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Drum Libraries 101 - What You Need to Know

September 1, 2002
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Creating great-sounding, grooving drum tracks in a personal studio can be a difficult undertaking. Hiring a professional session drummer is expensive and therefore impractical for projects on a tight budget. Drum machines, samplers, and sound modules offer wonderful potential, but without a drummer's skills, using them to convey the proper feel is a major task. However, a crop of innovative drum libraries can help you create authentic drum tracks without setting up a single microphone or even pressing the record button.

The majority of these libraries are very reasonably priced — costs range from about $40 for disks of MIDI data to $300 for multitrack audio libraries. A few also feature famous players whose talent, creativity, and time would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. Purchasing these libraries is your licensing fee to use their performances, so no additional fees are required (although crediting the musician is encouraged).

Before I list the available products, I will examine the file formats and their respective applications. Remember that composing and arranging needs differ. Consequently, the format, sounds, and feel of one library might be perfect for one person but wrong for the next.

STYLES AND FILES

Drum libraries come in a number of file formats; some libraries offer a combination of formats. Whatever the variety, the files are always one of two basic types: audio and MIDI. CD-ROM collections most commonly offer WAV-format files, because Mac and Windows computers easily recognize them. Furthermore, a good number of portable digital studios, including units from Korg, Yamaha, Roland, and Fostex, can import WAV files, letting you assemble grooves without a computer. Of course, different bit-depths, sampling rates, recording resolutions, and file types (such as 24-bit AIFF and SDII files) are also offered.

Some libraries use proprietary sampler formats such as Akai, E-mu, GigaStudio, Kurzweil, and Roland. The Akai format appears to be emerging as the lingua franca of sampler formats; most samplers can read Akai-format samples at least up to a point. Of the various Akai sample formats, the S3000 seems to be the current standard, and with the version 4 operating system, the S1000 can load its successor's samples. Naturally, proprietary parameters such as envelope, filter, and effects settings are difficult to carry over to samplers with divergent architectures.

MIDI data is most often offered as Standard MIDI Files (SMFs). Type 1 SMFs provide data on multiple tracks and MIDI channels. However, some libraries also provide Type 0 SMFs; in those files, all the parts and MIDI channels are contained on one track. Many older hardware sequencers support only Type 0 Standard MIDI Files.

LOOP GURU

The obvious problem with audio files is that their tempos are not easy to adjust. Audio tracks (unlike MIDI tracks) do not automatically follow your sequencer's tempo. There are several digital audio sequencers that have built-in bpm-based time-compression and expansion algorithms that are ideal for working with looped grooves. For example, MOTU's Digital Performer allows you to adjust a loop's tempo to the sequencer's tempo or to adjust the sequencer to match the loop. Digidesign's Pro Tools employs a time-stretching function that can snap a loop's length to the sequencer's tempo grid. Emagic's Logic Audio even provides options for changing the feel of a loop.

Although programs such as Ableton Live, BitHeadz Phraser, and Sonic Foundry Acid aren't specifically designed for traditional songwriting, they excel at processing audio files to suit new tempos and arranging files into song sections (for more information, see “Loop-a-palooza” in the June 2002 issue of EM). You can then import the processed drum files back into to your digital audio sequencer for further production. Just remember that no matter how good your time compression and expansion algorithm is, excessive compression or stretching can lead to nasty sounding artifacts. In general, you are safe with changes of as many as 5 bpm in either direction. Sometimes you can go as far as 10 bpm without bad side effects, depending on the complexity of the loop waveforms. Third party plug-ins such as Pitch 'n Time by Serato Audio Research do an excellent job of changing tempos without altering the original loop's sound quality.

Propellerhead Software's ReCycle can separate the audio file into discrete hits; by identifying the waveform's amplitude peaks and troughs, it can determine where hits occur and then slice a drum loop into its individual components (see Fig. 1). Recycle sends the keymapped slices to your sampler and provides a MIDI file that preserves the timing of each slice as a Note On event. With each hit stored as a distinct element, you can then change the sequencer's tempo and trigger each slice separately. The Strip Silence feature in Logic Audio can split up a region and keep each beat locked to its relative position on the tempo grid. Steinberg's Cubase VST has a similar feature called Match Points, and the TDM version of Pro Tools has a beat splitter called Beat Detective.

