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How to make your programmed drums sound alive

Audio plugin tools or "VSTs" like Addictive Drums often do the job in many drum productions. Be it a demo-track or a Spotify hit. In some cases, you want to make the beat sound even more alive realistic and human. What you want to do is called humanizing. Here are a few common tricks you can do if the beat feels 'programmed' and maybe not as groovy as you want.

  1. Get off the grid.
    This is what it is all about. Too precise = too stiff = not human. Don't put the hits precisely on the grid in your DAW. Use the grid as a guide and alter the position of each hit slightly.

  2. Play the beat…hit the hardware.
    Manually hit on pads or your keys on the keyboard. Record it as MIDI. If you got a feel for rhythm, this is most definitely the best way to do it. It gives you a slightly different velocity and timing on each note. It's real.

  3. Groove quantize template or humanizing.
    It's like a "slightly off the grid" -preset function. If your DAW supports it, you can try to quantize your hits to a groove template instead. Sometimes this function is called humanizing. Some DAW's support the same thing for velocity, which can be very helpful too. Check the manual for your DAW (yes, always check the manual) or use a web search engine of your choice.

  4. Program each drum fill slightly different.
    You have a great drum fill you want to use. Now, copy the fill, paste it to where it's supposed to be in the song. Then move the position (individually and slightly) and the velocity of some or all hits so that they are not at the same place as in the original. Save the original.

  5. Purchase grooves recorded by a real drummer.
    We offer an extensive library of MIDI grooves/beats in our MIDIpaks. It´s a short cut. A drummer records the hits and rhythms. You put them into your DAW (and edit them further if you want to). You choose the sound of these hits. The beat becomes yours.

  6. Add live recorded percussion.
    Get some real percussion in the mix. Keep your virtual drums in there, but add a live recorded shaker, maracas, or hand clap your hands or slap a tambourine and the beat will feel a lot more alive.

  7. Record and replace the drum with whatever you like.
    Get off the computer screen. Record a beat pattern by hitting anything. Yes, you can replace the drum kit with whatever you like. Use a spoon or a brush, play on a cup and a plastic box…or whatever that resembles a drum kit. You can also use a real drum kit like that old partly broken one you got in your rehearsing room. Put one mic, or more, in front of your kit, whatever it made of. A cheap microphone will do just fine. Play. Record the beat. Load the audio file into your DAW. Use the Addictive Trigger (AT) or any other drum trigger plugin that supports this function. The AT will detect the hits in your audio file and assign them to a drum of your choice. It triggers the drum. ...and it's very good at detecting. This video explains it.

Stay Addictive and make noise.

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