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CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#1
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 at Jan 12, 2013,
CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#2
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 at Jan 12, 2013,
Kämpfer
Registered User
Join date: Oct 2009
736 IQ
#3
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.
CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#5
Quote 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.
sk8a123
Registered User
Join date: Jul 2009
498 IQ
#6
Great tutorial man.
i think UG should have a sub forum to the gear ads... for like recording equipment. not just guitars and amps and that stuff
niels-uiterwaal
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#7
Do you know how this method compares to EZdrummer?
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CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#8
Quote 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.
Vendetta V
The Creep
Join date: Feb 2007
9,504 IQ
#9
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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CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#10
Quote 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.
Vendetta V
The Creep
Join date: Feb 2007
9,504 IQ
#11
hmm damn.. ive seen a video explaining how to do that


haha humanize is an awesome feature!!

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Beanerofshred
SenorZerg
Join date: Jan 2009
421 IQ
#12
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?
TechnicolorType
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Join date: Nov 2007
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#13
Quote 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.
TechnicolorType
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Join date: Nov 2007
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#15
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.
seanington
Sharks in Your Mouth
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570 IQ
#16
@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.
TechnicolorType
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Join date: Nov 2007
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#17
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.
lextexrex
Registered User
Join date: Apr 2006
264 IQ
#18
Quote 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.
TechnicolorType
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Join date: Nov 2007
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#21
Quote by lextexrex
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.

ahhhh, I only use the program for real basic stuff so I would have never thought of that. Just recently did I realize you can create automation filters for anything you touch.
Thanks a load!
lextexrex
Registered User
Join date: Apr 2006
264 IQ
#22
Quote by TechnicolorType
ahhhh, I only use the program for real basic stuff so I would have never thought of that. Just recently did I realize you can create automation filters for anything you touch.
Thanks a load!

Figuring out automation was probably the coolest thing ever. It was by mistake I found out you could automate tempo, cuz as you said, I literally was right clicking everything to see it get automated.
Slapp62
Semi-Noob
Join date: Jun 2009
1,881 IQ
#25
@Carson Stevens

Could you make an an advanced tutorial? like for snare rolls and fills and the like. By the way, nice intro.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChemicalFire
You're plugging an interface into an interface...


Interfaception


Pls tell me what is Interfaception. and how to solve.


CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#26
I'll see what I can do. My understanding of rolls is that they require samples of an actual roll (correct me if I'm wrong). Fills, on the other hand, are just short patterns you use to break up the main beat. I can definitely walk people through the fill creation I did for Code Monkey.
Slapp62
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Join date: Jun 2009
1,881 IQ
#27
that would be awesome. I'll be working off of this until I get EZDrummer so the more the better
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChemicalFire
You're plugging an interface into an interface...


Interfaception


Pls tell me what is Interfaception. and how to solve.


DakoRob
Hm... Needs more Prog...
Join date: May 2009
210 IQ
#28
This is a great way to do drums. I personally like using hydrogen, its great freeware, and you can input your own samples.
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lister1213
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#29
thanks for this, anyone know of a more rock sounding set of drum samples?
CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#30
Quote by lister1213
thanks for this, anyone know of a more rock sounding set of drum samples?


Try the sample pack I linked to in my first post. It contains hundreds of samples. You should be able to piece something together from that.
Bmajor
guitar for real
Join date: Dec 2010
19 IQ
#31
You are a generous genius! Code Monkey rules! To make rolls you can use 1/132's and do the every other velocity thing but start going up each 2 hits so they get louder like a real drummer would do. Sticky this!
BlackVeins
Registered User
Join date: Feb 2008
192 IQ
#33
How come my drums sound like complete shit? They sound nothing like the OP's and I followed his directions step by step and followed his link for the drum samples.

Edit: Never mind, disregard this
Last edited by BlackVeins at Jan 28, 2011,
CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#34
Hello again.

