Drum Samples, Replacement, Triggers FAQ


Jan 10, 2005
So I noticed there isn't a sticky for using samples and replacing drums 'n all that good stuff. Well, I've decided to make a little FAQ for it and hopefully it will help some people out :) Brett should be making it into a sticky and putting in the FAQ links soon.

Where to begin...well I will just take it one at a time and base it off of questions that I have seen in the past. Here goes:

What are samples?

Samples are pretty much exactly what you would expect from the name - a sample of something. In this case, we're talking about drum samples specifically. You can find a ton of snare/kick/tom multi-samples both free and for sale all over the internet and this forum as well, it's like the New York Stock Exchange of drum samples around here. If you can get multi-samples you are doing good, but one-hits can work too for some things like toms and kicks. Multi-sample just means there are several samples of the same drum where each sample is a different hit and usually multiple sets different velocities as well. This is good because every time a drummer hits a drum he doesn't hit it exactly the same so this will help maintain some realism.

Why would someone use samples?

Lets say you are recording a band, and the guitars sound amazing, the vocals came out perfect and that bass is kicking you in the chest, but the drums just fucking suck. So despite the ungodly sound of everything else, it doesn't matter because the drums are bringing down the house. Using samples the right way can save the day. Samples are recorded, usually, in optimum conditions and have no bleed in them. The person making the samples can take all the time in the world to find good mic positions, etc., unlike your situation where the band wanted to hurry because they could only afford 4 hours. Because there is no bleed with samples you can get a much cleaner sound. Replacing drums also offers a great deal of consistency which is really expected in today's modern productions, especially so with metal. So that you can really hear what is possible with drum samples and replacement, I would suggest that you check out the audio demos on Steven Slate's website for some great examples of before and after.

How do I use them?

You are going to need a few things. One, a DAW/host that uses VST/RTAS(PT)/AU(Mac) plug-ins (Cubase, Nuendo, PTHD/PTLE, SAWStudio, Vegas, Acid, Sonar, Logic and Digital Performer are all hosts). Two, a set of samples for what you want to replace. So if you want to replace a kick drum, you need some kick samples - duh. Three, you will need a sound replacement plug-in. There are a few out there, I'll break them down real quick:

Slate Digital TRIGGER - Cost: $99 (EX, slimmed down sample library) or $249 (Platinum, SSD shells + Deluxe kicks and snares)
--Pros: Best results I have personally had with any replacer. Has MIDI i/o for both EX and Platinum versions (really handy!), multiple sample layers, handles dynamics really well, easy to use Instrument Builder application to make your own sample sets
--Cons: Personally haven't found any yet

Drumagog 5 - Cost: $269 (Pro version) or $359 (Platinum version)
Pros: Can load your drum VSTi (such as Superior 2.0, Addictive Drums, BFD, etc.) inside of Drumagog
Cons: (Only used previous versions)

SPL DrumXchanger - Cost: ~$200US (price is 149 Euros)
Pros: Has SPL's Transient Designer built-in and a ducking feature
Cons: (Never used it)

apTrigga 2 - Cost: $60 (for full version)
--Pros: Also does the job, has some cool features and takes very little resources, i.e. if your computer sucks then you will be better off with this one
--Cons: Doesn't have a bunch of bells and whistles like other replacers, virtually impossible to maintain wide range of dynamics with a single instance (ghost notes, med and hard hits)

Ok, I have samples and a replacement plug-in, now what?

What you will do in any host is apply the replacement plug-in on the track that you wish to replace the sound on. Once you've added it you can open the plug-in and see the GUI. This is where you will load your samples in the replacer.

After your samples are loaded, you need to set your blending and threshold to what you are trying to accomplish. If you only want to hear the sample, you are going to turn the dry knob to 0 (zero) so the original track cannot be heard. If you want to hear half original sound and half sample, turn the dry knob to 50 and so on. apTrigga's blending knobs can be a little confusing since they both go from 0-200, but 100 = 50 inside apTrigga. Most other replacers have a single 0-100% knob for blending. So once you've set the blend amount, now you need to set your threshold so that you are only hearing a sample being triggered when the drum is being hit and not mis-triggering from the bleed in the mic. If you have a lot of bleed from other drums in the original track I would suggest editing it out of of the mic track or use a gate before the replacer. I also usually use an EQ before the replacer to boost fundamental frequencies of the drum I am replacing as well as cutting out things that only complicate the triggering process, making it a lot easier to work with. Once you have a clean drum track coming in, look at the replacer's input level meter and you will see the peaks of the drum hits. Slide the threshold down to just below the lowest drum peak and work from there to catch all the hits using the other features of the replacer you are using.

Most replacers have several modes depending on what you want to get out of them. For example in apTrigga you have Stack mode where it will play all the loaded samples together every time it triggers, TRIGGER has "articulations" like Hard, Full, Crack, etc. which are modes with specifically restricted (or full-fledged in Full) dynamics ranges with the sample set you load up. Again, it all depends on what you are trying to do. Do you want the kick to have the same sample every time no matter what? Do you want to keep the dynamics of your snare track or make it hard hits only?

