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Programming Rock Drums in Pro Tools

Are you just getting into writing and recording Rock music? Well, the first step is to create killer drum tracks. Project studio master Travis Brown is going to show you how to program realistic and rockin' drums using Pro Tools and Steven Slate's EX drum virtual instrument quickly and easily.

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Introduction 2m:03s

An introduction to the tutorial series. We discuss using a virtual drum instrument and the Pro Tools MIDI editor to make realistic drum tracks in our session. We also preview the song 'Touch Me' by Avenues which will be used throughout this series.


Exploring the VDI 6m:59s

Discuss and navigate aspects of a virtual drum instrument plug-in (Steven Slate EX), explain multi-layer samples, changing drum kits and pieces, saving custom kits, and review the parameters of each instrument we can control in within the plug-in. We also take a look at the built-in mixer within the Steven Slate EX drum plug-in and some of its features.


Using the MIDI Editor 6m:36s

In this video we explore the MIDI editor in Pro Tools. We discuss the pros and cons of standalone and docked view, toolbar functionality, track lanes, piano roll, and aspects of the grid.


Grid Resolution 1m:35s

This video reviews grid resolution as it relates to the MIDI editor window and its importance in MIDI quantizing and drum programming.


Setting Up a Guide Track 6m:37s

Before we can start programming the drums we need to first determine the song tempo, set up a click track, and lay down a scratch guitar. We also map out the song using track markers for easy navigation of our session.


Quantizing 4m:47s

In this video we discuss quantizing MIDI notes to tighten loose performances. We also look at some of the tools available in the event operations window in the MIDI editor.


Making Drums Pt. 1 11m:54s

We begin programming the drum tracks by creating a basic outline of our drum performance. The song is taken section by section using the MIDI editor and pencil tool.


Making Drums Pt. 2 14m:09s

We continue creating the outline of the drum performance using the MIDI editor and pencil tool.


Making Drums Pt. 3 10m:19s

Digging in deeper we are now near the end of the song and we make realizations along the way as to the best choices for creating a realistic performance.


Making Drums Pt. 4 12m:37s

We now finish up the outline for the drum part in the MIDI editor window.


Creating Special Moments Pt. 1 12m:40s

In this video we start to create special moments like drum fills, cymbal accents, and tom rolls.


Creating Special Moments Pt. 2 9m:24s

In this video we create more special moments as well as discuss creating excitement in the drum performance.


Humanizing Your Drums Pt. 1 8m:38s

In this video we begin to 'humanize' the drum performance by adjusting velocity and moving MIDI notes from being gridlocked.


Humanizing Your Drums Pt. 2 13m:36s

In this video we finalize the "humanize" procedure in the drum performance.


Mixing within the Plug-In 7m:15s

Now we explore mixing the drum performance using only the mixer section of the plug-in to save space in the session.


Printing Drums to Individual Tracks 8m:34s

In the final video we route the drum instruments from the plug-in into their own individual tracks within Pro Tools. The tracks are then 'printed' or recorded and as we listen to the entire final performance. The pros of printing your drums into your session are also discussed.

Travis Brown

1. When did you start dabbling in music?

At age 6 I started piano lessons but was quickly gravitated towards the guitars and drums in the J.C. Penny Christmas catalog. Music and creativity was encouraged in our house so I explored music endlessly. Guitar became my main instrument and I learned by watching others play and figuring out my favorite artists songs by ear. Several years later I am still watching others play and learning my favorite artists songs!

2. What training have you had?

I studied music production and music business at Columbia College in Chicago. After college I have been mentored by Charles Macak @ Electrowerks Music Production.

3. When did you get into recording?

I was lucky enough to inherit a Fostex 4 track from a friend who didn't want it anymore. I spent an entire summer in my room recording and experimenting on it. Then I recorded anyone I could find and haven't really stopped since!

4. People you have worked with/for?

I have been blessed and have worked under Sean O' Keefe, Ricco Lumpkin, and Charles Macak. Bands I have recorded is a long list...some favorites are The Captain Hates The Sea, This Is Our Year, Saline, and Plastic Smiles.

5. Why are you so good at training people?

I love to share what I have learned with others. So many people have helped me throughout my musical journey that I feel I must give back as much as possible. In this industry you must continue to learn and reinvent yourself so I have fun talking to those who inspire me as well as try to inspire the next generation of producers and engineers!

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