Although it is true that modern production programs are highly advanced, we must remember that it’s still fairly easy to tell when a drum part was played by a human, 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.
Most of you probably know that even the best drummers won’t play the drum beat exactly 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 a great tool for livening percussive sequences, especially the shakers or hi-hats.
Humanize Your Drum Parts
I will try to demonstrate the aforementioned effect 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 the 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
After opening the 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 3 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 humanization effect in small amount but you are free to experiment and find amount suitable for your taste. In this case, I will just use Amount and Time parameters. Let us hear how it sounds and compare it to the audio example above.
~Humanized Hi Hat Groove
In addition, 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.