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Old 11-21-2010, 05:11 AM   #1
CarsonStevens
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TUTORIAL: Creating Drum Tracks in Reaper

Hi there. Today I'm going to teach you how to create a drum track in Reaper, using the built-in MIDI editor.

Who is this tutorial for?

Anyone who wants to know how to create a drum track in Reaper. More specifically, if you're either new to recording and don't have access to an actual drummer, or are too strapped for cash to buy commercial software like EZDrummer or the like. This tutorial also provides a decent jumping-off point towards understanding how to create MIDI tracks in Reaper using the virtual instruments plugin, which, given the right samples, would allow you do to all sorts of shiz.

So, let's get started.

Step 1: Download Reaper.

If you don't already have Reaper, get it here. The latest version as of this writing is 3.73, but this tutorial should be compatible with v2.58 or later. It's probably compatible with earlier versions, too. Still, get the latest and be safe.

Step 2: Download Drum Samples

You need drum samples in order to create a drum track. You can either Google "free drum samples", or grab this mega-pack, like I did.

Okay! Now we're ready to get our hands dirty. Let's fire up Reaper and go to it.

Step 3: Set up your "kit"

We're going to keep things simple and track each drum piece individually. For the purposes of this tutorial, I'm going to create a simple rock beat using a closed hi-hat, snare, bass/kick drum, and a crash cymbal.

With Reaper opened, start a new project. You can leave the tempo, etc. on their default values for the time being.

Next, right-click near the left-hand side of the screen to create a new track. Select "Insert Virtual Instrument on New Track." You should see a dialog like the following:



Select, as I've done here, the "ReaSamplOmatic5000" plugin and click "OK".

Once you've done so, the settings dialog for the plugin will appear. Click the "Browse" button and navigate to one of your samples. We'll do the hi-hat first. Select the sample, click OK to close the file browser, and then select "Sample (Ignores MIDI Note)" from the mode dropdown. This prevents Reaper from shifting the pitch of the sample instead of just playing it as-is.

Once you've made these changes, click the little red X in the upper-right corner to close the dialog.


You should now see an empty track, armed for recording. But, we won't be recording, so click the red 'R' button to disarm the track. For sake of organization, we'll want to change the name of the track, too. Double-click on the words "ReaSamplOMatic5000", type "hi-hat" in its place, then press Enter.

Do this three more times for the Kick Drum, Snare, and Crash Cymbal. If you did it correctly, you should have four blank, labeled tracks, ready to go.


Last edited by CarsonStevens : 01-12-2013 at 04:10 AM. Reason: Updated URLs. Thanks for moving my images, Facebook.
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Old 11-21-2010, 05:12 AM   #2
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Step 4: Chart the notes

Now that you have your tracks ready to go, it's time to chart the notes. What we're going to do is create a MIDI item that contains notes that, when played by Reaper, will trigger the sample we've set up on that track. Let's start with the hi-hat.

Select the "Hi-Hat" track by clicking on it. Then, under Insert on the menu bar, select "New MIDI Item".


A blank MIDI block will be inserted at the current position on the timeline (marked with a black line). Double-click it to open the MIDI editor. Behold!


There are four main areas you want to acquaint yourself with. The "Snap" dropdown subdivides the measures of the drum pattern into whatever notes you select. So, if you want a pattern of 8th notes, select "1/8" from the dropdown. (If you need a mixture of, say, 8th and 16th notes, you can change the time signature again later. The original note durations will be preserved.)

The thick grey line indicates the point at which the pattern ends. In the screenshot above, it's at the 2nd measure, which means the pattern is one measure (four beats) long. If you wish to change this, simply drag the line with your mouse to the left (for a shorter pattern) or to the right (for a longer one). We're going to leave it where it is, for now.

Next, there's the Velocity settings. We're going to alter these in a bit in order to make the drums sound more natural. First, though, let's add some hi-hat notes.

