Transients are a short burst of energy at the beginning of a sound. In essence, every instrument produces them, but they are often associated with the snappy sound of drums and percussion. They have an important effect on your song’s overall groove and punch. They make the difference between drums that thump, slap, or flop. A good option for controlling the dynamics and transients of your drums is a transient shaper or transient designer effect. In the next tutorial, we will show you how with a few simple tweaks of this effect you can turn a loose sounding drum section into a tighter and more dynamically controlled one.

We have prepared a short sequence inside our SoundBridge: DAW. It contains most of the elements of the full mix. Let’s have a quick listen to it. Focus on the drum section.

SoundBridge sequence

SoundBridge sequence

~Full Mix – Unprocessed Drums

As we can hear from the audio example above, the drums sound way too loose, especially the shaker and hi-hat. The percussion could use some dynamic control as well. Let’s add an instance of a transient shaper on the Hi-Hats and Percussions effect racks. For the sake of this tutorial, we have chosen the Transient Master by Native Instruments. However, there’s a variety of different choices for this, so feel free to experiment.

Plugin interface

Plugin interface

The Transient Master

The Transient Master effect has quite a simple interface, with just a couple of parameters to control. First, we can see a preset menu at the very top, followed by an A/B switch. The A/B switch lets you toggle between two different overall settings.

Below is the main section, which houses the Attack, Sustain, and Gain parameters. The Attack knob lets you sharpen or soften the attack phase of the incoming audio signal by turning it to the right or left. The Sustain knob lets you prolong or shorten the sustain phase the same way. The Gain knob simply adjusts the make-up gain. This allows you to offset the overall output level once you have set the parameters as desired, in order to counterbalance the additional level or loss of it that might occur.

Just below this part of the interface, we have two additional switches. The first, closely related to the Attack knob, is the Smooth button. When it’s enabled, the attack shaping is slightly smoother. Finally, we have the Limit button which activates a hard limiter at the output, preventing the signal from clipping. 

Let’s hear the soloed versions of our hi-hat and percussion channels. First unprocessed and then processed with the Transient Master.

~Hi Hats – Unprocessed

~Hi Hats – Processed With Transient Master

~Percussions – Unprocessed

~Percussions – Processed With Transient Master

The idea was to decrease the Sustain and Attack parameters by a certain degree, and by doing that get a much tighter sound. You can see the settings in the picture below.

Settings for controlled transient

Settings for controlled dynamics

Finally, let’s hear the result in the full mix. Again, unprocessed and processed versions.

~Full Mix – Unprocessed Drums

~Full Mix – Drums Processed With Transient Master