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Why you should have a drum set, even if you can't play

Still using sampled and looped drum sounds? That makes you just one of 1,000,000,000 bedroom producers...


Would you believe that in the UK, they call a drum set a 'drum kit', as though you have to assemble it before you can play. Err... actually, you do.

Where do producers get their drum sounds from these days? Often it is from the standard sound sets of keyboard instruments, from drum and percussion software instruments, and of course from sample and loop CDs.

These are all great sources of drum sounds. But there are limitations. Firstly, you really have to search hard to find drum sounds that suit the track you are working on. If you haven't realized that yet, then there is still some way to go in your production technique. And even if you find a filler drum loop, well you will just have to be satisfied with having the same loop repeat over and over, exactly the same. You can add a few fills, maybe drop a beat here and there, but essentially there is still that 'samey' quality all the way through. Great for hip hop and dance, but not so great for any other musical style.

The advantage of using a real drum set is that you can tune and damp the drums to get exactly the sounds you want. And you can play it exactly the way you want to suit the track. And there is never any 'sameyness' because you are playing for real all the way through.

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Oh, you can't play drums?

Who told you that? If you really can't, then get out there and find a drummer. But playing drums to a basic level is not the hardest job in the world. And you don't have to play the whole drum set at the same time. You can overdub kick, snare, hihat etc one at a time.

If the worst really comes to the worst, you can sample the drum sounds and simply arrange them on the screen of your audio sequencer. Even this will give your work far more originality, and you will find it far more satisfying than doing it the 'easy' way. I recommend not keeping these samples but to record afresh each time.

By David Mellor Friday September 10, 2004