It doesn't matter what "key" on the note track you use. I tend to use the one at the very top, so we'll do that. Double-click on the grid squares in the note area to fill them with 8th notes. Your MIDI item should now resemble the following:


Next, we'll change the velocities. The velocity of a note determines how "hard" of a hit on the drum piece Reaper simulates. A low velocity acts like a soft hit, while a high velocity sounds like a hard hit. Drummers naturally accent certain hits (well, most of them do, anyway), so we'll replicate this in order to make the track sound more like a drummer and less like what it is (IE, a computer pretending to be a drummer).

Click and drag the tops of the velocity bars for every other note so that they're lower than the one to the left. If you do it right, it should look like this;


Test your project by pressing the |<< and Play buttons. You should hear four beats' worth of hi-hat hits. So far, so good!

Next, let's do the kick drum. The kick drum will be quarter-notes on the first and the third beats of the measure. We'll do this by inserting a new MIDI item on the Kick Drum track, selecting "1/4" from the Snap dropdown, and double-clicking on the 1 and the 3 note sections. We'll leave the velocity alone. It should look like this:


Do the exact same thing for the snare, except put the notes on the 2 and the 4:


Rewind your project and press play. Sounds good, but it's a little short, eh? Let's fix that. Put your mouse over the edge of the hi-hat track and drag it out for another three measures. Do likewise for the others. Reaper will "loop" the patterns once they reach the end, and by doing this you can extend the length of the drumbeat for as long as you need it to be.

We're nearly finished! Now, let's put in a crash cymbal to end our piece. Insert a new MIDI item into the Crash Cymbal track.

The crash is going to extend the entire length of the measure, so select "1" from the Snap dropdown and insert a single note. We're going to fade the crash note out, which sounds cleaner... especially if the sample you use doesn't have a desirable decay.

First, shorten the MIDI item to two measures by dragging the right end, same as you did to lengthen the others. Then, drag the MIDI item to measure 5, just after the others end. Zoom in (scroll your mousewheel, or press the +/- buttons in the lower right corner of the main window) until you can see a secondary line on the right side of the piece. You'll know you have the right one when you hover your mouse over it and the cursor turns into a pair of arrows on either side of a small rectangle. Drag that line halfway across the MIDI item. This will set the length of your fade.


That's it! When you add other tracks (for guitars, vocals, etc.) and then render your project out as a .wav or MP3 (...or whatever), Reaper will include your programmed drum tracks in the mix without any additional effort on your part. And, since you tracked each drum piece separately, you can add any other FX to them that you want, such as reverb or EQ.

Here is an MP3 of the loop created in this tutorial, using the samples linked in Step 2. And, HERE is this tutorial really struttin' its stuff in my cover of Jonathan Coulton's "Code Monkey". And finally, here is a link to the end of the thread, wherein I show you how to create a "virtual drum kit" composed of multiple samples, so that you can program an entire drum part on one MIDI track.

Questions? Comments? Post 'em here and I'll do my best to clarify.

Last edited by CarsonStevens : 01-12-2013 at 04:12 AM.
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Old 11-21-2010, 05:20 AM   #3
Kämpfer
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Cool. Though, you might want to upload an mp3 sample or something if people want to hear what it can sound like before they start downloading.
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Old 11-21-2010, 05:27 AM   #4
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thanks man im just starting to get into this its going to help a lot
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Old 11-21-2010, 05:32 AM   #5
CarsonStevens
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kämpfer
Cool. Though, you might want to upload an mp3 sample or something if people want to hear what it can sound like before they start downloading.


Added. I posted the clip to my profile and linked to it, since it was too large to attach directly.
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Old 11-21-2010, 01:30 PM   #6
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Great tutorial man.
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Old 11-21-2010, 05:01 PM   #7
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Do you know how this method compares to EZdrummer?
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Old 11-22-2010, 02:59 PM   #8
CarsonStevens
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Quote:
Originally Posted by niels-uiterwaal
Do you know how this method compares to EZdrummer?


