Join Brian Lee White for an in-depth discussion in this video Converting drum transients to MIDI, part of Pro Tools Projects: Editing Drums Using Beat Detective and Sound Replacer.
If you are like me, you might find that the real-time drum triggering software options just don't give you the degree of accuracy that you're looking for. They might work great for replacing a quick kick drum sound or if the snare is really consistent, and just, kind of want to boost the snap in the chorus while blending it with the original, they work great. Because they are super quick, you can load them up, load in a sample, switch it around until the kit sounds good. But I find with more difficult tracks where there's lots of different articulations on the drums, especially the snare where you have a regular hit, you have a drag. You have a flam.
You have a side stick. You have all these little different articulations. And if the snare sound is bad, and you can't just use a quick real-time triggering option, I find I like to use MIDI in Pro Tools to trigger virtual instruments with new samples. And there's lots of software that will actually create MIDI triggers for you by running through the triggers like a real-time drum replacement software.
There is even some ones that do it offline. There is even hardware stuff that you can actually attach triggers to your drum kit and record in MIDI for each one of the strikes. But I am going to show you a method where you can use just the MIDI features in Pro Tools with the stock plug-ins to trigger new sounds from any drum kit, and I find this gives me the highest degree of control over when the drum sound strikes, what sound and articulation it is, and the velocity of that.
So, it's kind of like the best of both worlds, but it does take a little bit of time. So, what I am going to do is I am going to create an instrument track underneath the Snare drum. So, I am going to Track > New, and we'll do a Mono Instrument Track. You could do Stereo if you wanted to work with more of a stereo sample that had a lot of ambience or reverb on it. And I am going to load up an instrument to trigger some drum sounds. Now this can be anything because the beauty of MIDI is MIDI is not sound.
It's just a representation of a note at a certain time in the Timeline. So, even if you start with something really basic - like all this start with expand here - I can always switch it out with something else. I can switch it out with a more advanced sampler. I could switch it out with a purpose- built drum virtual instrument like DFD, superior drummer, addictive drums or something like that. So, it's just all about getting your triggers, and then you can play with the sound. So, I am going to go in, and I am just going to choose a Snares menu here, and I am going to switch to Notes View, and I'll hide this, now I am going to find a snare drum that I think might work for me. I'm going to go through and click until I get some snares here.
(Drum playing.) Cool. We'll use that one. So, that looks like an A flat to me. So, let me increase the size of the MIDI here. What I am going to do, to start with, is I am just going to pencil in an eighth note here, anywhere on the grid, and I am going to increase the velocity to start with, get a decent smack on that.
And then what I am going to do is I am going to go in, and I am going to cut that to the clipboard. So, I like using my single key shortcuts for this. So, because A to Z is checked here, I can just hit the X Key. Now I am going to make my snare track a little bit bigger so I can really see those transients, and I might just hide all my other tracks to make this easier for me, and I am going to turn on Tab to Transients. This is key here. And now what I am going to do is I am going to go through with my Selector tool, and I am going to tab over.
I can actually use the apostrophe key to tab right. I can use the L Key to tab left, and so this is the trick. I'll tab right by hitting apostrophe or the quotes, and then I'll use the colon key to move my cursor down and then I'll hit V to paste. So, I am going to move up. That's the P Key. I am going to use apostrophe to move over, and then the colon key to move down and paste. Now I am just going to up over, up over down.
I am going to go through here, and this allows me to get those really soft hits here. So, one of the big problems with this track, if we solo the snare, there is these really soft articulations that he plays. (Drums playing.) So, that's bop bop bow, bop bop bow. (Drums playing.) So, I can tab up to those. And what I'll do on those hits is I'll actually reduced the velocity of them. So, I am going to hold down Command or Ctrl on the PC and drag down the velocity there. Those are going to be really soft little hits.
Move back up and paste a few more of these, and you can actually use a macro. So, here's the trick. You can get a macro program for either Windows or Mac and what it allows you to do is it allows you to record keystrokes. So, what you can do is you could strip silence the snare track. You go in and use Edit > Strip Silence to strip everything down to - let's use this threshold here - and we will make a really tight Start Pad of zero milliseconds.