I only have one kick/snare/tom sample to use. Won't that sound like a drum machine?

Basically, yes. But you can do something to help that. Typically with kicks it isn't a big deal, unless the music is a little more dynamic/organic than say, tech-death or something where the same samples played repeatedly is the sound you want to have. For snares and toms, however, it's always best to have several samples. If you only have one, there is a trick that I have used, as well as others, to create more samples from the one you have. Take the sample you have and pitch it down just a few 10ths of a cent, just a few. Then load that one in. Take the original sample again and pitch it up just a few 10ths of a cent. Then load that one in. You now have three samples from the one you originally had. If you pitch it up or down too much, though, it won't come out quite right. The slight pitched up/down sample will effectively recreate the little human element of hitting it harder or softer every few hits or so. Having different timbres, if you will.

The drummer is very dynamic with his playing and uses a lot of ghost notes which his snare. How can I replace that?

With a good replacement plug-in, decent set of samples and a lot of patience. The more dynamic the music/drummer, the harder it is going to be to replace and sound close enough to the real thing. If the drummer uses ghost notes on the snare a lot, you may have to go duplicate your snare track and have it setup to replace only ghost notes. Another way is to convert the track to MIDI and program in the hits it is missing, or maybe it's catching them but not translating the velocity correctly which is an easy fix with MIDI. It all depends on how intricate the track is and how well it was recorded and played really. Some replacers like TRIGGER and Drumagog have a feature where you can set up certain samples to play for certain velocities, this is a situation where MIDI comes in handy. apTrigga has a similar feature where you assign which samples are triggered dependent on how high above the threshold the input goes called Dynamic, but honestly it's not nearly as usable as with TRIGGER and Drumagog. Really the best advice I can give, though, is to always just try to get the very best natural recording and performance of the drums (at least the snare), trying not to rely on replacement except as the last resort.

I can't find any samples that the drummer is happy with. What can I do?

You try to come to a compromise by making samples of his own drumset yourself. Just mic up a single piece at a time and have him hit it at different velocities and far apart. Usually it's best to do a direct mic like usual, optionally you can do overhead tracks and even a room mic if you want to have the most options. I would say about 8 hits per velocity or so (8 hits at full blast, 8 hits just a little lighter, 8 hits a little lighter, and so on) should be plenty, another situation where it depends on what you will need. Make sure to allow enough time between each hit so that the drums fully ring out to silence before hitting it again. After you have a good set of hits, chop each hit up and then render/bounce each one out separately. You can opt to process them ahead of time with compression, EQ, etc. or leave them raw and process them after you have them loaded and replacing your drums in the mix. Either way, now you have multi-samples of his own drums and there is no bleed. :)

What about triggers?

Triggers are a little device that you attach to the drum(s). They have a piezo element in them that picks up each hit from the drummer. Put them on the drums and plug them directly into a mic pre, or you can use a DI if you want. What you will be recording from the triggers are ticks or pops. The main reason to use them is that they are much better to use for triggering samples than triggering from an audio track of the mic'ed drum since the transients are way more isolated. Trigger tracks, the pops, are also useful for drum editing since the transients are easier to see. With a trigger track you are typically going to want to replace 100% since they don't sound too great, but some engineers have been known to blend in the sound of the trigger itself tucked in to add some crack to the top end of the drum. Experiment, you may get some great sounds doing it.


So that is all I have for now. I hope I covered everything and if not, well I can always edit. Feel free to ask questions and make suggestions, etc. Discuss!
Thanks 006 :kickass: :kickass:

Just want to add, there is a free drum replacer called KT Drum trigger which is a VST, and sends midi to be used with a drum machine like Sonar's Session drummer etc. Its OK if you are a skinflint like me :kickass:

Nice job 006, thanks for taking the time to do this - I'm sure it will save the efforts of many to come!

I'll add one more thing here: A lot of people will use samples as for example with metal you want the sound of the drums being hit hard and consistently, which is physically impossible. So for example you may have a setup where when the drummer hits hard your drums sound perfect. When there are some soft hits thrown in, its not quite sounding right. This is a useful time to use samples - so you can achieve consistency in the power of the hits.

Just think thats what Lars Ulrich was doing on ...And Justice For All by playing each song in small sections as hard as he could, and then taking breaks before the next section - so that you can get the consistent sound of the drums being pounded!
Cool FAQ. One correction though, apTrigga accepts MIDI input like a champ. I always trigger from MIDI tracks with apTrigga with absolutely zero problems. I take my original kick track, put ReaGate on it so that only the hits are getting through and set ReaGate to send a midi note every time it opens, then I record that MIDI to a new track, delete/add MIDI notes where the gate misfired and then add apTrigga to the MIDI track. Works like a charm!
Really? I had no idea, I guess reading the manual does have it's benefits haha.

Cool idea.

