Although modern production programs are indeed highly advanced, we must remember that it’s still fairly easy to tell when a human played a drum part, and when by a piece of software. A human never plays perfectly in time. A computer can. Hence the problem. The computer is too perfect. Despite our best efforts, electronic music can come out sounding rigid, robotic, and repetitive – especially if you’re using drum loops. To fix this, you’ll want to humanize the drums.


Lifeless Drummer


Most of you probably know that even the best drummers won’t play the drum beat precisely the same as the last one in the cycle. What is more, every time the drumstick hits the snare drum or the hi-hat, it’s never at the exact same spot, or with the same force applied. This is why a human drummer is exactly that – a human rather than a machine. For this reason, some drum machines/samplers have a ‘humanization’ option embedded. This feature is used to add some amount of randomization to the velocity values, pitch, timing, and loudness levels of each individual sample. This is an excellent tool for livening percussive sequences, especially the shakers or hi-hats.


Humanize Your Drum Parts


I will try to demonstrate the effect above using Battery 4 by Native Instruments. So let’s turn something cold and robotic into something that breathes, and feels alive! In the newly created MIDI channel within SoundBridge, let’s place an instance of Battery 4. First and foremost, I will choose a hi-hat sample and write a groove in the midi editor using the 16th note with some pauses here and there.




~Straight Hi-Hat Groove


Modulate Everything


After opening Battery 4, let’s click on the ‘Setup’ tab, which can be found in the lower part of its interface. Then, in the far right section, we will find the ‘Humanize’ option. Furthermore, in the humanize section, we can see three parameters, which are, Amount, Sound, and Time. Turning the Amount knob at right will result in changing the velocity of the sequence made in the midi editor. The sound will change the pitch and loudness. Finally, Time will change the starting point of the sample each time it’s triggered. I like to use the humanization effect in a small amount, but you are free to experiment and find the amount suitable for your taste. In this case, I will use the Amount and Time parameters. Let us hear how it sounds and compare it to the audio example above.




~Humanized Hi-Hat Groove


Also, I will choose some more samples like Kick, Snare, and Shaker, and make a groove from these elements. For each individual sample, I introduced different amounts of the humanizer effect. To really hear the difference in the full groove, let’s hear everything without and with the Humanizer effect one more time.


~Straight Full Drum Groove


~Humanized Full Drum Groove


Download the patch here.