In part 1 of our Exploring Found Percussion Bundle interview with synth expert and Sound Synthesis & Sampling author Martin Russ, we covered using percussion samples beyond their usual confines, as well as how to setup Ableton Live to produce interesting layered effects and processes. We were utterly inspired by Martin's 'thinking outside the box' approach to working with our Found Percussion Bundle - so much so that we asked him to round-off his sound design experimentations by casting his knowledgable ears and eyes towards the final pack in the collection, Drum Collider.
In this, the concluding part of our discussion, Martin takes us through the music production tips and tricks he used in realising his example drum loop, step-by-step. Let's get stuck right in!
ModeAudio (MA). Thanks for giving us a second peek into your creative practice! As with our previous discussion, you've created an audio loop example to demonstrate your production processing ideas and techniques. What are we hearing in this audio example'
Martin Russ (MR). The recording has the original kit first, then my extreme modified version. We'll talk about how I achieved these effects below, so you should keep returning to the audio example to listen out for all the changes that I made, and think how you might use a more restrained version to add a little interest and avoid pure repetition. Also, I've used one of the example MIDI drum loops from the bundle, so everything I've done can be easily emulated (and changed) by anyone who buys the bundle.
MA. Excellent! So, let's get right to it - what did you do with the Drum Collider samples to produce the above sound'
MR. First off, I listened to the 10 Drum Racks to get a quick feel for the sort of sounds included, and to hear what the included MIDI loops were like - my basic assumption is that the kits and the MIDI files should show off what the design intention was, plus I'm looking for a bit of care and attention, which was confirmed when I saw some variation in MIDI velocity, and of course, the whole point of this pack is to get some Reason 'Kong' drum machine-type sounds in another DAW (Ableton Live in my case). Auditioning complete, I went back to the 'Boom' kit and pulled it apart to see how it was put together - I liked the 'Down' kit's tuned pipe sounds, but 'Boom' is the top one and so one of the first ones that people will try out.
MA. We're delighted you understand the intentions behind the pack's content so well! Was there anything you liked about the Drum Racks in particular'
MR. The Macro Controls looked well thought-out and usable, and I particularly like the 'Pitch' control, something which I often add to kits and use to get some variations and to push the sound a little outside reality. Well, actually, my preference is to go a little over the top - sort of the audio version of Philip Castle or Chris Foss's glossy airbrushing. So you won't be surprised that I made a few tweaks here and there!
MA. Excellent - more getting outside of that box! So, what did you do with the racks'
MR. For the Kick, I duplicated the existing drum, muted the original, and used a couple of unlinked Envelopes as LFOs to cyclicly adjust the pitch and the pan position. By keeping the original drum in the rack (but muted) it becomes a 'fallback' option when experimentation goes too far and you've forgotten what you did. I unmuted and pulled the volume of the original drum down a little, then balanced them to my preference. I've never been a fan of each repetition of a sound being exactly the same, and a little variation sounds good to my ears. For the example recording, I've over-emphasised all of the adjustments so that they are very obvious, and you might want to make them more on the subtle side. And yes, the panning is too extreme!
MA. Using unlinked Envelopes to subtly adjust parameters and build variety into your loop is an excellent idea (and one our friend AfroDJMac discussed for us in a guest video tutorial). So with the Kick taken care, what about the Snare'
MR. The Snare is a popular target for all sorts of modifications, but I restrained myself to some extent, and just added some 'spread' detuning in Ableton's Simpler sample player to a copy of the original sound, whilst Snare1 also got a different detune amount plus a slow LFO-modulated bandpass filter. This softened the snare sound a bit, and pulled it a little lower in the mix, which avoids any suggestion of the Cameo 'Word Up' effect. You can always use the Spectrum effect to see what changes you have made, and so here is the original drum sound (Spectrum 1), the band-pass filtered drum (see the loss of high-frequencies in Spectrum 2), and the final combination of original plus filtered (Spectrum 3). Copying and keeping a muted original drum allows you to recover the sound, and to make very quick changes - particularly with Macro Controls'
MA. This layering approach is becoming a bit of a theme and is a wonderfully simple yet effective technique for adding extra richness and spice to drums. Next up - you've placed an effect on the Clap haven't you'
MR. The Clap sound is one where I'm guilty in real life of sometimes deliberately clapping out of time, and so you won't be surprised that I inserted the Ping-Pong Delay into the rack chain to syncopate just the clap. Deliberately putting a bit of echo deep inside a kit helps to stop me putting echo on the whole kit, which is always good for a natural over-user like me. Just remember 'deep and deliberate, not on everything' and you will then become one of those people who uses global flanging, echo or reverb only when it actually enhances things for a very short time!
MA. This is great advice - the age old 'less is more' approach. We can hear a bassline in your audio loop - is that made from the included drum samples'
MR. The Boom kit has four tuned 'boom' sounds that are used here to provide a pitched bass-line. The supplied sounds were too pure and sine-wavy for my taste, so I used the 'deep and deliberate, not on everything' single drum technique to add a bit of Saturator-generated harmonics where it enhanced, rather than roughened the sound. Because it does sound so 'natural', then you might be tempted to try it on every drum, but to my ears, the hard, brittle sound of a 'saturated' complete drum kit is one that should be used sparingly. The reason for this is quite interesting: Saturator changes the waveform shape, and so is very good at adding harmonics to sounds that have a strong pitch structure; but for sounds that have more inharmonics, then Saturator adds extra frequencies to everything and you get a thick, brittle sound that obscures rather than improves. Too many frequencies can be bad sometimes! You can also try a compressor, the dynamic tube or the overdrive effect and see how they do different things to the sound (there's a tutorial on producing crunchy, warm drums on this very website if you want to see when applying the same chain of effects is a good idea!).
MA. We're also great believers in applying just a little bit of acoustics know-how to better inform your production decisions, so knowing about the waveshaping effects of saturation and distortion is incredibly valuable - thanks! Wow, you've really transformed the core drum content here, any final advice for music producers working with samples'
MR. There is a lot more that I could do to get the kits to suit my own preferences, and I always encourage people to try adding extra drum samples, swapping samples, opening up the sample player to adjust some values, putting effects inside'
Once again, our extra-special thanks go out to the brilliant Martin Russ for offering us such a detailed glimpse into his music production world - we hope he'll grace the pages of this magazine in the future to deliver more inspiring ideas for us all to enjoy!