Erik Hawkins

Producing a Convincing Drum Track

Erik Hawkins

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

Erik Hawkins
Erik Hawkins

Erik Hawkins is a composer, producer, remixer, and author whose talents and technical expertise have leaders in the music industry calling him a "taste maker." He has worked with and remixed a variety of top artists, including Scatman Crothers, Irene Cara, Digital Underground, Conscious Daughters, Strypper, Brenda Russell, and DJ Sasha. His own progressive dance music tracks have been used by major television networks and film studios, including ABC, CBS, FOX, MTV, Nickelodian, and New Line Cinema. His articles and columns have been published in Remix, Mix, Electronic Musician, MC2, Keyboard, and DigiZine. He has also written several books, including The Complete Guide to Remixing (Berklee Press), and Producing Drum Beats (Berklee Press). His Berklee Online course, Programming and Producing Drum Beats, won the UPCEA Best Online Course Award for 2011.

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