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Quick Tip: Drum Processing Part 3: Hi Hats & Percussion

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This post is part of a series called Drum Processing.
Quick Tip: Drum Processing Part 2: Claps and Snares
Quick Tip: Drum Processing Part 4: Tips and Tricks

This short series of quick tips is designed to give you a good overview of the audio processing techniques involved in creating a professional sounding drum beat for use in house, electro and breaks in Cubase. In this part we will look at adding hi hats and percussion to our kick and snare drums.

Here is a sample of the type of beat you could expect to end up with at the end of this series of tips:

The Basics

Ok, so let's start with something straightforward, and add in the classic offbeat open hat sound. Once again I'm using the Vengeance packs, and I've selected this open hat sound:

The sample that you choose at this point is really up to you - try and find a sound that compliments the rest of your beat - I've chosen this one because it's bright, lively and clean. You could even consider layering up 2 open hi hats much like we did with the kick and snare sounds in the previous tutorials.

To add just a little definition to the open hat I have also layered up a closed hi hat with it. Nothing fancy is needed here, I chose a faily uninteresting sample, it's just there to back the open hat - here's how it sounds before and after:

Lets add these to our kick and snare parts and see how it sounds. I've just put these open hats on every offbeat 8th note, snapped 100%. You can see the kicks at the top in purple, the claps/snares in blue, and these hats in yellow:

To add a bit of interest to the stereo image here I've used exactly the same delay technique I used on the clap sounds in the previous tutorial to delay the right channel of the hi hat - here's a before and after:

The next addition I've chosen to make is a simple 8th note ticking away in the background. Subtle layers like this really help to add some energy and brightness to the top end of a track. I've snapped the notes to every 8th note, and made every other one quieter by lowering it's aplitube on the track, as demonstrated here:

Here's how it sounds:

Adding Syncopation/Swing

Now we have some presence in the top end we need to do something to add a little groove or swing to the track. Everything we've programmed so far pretty much sits square on the grid, and is all a bit robotic. Here I'm adding just one simple hi hat sound prior to every other open hat to give the track a bit of swing.

Rather than use a swing function in the snapping I have simply turned off the snapping altogether and manually placed the hat where it sounds right. Don't worry if you don't get it in exactly the same place in every bar, as long as it sounds right to you a certain amount of variation can actually add a lot of life to your beat!

Here's how it sounds without, then with the rest of our beat. You should be ablet to hear just how much of a change adding one simple hi hat like this makes:

With this syncopation in mind, I'm going to add another layer, this time a shaker. I'm starting off by simply drawing in 8th notes with one shaker sample:

Now I'm adding a slightly different shaker sample (you could reuse the first one and pitch shift it up or down slightly)to add the syncopated notes, again by manually moving them with the snapping turned off.

Now by simply deleting some of the notes from the sequence you can make a nice rhythmic pattern. Here's how it fits with the beat so far:

Filling out Your Beat with a Loop

The last thing I'm giong to do here is to use a loop sit behind the beat. I've chosen this simple loop from the Vengeance Essential House pack:

I've chosen this loop because it doesn't have a prominent kick or snare, and I like the little conga skitter in it. When you add it to the rest of the beat it sits nicely at the back and fills out the gaps in the sound:

A Few Notes

That's pretty much all the percussion I think this beat needs, though you could consider adding more congas, bongos, tambourines etc depending on how full you want it.

It's worth mentioning that I have not applied any EQ or compression to these hi hats and percussion instruments at all. In some cases you may wish to add a bit of brightness to some of the sounds, in which case a boost or shelf at about 12 kHz will really add some sparkle. If you're looking to add a bit more presence and body to the hats try boosting at around 8 kHz. I often find that I select samples that fill the frequencies I need, and consequently I often hold back from EQing them untill I hear them sit in the track as a whole.

Keep a look out for the final tut in this series where I will be going over some neat tricks to get the most out of your drums.

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