So, it really gets the head there, and just a tiny little End Pad, and I'll hit Strip. And what this does is it allows me to quickly go through there. So, I don't have to worry about tab, tab, tab, tab, tab, tabbing through all the false triggers, and I could actually set up a macro that basically did over, down, paste, up, over, over, down, paste. Now when you get to a situation where it's a flam, what you can do is you can either paste to in if you want to, so I could go here, and I could Option+drag this note.
We'll make it a little bit smaller so you can see that, and I'll zoom way in, and I can Option+drag that to just put another note there. I'll switch to Slip mode so I can move that easily. Or if you're using a special drum virtual instrument, a lot of times those have all the articulations built into them. So, you've got flams. You have got drags. You have got left-hand, right-hand snare and so you could just move the note up or down. If you hold down Shift, it locks the note to that timeline position, and then I can move it up or down through the different articulation.
(Drums playing.) Like that. In this case, it's triggering different drum sounds. But if you had a drum virtual instrument, you could kind of just drag it up until you got that side stick or that flam or that drag. Now this seems like it would take a long time, and it does. You can set up a macro that makes things faster. I tend to not use a macro and I just manually go through and do it, so I can pay attention to the unique velocity levels and the unique articulations.
But if you get really fast with this, I actually find that I can do a whole song in under 20 minutes. And people who have used real-time drum triggering or they've used programs that convert the triggers to MIDI, they will say, "Oh that's crazy. I'll just use a program to convert that." But what you have to do anyway is you have to go through each one of those and make sure it's triggering correctly. So, this isn't a workflow for your quick and dirty sound replacement. This is where, man I want the highest degree of quality possible.
I want to get every articulation. I don't want anyone to know that I use sound replacing on this, and you can really do amazing things if you take the time. So, let's listen here: (Drums playing.) And so in the context of a kit. (Drums playing.) And if I find that - you know what? that's really not that great of a sound - I can just switch to sound here, and so I'll go okay let's see what the Warm drum sound like.
And I need to do is just select these notes, and I'll drag them down to D1, which is where the snare is going to be. (Drums playing.) (Music playing.) And I can even do this in real-time. I could set up a little selection, turn on the loop Playback and just go through different sounds here. I have the MIDI trigger, so I could even swap out plug-ins.
(Music playing.) So, I can get crazy. I could actually duplicate this track and layer sounds. Sometimes, when you're using triggers to replace sounds, it's cool to kind of layer them with multiple sounds and not just the original sound.
But maybe I will layer a snare with the clap track on an R&B song that has a real drum kit, but I want to kind of give it that urban vibe. I might go through and generate some MIDI triggers, here like I just did, and then trigger a clap sound from a sample library. So, again, this takes a little while to do and if you really want to do it right you kind of got to do it by hand so you can pay attention to the different articulations and the velocity levels, but once you have the MIDI triggers, I mean the sky is the limit.
You can use any plug-in you have, any virtual instrument. It can even be a synthesizer to replace or augment your drum sounds. So, what I've done - if you want to play with this - I have actually created MIDI triggers for the whole session here, for the kick and the snare. And you can find that in the Exercise folder, here in the MIDI Triggering folder. And it's called TMD Drum Triggers, and you can actually import that into your session here. We'll just say New Track session start.
And so what I have our triggers for the kick and the snare. So, there's the kick, and there's the snare, and you could copy those to instrument tracks so you can just set their output to trigger to an existing instrument. So, definitely you want to check out this method of drum sample triggering.
- Understanding Beat Detective
- Making selections and separating regions in Beat Detective
- Extracting and using groove templates
- Generating a tempo map with bar beat markers
- Quantizing multi-track drums
- Using SoundReplacer and other sample triggering plug-ins
- Creating and using MIDI triggers
- Replacing drum sounds within a stereo recording
- Drum sweetening tips and strategies