Logic Tutorial: Mixing Drums With Drum Kit Designer

Exploiting Drum Kit Designer’s Multi Output functionality can create some stunningly realistic acoustic drum tracks. Mark Cousins takes a closer look…



Point Blank

Whether you program drum patterns from scratch or use Drummer to create complete rhythm tracks in seconds, the sonic dexterity of Drum Kit

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Designer forms the backbone of realistic acoustic drums in Logic Pro X. Indeed, it’s easy to get distracted by the options in Drummer – the different genres, drummer identities and performance qualities – and overlook Drum Kit Designer altogether.

Here, we’re going to take a closer look at Drum Kit Designer, to see how you can assemble and mix the kit to create your perfect drum sound.

Drum-kit Basics
In essence, Drum Kit Designer works as Logic’s own version of a virtual drummer plug-in, designed to work in conjunction with a Drummer track, which provides the all-important MIDI grooves.

While it’s possible to use the two elements together (a Drummer track and the Drum Kit Designer instrument) it’s also possible to use them separately, using Drum Kit Designer with a collection of third-party imported MIDI grooves, for example, or as a sound source for your own rhythm programming.

On the surface, Drum Kit Designer seems like a relatively straightforward instrument plug-in, although once you factor in some of the multi-output options (more on this in a minute) and the wealth of audio plug-ins in Logic, the sonic possibilities become almost limitless.

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The ‘Designer’ element, of course, lets you build a customised kit using a variety of multisampled components – kicks, snares, toms and cymbals – that can be selected from drop-down kit piece menus on the left-hand side. To gain complete access to Logic’s full range of kit elements, ensure you’ve downloaded the Multi-Output Kits as well as the Producer Patches.

Once you’ve loaded a kit element, you can then tweak a number of editable parameters on a per kit-piece basis. Easily the most important parameter is Tune, which lets you raise or lower the pitch of the drum – making a snare crisper with a higher tuning, for example, or a kick drum flabbier with lower tuning.

In addition to Tune, you’ll also find a Dampening control, which rolls off some of the high-end and reduces sustain, and a basic Gain control.

Multiple Personalities
The real power behind Drum Kit Designer comes when it’s run in Multi Output mode. You can select this mode when you first load up the instrument, rather than picking the CPU and RAM-light Stereo mode (which is what a new Drummer track defaults to).

In Multi Output mode, you get significantly more drum kit elements to play with and, more importantly, access to individual faders for each part of the kit – and the all-important room mics.

You’ll also notice some extra parameters in Drum Kit Designer’s edit pane, including the option of adding leak between mics, as well as switching the kit elements between two different room mics. To access the extra channels, you’ll need to press on the small + icon in the mixer area, with 16 outputs all accessible.

In Multi Output mode, triggering the snare will play back samples across multiple channels, including snare top and bottom mics, the overheads, room mics and the bleed as the snare ‘spills’ onto other mics on the kit. Mixing with Drum Kit Designer is much the same as mixing a real kit – creating a close mic’d 70s sound with an emphasis on the spot mics, or something more ambient and roomy with a bias towards the room mics.

Processing Kit
The real benefit of the Multi Output kit is the ability to apply unique processing to each kit part. Compression and EQ are important tools in this application – EQ to change thetonal colour of each kit element, and compression to control dynamics and add body to the kit.

In that respect, it’s well worth playing with the different models found on Logic’s compressor and contrasting those with different parts of the kit. Use the VCA modes for lighter compression, while the Vintage FET compressor works well on channels where you want to add a more characterful compression sound, particularly on the snare or room mics.

In addition to compression and EQ, you’ll also want to look at using bus sends from the individual channels, either to add ambience effects, like delay and reverb, or treatments like parallel compression.

Rather than applying reverb wholesale (as you would in Stereo mode), the use of reverb can be directed – either adding a touch more room to the overheads, say, or following an 80s production ethic and applying a lot of reverb to just the snare.

Likewise, parallel compression can be fed just from the kick and snare channels, which is a great way of adding power and body to the kit without sacrificing transient detail or the sound of the cymbals.

Virtual Rummer
While other virtual-drumming solutions pack a lot into a single plug-in, the elegance of Drum Kit Designer means that it can fully integrate the instrument into your working environment with the minimum of fuss, moving between the immediacy of a Stereo instance for basic programming activities, to a fully-fledged Multi Output kit when it comes to mixing.

While some third-party solutions might offer extra choice when it comes to kit pieces, there’s little doubt that the combination of a Multi Output Drum Kit Designer and Logic’s audio plug-ins actually exceeds what can be delivered on rival solutions.

Producer Kits
The Producer Kits, which are available via the Channel Strip Library, are Multi Output versions of the Stereo Kits, complete with all the mix settings (including compression, EQ and reverbs) for each channel.

If you don’t want to mix the drum kit from scratch, The Producer Kits are a quick-and-easy solution to a great sound, with the ability to expand the kit and adjust individual elements, like the kick-drum EQ, if you need to.

For anyone learning music production, the Producer Kits are also a great insight into how a professional might approach mixing a drum kit, seeing compression and equalisation settings for each kit element.

Mixing With Drum Kit Designer

1: Assuming that you’ve downloaded the Multi Output versions of Drum Kit Designer (Logic Pro X > Download Additional Content), instantiate Drum Kit Designer, ensuring that you pick the Multi-Output option, rather than the standard stereo version.

2: As the title suggests, Drum Kit Designer lets you assemble a custom kit from a variety of kit components. Try swapping the various kit pieces using the information box (activated from the small i icon) to give you some indication as to its sound.

3: On the right-hand side of Drum Kit Designer’s interface, you’ll find a series of options that let you tweak each kit element. Working with the Classic Chrome snare, which has a prominent ‘tone’, try increasing the tune parameter to raise the pitch of the snare.

4: Click on the small + next to the Drum Kit Designer (in the mixer area) to gain full access to the separate mic channels. Each successive click adds a further output to the mixer, culminating in the hand clap as the last channel.

5: With the drum loop playing, turn down the active faders so that you can build the mix from scratch. The first channel is now effectively the overhead mics, followed by the spot mics for kick, snare, and so on, and then the room mics.

6: Let’s start our drum mix with the two kick-drum mics: Kick In and Kick Out. Using the EQ, we can accentuate the key characteristics, like the beater hit around 2kHz on the Kick In channel, and the low-end power around 80Hz on the Kick Out channel.

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This tutorial is endorsed by Point Blank. With courses in London, online and now in LA, Point Blank is the Global Music School. You can study sound to picture on their Music Production Diploma courses, with pro industry tutors.

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