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Velocity and Volume: Effect on Drum Samples

Adjusting the volume of drum samples is the easiest mixing process to consider, both at the start, during, and at the end of the production process. Even with regular instrument tracks, it’s as easy as it gets. Adjusting the volume of certain tracks will allow others to fit in and not clash all that much, hopefully not at all! It comes quite naturally to even people who have just come into the music production game.

If you want to adjust volume of any track in your favorite host, you really don’t need to go far. For instance on the Redrum device in Propellerheads’ Reason, there are volume dials and meters on the left side, on every single bus track and also in the main mixer. So you can change the volume of drum samples in quite a few places and you really don’t need to go searching around for a lot of stuff. It has never really been easier, and you certainly don’t need hardware to mix things in today’s programs.

One of the essential mixing rules that all music producers and beat makers should take to heart is that you should never lower the volume of a song so much that it can’t be heard. There’s a big difference between a drum samples sound that is low but complements or pushes another sound up, and another sound that is so low that it cannot be heard through everything else. Mixing engineers will tell you the same, so start focusing on making each sound valuable to a mix. If the song could do without that sound, then ditch it. A song is as good as its weakest part, so each track complementing the song as a whole is vital.

You can expect that a sound’s volume, when lowered by 6 decibels, will be lowered just about half, and the same thing on the way up; raising a sound by 6 decibels will double its volume. When adjusting the volume of hi hats, it’s a good idea to let it sit where you think it should and then take a few decibels off that further. Because the human ear has a tendency to overcompensate for these higher frequencies, so they don’t need to be as high.

Velocity is a different beast altogether. It is different than volume in the fact that the drum samples sound is not always just lowered in volume. Sure, a lower volume is a given with low sound and low velocity, but the velocity could also trigger the actual samples played. With multi-sampled patches, a lower velocity could play a different sound altogether; it won’t just be quieter.

When making creative decisions pertaining to track volume for drum samples, you should take your time and weigh up all decisions. Also, try never to increase more than a few tracks in volume. To sculpt tracks as a group, lower the volume of the tracks you want to make quieter, don’t increase what you want louder. You do not want to deliver a song that has twelve sounds all on the edge of clipping, so keep it in perspective.

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