If you're like me and you edit and sequence drum sounds on your PC, then read on about how I like to do things when setting up a drum loop. Part 1 - Finding the right drum sounds I always sample when it comes to drums. I guess it's because I just don't like the way drums sound on a drum machine - too "mechanical". There's no warmth there. I started off with a drum machine, the Roland R-70 (good luck finding one - they no longer make them) and it's with that machine that I learned the basics of sequencing, looping and step recording. But this part is not about all of that. When I'm creating a track, I like to always start off with drums. After that I can add whatever else I want on top of that because the "foundation" has been laid. So the first place I look for those nice, phat drum hits is through my vinyl record collection. I don't have a huge room full of records like some guys do, I have about 7 1/2 crates full. And out of the old stuff that I have, not much (if any) are soul or funk. Any old stuff I have is usually disco and new wave 80's stuff. Hey, you can still get some nice stuff out of that, just ask Boz Scaggs. Hahahahaha. So before I flip through my records, I have to decide what kind of track I want to create. Is it going to be fast? Smooth? Mellow? Hardcore? Once I've decided, then I start digging. Finding some nice drum sounds is not hard, it's all a matter of taste. I usually like to use a hard, punchy kick. For snares, I like something that sounds compressed, not too "lively", like as if it came straight from a live drummer. And for hi-hats, I like them clear and loud, that way I can bring the volume down later on, because I like to have them in the background, blending in with the kick and snare. Some people like to have all sorts of percussion like cowbells, and triangles. I like to just keep it simple for now, and once I get together with someone to produce a track, that's when I'll throw in any extras if needed. Sometimes I also lift drums from CDs, for that "clean" sound. A lot of guys want to keep it pure by only sampling vinyl, but that's like saying you'll only tap a white girl's ass - not possible, you have to try everything (hey, you can't use that!). Most of the time I'll take a kick from this record, a snare from this CD, and a hi-hat from somewhere else. I don't really like taking a whole drum loop and chopping it up to create my own loop. I prefer to take drums from all sorts of different places and then make my loop. Part 2 - Chopping When it comes to chopping up some drum sounds, I don't get too complex, I just like to do a few things in order to make the drums sound clean. Let's start with the snare. When I first look at the snare that I just recorded, there's a bit of music before and after the sound. Some people like to chop just a bit before the beginning of the snare, that way it doesn't give it a "chopped" sound. I prefer to chop right where the snare starts, and for the end of the snare sound, I just chop where I feel the sound ends at. The same chopping goes for the kick and hi-hat, but it also depends on what kind of sound I want from these drum hits. Part 3 - Editing Once I have my drum parts chopped up, it's time to edit those sounds. If one of the drum sounds ends with a small "click" because of the way that I chopped it, then I simply apply a FadeOut. I either use the default settings, or I adjust the FadeOut curve so that it fades out the very end of the sample, where the "click" is. I use this all the time, I never overlook this step. Once I apply this effect, sometimes it gives the the drum sound a "dead" and "dull" sound to it, simply because it cut off the end sound, which was most likely some sort of reverb "air" that was originally applied to the drum sound. What I do in this case is I just add my own reverb to it. Most of the time I'll use these settings for reverb on kick, snare or hi-hat: Decay: 0.20 sec Dry Mix: 100% Wet Mix: 59% Now these are just the settings I use in the Cakewalk Pro Audio reverb function. Many of you use other programs, some of you have some reverb hardware units. These are just some simple settings I use, sometimes I use others, you should just play around with your reverb settings and see what you're comfortable with. Once I have all the drum sounds edited, and I'm comfortable with them, I export them as .wav files from Cakewalk. That's when I open up Fruity Loops and begin sequencing and creating my loops. That's what I'll cover in the next article. Stay tuned.