Tutorial: How to Program Realistic Drums in Reason 10
Start making your own drum beats in Reason!
MIDI drums give you the freedom and flexibility to program your own performances, but they often lack the realism and authenticity of a live drummer. Samuel Prather is a multi-instrumentalist and producer known for his work with renowned artists like Raul Midon, Fred Yonnet, Hugh Masekela and more. He’s also got a reputation for creating realistic-sounding drum programming in Reason 10. Watch the video below for his step-by-step walk-through of how to program drums that sound like they were recorded in a world-class studio.
Drop a Beat!
Start by dragging an instance of Reason Drum Kits into your rack and selecting a premade groove from Reason’s massive library of loops. Or create your own using your favorite MIDI keyboard. Add a few ghost notes or quiet snare hits in-between the backbeat to create a more interesting rhythm.
Next, separate each track onto it’s own lane. To do this, simply right-click and choose “select notes of the same pitch.” Then, right-click again and choose “move selected notes to new lane.” For added control, move your ghost notes to another snare note lane. This will allow you to manipulate them more easily, while still applying the processing used on the main snare hits.
Feel The Groove
The problem with traditional step sequencers is that they often sound stiff and rigid. Reason Drum Kits makes it incredibly easy to simulate the sound and feel of a live drummer. Simply assign a premade groove to any channel using the groove mixer. Don’t worry—grooves are totally non-destructive, so you can always change them later.
Small timing variations are essential to making MIDI drums sound real. After selecting a groove, open up the Tool window and adjust the timing of each hit. You should also randomize the velocity of each hit, since a real drummer would never strike the same surface twice at exactly the same velocity. These subtle changes all add up to help make your tracks sound more realistic.
A Drummer’s Intuition
After locking in the groove, it’s time to bring your beat to life with small nuances that improve realism. Open up the hi-hat lane and move a few of the notes to different cymbal lanes. Hit a crash cymbal at the very beginning of the loop to add excitement. Use open hi-hat samples just before the downbeat to add movement.
Emulate what a real drummer would do behind the kit. Try voicing changes during different sections. For instance, in the bridge you could try using the bell of the hi-hat for a slightly different tone, or switch to a ride cymbal for a laid-back, jazzy vibe. Add fills and variations as needed to keep things interesting.
Mix It Down
Now that you’ve got a professional-sounding drum performance, it’s time to dial in a drum mix to match. Adjust levels for each individual drum using Reason Drum Kits’ built-in studio-grade mixer, or swap out samples altogether using the intuitive interface. Make the kick thump and the cymbals sparkle with the on-board EQ. Get the snare to crack with the transient shaper. Top it all off with a little harmonic saturation to fatten things up, and you’re good to go!
If you’re looking for realistic drum machine software, Reason Drum Kits has everything you need. Stunning samples. Professional-sounding grooves. Advanced signal processing. And with Samuel Prather’s drum programming tips, you’ll be an unstoppable force of rhythm!