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Presets & “Fully Mixed” Sample Packs

Daily Blog - June 14th 2021

In our podcast and other places I've said a couple of times that you have to be careful with certain processed and widely used drum sample packs if you want a unique sound. After thinking about it for a bit during the last couple of days, I need to clarify and apologize. It's not that there's anything wrong with certain sample libraries or companies and I didn't want it to come across that way.

Presets & “Fully Mixed” Sample Packs

It's not about what you use, it's how you use it.

Many of today's virtual drums or guitar amps truly sound amazing. We all have to agree on that and I've been a fan of these tools for a long time. Most of them can give you impressive results pretty quickly. That's cool and makes writing so much fun! But that's also why I say "be careful".

I've made hundreds of records and I've witnessed dozens of sessions and mixes done by others. This includes everything from local bands to major label artists. One thing I never do and never see others do (there's always the rare exception, of course) is just load up a preset in some virtual instrument or amp sim and use that on the record, as it is.

Why? Because a "fully mixed" preset or sample pack can never be "fully mixed" without context. In fact, you don't mix a guitar or a drum kit. You mix a song. 

What might sound amazing on its own or in the context that it's been made in will probably not work with the tempo, key, tuning, vibe, energy and arrangement of your song.

And it doesn't start with the mix. You have to make production decisions and define your sound from the beginning.

That's why most producers use those tools, but they

  • tweak them to fit the song
  • blend them with other samples or "real" instruments/amps/cabinets
  • create their own samples/IRs and load them into those tools
  • create their own presets and templates for certain situations or genres (as starting points!)
  • do whatever serves the song to create a unique sonic landscape that carries the emotion and energy in the best way possible

Can you choose a couple of tools that you really like, use them for quick demos and to accelerate the writing process, but then only view them as starting points and take it from there?

You don't want to sound like everyone else. You want to define your sound. You want the sonics of your record to fit the musical content and lyrics. You want your record to have a unique, recognizable vibe, not recognizable samples.

Keep using the tools. We all use them. Just try putting more effort into it and make them yours. 

-Benedikt

PS: I love to use raw, unprocessed drum samples for all those reasons above. I still use presets for writing and demos, but in my mixes and productions I usually go raw. My favorite sample packs that can do both, and that give me tons of unique features and options that I can blend (if I want to) are made by Room Sound Drums. I use many of the others, as well, but Room Sound samples tend to work most of the time without giving away which library I used.

PPS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

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