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Saturday, March 1, 2014

HOW TO ADD REALISM TO YOUR MIDI TRACK! A guide for dummies



Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
This time we will talk about how to make our midi drum track more realistic, but the same method applies to any other Vst instrument, such as a piano track.

Let's start with a midi that we have, for example a very fast death metal song midi track: the faster the song is, the more evident will be that the hits are unnaturally precise and even in terms of strenght, while a drummer tends to have some slight fluctuation in timing and hit intensity (e.g. obviously a blast beat drum part will be hit with less strenght than a slower part).

Now, we can slightly move each single drum hit in the piano roll and raise or lower the velocity manually (which is the best way, but it's a very long process), or randomize some parameter in order to get this job done quickly.

If we want to adjust each velocity manually, it's important to know some basic rule:

1) The blast beat or press roll snare parts are usually at a much lower velocity (= hit strenght) than the other parts of the song, and it's a good rule to increase the strenght in the accents and lower it in the other hits.

2) The same rule of the accents applies also to the hi hat and the ride.

3) The crash cymbals should be treated creating variations in velocity only if they are played one next to another, otherwise it would be normal if the drummer hits them full strenght.

4) The tom fills usually should start stronger and then lose intensity, and we can also consider that the toms hit by the right hand (if the drummer is right handed) can be set with a slightly higher velocity than the other ones.

5) It's a good rule, especially for rock-metal songs, to leave the kick velocity constant. If we're working on a jazz song, instead, we should variate this one too.

More info on how to correct the velocity with the pencil too can be found HERE.

If we want to use a midi randomizer, instead, we can do as follows:

1) Move slightly the hits (this function can be also found bundled in some of the most recent drum Vsti). First off we need to select the section of the song or the single drum part we want to process, then we must go (in the Cubase/Nuendo interface) in Midi->Quantize Setup
From the Quantize Setup menu we can input in the "Random Quantize" section the amount of the variance we want to apply, and usually for a realistic drum sound, a good amount is 5 Ticks: if we increase it more we risk to create excessive "mistakes" made from our "virtual drummer".

2) Randomize the velocity. This will randomize the strenght used to hit the drums in our song.
We need to select the song part, or just one or more drum parts, for example only the hi hat of our song, and go to Midi->Logical Editor
From this new menu we can look for a preset (e.g. "Random Velocity 60 to 100") or manually find the "Action Target" corresponding to the Velocity control, and under "Operation" we must choose "Set Relative Random Values Between", and then we can choose under "Parameter 1" and "Parameter 2" a minimum and maximum value, between 0 and 127; once we have decided, we just need to press "Apply". 
A good starting point could be to try randomizing from 90 to 110 or 120, then we can adjust to taste. 

Eventually, if we have something that needs to be retouched manually, e.g. a press roll part, we can always correct it with the pencil tool. The ideal result will probably be a mix between manually adjusted velocities and randomized ones, according to the song part.

Hope this was useful!

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