One of the hardest things to do is get a natural sounding drum track without hiring an actual drummer. But getting a fabricated-sounding drum track can throw off the rest of your recording. Since drums are the basis of most recorded music and the first thing we lay down for a song, they can dictate the feel and vibe of every instrument that comes afterwards. So it seems pretty clear why having the most natural sounding drum beat possible stands to take your song to higher levels than robotic, artificial-sounding drums.
There are many options when it comes to manipulating your drum beats to sound more “human.” Here are a few that may help your next recording.
Variety is the spice of life
One problem with drum loops is the lack of variety. Most drummers don’t just play the same pattern over and over again throughout a song. Usually there are multiple sections, fills and crashes that give the song a little more variety. Therefore, adding variety to your drum track makes it sound much more real. If you’re using loops, find some that include more than one version of each pattern and various fills. You can even use a combination of loops with samples to add cymbal crashes and other fills. If you’re sequencing drum patterns with samples, be sure to program in your own fills and switch up the drum track throughout the song.
Drummers aren’t robots–one of the things that makes a drum track sound natural is the very slight variation with which the drummer plays his kit. They don’t always hit the snare drum exactly on beats 2 and 4 for every single measure… There are tiny differences in timing for each drum hit, and while we can’t usually directly perceive them with our ears, the variation makes the track feel more human to us, and we connect with that as listeners.
Most digital audio editors have a randomizing function. If you’re assembling a drum beat out of samples, it may be worthwhile to use the randomizer to shift various beats slightly off the click. You can determine how much you want to move the beat around by adjusting the randomizing percentage.