A Drummer’s Studio Sampling Guide

Don’t Forget The Rudiments. While it’s conceivable that you could re-create any drum fill using single hits, I’m convinced that strikes based on flam and drag families will be more believable if you record them for real.

Consider Multiple Head Types. If you are wed to one type of head, this may not apply, but having recordings of single- and double-ply heads, live and focused, will give you more flexibility down the line.

Remember Different Tunings Especially for the snare, but also important for the kick, you’ll want to try to get samples across the usable tuning range of your drums. This can be helpful when changing styles and for capturing more or less of the shell in the tone.

Loops Are Samples Too. Blame Sony Acid for making looping even more fun. Loops, or short one- or two-bar phrases, can be loaded into computer programs such as Ableton Live or Apple GarageBand. From there you can time-stretch (change the speed of the loop with minimal impact on the tone of the instruments) to fit your track.

Strange Perspective. With lo-fi beat-box sounds so popular, you might want to consider adding an actual boom box or other limited-range microphone to the mix. We added a Bing Carbon Mic, which is based on telephones of the 1970s. (myspace.com/carbonmicrophone) (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Bing Carbon Microphone.

Geek Can Be Good. If you find yourself agreeing with some of these suggestions, you probably already understand that the scope of this project will expand quickly. If you have access to a spreadsheet program, it would be a good idea to begin by making a grid of what you plan to do (a piece of graph paper works fine too). In one column list the drums you’re sampling, and in another you can note intensity levels. Add items such as stick and head variations. Take this to the session and have the engineer call them out and check them off as you complete them.

Geek Can Be Good, Part Two. If you go in a specific order, it will make it easier for you to name each sample as you save it. Remember, a sample has no use if you can’t find it when you need it.

Cleaning Up

During the recording, you’ll have more audio than you’ll need for the sample. You’ll need to trim the excess audio at the beginning and the end of the section. I suggest avoiding cross-fades and letting the sound fade out on its own. If you must end the clip before the audio ends, do your best to zoom in to where you can find a zero crossing (where the audio wave hits the center line of the graphical scale). This can happen when the audio is moving up or down, just as long as you stop at a zero crossing. This will help to eliminate pops or glitches at the end of the sample.

Publishing To Sampler Type

Once your samples are trimmed and ready to go, you’ll need to export your audio files into a format that’s recognizable by your sampler. The SAMPLIT software used in our example can output information recognizable by the nine most popular software samplers. If you need to convert to a hardware sampler, you’ll need to use something like TRANSLATOR from Chicken Systems, Inc. (chickensys.com), which can translate into various hardware formats.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to keep a backup copy of the original digital files. These will be useful for tasks like sound replacement. They will also serve as your archive and the source from which new sample formats are developed.


Although there is a good bit of electronic lingo involved, sampling your drums is not terribly complicated. With a little bit of planning, some simple organizational tools, and a good audio engineer, it’s possible to capture an accurate recording of your kit. Provided that you record to a high-resolution digital file, you can share your kit for years to come.

And you don’t even need to be there!

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