There’s a lot that goes into producing a convincing drum track, especially when your drummer is a software sampler (such as Reason’s Redrum and NN-XT, Native Instrument’s Battery, or MOTU’s MachFive). Indeed, the shear number of techniques employed to create a great drum track would keep me writing blogs for months to come. But, rather than go on and on about how to produce realistic sounding drums, let’s cut to the chase and look at how it’s done in a Reason song file.

Using Reason 4, I’ve cooked up a song file that demonstrates how to produce and mix realistic sounding drums. I’m using only samples found in Reason’s Factory Sound Bank and Redrum as the sample playback device. You can do much more with the NN-XT in terms of the shear number of samples and velocity zoning. However, since most beginners reach for Redrum first, I decided to hold off on the NN-XT. The mix is not mastered (there’s no Mastering Combinator or Maximizer in the rack) so that you can see and hear how your drum levels should be hitting before mastering. (Mastering should be used to make a great mix sound awesome. Unfortunately, mastering is too often used to make a poor mix sound passable. But, that’s a subject for another blog.)

If you have Reason 4, you can open up this song file and explore the connections and settings. Of course, your drum tones and compression levels will vary with each individual mix, in relation to the other instruments in your song. For example, you might want your snare to have less compression on the initial attack of its waveform, for greater snap, or your kick to exhibit more mid frequency pop around 8 kHz. Fine adjustments such as these are easily accomplished when your devices are properly set up and routed, as they are in this song file. Alternately, if your drums aren’t properly routed, fine tuning your drum mix can be an exercise in frustration. Many of the techniques employed in this drum mix are the sorts of things that I teach in my Berkleemusic course, Producing Music with Reason.

Here’s a list of the production techniques used to produce this drum track:

· Compression and parametric EQ inserts
· Parallel compression
· Group effects
· Individual outputs
· Gesture sampling
· Proper levels and gain structure
· MIDI performance sample (a drum sequence created by a real drummer)

Turn your speakers up and have fun exploring this song file!

Redrum Drum Mix Demo

Shot of the Drum Mix Rack

    For those of us without Reason, could you post a MP3 file? It would be very interesting to hear how it sounds, as a reference guide, as programming drums is a constant problem for songwriters and musicians.

    In fact, i have shyed away from writing about that subject on my songwriting & music recording blog because i’m not 100% happy with my own results when it comes to drums.

    Hi Erik, when I click the link for the Reason file, I get a screen full of text. Could you post the file as a zip? Thanks!

    The great mix to awesome/poor mix to passable comment jumped out to me because I have always included the mastering combi in my base file and left it on and tweak it as I go along. After reading this I will mix then utilize the advantages of the combi.

    Dan,

    You need to either Right-Click (PC) or Control-Click (Mac) and from the pop-up menu download the file to your hard drive.

    Natalie,

    An MP3 file wouldn’t mean anything. The Reason song file is for exploring to see how the connections are made and the techniques are applied. And, it’s not mastered so it’d really fall apart as an MP3, which is a very poor sounding format. You might try the Reason 4 demo available at http://www.propellerheads.se/ (under the Downloads link). Not sure if it will load but it’s worth a shot. In the future, I will be posting more MP3 examples. Stay tuned :)

    Erik,

    This will keep me Busy for Fall ! and Playing with Onyx 800r and my new Rack System.

    So much Kewl Stuff, I am having a Ball!

    Panhead Roger

    Thank you for the lesson
    it was excellent
    I would love to take a course with you.
    peace.

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