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Alternating 4x4 kicks Drum Machines & Samplers
Old 1st September 2011
  #1
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Alternating 4x4 kicks

Anyone using any tricks to mix up each kick ever so slightly? This has been sort of an A-ha for me and I'm trying to elaborate on it/learn more. It all started when I was looking at a Dr Luke Instrumental I have and you can clearly see that the kicks are not the same on each hit, but it does sound like the same instrument, just not the same exact sample.

I don't mean having anything like an added big boom layer on one. What I'm talking about is more like how slate trigger will switch out samples (of the same drum) so that rolls and fills avoid the "machine gun" effect. With 4 on the floor I always feel like if it's not a machine gun effect (the same sample over and over) it's like a knocking on the door effect.

Outside of the obvious solutions like using pre-made wav loops or stylus rmx loops that have slight variations on each hit, what are some tips/tricks to keep those hits all just a little bit different from each other?
Old 1st September 2011
  #2
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I will mess around with volume, pitch, length. Also I sometimes will nudge them slightly off grid to get a more natural sounding rhythm. I'm not making 4X4 dance music much anymore, but still use 4X4 patterns, so this usually works in my favour
Old 1st September 2011
  #3
Its called "Round Robin" samples, some commercially available sample packs some with them, Goldbaby has some I think. Personally for house and techno I don't bother, I want the relentless mechanical vibe.

The other obvious option is to use an analog drum machine!


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Old 1st September 2011
  #4
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i always synthesize my kicks and usually adjust pitch envelope amount and rate, along with decay and other modulation options. if you make dance music i suggest doing this for the whole song. after i get the raw kick i throw compression, sat, eq and automate most of the parameters on them as well just on the kick
Old 1st September 2011
  #5
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Poise VSTi sampler has a round robin mode. I like the idea, but I like syncopation even more. 4 x 4 is the most boring "rhythm" ever. It ruins so many otherwise good tunes.
Old 1st September 2011
  #6
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I often layer a different sample on each hit. When it's exactly the same kick each time my ear picks it up as monotonous. Even very subtle variations can make things sound much more pleasant and alive.
Old 1st September 2011
  #7
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I think for a tune with four on the floor kick generally it would be more rewarding to feck with what's on top of the kicks, say the snares/claps and such that fall on top. If they don't feel static it would take a very exposed part of the tune for the kick to annoy me. After all, if the tune has a 4x4 it does for a reason, and part of that is a tension/constant.

I would/do play with kick velocity though, so when messing with snare/clap stuff that falls on top you might get slightly different 'weights' on different corners and different 'mashes' as they meet in a compressor......hats, snares and claps like a little LFO loosely riding filter cutoff or pitch or both very very slightly...not synced of course...then when the stuff falls on the kick it feels like is all sufficiently moving anyway......

I guess if you really feel the need you can do that to a kick too......I don't ....oh, and get the track delays optimised so the 'falling' has the right flam amount/type......
Old 1st September 2011
  #8
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For kicks I mainly just use different lengths of the same kick, some 8th's/16th's and even 1/4. I really don't like messing with the volume/pitch of the kick normaly, bit ott imo. If you do subtlety is often the key, you don't want elements jostling for attention.
Old 1st September 2011
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankthefunky1 View Post
I will mess around with volume, pitch, length. Also I sometimes will nudge them slightly off grid to get a more natural sounding rhythm. I'm not making 4X4 dance music much anymore, but still use 4X4 patterns, so this usually works in my favour
The timing was one of the first things I really started to mess with. I think most "big" records with 4x4, the kicks are usually a little bit early (or the rest of the music a little bit late...). But IMO that alone maybe only get's you part of the way there. Good tips though I'm going to play with a lot of that.

I know that Dr Luke does his drums with just clips on the grid so I suspect that all of those things are done in the example I'm looking at/listening to. Thanks!
Old 1st September 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msl View Post
Its called "Round Robin" samples, some commercially available sample packs some with them, Goldbaby has some I think. Personally for house and techno I don't bother, I want the relentless mechanical vibe.

