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Adding groove and 'pocket' to programmed drums - A FREE Guide
Old 15th November 2009
  #1
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EddieTheRed's Avatar
 

Adding groove and 'pocket' to programmed drums - A FREE Guide

I have a confession.

Basically, I'm a geek.

It's probably because of that that I ended up spending this beautiful November afternoon dissecting and examining the timing of about a billion drum loops and midi files. And writing myself a reference sheet, to help add a sense groove and 'pocket' to my own drum programming and playing . . .

So in light of the several current threads on programming, I figured I should share it with my Slutz!

I tidied it up a bit, added a section on programming velocity variations, and here it is! I've included a rather pretty (ie less blue) downloadable PDF of the tips for anyone who's that way inclined

I hope this helps someone out. It is the holiday season after all.

So without any further ado, I present my guide to programming drums.

Enjoy!

Note: 1/128th is the minimum quantisation setting in my DAW (Cubase), so this guide is written in terms of 1/128ths, and halves and quarters of 1/128ths (1/256ths and 1/512ths).

Grooves

Pop / Rock (straight feel)

Kick – on beat 1, 1/256th note ahead of beat 3
Snare – 1/256 ahead
cymbals – 1/256 behind

Pop / Rock – David Haynes (funky feel)

kick – ahead 1/28
snare – behind 1/128
cymbals – ahead 1 / 256

Pop / Rock - Jabo Starks (funky feel)

kick – on beat
snare – behind 1/256
cymbals – on beats 1 & 2, 1/256 ahead of beats 3 & 4
Fast 16th doubles (kick, hats, ghosts) - 1st on beat, 2nd ahead 1/256

Rock / metal (straight feel)

kick & snare – on beat
cymbals – 1/256 behind beats 1 & 3, 1/128 behind beats 2 & 4

Rock / metal (half-time feel)

kick & snare – on beat
cymbals – 1/128 behind beats 1 & 3, 1/256 behind beats 2 & 4

punk / metal (double-time feel)

kick & snare – on beat
cymbals – on beats 1 & 3, 1/256 behind beats 2 & 4

Rock / Metal - peter fredlander (fast straight feel)

kick – on beat
snare – 1/256 behind beat 2, 1/128 behind beat 4
cymbals - behind 1/256
'Push' feel accents & fills – behind 1/128

Rock / Metal - Gene Hoglan (fast 'pushed 8ths' feel)

kick - ahead 1/256
snare - ahead 1/256
cymbals - behind 1/256

Notes: When a crash and kick drum are hit together, the kick almost invariably leads the crash by about a 1/128th. In addition to any 'pocket' or groove, any drummer's timing is slightly random. If your grooves still don't sound human enough, try varying the positioning of the hits by about a quarter of a 1/128th.

Velocities
  • The velocity with which a drum is hit affects much more than just it's volume. It has an enormous effect on the character and timbre of each hit, which is a vital part of a convincing programmed performance.
  • For most rock and pop styles, a good starting point is to set the first kick (on beat 1), the snare back-beat (on beat 3), and any cymbal crashes to the maximum velocity setting (MIDI=127) and adjust the velocities of the other elements relative to these.
  • It's common to keep the emphasis on beat 1, and to a lesser extent, beat 3, of each bar.
  • Consider which hand is playing what – if your drummer is right-handed, then the right handed hits will have a greater velocity than the left handed ones, and vice versa. This also applies to double kick pedal parts.
  • When programming fast snare and tom fills, it's extremely important to vary the velocities to prevent the infamous 'machine gun' effect. Pay close attention to the sticking of your fills and which hand is playing each hit, and vary the velocities accordingly.
  • In addition, many drummers will hit harder and harder throughout a fill, so the drums get louder as we approach a new section in the music. This can be very exciting and emotive, and easily achieved by gradually increasing the velocity of all hits throughout the fill.
  • When quick successive hits are played on the kick drum (with a single pedal), the last hit usually has the greatest velocity. However, when quick successive hits are played on a sticked drum with one hand, the hardest hit is usually the first.
  • When 8ths are played on the hi-hat with one hand, the odd hits (the 1st, 3rd, 5th etc.) should have greater velocities than the even. A particular style can be achieved by emphasising these discrepancies, and can be very effective.
  • The previous tips have mostly been about capturing an emotive, human sound, but in some extreme metal styles it's surprisingly common for any and all velocity variation to be removed from the bass drum(s). This lends double-kick parts an even, almost mechanical, character. This may or may not be the sound you're looking for.
Old 16th November 2009
  #2
Gear Nut
 
maxhype's Avatar
 

This is very insightful, thanks for posting!!! thumbsup
Old 16th November 2009
  #3
Gear Head
 

Awesome!
Thanks so much for sharing, I'm currently programming all the drums for my bands debut album (first time doing 'serious' programming for commercial release).

I haven't thought TOO much about groove so far, cant wait to try your approach.

I couldn't see the PDF Download link though?

-Mike
Old 16th November 2009
  #4
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EddieTheRed's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteelyMike View Post
I couldn't see the PDF Download link though?
Oops!

Here you go guys . . .
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Grooves.pdf (55.2 KB, 1226 views)
Old 21st November 2009
  #5
Gear Head
 

Eddie you're a legend!
thanks for sharing mate
Old 25th November 2009
  #6
Lives for gear
 
EddieTheRed's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteelyMike View Post
Eddie you're a legend!
thanks for sharing mate
It's my pleasure . . . so we've had a couple of hundred views, has anyone tried this out?
Old 25th November 2009
  #7
Lives for gear
Eddie, I have been programming drums for 5 years now and this guide really is nice. I spend a ton of time on the little things and have experimented so much with a lot of the things you mentioned. It takes a long time to get drum programming right, and if it is done bad, you can ruin a song.