EDIT US REX

The REX format was codeveloped by Steinberg and Propellerhead Software. Any audio file can be turned into a REX file using Propellerhead's ReCycle. Steinberg's Cubase and Emagic Logic 5 support REX files, and Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) has announced that Digital Performer will support REX files as of version 3.2. REX libraries are mono, but the newer REX2 format supports stereo files.

A REX file is a loop that has been beat mapped, sliced up, and saved with a playback script as a single integrated file. You can change the tempo of a REX file without affecting pitch and without using time compression or expansion. Changes in tempo of as many as 5 bpm either way usually sound decent, though that number may vary depending on how carefully the REX file was created (the quality of REX libraries varies significantly).

Cubase VST lets you drag and drop REX files, which makes assembling REX tracks a snap. You can mute individual REX file slices, and some programs (such as the Dr. Rex player in Propellerhead's Reason) even allow level and tuning adjustments for each slice. A groove template can be derived from a REX file because its sliced-up beat can double as a MIDI event flowchart. You can use that MIDI template to groove-quantize MIDI performances so they have a cohesive overall feel. Unfortunately, however, MIDI templates derived from REX files do not translate audio dynamics into Velocity, which is just as important as timing in recreating a rhythmic feel. That is vital if you want to apply the template to a MIDI sound source.

Groove quantizing is a feature that can superimpose the dynamics and timing from one groove onto another. Unlike standard quantizing, groove quantizing provides a grid based on realistic (and human) performance parameters, such as natural variations in timing and Velocity. A word of caution: avoid the temptation to groove quantize everything. Placing every event in lock-step with your groove can ruin the dynamics and feel of the sequence at the worst and sound overly contrived at best.

MIDI MACHINATIONS

Most MIDI drum tracks adhere to General MIDI (GM) drum maps, so if you want to build your drum tracks with MIDI files, it's a good idea to use a GM-compatible sound set. Presets that follow the GM map will save you from reassigning drum sounds to note numbers. Most recent synthesizers have fallen in step with the GM drum map, but if your device doesn't offer that convenience, there are a good number of sequencers that provide the tools for convenient and quick reassignments (see the sidebar “Remap Your Sounds”).

MIDI files are much smaller than audio and REX files; that's a big help if you have limited drive space. It's far easier to change drum sounds and rearrange individual notes in a MIDI file than in any audio file.

The downside to MIDI files is that even the funkiest performance can sound canned and uninspiring, especially when the drum samples sound as if they were recorded in an anechoic chamber. It is difficult for MIDI performances to capture the ambience of a live drum kit because there is no interaction between the drums and the recording environment — for example, the sympathetic rattle of the snare when the toms are played.

Another problem is that samplers need to deploy tricks to emulate a real drum's response to dynamics. Striking a drumhead doesn't simply change the instrument's volume; it also causes changes in pitch and timbre. Filters and Pitch Bend can help, but they tend to sound a bit synthetic. However, if the sound source has good multisampled and Velocity-layered drum presets, it's amazing how realistic a MIDI file can sound.

In a Velocity layer, you assign a different sample for each dynamic level. For example, a Velocity-layered snare drum is made up of several distinct drum hits, each recorded at a different dynamic level (very soft, soft, medium, hard, and very hard). When set up correctly, higher Velocities will play the samples recorded at higher dynamic levels. That helps to convey the dynamic characteristics of a real drum. With enough RAM, samplers can easily accommodate an adequate number of unique sample hits for each drum. Software drum machines, such as Steinberg's LM-4 MarkII and Native Instruments' Battery, come with great-sounding multisampled and Velocity-layered presets (see Fig. 2).