The other obvious option is to use an analog drum machine!
Sure no doubt many house/techno hits are not using anything like this. Thanks for the exact term that is good to know. And yes an analog machine would clearly make this easier.
Old 1st September 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astroidmist View Post
Poise VSTi sampler has a round robin mode. I like the idea, but I like syncopation even more. 4 x 4 is the most boring "rhythm" ever. It ruins so many otherwise good tunes.
Cool I'll check that out. For the sake of discussion let's not make this a debate about 4x4. The only reason I went with that as a basis of discussion is because I feel that 4x4 with the same sample at high enough tempo's does start to have the machine-gun effect. That said so do 16th's at 70BPM. Also I am by no means stating that the machine-gun effect is bad, just looking for ways to avoid it when it's not sounding right with a song.
Old 1st September 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by styx77 View Post
I often layer a different sample on each hit. When it's exactly the same kick each time my ear picks it up as monotonous. Even very subtle variations can make things sound much more pleasant and alive.
In general I agree, I think this is also why you hear so many stock loops on big name production, because the loop adds a little variation. Especially over the course of a whole track.

So are you using totally different samples or ones generally from the same "family" like slightly different 909's?
Old 1st September 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
I think for a tune with four on the floor kick generally it would be more rewarding to feck with what's on top of the kicks, say the snares/claps and such that fall on top. If they don't feel static it would take a very exposed part of the tune for the kick to annoy me. After all, if the tune has a 4x4 it does for a reason, and part of that is a tension/constant.

I would/do play with kick velocity though, so when messing with snare/clap stuff that falls on top you might get slightly different 'weights' on different corners and different 'mashes' as they meet in a compressor......hats, snares and claps like a little LFO loosely riding filter cutoff or pitch or both very very slightly...not synced of course...then when the stuff falls on the kick it feels like is all sufficiently moving anyway......

I guess if you really feel the need you can do that to a kick too......I don't ....oh, and get the track delays optimised so the 'falling' has the right flam amount/type......
Very cool. I hear what you are saying with the tension/constant, but I think mostly the idea here is that the differences are subtle enough that in an acoustic sense it sounds like the same drum, but different actual samples. EG the perception of it is that it's still constant...

Unsynced LFO's and slightly unsynced delays are great ideas!
Old 1st September 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RyanC View Post
Very cool. I hear what you are saying with the tension/constant, but I think mostly the idea here is that the differences are subtle enough that in an acoustic sense it sounds like the same drum, but different actual samples. EG the perception of it is that it's still constant...

Unsynced LFO's and slightly unsynced delays are great ideas!
No slightly unsynced delays, whatever they might be, just some track delay in the right places, so the beat falls right. Like you say you think the kick is leading on your reference track. No coincidence, that. Build it up. Play the kick on its own, then add a snare. Play with its track delay until it falls how you want onto the kick. Adjust envelopes. Add another element. Do the same......

My point was that with the other things falling on top I think what you perceive as variation in the kick likely isn't. Just mixing and variation in the stuff falling on top.
Old 1st September 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
I think what you perceive as variation in the kick likely isn't.
Yeah, definitely, same can go for any number of other parts as well, but especially the stuff at the root of the track.
Old 2nd September 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
No slightly unsynced delays, whatever they might be, just some track delay in the right places, so the beat falls right. Like you say you think the kick is leading on your reference track. No coincidence, that. Build it up. Play the kick on its own, then add a snare. Play with its track delay until it falls how you want onto the kick. Adjust envelopes. Add another element. Do the same......

My point was that with the other things falling on top I think what you perceive as variation in the kick likely isn't. Just mixing and variation in the stuff falling on top.
Well in this case there are no other drums in the verse sections, so there actually is something going on as far as variation in the kicks themselves.
Old 2nd September 2011
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RyanC View Post
Well in this case there are no other drums in the verse sections, so there actually is something going on as far as variation in the kicks themselves.
Fair enough, if it's totally exposed that would be why the programmer (or mixer) bothered to make it so. Hard to guess how it was achieved without hearing it though......
Old 2nd September 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Fair enough, if it's totally exposed that would be why the programmer (or mixer) bothered to make it so. Hard to guess how it was achieved without hearing it though......
I'd love to post it but it's a Dr Luke instrumental being shopped to topliners so it wouldn't be my place to put something like that up on the net especially because a client/writing partner of mine got it. It's not a finished track (RMS is -25dB) and has no vocals which is which helps to hear and see that the kick hits are not all the same. It's harder to tell in the ch what happens but I suspect that the more mid-range hits that vary just got pasted with a deeper kick layered under it.

Either way thanks for all the ideas, I'm going to try all of these.
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