Question about drum volume

Discussion in 'Drums' started by Telewanger, Oct 30, 2010.

  1. Telewanger

    Telewanger Active Member

    Oct 27, 2010
    I have Superior Drummer. Is is best to make all drums and cymbals exactly the same volume, or is there a formula for standard drum volume?

    After posting some of my songs, people tell em that the kick is too loud, a crash is too loud, hats are too low, etc.

    Should I set my drum levels to a certain standard volume, then tweak the volumes on final mixdown?
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    I've been programming for 30 years and have fooled the best in thinking my drums are live drummers (I don't use loops), I do it all from scratch. It can be time consuming and literally unimaginable to musicians and old school engineers. If you haven't seen it for your own eyes and/or used good samples and technique, you'll never believe it possible.
    It is in my opinion, the only way to produce most pop music. A blanket statement yes, but I definitely know what I'm doing. Got to love the confidence in that statement.:cool:


    I use Akai 's note repeat trigger to make the basic 8th, 16th, triplets etc and use pressure to set the feel and volume. That is the secret. Akai is king for this but there may be others I don't know about?
    Making programmed drums sound real is all about using pressure for the hats and having whatever midi controller you use ( like the high end MPC series and MPD with the pad mod) able to do pressure well. That is the first secret. The rest is detail subject to gear, sequencer, midi knowledge, sounds and levels and most important, musical abilities and understanding on how a drummer thinks and is capable of.


    I set up separate drums tracks, create a 4 bar loop, lay down the kick and snare in 1/4 note. Set volume velocity around 80% all the same ( but able adjust each drum volumes via fader) . Then I add the hats using the note repeat function until I get it right in feel. I play all the cymbals and crashes fills etc in real time. I think like a drummer all the time (two arms and to feet). I quantize, yes).

    Final tweaks, I go through the entire song after it has the bed track music in it bar by bar to remove the unwanted, unreal overlaps of hats (closed, open) etc and also adjust the levels. Its a big topic. I have about three stages where I do this over and over.

    There are two styles of drum programming to me. Ones that you can tell its a drum machine and the other where you can't. Sometime I care to make it real and sometimes I don't care. Modern music doesn't hold you to either, its a new world and I don't get caught up in the real thing at all. I do however, pay real close attention to detail and volume. Programmed drums can get really overpowering. Nothing better in my opinion if done well. Nothing worse is done poorly. (this become very apparent at the 2-bus with compression and finalizing).

    There are thousand of songs you'd never know were programmed drums that make you smile when someone says it can't be done.

    Think like a drummer, remove all dups (hats, toms, bells, fills and whistles) that overlap the same time the snare hits or where its not humanly possible with one drummer. Play the detail in real time and don't mess with it too much once you feel its sounds right and grooves. There is a fine line where you boil it to death.

    Such a big topic.

    Good luck!
  3. Telewanger

    Telewanger Active Member

    Oct 27, 2010

    I really appreciate your time and information!

    Here are the drums in question.

    This is a song that I recorded this past week in my little home studio. I was just wondering if they sound okay or need more work.

    (Dead Link Removed)
  4. natural

    natural Active Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    Not to take away from audiokid's excellent info, but I think the short answer to your question is that there are no actual rules for drum levels. It's going to depend on the song, style and your vision for the song.
    My suggestion is to listen to as many examples of your style of music and mimic those levels. I also think you'll see that many times the pros get it wrong too. Sometimes, the drums are too buried, kick is too loud, cymbals buried etc etc.
    If you get a chance to work with other drummers, they will let you know if you're on the right track.

    If this was something you could dial in from a recipe book, then, they could train monkeys to do it. Art is not that easy. And as audiokid pointed out, when you're trying to do it artifically, it's even tougher.

    BTW, I think the drum programming in your link is farily good at first listen. Any tweeks might be minor, it would depend if there are other tracks to go into this song. I think it come down to how many varied nuances and articulations you can create in your programming.

    @audiokid - could you post some of your drum work. I'd be interested in hearing how you approach it.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    I figured my arrogant/ and very confident statement would attract interest and even a challenge or two. Sure, I will post some tracks including songs I'm working on using my new hybrid studio. Its so awesome I can hardly wait!
    But hey.... Its not fair now hehe, I let the cat out of the bag didn't I.

    No sweat... knowing my gig will give the already with me a smile.. the fence riders confidence that they just confirmed a thought it could be... and the organic purists a second glance into the world of hybrid music.
    I love real drums, I love playing with bands and I love nothing more than the captured sound of real, but I also like electronics , the ability to do it all myself and making money. I learned a long time ago how to do it on my own and once I started, I realized others were also doing this. Its the best kept secret.

    The point being in the end, public perception only hears great sounding drums that are tight, in sync and vogue. The recording world and live world are two different animals.

    I'm preparing an album for my oldest Daughter 12, that will be all programmed drums. Don't hold your breath though, its a ways away. I'd love to keep talking about this as its my favourite topic. Typos or not... Got to go see a friend play in 3 hours.

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