TRIGGER, MAN

If you don't like the way a drum sounds on a particular track, you can replace it with a new sample. Trigger-to-MIDI devices measure the dynamics of an audio track and convert them to MIDI note and Velocity information. Roland's new TMC-6 is a dedicated trigger-to-MIDI converter designed to fire off MIDI events from drum pads, acoustic drum triggers, or line-level audio signals. Threshold and sensitivity adjustments tailor the TMC-6 response to dynamics, and you can select from a variety of Velocity curves to tweak the dynamics of the MIDI output. Each trigger can be assigned to a different MIDI channel, so you aren't limited to replacing drum tracks from a single sound source. If you want to replace a multitrack performance, the TMC-6 offers six inputs.

The Alesis DM5 and DM Pro drum modules offer built-in audio-to-MIDI trigger inputs (12 on the DM5 and 15 on the DM Pro) that work wonderfully. Roland's TD-10 and TD-8 V-Drum brains also offer trigger inputs and can trigger external sounds. Digital Performer's Trigger is a trigger-to-MIDI converter plug-in that first appeared in version 3.0 of the program. Digidesign's Audio Suite plug-in Sound Replacer even allows you to assign a different sample for each of three Velocity zones. That lets you accurately follow the dynamics of the audio track with different sample hits for realistic-sounding results.

MULTITRACK AUDIO

For the most part, modern drum-loop libraries are thoughtfully engineered for easy song construction by section; entire song forms are sliced into components. You can drop the appropriate sections into your digital audio sequencer and arrange verse, chorus, fill 1, fill 2, and so forth.

In many cases, song sections are neatly trimmed multitrack loops containing individually miked drums, including kick, snare, toms panned left to right, stereo overheads left and right, room ambience, and additional percussion instruments. Because drum-kit elements reside on discrete tracks, you can process, edit, and mix the tracks independently.

The following is not a shoot-out. Rather, it describes the percussion programming products that are currently on the market.

Discrete Drums

The professional edition of Series 1: Rock/Alternative, from Discrete Drums, is a set of nine WAV-format CD-ROMs with more than 30 songs in tempos ranging from 124 to 300 bpm. Two audio discs containing mixes of all the songs come with the library, making auditioning tracks a breeze. A separate sample disc contains AIFF files of individual drum hits at different Velocities, with and without the room ambience. The 24-bit, 44.1 kHz recording and archiving provide very high sound quality. Greg Morrow, whose credits range from Bad Company to the Dixie Chicks, holds the drummer's chair.

The songs have intro, verse, chorus, bridge, and end sections, and each section has variations. Some songs even have special “crash and burn” endings. The multitrack samples include kick, snare, stereo toms, stereo overheads, and stereo room. The stereo room sound really adds to the big rock 'n' roll feel of these tracks. However, as with some of the other libraries, an isolated hi-hat track would be a nice addition.

APO Multimedia

APO Multimedia's Mix It features the drumming of David Jones, who has worked with John Denver, Stevie Wonder, Seals and Croft, and Helen Reddy, among others. Over this two-CD library he lays down a collection of grooves that include funk, country, pop, and rock selections. Each genre contains intro, verse, chorus, and ending sections, and there are five different groove variations for each section.

The song sections have ample overlapping beats, which are perfect for crossfading ringing drum tones (like toms and cymbals). However, the overlapping beats make assembling sections a bit more work than simple butt splicing. To get around that, set your digital audio sequencer's tempo to match the sample and snap your cuts to whole bars. If you do that, the overlapping beats won't be a big deal. The multitrack samples include kick, snare, hi-hat, stereo toms, stereo overhead, and an occasional ride.

Each Mix It multitrack title comes in stereo WAV or REX2 formats with six extra groove variations to each song section. Jones's grooves, despite the different song genres, all tend to have a rock flavor to them.

Multiloops

There are three titles in the Multiloops Naked Drums series: Rock, vol. 1, and Pop R&B are both four-disc sets, and Odd-Time Grooves comes on nine discs. Songs are named simply by their tempos, which range from 60 to 240 bpm. Odd-Time Grooves features a selection of songs in different time signatures, including 6/8, 19/16, 5/8, 7/8, and 9/8.

