MIDI drums offer detailed control over tuning, pitch accuracy, and editability. Audio drums are often as easy as “drag and drop” but might need pitch correction plugins to tune the pre-processed samples to the key of the project.
Many music producers buy and use sample packs. Sample packs have a high value in today’s music production market because these packages offer high-quality kick drum audio samples at affordable costs. When using audio samples, it is a wise idea to audition/use various pitch correction mixing plugins to understand some of the best ways for tuning kick drums (for the specific files at hand). One plugin might work perfectly for an organic kick drum whereas another plugin might work better for an 808. The key is to understand where the strengths are in each of the tuning based mixing plugins offered in the DAW or purchased for the DAW.
If audio is not the direction of choice and mixing plugins are a chore to shootout (some people do not like audio and love MIDI) then designing kick drums via MIDI or using sample packs with MIDI drums included, will offer another viable option for manipulating kick drum tuning accuracy.
Remember, to follow the steps provided in article 1 of this mini-series on the best ways for tuning kick drums. Understanding what key your song is in is always step 1!
MIDI offers many more advantages than audio, especially in the realms of pitch correction and editing. Shown in this picture is the ESX-24, the powerful sampler found in Logic X. All DAWS have unique and robust sample generators. Ableton Live has one of the best ones out there! For all you Ableton Live users count your blessings! Creating kick drums in MIDI can be done with a MIDI controller or by entering MIDI data in a “Piano Roll” type editor window.
All DAWs include an editor window, but some DAWs are better for MIDI creation and editing than others. Pro Tools 12 is not the best but excels in mixing and automation of audio. Most music producers feel Logic X and Ableton Live are equally is good as one another; as both DAWs offer powerful engines for kick drum creation, kick drum tuning, and overall MIDI creation of music. We use both at The Continuum Music Studio and feel both of these DAWs are the best in the business for MIDI creation and manipulation of drums.
The process in these DAWs (and others) is simple: Open the editor window, draw in the data with a mouse or hit a MIDI controlled, and then quantize to taste.
That is it!
A Continuum personal favorite would be Celemony Melodyne. This mixing plugin offers outstanding results for tuning kick drums and also tuning just about audio your throw at it! The question boils down to one question.
What are my needs now and what will my needs be in the future for getting my track to a more professional level with precise tuning?
Also, ask yourself, Does the music production call for basic kick drum tuning in the free realm or is it time to invest a little cash to have a mixing plugin or two that offers more control, options, and sonic depth regarding the quality of your kick drum tuning.
If you are using MIDI to design your kick drums then what is within the DAW on a native level (regarding samples) will provide “enough” access to quick editing and tuning. It is vital to know that, native mixing plug-ins and MIDI generators can only do so much and often impose limits on tonal options, (unless purchased sample packs are upload with better samples in more advanced MIDI editors).
So, there is clearly more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, more than one best way to tune a kick drum. The million-dollar question remains:
What are the best ways to tune kick drums for YOU? The answer is: Whatever way YOU feel best suits your creative process! Some of us want to save time and spend money; others want to save money and spend more time tuning. Ultimately, the choice, as the music producer is yours!
Part three of the best ways to tune a kick drum will cover flex time-based pitch correction software to showcase a deeper side of kick drum tuning.
For now, go shootout some mixing plugins, import some audio files, and play with a MIDI sampler or two. It never hurts to download some demos of a various third party mixing plugins and programs too! Only you will know which route makes the most sense for the creative process of composition. The key is experimentation and understanding all your options!
Stay Passionate Music Producers and Never Stop Making Art!
Written by: Kriss Walas
A Licensed Continuum Music Studio Blog Creative Work
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