1. Transient Control
Arguably more imperative when you’re using loops rather than individual hits, but a transient designer on can really transform the feel of your percussion. If you think there’s too much reverb or decay on the hits, bring down the Sustain for a tighter feel. Too much snap? Back off the Attack. Equally, adept working in the other direction, to boost transients or increase decay or sustain on sounds.
2. Regroove Your Percs
Regroover Pro is a relatively new plugin from developers Accusonus. Allowing you to load loops, it will split them into up to 6 individual layers, kind of like Melodyne DNA for percussive material. Incredibly useful when you want to sample some percs from a loop that contains various other hits. Regroover Pro also allows you to remix audio loops and drag and drop hits into an Expansion Kit for improvised playback. There is also multi output support for functionally with your DAW. Just the ticket for customizing those perc loops!
3. In Keys Percs
This is more relevant when using very tonal percussion, such as an 808 cowbell or 909 toms, but you should make sure your percussion is in key with your project. There’s no shortage of pitch analyzing plugins if you’re not sure, many DAW’s now featuring audio to MIDI technology in various forms and some EQ’s and Analyzers will display frequency to pitch correlation. Of course, not all percussive sounds need to be tuned to your root note, tuning them to various notes within your project scale should create well-balanced feel.
4. Extreme Transpose
For more unique percussion tones try some extreme transposition. 808 or 909 Toms can double up as bass sounds when tuned down with some added distortion, or take some congas and transpose them right up until they turn into metallic sticks. For more extreme processing, use your DAW’s time editing algorithm (Flex, Warp, etc), to stretch the audio whilst altering the pitch. In Logic, the Speed FX Flex Mode can stretch and shrink audio and is great for transforming percussion hits into something completely new, especially at extreme settings.
5. Crunchy Percs
A touch of bit crushing can work wonders for percussive sounds, especially when combined with some pre and post EQ. For example, take your percussion and roll off some of the top end, then place a bit crusher after your EQ, process to taste, and then use another EQ after the bit crusher to tidy up the sound, rolling off any extreme low or high frequencies that have been introduced. For a more processed sound, increase the Downsampling on the bit crusher and place a transient designer after the bit crusher, shortening the sustain. The amount of top end you cut post processing is dependent on the sound, personal taste and vibe. Though processing percs in this way can really help add that crunchy mid range to drive your drum track along.