All of the songs are offered as 24-bit, 44.1 kHz WAV files and as Pro Tools session files that can be used with Pro Tools versions 4.x, 5.1.x, and Free-5.x (see Fig. 3). The sessions are laid out on a tempo grid with markers to designate the different song sections. Each song has a ton of sections cut into one- and two-bar lengths that can easily be scooted about to arrange your song. That is very convenient for Pro Tools users. You can import the WAV-format files into your digital audio sequencer with no trouble.

Product Summary
Manufacturer Suggested Titles Audio MIDI REX Individual Drum Hits Price
APO Multimedia David Jones Mix It, vols. 1 and 2 yes no yes no TBA
Beatboy Rod Morgenstein — Progressive Rock no yes no no $49.95
Discrete Drums Series 1: Rock/Alternative (professional edition) yes no no yes $299
FXpansion Session Drummer (plug-in) no yes no no $599 as part of Sonar XL
Keyfax Software Twiddly Bits Bill Bruford Packet of Three yes yes no yes $333.33
Keyfax Software Twiddly Bits L.A. Riot MIDI Drum Loops, vol. 1, Paul Kodish Dangerous Drums no yes no yes $40 each
Ilio/Spectrasonics Groove Control Ethno Techno, Stark Raving Beats, BackBeat yes yes no no $199 each
Multiloops Naked Drums Rock, vol. 1; Pop R&B; Odd-Time Grooves yes no no no $150, $150, $250
Pocket Fuel Radical Architectural Design Systems Acoustic Rock Drum Loops yes no yes yes $60
Smart Loops Percussion Kit yes yes no yes $69
Vamtech Drumtrax no yes no no $50
Wizoo VST Drum Sessions Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Straight Rock, Soul Dance, Big Beats, Heavy Rock yes yes yes no $80 each

All of the recordings are clean, and the grooves feel tight without sounding uptight. Multitrack elements vary from title to title. Rock, vol. 1, offers kick, snare, stereo overheads, and toms 1, 2, and 3. Pop R&B adds a hi-hat track. For Odd-Time Grooves, all of the mics were pulled out of the mic cabinet, adding snare top and bottom, kick front and beater, ride, and room tracks.

Pocket Fuel

Acoustic Rock Drum Loops is a multitrack collection in the Radical Architectural Design Systems (RADS) series from Pocket Fuel. The collection features multiple file formats — WAV, AIFF, and REX — organized into 90, 100, and 110 bpm folders. Each folder contains several chorus and verse groove variations as well as a selection of fills. The 90 bpm folder also contains several intro beats.

You get separate tracks for kick, snare, stereo overhead, and room. The room track adds a nice wet vibe to the kit. Of course, you can eliminate the room track and add your own reverb. The absence of an isolated hi-hat track can be bothersome, especially if you want solo hi-hats in a BREAK. A stereo-mix file of each section is provided to help you arrange song form without hassling with the multitracks right away. This title's sound quality is not outstanding, but there's nothing that can't be massaged during mixdown. Acoustic Rock Drum Loops has a pretty straight-ahead rock feel with a healthy swing element.

Keyfax Software

There are more than two dozen titles in Keyfax Software's Twiddly Bits series. Each title captures live performances to MIDI data. Styles include hip-hop, drum 'n' bass, jazz, blues, country, rock, funk, reggae, and new age. Every title has tons of songs and a wide variety of patterns. The patterns are either two or four bars long. Along with the typical MIDI file formats, some of the titles also provide files with each drum note split out to its own track, making it easier to send drum notes to multiple sound sources.

Bill Bruford is well known for his innovative playing and wonderful feel. He has worked with such legendary progressive rock acts as Yes and King Crimson. Twiddly Bits Bill Bruford Packet of Three offers stereo audio loops that mirror the included MIDI file performances. An audio-CD set of samples from his drum kit is included that so that you can build your own virtual Bruford trap set. If you want to stretch out and work with some great jazz-flavored rock grooves, check this title out.

Vamtech

Vamtech's Drumtrax presents a virtual world of drum and percussion stylings from an unusually wide variety of genres including funk, alternative, jazz, and world music. Each MIDI file contains a full song-form arrangement and includes multiple variations. All variations are delineated with part markers for easy rearranging.

