Round Robin Drum Kits add spice to your drum beats with minimum effort.
For the last few months I’ve been really into taking drum breaks or recorded loops and making them into “Round Robin” or Cycling Drum Kits. For those who aren’t familiar with what that is, a round robin drum kit is where the sample that is played changes each time you hit the pad instead of just repeating the same sample. This opens up a ton of possibilities for adding variety to both finger drumming, and programming in drums by hand for production. It gives you cleaner visualizations of where your notes sit on the piano roll, and just generally makes things tidier while making the sounds you hear fairly complex.
The reason drum breaks or recorded drum loops are great for this is pretty simple. A live recording is made up of completely unique sounds for every hit recorded, where a sample is just a section from a recording chopped out and reused. A break is great for making these kinds of kits because you’ll get multiple kicks, multiple snares, hats, and whatever else the drummer played, and each one of those drum hits is it’s own unique snowflake.
Being able to make kits like this almost effortlessly in an MPC really pushed me to start exploring this technique more inside of Ableton. I knew Ableton was capable of doing this but it was something I hadn’t tried to do much, or really utilized the potential of. Ableton is a monster, you can actually put way more samples on each pad than you can in an MPC. The catch is, it’s quite a bit slower process and not an almost automatic thing like in an MPC.
Since it’s legally pretty questionable for me to give away a bunch of samples of breaks, I decided to make a drum kit like this without using breaks, loops, or anything that could get me in trouble. So I started from scratch.
The process of making this kit started out with either the Arturia Microbrute, the SH-01, or Ableton’s Operator to generate a sound that would be turned into a drum. I then used pitch and amp envelopes to make all of the sounds seem more drum like until I had made hundreds of random drum hits and put them in a folder. For the typical sound I go for, synth drums just don’t really do it for me, so I knew I had a lot more work to do with these.
From previous experiences, kitchens and garages are great for finding random sounds. I grabbed a thin piece of scrapwood out of our garage and proceeded to beat everything in my kitchen with it in an attempt to make some drum sounds. I made cymbals by putting my field recorder inside of the metal bowl used for my pressure cooker and hitting it. I stretched some tape over a colander and hit that to make a snare. Mason jars became hi hats. Hitting a cardboard box created a nice thump sound.
Once I had collected a ton of random sounds I started layering these together with my synth drum sounds. Using the synth drums allowed me to create the impact and weight of modern samples, while the recordings allowed me to have the analog variety and randomness of a real recording that still sounds like it was a recorded drum or something sampled from a record. And that is how I ended up making “The Movement Kit.” The kit itself features 32 pads of drum sounds. Each pad has at least 4 samples on it that it flips between. I made this kit as both an MPC expansion, and an Ableton project. Because Ableton can utilize using more samples, some of the pads have as many as 12 samples in the Ableton version. The MPC version on the other hand works with both a computer, and standalone, so it can be used without a computer and will also work on the Akai Force. It was a lot of fun exploring this whole creation experience, and I will definitely be doing it again and making them available online!
To check out the sounds or see me generally act weird; you can see a video of it in action here:
If you’re interested in picking up one of the most lively drum kits you’ve ever heard on a computer, you can snag it right here: http://nintendeaux.producerdj.com
Much love to all of you!