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Better Programmed Drums with this Tip

Unless you’ve got a great kit, a great room, and a great drummer, it’s tough to get great live drums. Oh, and don’t forget the great mics/pres and years of great experience. The list goes on…

This shouldn’t be too shocking.

Even if you don’t have all of these things, you can still get some good drum sounds by programming. Today’s sample libraries are absolutely incredible. And with a few special techniques, your programmed drums can come to life.

Today, we’re going to work on one specific element of programming that is going to give you a super-realistic sound.

And that is what I like to call “nudging.”

“Nudging” is moving individual notes, drums, or sections by small amounts in order to add feel into the performance.

For example, if you’ve got a laid back blues track and are working on the closed hi-hat in the verse, you might want to select all of the hi-hats for that section and nudge them back a few ticks.

Or maybe on your high-energy rock track, you want the chorus to push a bit more. You could select the kick and snare for the entire chorus and nudge the forward a few ticks.

And if you’ve already got a great performance, but that one fill sounds just a little too perfect, get in there and nudge the individual notes around to humanize it.

You might be wondering how this is different from using the randomize/humanize function when quantizing your midi. It’s insanely different.

When you do that (which you should do before you start nudging), you’re randomly moving the notes off the grid. This is going to give it a slightly more human feel.

However, with nudging, you’re making intentional decisions based on the feel you’re going for. To push the track more, you can nudge elements forward. To make it more laid back, you can nudge them back a bit.

This can turn a decent programming job into an incredible one.

Happy nudging!

Want to get even better at drum programming? Check out our in-depth, 3 part series on all of the drum programming techniques the pros use here.

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