Noise Gating and Volume Shaping
Another technique for controlling transients on your percussion, or more specifically decay tails, is by using a noise gate. This can be a very effective technique for reducing reverb on samples and taming splashy decay tails. Similar effects can be achieved using a Volume Shaper, offering more creative scope, allowing to cut out or reshape hits within a loop, experiment with different speed settings and volume shapes. Cableguys’ Volume Shaper is capable of such audio transformation, also working in multi-band, for all manner of stuttery glitch and choppy effects.
We’ve already discussed making sure your tonal percs adhere to your project scale, however you can take this one step further and use a perc sound as the melody or hook in your track. The easiest way to do this is loading a sample into your sampler and tune your perc hit to a C note using the sampler’s transpose function. Then you can play your hit chromatically to create your hook. To spice things up a little, you could create a hook from a number of different perc hits, using a series of high, mid and low Tom’s for example.
A key factor when working with percussion, especially when chopping up and re-editing loops, is to get the groove right. Whatever Swing setting you’re working to with all your other hits, you’ll need to apply that to your percs for a cohesive feel with your drums. The important thing to consider here is what swing might already be on your hits if you’re using sections of a loop, so the first port of call is to take that off before adding your own swing, otherwise, you’ll be adding swing to an already swung groove, if that makes sense! Quantize your percs to 16th notes before adding your groove, so your transients don’t start clashing. Or alternatively, you could extract the groove from your percs and use that as your swing template, applying the same feel to all your other drums. If you don’t want to nudge your hits to exactly the same Groove, explore your DAW’s options for quantizing, as some will allow you to set this to a percentage, for a looser feel.
For a different vibe on the upbeat of your drum track, try adding a perc hit instead of a clap, provided you get the sample right this can sound great for a change from the standard kick and clap combo. Furthermore, you could try instead adding a perc layer to your clap, a conga or bongo hit can really fill out a 909 or 808 cap sound. Add a touch of track delay, so the sample sounds ever so slightly before your kick for a lazier vibe.
Use a glitch plugin to create unique complex perc loops you would likely never program otherwise. Ableton’s Beat Repeat plugin can do some interesting things to perc lines, or use a more advanced glitch plugin such as Effectrix or Illformed Glitch 2, to transform your percussion loops. Twisted Tool’s Ultraloop takes things one step further, allowing you to load in a series of loops, applying a number of different effects, you can also chop up loops on the fly and work in Poly mode, for a very improvised sonic workflow.