The one thing I would add is that anyone learning to program drums needs to sit down and spend time programming a song with a beat they like all the way through. Put the mp3 of that song above your MIDI files and really make sure your kicks and snares line up perfectly with the track you are referencing.
Old 21st January 2011
  #8
Gear Addict
 

Great info! I'll post here so I can search it later with my user ID.
Old 21st January 2011
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
erasedcitizen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
Eddie, I have been programming drums for 5 years now and this guide really is nice. I spend a ton of time on the little things and have experimented so much with a lot of the things you mentioned. It takes a long time to get drum programming right, and if it is done bad, you can ruin a song.

The one thing I would add is that anyone learning to program drums needs to sit down and spend time programming a song with a beat they like all the way through. Put the mp3 of that song above your MIDI files and really make sure your kicks and snares line up perfectly with the track you are referencing.

I second this, it wasn't until I did this with one of my favourite songs that I really started to understand how to make programmed drums feel more naturally.
Old 21st January 2011
  #10
Gear Nut
 

Does anyone know how the compound time signatures work in logic. When you double click the time signature in global tracks A window opens where you enter beat groupings. When you punch numbers they can change the feel of logic. I have messed around with this alot but I don't know if Im doing it right. I went to a logic seminar hung around to talk to the tech and he said it was way over his head. Anybody know about this?
Old 21st January 2011
  #11
Lives for gear
 
tha]-[acksaw's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by EddieTheRed View Post
Note: 1/128th is the minimum quantisation setting in my DAW (Cubase), so this guide is written in terms of 1/128ths, and halves and quarters of 1/128ths (1/256ths and 1/512ths).

First, great thread. I'm gonna love coming back to this one. I'm not working in Cubase. I'm a ProTools slave. Can you help me out with this whole 1/128ths, 1/256's 1/512ths thing. I've been looking for a way to measure slight off beats when studying live multitrack drums. I'm always trying to make my programming more real, so like some guys said I analyze drums tracks often.

I've been measuring stuff in samples, @ 44.1 mostly, within my DAW. Like, how many samples does the snare fall behind the beat, or grid. Thats how I check the lag between drums hit at roughly the same time. For instance, Kick hitting ahead of the Cymbals, like you mentions. Since I'm not in Cubase, whats the reference of 1/128th? Is that like breaking down the lag of a hit based on a 1/128th note behind beat (grid), within a bar? Like 1/128th note with in a bar. As in, a half note, quarter note, 16th note, 32nd note... broken all the way down to a 1/128th note? I just want to understand the relation.

I hope my question makes sense. I've yet to find a universal way to define swing when working around a grid? Any help on the whole 1/128th thing?
Old 21st January 2011
  #12
Gear Addict
 
Surfkat's Avatar
 

Thanks for your insights into programming. I have also spent many years programming drums with the intent of making it sound human. One of the best tools at your disposal is the correct use of swing settings. I seldom use a single swing setting for all of the drums of a song. Also the swing settings of various DAWs and drum machines are not all the same and you need to learn the feel of your particular tool. Many folks here will know how the Linn MPC swing settings are famous for their feel.

Even when programming a straight note groove, a slight swing on the hi-hat can impart a huge difference in the feel. And when programming a fill, experiment with different swing values for the duration of the fill.

A technique that I often use is to program the kick and snare and then manually play the hi-hats, ride cymbals and tom fills in real time on a midi keyboard. If you know how to listen objectively to the results you can create some great grooves this way.

Another great trick is a live percussion track recorded on top of a programmed beat. This might be a tamborine on top of the snare or a shaker that grooves with the hi-hat. Look at all of the small percussion parts that might be added and consider making those live parts like woodblock, clave, shaker, cowbell, maracas etc. Every studio should have a box of real percussion instruments, they are inexpensive and fun.

In addition to varying the velocity of each drum you can also vary the pitch. The easy way to do this is to have two or more samples of each drum. I like to have 2 versions of a snare and alternate those for each hit. If you are using midi to control the samples then you have control of the pitch and can vary that slightly. This can be time consuming but can add a lot to get away from the machine sound. Pitch variation of toms is very cool.

The last tip I'll throw out is "ghost notes". If you don't know about and understand the importance of ghost notes and how they can drive a groove then I suggest you invite a good drummer over to help you understand how to add this to your programming chops. While mainly played on the snare, ghost notes are often employed on the kick and hat too. Study Steve Gadd, he ain't just whacking the 2 and the 4 on that snare.

Patience is the key and less in often more!

Last edited by Surfkat; 21st January 2011 at 03:24 PM.. Reason: changed wording
Old 21st January 2011
  #13
Lives for gear
 

I studied the groove and structure of the audio and midio output of my MPC 60 intensely, trying to figure out what gave it the feel it had. One thing I noticed was the serialization of notes/drum hits... meaning, no two sounds ever hit at the exact same time... ever. This was partially due to the old slow cpu which could only process things one at a time, but was also due to the serial nature of the midi protocol where notes could only be sent one at a time. Anyway, it makes sense that this gives you a more natural feel since live drummers will never hit anything at the exact same time (even a really tight drummer will have millisecond variations.

Of course, there's also very subtle randomness that plays a big part in the feel. So far, the best tools I've found to get this subtle randomization in programmed drums is to use the midi modifiers in Cubase and set position to randomize... and use a small amount. Also, the humanizer feature in NI Battery and Kontakt do a pretty decent job of this.
Old 26th January 2011
  #14
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EddieTheRed's Avatar
 

This is great stuff, guys . . . keep it coming!
Old 26th January 2011
  #15
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Jack Pettit's Avatar
 

Thanks, when I have some time I'll study this.
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