If you've spent any length of time working with multi-tracked MIDI drums as discussed in my last tutorial, you'll begin to notice a few... inconveniences. For one thing, things get a little hairy when you start adding toms into the mix and try to program any kind of aascending/descending fills, since each tom is on its own track. You've probably gotten cranky and griped, "Why can't I just use one MIDI track for my entire drum part?"

Well, now you can! This tutorial is about how to use the Synthesis/drum_seq plugin provided with Reaper in order to combine multiple drum samples into a single "patch", then load that patch into Reaper and use it with your MIDI parts.

Who is this tutorial for?

To get the most out of this tutorial, you should have gone through (or at least read and understood) the first post in this thread, which explains the basics of adding tracks to your project, setting FX on those tracks, and programming basic MIDI parts. You will also need drum samples. See my original post for a link on where to find some.

What are the advantages of doing this versus just doing it the "old" way?

The biggest advantages to creating a drum patch are:

  • Reuse. Once you've created a patch, you can load it and use it whenever you want, without having to remember which individual samples you used and piece the kit together each time. It's very easy to create different "drum kits", like those that come with software such as EZDrummer.

  • One-track usage: With all (or just most) of your drums on one MIDI track, it's a little easier to apply FX/volume balancing to your drums as a whole, without having to dick with setting up folders or send/receive channels. It also makes programming fills infinitely, infinitely easier.


So, let's get started.

Step 1: Create your drum patch.

A "drum patch" is just a fancy term for a sound file that contains all of your drum samples on a single timeline. (Disclaimer: I may be wrong about this. For the purposes of this tutorial, though, it works. Do you know a different/better way? Share it in this thread! )

1. Create a new Reaper project, and add a single track to it. The tempo is unimportant.

2. Next, dig through your samples and decide which ones you want to be part of the patch. Keep in mind that you're limited to 127 different "notes"; one sample equals one note. For this example I've kept it simple and selected one hi-hat, one kick drum, and one snare.

3. Once you've got your samples, drag them onto the track's timeline (or select "Media File" from the Insert menu). Make sure to leave some silence between each sample; in other words, don't jam them right up next to one another. (In fact, the amount of space I left between the snare and the hi-hat in the screenshot isn't enough... so leave more than I did. If you don't, the samples will not be properly separated when the plugin plays them.)



Note that the order you place your samples on the timeline is the order in which they'll be added to the MIDI note set. As you will see, the MIDI editor lists them in reverse order, from the bottom up.

4. Render your project. The default settings are fine, however you may want to experiment with different file formats such as .mp3 or .ogg to keep the filesize from getting out of hand.

Step 2: Install your patch.

Copy the file you just rendered to your Application Data folder. I found mine in C:\Documents and Settings\<my username>\Application Data\REAPER\Data\drum_patchsets under Windows XP. Your location may vary, and you may need to create the drum_patchsets directory.

Step 3: Program your drums.

1. Create a new project. This one is the song you'll be working on. Add a new track (not a Virtual Instrument, a blank track), and call it "Drums" (...or not. Be a rebel. )

2. Insert a new MIDI item on this track, and add the "Synthesis/midi_drumseq" plugin to the track's FX.



In the plugin's settings panel, select the patch you just created from the "Patch Set" dropdown list. Then, double-click the MIDI item to open the editor.



3. Click "View" and select "Mode: Named Notes" instead of "Piano Roll". You should see the piano keys on the left-hand side get replaced with a stack of numbers.



These numbers are your actual note mappings; if you left the default settings in the drumseq plugin alone, your drum patch samples will begin at note number 60. Scroll down to this entry in the list and place a few notes in its' lane. You should hear your sample trigger as the notes are laid down.



4. Chart out your drum part and close the MIDI editor. Select "Render", and enjoy your new patch-fueled drum track.

Closing Comments

One neat trick now available to you is to create "partial" drum kits; for example, you can create a patch solely for different types of toms, and then use a single tom track mixed in with a multi-tracked kit as laid out in the original tutorial. This gives you the best of both worlds.

Enjoy, and I'll see you next time.

