The importance of humanizing drums in music production

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Image Credit: Jason jarrach

Why should you humanize your rhythms when producing?

Just because the music was created digitally, it doesn’t have to sound like a robot playing a drums. The challenge for producers is to ensure that the rhythms they have created sound natural. Give it some personality and life by humanizing your drum beats.

As with all things in music production, there is no hard and fast rule – if you’re creating industrial techno, for example, making your pumping beat sound like a real drummer is less vital. If the kick drum, bass, synth and so on all play exactly to the beat at the same speed, it will sound like a machine, and that might be what you are looking for.

You can, however, make your samples sound more human by using the quantize tool to create slight changes in the sounds’ default note velocities and make them less uniform.

Using the quantize tool on the piano roll, you can select from different presets to create different sensations and grooves. This is not about “swing” but about creating the illusion of a real drummer playing by changing the velocity of each MIDI note. Imagine the drummer hitting the snare drum at a different volume with each beat, as it naturally occurs.

Likewise, you can create a human feel by playing the rhythms yourself using a MIDI controller – by recording a drum pattern on your keyboard for example. If you do this and notice that, say, your kick drum missed the downbeat and visibly came out, quantization can fix that.

MIDI notes can be moved to their place in the rhythm, and you don’t have to do it manually, as there is a sequencer tool on some DAWs that will change quantize values ​​and rhythm your MIDI notes and rhythms over time. You can select the amount of quantification you want, on a sliding scale from 1 to 100%. A good setting is 90%, pulling the notes over time, but not completely, just creating the slightest natural feel.

In general, music sounds more pleasing to the ear if there is a natural feel, and humanizing your drum beats is a good start. Have fun with quantification and see if you notice the difference in your production.


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