You get a choice of Type 1 SMFs with each MIDI track harboring a drum-kit element; Type 1 with a track each for drum kit and percussion; and two variations of Type 0 files, with one offering everything on one track and the second offering one track for drums and one for percussion. For tweaking and reassigning individual drum elements, the split Type 1 files are preferable. They are also useful when you want to commit tracks to a recording but your sound source doesn't have individual outputs or the signal-processing resources to treat different kit elements individually. Split MIDI tracks let you solo and record a track at a time.

The included Drumtrax Librarian software is useful for finding just the right tracks; the main screen shows the file name, the style, the meter, a short description, and user comments (see Fig. 4). The librarian can sort files using any of those parameters as a searchable field, and it can hide sequences that don't meet your qualifications. If your clients include nitpicky types who insist on a quarter-note ride cymbal on bars 4 through 6, you're in luck; clicking on the Markers button engages a pop-up window with a list of just those elements. For example, the marker will indicate that a section offers four bars with quarter-note ride bells with tom fills. The Preferences menu lets you set up a link that causes any sequence you launch to open up in the sequencer of your choice. You also get a table of drum and percussion note assignments.

Nearly all of the Drumtrax sequences offer strong grooves, although some of the R&B sequences are a tad heavy-handed at times. Otherwise, the grooves are supple with delicately phrased ghost notes and slammed dynamics when needed.

Beatboy

As with many of the Keyfax titles, a good number of Beatboy's collections are live performances by drum and percussion luminaries, captured as MIDI data. The Standard MIDI files are arranged as single-track song-form performances. Among the outstanding titles Beatboy offers is Rod Morgenstein — Progressive Rock. Morgenstein is best known for a long tenure with the Southern-fried progressive band Dixie Dregs.

Like Bruford's, Morgenstein's performances focus on the progressive end of the spectrum, though they have a somewhat less “polite” attitude. The collection contains a fair number of MIDI files with odd meters such as 7/4 and 5/4, as well as files with duple meter feels and even odd-meter feels superimposed over 4/4 time signatures. There are some fills that seem nearly impossible for a single drummer to execute — unless you've heard Morgenstein in live performance. Make sure you play these through a sound source with a fast MIDI response time.

Despite the preponderance of aggressive grooves, the files cover a wide dynamic range, with plenty of ghosted instruments for contrast. Whereas the Bruford MIDI files tend to swing, Morgenstein's playing tends to push the beat just a bit. That is not to say that Morgenstein's performances don't swing when they need to, but the collection tends toward a driving feel.

FXpansion

FXpansion's Session Drummer (see Fig. 5) is a stock MIDI plug-in that originally appeared in Cakewalk's Pro Audio 9. It has since migrated to Sonar, Cakewalk's flagship digital audio sequencer. Session Drummer is a library of MIDI grooves packed into a plug-in that is so easy to use it's sinful. Insert the plug-in on a MIDI track, select from a list of styles, drag some patterns into the arrange window in the order you want, and you have assembled a song's drum tracks. When you enter Play on the sequencer, Session Drummer begins synchronized playback just like a locked-in drum machine. For detailed pattern editing, Session Drummer's patterns can be sent to one of the sequencer's MIDI tracks.

There are a good variety of categories to choose from: alternative, blues, rap, Latin, odd meter, and world. Each one offers subcategories; Latin subcategories, for instance, include flamenco, samba, cha-cha, and Bolero. Of course, you can mix and match categories freely. Although the patterns are MIDI captures of a live drummer, some of them sound a bit stiff.

Ilio/Spectrasonics

A relative handful of Ilio's and Spectrasonics' large library of sample collections has made it into the Groove Control series. Every Groove Control loop is meticulously beat mapped, chopped, and saved as an instrument along with its unique MIDI performance file. The end result is a system that allows a high degree of tempo control without compromising pitch or fidelity. The operating principle behind it is similar to the one behind ReCycle.

The files are provided in Akai S3000 sampler format. If you have an Akai-compatible sampler and a CD-ROM drive, you're good to go. If not, you will need to convert the instruments and samples to your sampler's format. That can be a very time-consuming process, even with the best conversion program, because of the sheer number of instruments and samples per disk. Despite the extra steps, however, the end result is well worth the effort.

