If Your Drums Don’t Quite Sound Right, You Might Need to Upgrade Your Drum Samples

You’ve tweaked and tweaked, but nothing seems to be working. All the mixing in the world just can’t make a bad drum sample sound good. Whether you’ve recorded it yourself or whether someone else has recorded it, it just might not sound good.

At this point, you are most likely going to have to look into sample replacement.

Replacing Drum Sounds is Common

You might be thinking “I don’t want to replace my drums because that means that I’m not a very good mixer to begin with.”

That’s a very untrue statement.   Take a deep breath, you aren’t committing any crimes here (hopefully :P). Although leaving TERRIBLE drum sounds in your mix could very well be a crime.

It’s common for even the best mix engineers to replace drum samples in the songs they are working on. We aren’t magicians; we can only do so much. At some point, the sounds are just bad and will have to be replaced.

A Better Way to Look at It

A much better way to think about replacing the drum kit sounds in your mixes is that you are doing everyone a favor. Your client is probably paying you for a reason – to use your ears. So use them!

Also, think about the listener and what is going to be a better experience for them when they eventually hear the song? Replacing drums are not just about having a sonically more pleasing sound in the mix; it’s also just as much about the emotion that you are conveying the user experience.

Generally speaking, though, better sample selection usually equates to a better user experience. That’s my rule of thumb anyway.

Where to Get Great Sounds?

You can find great sounds all over the place to be honest.   A lot of producers will sample their sounds from vinyl as well as trade sounds back and forth. It’s best just to use your ears and determine what you like the best. You can build your high-quality sample library up over time.

As for commercial libraries, I like the Modern Drum Samples library right now. They have a variety of different drum machine sounds as well as live played sounds. They all compliment each other extremely well. I’m getting a lot of use from their Hip Hop Drums Live collection. Awesome stuff!

At one point, I was big into Vengeance Collections because I was doing a lot of experimental EDM house type music so I used their sounds on everything. I personally used their Trance Sensation pack quite a lot.  They’re also great because they have a lot of sound fx that are super quick and easy to throw into your productions. Immediate results! Check out their Facebook page as well, they post some cool stuff.

Where to Go From Here?

Those sample companies I laid out are just starting points. If you only used those two companies, then you would be creating some amazing sounding productions, you’re drums would kick ass, and they would punch through the speakers.

Ultimately you should just use your ears to determine what you believe to be the best for your work.

But before I got, watch this video below on sample replacement, it might help you get a strong hold on your mixes when you want to change the sounds.


Until next time.

A Few tips for getting bigger, fatter, kick drum sounds

better kick drum soundsMixing your kick drums is probably one of the most important aspects of your productions to guaranteeing a solid foundation. Your drum sounds are a high priority in your mix.

Even though kick drums are important they still tend to be a one of the most difficult elements to tackle during the mixing stage.

The most important thing to remember is that if you do a great job recording your kicks then the mixing stage should be a piece of cake.

So where should you start?

Start from the bottom up.

The kick drum is the foundation of your songs. The kick and the snare will be the defining factors of how your drums end up sounding. If you don’t take care of the kick, the whole foundation of your music could collapse. You have to aspire to a tight and punchy kick drum sound that also has enough low end but also some mid range to cut through a dense mix.

Kick Drum Equalization

Your kick drums can get a lot of benefit from a low-end boost with equalization. If you think that your drum sound is lacking in the bottom end, don’t be afraid to take out a low-shelf EQ and boost a few dB around 80-100Hz.

But beware because a boomy kick drum sound can also do more harm than good. If your kick starts to sound boomy, try and cut some frequencies out around 200-400HZ (the boomy zone).

Boxiness or papery sounding kick drums can also be a problem. If you suspect your kicks are sound either boxy or papery try and cut some frequencies out around 300-600.

Another common problem with kick drums is that there isn’t enough snap, and it’s all thump, so this is where you want to bring out some of the beater. The beater usually lives around the 2-4kHz region, but it will depend on the genre of the song you are working on. Give it a try


When it comes to gnarly drum sounds, it can be a pretty subjective topic – everyone has their opinions when it comes to compression. But if you follow these simple guidelines, you can get some steady and more punchy kick drums.

When it comes to the gain reduction on your drum bus it’s going to come down to the genre you are working and how well the drummer is playing. I would probably start with a 4:1 ratio and lower the threshold until I get about 3-6 dB of gain reduction.

From there I would adjust the attack and the release until I feel like I have the sound that I’m after. Just know that a faster attack will clamp the transient (the initial attack) dulling it out and a slower attack will let the beater through before the compressor starts to work.   So use that bit of information to try and achieve the overall sound that you are looking for.

A little trick that you can try and use is to time the release of the compressor to the tempo of the song so that the compressor stops compressing before the next hit. This can easily be achieved in modern DAW’s because you can easily see the meters working, which will allow you to tweak the meters until you see it pumping in time with the song.

Compression and Equalization are without a doubt the fundamental processing units of any mix session. If you can get a grasp of these two things, then you are well on your way to understanding how you can achieve a great sounding mix.

If you’ve used all these techniques and nothing seems to be working, you might need to replace your drum samples.  This is always going to be the last resort but it’s definitely common to do.