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May 13, 2021

Jacquire King creating custom drum samples




Layering samples on top of a live-recorded kick or snare drum track is a pretty common technique. In this excerpt from Start to Finish: Jacquire King - Episode 16 - Adding Samples, Jacquire and engineer Danny Pellegrini show how they fatten a kick drum with a sample during the mix of the Oak and Ash song “Keep The Light On.”

Spot On

Jacquire and Danny are using Steven Slate Trigger 2, which, like other drum-replacement plug-ins, allows you to layer samples onto individual tracks in a multitrack drum recording, particularly kick and snare. For the sampled sound, Jacquire uses a single hit from a kick drum track that he previously imported into the session along with some other supplemental background tracks (read more about that in the article and excerpt from Episode 6 of this series).

Steven Slate Trigger 2.

Jacquire isolates a particular hit he wants to use for the sample, and then Danny zooms in on it. They notice that the beginning of the waveform is pointing down, not up, indicating that it’s out of polarity. Danny selects the sample and opens the Audiosuite plug-in, Invert, and flips its polarity. Now the beginning is pointing up.

The waveform is initially out of polarity.

Danny then zooms way in so that he can make the edit right where the sound starts. That way, there won’t be any delay between when the sample is triggered and when you hear it. It will more closely lock in with the corresponding sound on the original track. Otherwise, it could sound slightly flammed.

After cutting the front of the sample, Danny expands the waveform height temporarily so that he can clearly see where it ends and avoid cutting any of it off. After he makes that cut, he adds short fades to the front and back of the new clip. It’s good practice to add fades when you create a new audio clip. Without them, it’s possible that you’ll hear a click at the edit points.

Pro Tools has several different fade dialogs, depending on the context. You can access them with the shortcut Command + F (Control + F on PC). If you’re adding a fade to the beginning of a clip with no audio adjacent to it, you’ll get the Fade In dialog. If you select the end of such a clip, you’ll get the Fade Out dialog. If there is adjoining audio, you’ll get the crossfade dialog. If you select multiple clips in a track, you’ll get the Batch Fades dialog.

Here’s a quick tip: If you have a track that you’ve split in multiple places, you’ll want to add fades before consolidating the track, select the whole track and hit Command + F (Control + F) to bring up the Batch Fades dialog. Make sure the length settings are what you want, and then hit Okay. Pro Tools will automatically create fade-ins, fade-outs or crossfades at every edit point that doesn’t have one.

The Batch Fades dialog is a handy time-saver.

All in a Name

Back to the excerpt, Danny renames the clip they created with the sample in it to make it easily recognizable. Rather than leaving the default name that Pro Tools assigned to it (in this case, “Kick-Invert 01-03L), he gives it a descriptive name, “KTLO Prog Kick.” “KTLO” is for the song title, “Keep the Light On,” and “Prog” is for “programmed.”

They export the Clip by selecting it, right-clicking on its name in the Clip List and choosing Export Clips as Files. That brings up the Export Selected dialog, which offers several options for the exported clip.

Danny sets it to Multiple Mono rather than Interleaved. If it were a stereo file, he’d probably would have left the Interleaved setting because that would create a single stereo file. With Multiple Mono selected for a stereo file, you’d get a separate right and left when you export.

But if you export a mono file with the Multiple Mono setting selected, it will yield a mono file. The word “Multiple” is confusing in this context.

The Export Selected dialog.

Getting Duped

Next, they duplicate the live kick drum track to create a dedicated trigger track. Danny uses Pro Tools’ Duplicate Track command, which you can open with the Option + Shift + D shortcut (Alt + Shift + D on PC). That brings up the Duplicate Tracks dialog.

It offers several options for what track attributes to duplicate. Danny only includes the active playlist. He labels the duplicated track “Kick TRGR.” Again, you see the importance of descriptive track names.

Next, Danny opens a mono instance of the Trigger 2 plug-in on the mono Kick TRGR track. He imports the kick sample and confirms that Trigger 2 is accurately triggering it. Jacquire asks Danny to set the velocity range to 127 to 127. That means that every time the kick sample is triggered, it will be at full volume. If he wanted the sample to follow the dynamics of the kick hits on the Kick TRGR track, he could have left it at its default setting of 1 to 127.

Once they finish adjusting Trigger 2, the next step is to Commit the track, which is Pro Tools lingo for rendering it in place. The Commit command is another one of the choices you have from the dropdown you get from right clicking in a track name in the Edit or Mix window. Choosing it brings up the Commit Tracks dialog, which presents you with some options before you hit “Okay.”

The Commit Tracks dialog.

For example, you can choose whether to Consolidate the track, render automation, or copy the sends. You can also decide if you want to insert it after the last selected track and what should happen with the source track afterward. For the latter, you can do nothing, hide it and make it inactive, inactivate it but leave it where it is, or delete it. You can also choose to place it after the last selected track.

They commit it and it shows up underneath the Kick TRGR track in a track Pro Tools automatically names “Kick” Danny makes a new playlist on that track called “Kick SMPL” and drags the committed audio onto it from “Kick” Then he deletes that now-empty Kick track. With a large session like this, consistent track-naming is essential.

Lastly, Danny checks to ensure there aren’t any phase issues being created by the layering of the sample on top of the kick track.

A Free Workaround

If you don’t have a drum replacement plug-in but have Pro Tools 2020, you can set up a simple-but-functional drum trigger. Here’s how:

1) In your session, select the individual drum track that you want to layer.

2) Right-click in the track and choose Copy Audio as MIDI. When it asks which algorithm, choose Percussion.

The Copy Audio as MIDI command.

3) Create an instrument track with a drum instrument or sampler.

4) Open the Clip List and drag the MIDI track you created to the beginning of the instrument track.

5) Open the MIDI editor for the track and move the notes created (which will all be on the same pitch in the editor) to the right note for the drum sound you want. It’s best to use the Transpose command rather than trying to drag the notes because you could knock them out of time.

Use the transpose command to move the notes to where your sample is mapped.

6) Hit play, and you should hear both your drum instrument and the drum track. Adjust the volume balance between the original and sample as desired.

Trigger Warning

The following audio example uses the triggering method just described to augment a drum recording.

Here’s a multitrack drum recording that’s not particularly interesting, sonically. The kick and snare sounds could use some fattening up:

Here’s the same example with the kick and snare layered with drum samples from Toontrack Superior Drummer 3.