One title from the Groove Control series is Ethno Techno; it doesn't have any standard drum kits, but it offers a wealth of percussion instruments, both traditional and homemade. The main percussionist for Ethno Techno, Bashiri Johnson, has worked with Whitney Houston, Madonna, Celine Dione, and Boys II Men, just to name a few.

The majority of the loops are four bars, though there are also many two-bar patterns. There are no separate pattern variations for each groove; however, the variety of the performances within the grooves and the user's ability to control every loop's individual beats make variety easy to achieve.

Wizoo

Wizoo, in cooperation with Steinberg, offers several REX-format titles in its VST Drum Sessions series: Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Straight Rock, Soul Dance, Big Beats, and Heavy Rock. Though the REX files can be played in any compatible digital audio sequencer, Cubase VST session files are provided for every song. The session files open all of a song's REX files in a standard song format (for example, count-in, intro, verse A, chorus A, verse B, bridge, chorus B, and ending). Consequently, arranging a song in Cubase VST using these particular REX libraries is a piece of cake (see Fig. 6).

The multitrack layout is well conceived and includes tracks for kick; snare; hi-hat; high, mid, and low toms; rides; crashes; and an occasional percussion track. The accompanying Cubase VST sessions have MIDI tracks that run in parallel with the multitrack REX files. If you don't like the way one of the REX tracks sounds, simply mute it and assign a new drum sound to its parallel MIDI performance. The VST Drum Sessions are wonderfully well thought out.

2-TRACK HONORS

Although multitrack drum samples offer the most flexibility, sometimes a stereo file will get the job done nicely. Of course, plenty of pattern variations, tempo control, and a top-notch mix will help make your production that much better. The groove-controlled version of Ilio and Spectrasonics' BackBeat fits that bill.

BackBeat's grooves are excellent, and the mixes sound big and professional. There are several pattern variations of each groove along with fills and ending licks. Its many wonderful performances come from the best drummers in the industry, including Gregg Bissonette, Eric Boseman, Bob Wilson, and John Ferraro. The same production team behind Ilio's other groove-controlled libraries (notably Eric Persing) helped make this title's sound quality and flexibility equally outstanding.

When you just need that extra percussion part, check out Smart Loops' Percussion Kit. This title contains more than 300 Acidized WAV files of percussion loops performed by Eugie Castrillo, who has played with Tito Puente, Steve Winwood, and Michael Brecker, among others. There are loops of traditional Latin drums (such as congas, bongos, and maracas) along with tablas and frame drums. All of the grooves have a great Latin feel tempered with a bit of swing, and each loop is offered at six different tempos (from 95 to 120 bpm).

In addition to the sampled loops, Percussion Kit provides WAV-format samples of individual instruments and SMFs that replicate the groove of the loops. Consequently, you can load the WAV files into your sampler, utilize your sampler's individual outputs, and process individual instruments as you would with multitrack audio loops.

CHOPS FOR SALE

An enormous pool of creativity, talent, and sheer grooving know-how goes into these production-expediting tools. They only require a minimum of effort on your part, but don't let that stop you from adding your own creative touches. Slice, dice, and reverse your drum tracks; create groove templates, process individual instruments — there's no limit to the pulsating sonic delights you can build.


Visit Erik Hawkins's fledgling record label at www.muzicali.com to hear music made with today's hottest studio gear and check out his new book, Studio-in-a-Box (Artistpro.com). As a studio musician in New York, EM associate editor Marty Cutler shared tracks with and learned groove from masters Bernard Purdie, Steve Jordan, Richard Crooks, and others.

REMAP YOUR SOUNDS

One of the most important advantages of using a MIDI performance is that you can remap the file's data. If you are unhappy with any individual instrument's performance or sound, you can instruct your virtual drummer to, for example, lay back on the snare, or even play a different hi-hat set, snare, or other instrument. There's no way to do that with the typical sampled groove.