I would add tho that the best thing to do when dealing with ghost notes is to just bring the natural snare up (bottom snare mic).
Also, one thing that works great in most cases is to create a duplicate track of the snare, put drumagog on it with the sample and then play with the best bleeding btw natural snare and sampled snare. IMO that works better than using the "blend" option in the sampler. I've found that its just doesnt get the aligment/phase right. And also, its just not right to do it: think of it like using a reverb. The right way to do it is to use a FX track set at 100% and then play with how much verb you want for the dry (original) track. Same thing here, leave the un-sampled track alone and just create another track for drumagog.

If you mind, I'd like to add some tips for getting those replacement skills good and avoid the awfull "drummachine" effect.

- For kicks, specially on double kick parts, it works very good when editing the drums, if you set one kick slighty louder than other (at the original kick waveform, before drumagog processing), that way, when using drumagog, if you set it to Dynamic, but not all the way if not more like 10-30% , it will feel and sound better, and less like a machine
Now... how do I do it?
Before I go into any drumagog stuff, I want to get the drums lined up real good and tight. So for example, in double kick parts, I just edit to grid one measure of doublekicks pattern, with one hit slightly louder than the other, and then I just LOOP it for the whole section. Obviously you must get the snare hitting at the same time for these parts, but after a few time, you can get your drum editing skills pretty good.

- Same thing for snares and toms, if you just set it to a slightly dynamic mode, for fills and fast parts you can directly edit the waveform so you can accentuate some hits so drumagog will read it more humanly. And if you want to get more detailed: You can automate the dynamic percentage so in some fills it really gets "real".

- In cases that you don't have a great library like Slates, you may want to use the natural snare along with your sample. And if you only got one hit, and you did 006's tips about getting some a little bit higher in pitch, and you still feel that it doesnt sound right, well, try to get a nice blend between the natural and the sampled one. IMO I do it even with steven sounds, because even if they sound great by itself, It wouldn't be so cool that we all end getting the same drum sounds for our records in a few years (or having all the guys with the same shirt in a party :Smug: )So think about it as a creative effect and a tool to get your own sound for your drums.
Even if you use Slate's for all your records, if you still use whats left from the natural tracks, they all will sound different from each other:kickass:

Now, if you are pertty happy with your natural drums, adding a bit of a sampled snare or kick may get your drums too sound fatter, because the low end specially, gets summed.
Great topic, but I thought I'd add in this video that i found online.

Really helps to understand how to achieve audio to score with Logic 8.
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GClip is great for evening out the dynamics of a trigger. I'm working on a demo right now where the drummer does a lot of blasts that are very soft, but then he'll crack the snare. I tried using a transient designer - but it was making weird artifacts that caused some double triggers. Gclip hasn't had much of an effect eve with extreme clipping. I just set it to about 90% w/ x2 oversampling and 0% softness. Then bring up the gain so the softest hits are nice and present. The boosted signal triggers a lot easier for me, especially with drumagog.
Nice! Keep the extra tips coming guys, seriously making this sticky a mecca for drum replacement info :)

there is a free drum replacer called KT Drum trigger which is a VST

There is also this:

INFO: http://www.boxsounds.com/replacer_info.html
DOWNLOAD: http://www.boxsounds.com/vst.html
Could someone point me towards the drum samples that the OP mentioned were on here?

Here is the thread with all the samples in it. A few of the links are old/broken by now, but the main ones to grab are the Chimaira tom samples and the link that says "My Kick Drum Collection", that one is chock full of good kicks taken from commercial releases. It also tells you which band the kick is from, my favorite right now is the Dissection 2 and 3 kick :) The Andy Sneap samples are up there too, and there are a LOT of snare samples that are good in that thread.

I'm surprised that thread isn't stickied...I'll send a message to the MOD and see if he can sticky it.

Here is the thread with all the samples in it. A few of the links are old/broken by now, but the main ones to grab are the Chimaira tom samples and the link that says "My Kick Drum Collection", that one is chock full of good kicks taken from commercial releases. It also tells you which band the kick is from, my favorite right now is the Dissection 2 and 3 kick :) The Andy Sneap samples are up there too, and there are a LOT of snare samples that are good in that thread.

I'm surprised that thread isn't stickied...I'll send a message to the MOD and see if he can sticky it.


Sweetness, thank you much!!
Awesome thread... I'm still learning new tricks, keep em coming... thanks guys!

Just to add my 2 cents: My personal preferance is Drumagog. For a snare track that is hard to find the right trigger settings I sometimes will make 2 passes at it. First pass with the setting that I get the best results over all then bounce the audio out to a new track. Next pass adjusting the settings to get the subtle hits that weren't accurate and bouce that audio to a new track. I then splice the two new tracks together and presto! Nice new perfect sounding track. I've tried other methods but this one was the least time consuming.

no mention of battery? i find it to be really simple to use, just drag and drop audio files into it. and you can edit the sample, and add effects, aswell as send individual samples in the same kit to different busses.
excellent thread! i particularly appreciate the link to the old sample link thread!!!