No idea. I don't use, nor have any experience with, external drum software. If I had to guess, though, I'd say that while EZD might streamline the process a bit, or offer additional functionality (the ability to save/manage drum sets, etc.), ultimately you're still programming a MIDI roll. I think it comes down to preference... as well as whether or not you have the money to spend on additional software.
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Old 11-23-2010, 05:30 AM   #9
Vendetta V
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dude... short question.. im pretty much into the whole thing but recently i was trying find a way to do this.. i know its possible.. i just forgot how you do it...
so you need a blast beat on bass drum. you put a long note.. say two bars.. then right click it and click some stuff and it splits into say 1/16th notes... was it the quantize thingy?? it doesnt work on mine
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Old 11-23-2010, 12:22 PM   #10
CarsonStevens
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vendetta V
dude... short question.. im pretty much into the whole thing but recently i was trying find a way to do this.. i know its possible.. i just forgot how you do it...
so you need a blast beat on bass drum. you put a long note.. say two bars.. then right click it and click some stuff and it splits into say 1/16th notes... was it the quantize thingy?? it doesnt work on mine


I'm not sure. I know if you simply change the time signature with the "Snap" dropdown, it won't subdivide the long note. I just skimmed all of the menu options and don't see anything like what you're describing.

"Quantize" simply locks the notes directly to the time signature so that none of them are "off". Usually not a problem when you're working on a grid directly, but if you imported the MIDI from another device (like a drum machine), it might be.

I also discovered an option to "humanize" notes just now. They must've snuck that in there when I wasn't looking.
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Old 11-23-2010, 01:16 PM   #11
Vendetta V
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hmm damn.. ive seen a video explaining how to do that


haha humanize is an awesome feature!!
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Old 12-04-2010, 02:29 AM   #12
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hmmm...what if there is a time change in the song ur making drum tracks for, because whenever i change the bpm on the metronome all of the tracks in different timing change and move all around and play faster etc....is there a way to isolate different beats in different time signatures without moving them around or changing the beat itself?
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Old 12-04-2010, 02:43 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beanerofshred
hmmm...what if there is a time change in the song ur making drum tracks for, because whenever i change the bpm on the metronome all of the tracks in different timing change and move all around and play faster etc....is there a way to isolate different beats in different time signatures without moving them around or changing the beat itself?

I've ran into this problem on quite a few DAWs. No idea how to bypass it.
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Old 12-04-2010, 02:51 AM   #14
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OHP FIGURED IT OUT right click and click insert time signature marker
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Old 12-04-2010, 03:18 AM   #15
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ohh thanks! that'll come in handy one of these days.

now if only I can find a way to do that on this other daw I use.
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Old 12-04-2010, 04:51 AM   #16
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@technicolor

What daw is it?

from mmry, with cubase you highlight the section you want to change and in the transport panel type in the time signature you want.

thought I do nearly everything in 4/4.
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Old 12-04-2010, 05:28 AM   #17
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fl studio lol.
I use it to chart out drums. I don't know of a way to use multiple tempos in the same project though. if it's just as easy to chart out drums in Reaper then I'll use that though instead.
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Old 12-07-2010, 01:10 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TechnicolorType
fl studio lol.
I use it to chart out drums. I don't know of a way to use multiple tempos in the same project though. if it's just as easy to chart out drums in Reaper then I'll use that though instead.


To change the tempo in FL studio, right click the tempo and click "Create Automation Clip." Now you can mess around with the automation to adjust for the tempo. However, you will need to correct the spacing on your midi drum track. Also, the automation for tempo is really sensitive so you will need to do some fine tuning with it to get it exactly how you want it.
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Old 12-07-2010, 05:06 PM   #19
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great tutorial to show what reaper can capable of, good job
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Old 12-07-2010, 06:47 PM   #20
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This should really be stickied so we can limit the "Help me create drums" threads
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