Most SMFs are arranged for General MIDI (GM) drum sets. Although consistent drum maps can be handy, not all sound sources adhere to GM note assignments. Furthermore, the collection of instruments that GM provides is limited. Press rolls and other drum articulations can sound unmusical or even downright silly when played on a single snare sample. Few GM drum kits provide the natural variations in timbre created by differences in the location or the force of a strike. As convenient and hassle-free as MIDI drum-grooves are, it's good to know how to move things around a bit.

Some MIDI files offer split-track files (see Fig. A). Split tracks simplify remapping by placing every instrument on an individual track. That makes it easy to send the data to another device, transpose parts, or even tweak the timing or Velocity. Split tracks let you focus on a specific element of the groove without the confusion of viewing the entire drum-kit performance. If your MIDI files hold everything on a single track, it's a bit more work to sort the groove into individual tracks, but it's almost always worth the extra effort.

Most sequencers offer convenient ways to split tracks. For example, you can simply split tracks sorted by MIDI Note; every MIDI note in the performance goes to its own track with each track assigned to the same MIDI channel. You can then reassign tracks freely. Just about any sequencer will let you cut all notes of a single pitch so that you can paste the data into a new track for reassignment.

After I reassign an instrument to a new sound source, I listen to that instrument in isolation to make sure that the sound speaks properly. I occasionally further split a track by Velocity ranges. I might want to send softer snare hits to a lighter sounding snare with a longer decay time, for example — particularly if I'm editing a snare roll. Nothing sounds sillier than an overly curt snare sample playing a roll. I then listen to the collective snare tracks in isolation to ensure that I'm successfully conveying a wide dynamic range. The next step is to listen critically to the entire drum track. Do the new timbres meld properly with the original kit? Does the track still groove? MIDI devices can differ enough in response time to make the groove sound rushed or lazy. If my new tracks sound too laid back or too pushy, I can always shift the events backward or forward as needed.
Marty Cutler

MANUFACTURER CONTACTS

Alesis Distribution LLC/A&R Partners, Inc. (distributor)
tel. (650) 298-3905; e-mail info@alesis.com; Web www.alesis.com

APO Multimedia/Fostex USA (distributor)
tel. (562) 921-1112; e-mail info@fostex.com; Web www.apomultimedia.com

Beatboy
tel. (800) 838-BEAT or (570) 685-1338; e-mail beatboytec@aol.com; Web www.beatboy.com

Cakewalk
tel. (888) CAKEWALK or (617) 423-9004; e-mail sales@cakewalk.com; Web www.cakewalk.com

Digidesign tel. (800) 333-2137 or (650) 731-6300; e-mail prodinfo@digidesign.com; Web www.digidesign.com

Discrete Drums tel. (800) 387-5720; e-mail contact@discretedrums.com; Web www.discretedrums.com

FXpansion Audio UK
tel. 44-7808-157-967; e-mail info@fxpansion.com; Web www.fxpansion.com

Ilio Entertainments/Spectrasonics
tel. (800) 747-4546 or (818) 707-7222; e-mail ilioinfo@ilio.com; Web www.ilio.com or www.spectrasonics.net

Keyfax Software/Hardware
tel. (800) 752-2780 or (831) 460-0172; e-mail us@keyfax.com; Web www.keyfax.com

Multiloops
tel. (615) 646-0150; e-mail info@multiloops.com; Web www.multiloops.com

Pocket Fuel, Inc.
tel. (888) 643-8263 or (212) 726-1341; e-mail radsinfo@pocketfuel.com; Web www.pocketfuel.com

Propellerhead Software/M-Audio/Midiman (distributor)
e-mail info@propellerheads.se; Web www.propellerheads.se

Roland Corporation U.S.
tel. (323) 890-3700; Web www.rolandus.com

Smart Loops
tel. (781) 891-0043; e-mail info@smartloops.com; Web www.smartloops.com

Vamtech Enterprises
tel. (800) 435-1889 or (978) 977-0570; e-mail info@drumtrax.com; www.drumtrax.com

Wizoo GmbH
tel. 49-421-701-870; e-mail info@wizoo.com; Web www.wizoo.com

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