-CS
Last edited by CarsonStevens at Jan 12, 2013,
TJ1991
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#35
Brilliant, thanks for this! Just a quick question for those using the Humanize option, which is clearly a useful tool; What do you recommend setting the timing and velocity percentages to? I've only just started using it, and don't want to finish my mixing then realise i've gone over the top with it, or not set it high enough.
CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
688 IQ
#36
Quote by TJ1991
Brilliant, thanks for this! Just a quick question for those using the Humanize option, which is clearly a useful tool; What do you recommend setting the timing and velocity percentages to? I've only just started using it, and don't want to finish my mixing then realise i've gone over the top with it, or not set it high enough.


This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I'd say "whatever sounds right to you". Currently, I manually set my "off-beat" velocities to roughly 3/4 of the maximum and don't Humanize at all. Too much and it'll sound sloppy, yes, but I've yet to hear anyone say "those drums are too perfect", except when I was obviously looping a pattern and not using any variations or fills.
)v(egaFan90
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#37
When I click on the patch set drop down list nothing shows up. I'm using Windows 7, so I copied my file to: C:/program files/REAPER(x64)/InstallData/drum_patchsets and still nothing is appearing in the drop down box. I've also tried the file location: C:/program files/REAPER(x64)/InstallData/Data/drum_patchsets with no success. Any suggestions?
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Last edited by )v(egaFan90 at Sep 1, 2012,
Gerard_xD
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Join date: Feb 2010
684 IQ
#38
Really useful, thanks!

One question, though (sorry if you've covered it.)

On my hi-hat track when I try to delete note 5, it will also delete 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8. Same goes if I delete 5.2 (it will delete, 1.2, 2.2, etc)

Is there a way to de-select this option? Sorry if you've covered it.

Also the samples sound way too short (i.e. instead of going "tssshhhhhhh" the crash will go "tsht")


Last edited by Gerard_xD at Sep 3, 2012,
CarsonStevens
Rocksmith
Join date: Sep 2010
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#39
When I click on the patch set drop down list nothing shows up. I'm using Windows 7, so I copied my file to: C:/program files/REAPER(x64)/InstallData/drum_patchsets and still nothing is appearing in the drop down box. I've also tried the file location: C:/program files/REAPER(x64)/InstallData/Data/drum_patchsets with no success. Any suggestions?


The drum sequencer no longer looks in the InstallData directory for the patchsets. Try C:\Documents and Settings\<my username>\Application Data\REAPER\Data\drum_patchsets instead.

On my hi-hat track when I try to delete note 5, it will also delete 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8. Same goes if I delete 5.2 (it will delete, 1.2, 2.2, etc)

Is there a way to de-select this option? Sorry if you've covered it.


It's because you're looping a small pattern, so making modifications to that pattern affects every instance of the loop. Lengthen the pattern duration itself until it's as many measures long as it needs to be to incorporate all of your variations, then loop that longer pattern instead. I can go into further details if that doesn't make sense, assuming that's even the problem.

Also the samples sound way too short (i.e. instead of going "tssshhhhhhh" the crash will go "tsht")


The note duration in the MIDI roll needs to be long enough to let the entire sound play. This is only really an issue with crash cymbals, as you've noticed.

Put your mouse cursor over the right-hand part of the note rectangle and drag it until the note is at least a quarter-note in duration. If that's still too short, extend it further. I usually leave my crashes as half-notes.
Gerard_xD
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Join date: Feb 2010
684 IQ
#40
Quote by CarsonStevens
It's because you're looping a small pattern, so making modifications to that pattern affects every instance of the loop. Lengthen the pattern duration itself until it's as many measures long as it needs to be to incorporate all of your variations, then loop that longer pattern instead. I can go into further details if that doesn't make sense, assuming that's even the problem.

Thanks, that really helped


The note duration in the MIDI roll needs to be long enough to let the entire sound play. This is only really an issue with crash cymbals, as you've noticed.

Put your mouse cursor over the right-hand part of the note rectangle and drag it until the note is at least a quarter-note in duration. If that's still too short, extend it further. I usually leave my crashes as half-notes.

Thanks again