drums. cheap ones, part 1 – midi

i’ve always wanted to be able to play the drums. that is, stay in time, coordinate my limbs and be the spine of my music. a drummer’s role is not to be underestimated; often when i come up with a chord progression and add a bassline i find myself changing the bassline to match the drums after i’ve picked the drum parts. i guess i really ought to pick drums after chords and before bass :)

maybe one day i’ll get myself some kind of drum kit (probably electronic, so as to not inflict it on anyone else!) until then, though, like many others i’ll have to make do with something else. personal preference aside, it’s much safer to use legally obtained drum parts.

depending on the track, i’ll use either pre-made loops, or midi parts. for this post i thought it would be informative to talk about each a little, and maybe give a handful of examples too. oh, and bear in mind the title of this post; i’m keeping things cheap here :-)


i’ve found a few bits and pieces of free midi parts on the web, but the bulk of what i use i bought from drumtrax a very long time ago. so long ago, they came on a floppy disk. i kid you not. i’ve looked around google and bing and i’m not sure these are available any more, which is a major shame. if anybody knows different, please let me know and i’ll update this.

anyway, what i say about drumtrax will apply to any midi parts you’ll find online. because it’s MIDI you have complete control to edit, loop, change your arrangements, etc and you have unlimited control over the actual sounds of the drums, because there are no drum sounds involved, no well-intended ambience that doesn’t quite fit in your track – just good drum parts played by a drummer on a MIDI kit.


with midi drums you need some sounds. i flick between three players for my midi drums: steven slate drums, the shortcircuit sampler, and drummix beta. all are vst instruments and i use them inside cockos reaper.

steven slate drums

steven slate drums is available all over the place. i feel it’s a little “bloattastic” but it sounds pretty decent. it’s great that it has full control over the room / overhead sound (as in you can remove them!), along with panning, tuning of individual drums and so on but i really don’t have the patience for such detailed control. i also don’t like that i can’t change, say, the snare from a kit – i’m stuck with what they’ve given me. still, i got mine for $49 in a musicians friend sale and it’s pretty good. i won’t post any clips of slate drums in case they get all upset. it’s a paid product after all. bing it. suffice it to say that it’s definitely usable, but i probably wouldn’t buy it again if i was in the market.

shortcircuit sampler

shortcircuit is freeware, and i’m sure it’s capable of a lot more than just being a drum playback module. not being a synth guy i’m not into all the lfo adsr filter shenanigans that those guys do, so i just load samples and i’m done. i was able to find some really cool free multi-sampled drumkits online, and loading them into shortcircuit gives me some fantastically usable sounds. check out the bedroom producer’s blog for some excellent free drum kits. here’re some examples:

example – short drumtrax midi loop played through the easyrider kit easyrider
example – short drumtrax midi loop played through the ruffrider kit ruffrider
example – short drumtrax midi loop played through the basic kit basickitnoambience

drummix sound module

drummix is currently available as a freeware beta and includes three kits. when it’s fully available it looks like it’s going to be $30, which is a fantastic deal. you can get it here

example – short drumtrack midi loop played through the 1st drummix kit drummix-1
example – short drumtrack midi loop played through the 1st drummix kit drummix-2
example – short drumtrack midi loop played through the 1st drummix kit drummix-3

one additional arse-kicker in the drummix plugin is that you have a pan and volume control for each drum, and for the overheads and the room mic! this means you can dry down this kit to bare drums and add your own ambience! very, very cool :)


ok so that’s the midi side of things. i’m going to leave loops for part 2

for the suspicious: no, i didn’t get paid by anybody for writing this post and i didn’t receive any free products or engage in any link sharing doohickies. i’m just trying to share the results of my purchasing decisions and the fruits of a lot of time spent browsing the web, auditioning clips and faffing about with software plugins.

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