of working, just sharing this to start the conversation. 


My process is as follows:

To start with, I make 2 sessions. I'll usually do a "Save As" to create the second session and add the word "Drums" to the title. I use that session to piece together a drum track from software, currently using MODO Drum by IK Multimedia. Later I will copy and paste those MIDI tracks into the other session and proceed with tracking. 


Find a drum groove that feels right for the song and loop it so it's long enough to record scratch tracks for the complete song. Use your preferred instrument, mine is guitar, and track the fundamental chords and feel of the composition. If you play and sing at the same time, that can save time and tracks. This doesn't have to be a "keeper track", just get the song laid out. A booger or two shouldn't matter at this point. 


If you have a concept for the bass line, record that now as well. I've found that the kick drum in the loop does not always line up with my proposed bass line, I just play over it anyway, we can adjust the kick a little later. 

Export your scratch version of the song as a single file, don't worry about the mix as long as you can clearly hear everything. Keep it simple.


Paste that into the top track of your "Session_Drum" page. Add a track just below that named Drums (or I used Assembly). This is where you start with another copy of the orginal looped drum beat that you recorded you scratch trackst with.


Then designate a couple of tracks just below that as blank places to pull down bits or chunks of the drum part as it progresses. Name the tracks "Short" and "Long" and place the parts of the Drum or Assembly track into these two tracks as you work from left to right. 


Now find and loop every and any groove, fill, intro and outro that you can from your drum program(s). You want as many good sounding "pieces" as you can get. 

My screen shot shows 13 different parts, all looped to more than fill the time required. 


Start at the begining of the song and put in any intro fills, beats, etc. that work to get things started. Find those pieces in the tracks you've created for building your drum tracks. Clip and drag the parts you are replacing down to the Short and Long tracks and drag the parts from the tracks below into place. 


This way of working allows you to easily keep track of what you've done so far and where you got your parts, a clear trail of how far you've gotten is created at the same time as the drum track is built. For me, that's very useful since I may take a break of a day or two before moving forward and I don't have to remember where I was or what I was doing. That is the reason I'm trying this way of doing things, your workflow may be very different. 


While I'm doing this, I may replace a drum with another, MODO Drum makes that simple. I will tune the drums if needed, usually lowering the pitch of the snare drum.


Once I've built a track with fills, beats for verse, chorus and bridge, etc, I'll export those as audio files using the mixer in the drum program to separate out the kick drum on one track, the snare on another, the high hat on a third and the rest of the drums in stereo on the 4th track.


Next, I edit the kick part to match the bass line I've composed so they punch together. Now I can drop these tracks back into the original session and work on the rest of the tracking. Once everything is tracked, I can use audio plugins to tweak the tones of the drums as needed. I especially work on the kick and the snare tones with EQ and limiting. 


Please feel free to ask questions, make suggestions or comments. Here is the last song I recorded and used this method:





MIDI Drum Tracks Map.png

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It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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I've been using Jamstix software to compose drum tracks.  (Full disclosure: I am a user of the software, not otherwise connected to the software developer and distributor.)


Jamstix is drum software that includes a large collection of drum samples similar to other drum software.  But Jamstix also includes a "brain" that will compose a drum performance  - in real time if you want (you can jam with it!)


You first choose the modeled drummer: models attempt to model the drumming style of well-known drummer.  You then tell the software about your song: 4/4 time with 8 bars of intro, 8 bars of verse, 16 bars of chorus, another 8 bars of verse, 16 bars of bridge, etc.  You tell the program the song style is country (or rock or reggae, etc. - there are around 40-50 modeled drumming styles which the user can further refined and modify).  And then you push "play", and the software composes a drum performance while the song plays.  The program will compose a main "beat" as well as unique fills and throw-ins throughout the entire song.


I use it for most of my recordings.  The drumming is pretty amazing, but I find I have to spend time working with the software to get the performance I want to hear.  The drumming is far more human than any drum or midi loop can ever be.


The program will produce a midi track, or use its own drum samples to make an audio track, or you can use the software to drive another drum sample set.  


Customer support is very good: I've never had to wait more than 24 hours to get a question answered.


So I give Jamstix two thumbs up.


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Thanks JamPro, I'll take a look at that. It sounds like a real time saver!!!! 


I'm learning to edit MIDI, I can edit audio. My primary concern with drum tracks is that I want the kick to align with a bass part that I've created. If those 2 lock, kick and bass, then I can allow other things to happen without worrying too much about riding herd on them. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Um....while I like using Jamstix, I'm not sure "time-saver" is one of the benefits.  As I said above, I have to do a lot of work to get a "keeper" drum performance.


The Jamstix slogan is "Just Play With It", and I find that is what I have to do.  I find myself recording a take, making modifications, doing another take, making further modifications, doing another take, etc.  Others might be able to set it up and run it and quickly come out with drum performance they can use; me, I tend to obsess over it.


With Jamstix, it is possible to specify a specific kick part (or snare part, or hat, etc.), and the software will use that specific part and compose the rest of the drum performance around that.  Or specify kick AND snare, and the software will compose the rest.  Or you can write in note-for-note the entire drum performance if you wish.  The software is very flexible in how you can use it.

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Drum parts are never "easy" if you want to serve the song. 

I'll take a look at Jamstix, download it if they have a demo version. The "shortcut" it seems to offer is choosing it's own fills. I'm sure that can be a blessing and curse depending. 😁

It's been my experience that MIDI drum tracks are at least somewhat interchangeable with different plugins. Maybe programming some MODO drum parts and some Jamstix parts in MIDI and combining their resources is useful too. I did a bit of that with NI Studio Drummer and MODO Drum, the kick drum part on High Velocity is Studio Drummer since I already had it up and running. The rest of the drums are MODO Drums and I prefer the snare options on that program. 


One of the things I like about MODO Drum is they have 10+ different drum sets and you can mix and match individual drums, cymbals etc. You also have 9 different sounding "spaces" and can even specify the diameter, height, type of drum head, location of the strike zones for left and right hand, the type of sticks, etc. Kind of a deep dive!!!!


On the song I posted above I used the Jazz kit in the booth so I'd have more options with ambience by starting dryer. The snare is from the "Oyster" set (Ringo's Ludwig kit more or less). 


Hopefully, we are both learning something, I know I have and I appreciate having a conversation on this topic. There are so many options that we are all bound to takeaway something useful. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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First, a question - is there an option for 3/4 time? I do use it sometimes and combining 3/4 and 4/4 can allow some interesting beats. 


I clicked on the Free version and commenced to trying to download the Mac OS version. This came up.

"The macOS version of Jamstix 4 is currently in Beta and only accessible to paid customers. The free version will be released as soon as the Beta phase is over."


So I guess I'll have to wait to test it. Hoping it will be Apple Silicon compatible, otherwise I can't use it. 


I did like the demos, they sounded less "MIDI" than what I"ve been working with. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Last night I hooked up my trusty X-Key 25 to play the drums in MODO Drum. 

Version 1.5 improved their settings, 1.0 used to blast super loud and pin the meters. Not good and there was a post on IK's site on how to adjust it. 

They've fixed that with the update, the output stays under zero now when you play with enthusiasm. 


Anyway, after searching for beats I wanted and not finding something "close enough", it's time to just play the damn things and move forward. 

Doesn't mean I won't use some fills and such, I really just want to get the kick, snare and hats right for the songs. Tom rolls are more versatile and MODO Drum has tons of them. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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