Drum Production Part 2: Quantization and Layering


A decent drum recording done in a studio can without much effort be used as the foundation for electronic music genres like pop, electro and lounge as well. Especially when using quantization and layering. Many DAWs used for multitrack recording provide a way to quantize drum recordings, usually called audio quantization (not the be confused with the midi equivalent). Simply put, you can use this process to automate the manual cutting up, positioning and time-stretching of audio tracks, something that can save you many hours of work.

If you have decided you want to make use of audio quantization on beforehand, recording drums with a clicktrack to make sure the playing tempo is constant can make the quantization process more accurate and predictable. In general, audio quantization works best on recordings that only need relatively subtle corrections. When having to do bigger corrections most audio quantization tools produce obvious artifacts: transient loss and an unnatural timing and feel. Therefore, keep in mind that audio quantization is mostly meant to tighten up quality recordings, and not so much to correct obvious timing mistakes.

Apart from tightening up studio drum recordings with audio quantization, it is also possible to add external drum samples to recordings, a process usually called augmentation or layering. Subtly layering your studio recordings with high quality samples, can create the directness needed for modern commercial productions in a very natural way. You can add an external sample to one of your close mic recorded tracks, to add a specific character, attack or sustain, or you can replace the close mic recorded track altogether. This doesn’t need to be done manually. You can use a trigger during the actual recordings, convert your audio to midi during mixing, or use a dedicated layering plug-in that detects drum hits and layers and mixes samples automatically. So, on the one hand you can use layering to subtly bring out certain elements in your recordings, and on the other hand to change the sound and impact of your recordings while maintaining the human feel of the performance.