Tag Archives: variation

Your hi-hats suck. Can you say machine gun?

Your hi-hats suck. Why?

One word: Variation. That’s something that can often be lacking in programmed/sequenced drums. And not just the hi-hats… but particularly those, and we are going to use them for an example of how to add more natural sound variations to your hi-hats (or other drums, anything repetitive and sample based.)

First choose a medium to long hi-hat or cymbal sound. Now we will be cloning this multiple times, and changing each clone slightly so no two instances are the same. As in the video, with each clone you make, turn the OUT knob on the sampler further to the right. (Fading out the sample and making it shorter.)

After you’ve made all your clone channels, we add a layer channel and set all the hi-hats and child channels. We need to set the layer channel to RANDOM next, so they don’t all play at once, just random ones individually.

Now we have some variations, we will edit the CUT group on all the samplers to a common group number. This will make each new hi-hat note played CUT off the end off any others that are already still playing. Stops them all blurring together and overlaying over each-other.

Set Channels To Same Cut Group

So now we have many variations on the same hi-hat. Program yourself a pattern in the layer channel’s step-sequencer or piano-roll and you are good to go.

That’s a good start… However let’s take it further now. Velocities are very important. Make each hit louder and softer. ‘Real’ drummers can’t ever play the exact same sound evenly twice. Our ears soon becoming bored by the same sound and texture, in the same rhythm, at the same volume. This is what’s sometimes known as ‘The machine gun effect’.

Add variation to the note velocities

Rather than just randomly tweak volumes or velocities of individual notes, try giving it a groove. Accent the more important hits by making them loudest, and all the in between and off beats in your rhythm can be quieter.

Cutoff, Res(Q) and Fine pitch.

You can add even more subtle variations to your patterns by doing the same for other note properties. Try for example, the CUTOFF, the RES(Q), and the FINE PITCH. Though it’s probably better to be very subtle with any pitch variation. Let your ears be the judge as always.

You can download the example project here:

Your Hi-Hats Suck