Spend enough time in the sample business and it becomes clear that when it comes to creating beats there are two kinds of sample users: ones who use loops, and ones who use one-shots.
The loop-lovers enjoy the instant inspiration that ready-built grooves provide. Occasionally they drag and drop beats right into the track – either to kick-start a groove, or for inspiration that gets built on later. More often they use a range of creative techniques to make a loop their own – mixing and matching different samples, cutting grooves into constituent elements, re-arranging Rex slices and so on, to create the basis for, or to add detail to, their own unique beats.
In the other camp, one-shot users prefer more control over their beats from the off; they enjoy building grooves from scratch and refining rhythms with a broad palette of drum and percussive hits.
Of course most producers use a mix of both: layering loops above their own kick drums, adding snares and claps to fill out the beat, or introducing percussive hits for added sonic spice.
The one-shot sample market is an industry in itself. A number of companies, from Sounds in HD to DrumDog, Wave Alchemy to Goldbaby, have refined the art – and craft – of creating one-shots that are a significant cut above the rest.
The best of these collections are informed not just by a passion for creating great drum sounds, but also an intricate knowledge of how hits work within beats, and also an understanding of the kind of high-end kit that makes raw hits sparkle and punch.
There are probably around a million one-shot drums on Sounds To Sample. We’ve not counted. Of these drum hits, some are exceptional. That is not to undermine the quality of the others; and quality is a subjective thing. But every producer has their ‘go-to’ packs of drum hits; libraries in which they *always* find a sound that works. Here are the five that do it for me:
DrumDog – Layered Drums
DrumDog is a Sample Magic offshoot project run by main man Sharooz, which releases rarely. When it does, it does one thing: drums. And it does them well. Each raw sample is selected from a library of thousands garnered from live sessions then layered with classic drum machine hits. The resulting sounds are then triggered from within the Akai MPC-60, taking advantage of its classic 8-bit circuitry to breathe analogue warmth into the signal. From there, the sample passes through a channel strip that includes the Empirical Labs Distressor, UBK Fatso, Focusrite Red and vintage Dbx 160 (although not always at the same time!) before being recorded at 24-bit, 48kHz and then dithered down. The result? Fat, warm, airy, tight sounds. No flab. No raspy mids. Just clever drums, that always seem to slot into the groove.
Layered Drums is the best of the DrumDog packs to my ears. The marketing text says this: “Layered Drum Hits are made by combining the transient portion of the snappiest sounds with synthesised and acoustic tones to give a depth and timbre to the sound that single hits simply can’t achieve.” It’s not huge – 160 hits in all – but each one *just works*, in just about every genre of house – and beyond. It comes highly recommended.
Sounds in HD – The Collection
Sounds in HD are a production team based out in in the US who are, quite simply, the kings of one-shots – particularly in the urban and chillout market. Where they lead others limp to follow. We’ve bigged them up before on this blog, and they come with a ringing 5-star endorsement from Sound and Gear’s Saint Joe, who described their Acoustic Blends as “the standard by which all other drums will be judged by me”.
Their approach to sound design is described on their website as follows:
“Recording with the Avalon 737, Focusrite, Drawmer and more allowed us to get thick raw samples and we built on from there. Layering with other textures, tones, and unusual samples produce a rarity in acoustic sample sets. Through compression and EQ we achieved a unique sample ready to fit into any production and editable enough for layering in your own production.”
Sometimes marketing spiel is worth less than the screen capital it takes up. Not here. These sounds mix originality, usability and high, high end sonics for some of the sweetest snares, liveliest claps and roundest kicks in the sample landscape. (And their snare and clap layers are pretty much the best samples of their kind I’ve come across.)
The Collection retails at £49.95 for over 1,000 hits. For those making hip hop, R&B, dirty south, chillout – or even organic styles of house – it will probably be the best £49.95 ever spent.
Riemann Kicks Kollektion
Check out the charts on the S2S front page and it’s clear our biggest sellers are generally house titles, and more specifically packs that aim at the techier side of house.
If that’s what you make then chances are you’ve bought at least one of the fine Riemann Kollektions, from Florian Meindl’s sample label that serves up guest sounds from a range of the world’s most in-demand underground producers.
Each of these libraries packs in a selection of one-shots – all built from the ground up to be bang-on-genre. But if you’re wanting to expand your kick collection (kollection shurely? – Ed) then look no further than the Riemann Kicks Kollektion – 100 sculpted low-enders sorted into Analogue Kicks, Deep Kicks, Punchy Kicks and Tech-House Kicks – a budget studio staple that will serve for months to come.
Sample Magic Organic House
As co-owner of Sample Magic it’s difficult to be too objective about our own output. We believe in what we do and strive to put out the best. The feedback we receive suggests that – by and large – we do a pretty good job of it. But one of the things people have said that they miss in SM collections is a large selection of drum hits.
Since day one of the label, we *have* offered hits: it’s been a hugely important part of the collections, as both Sharooz and myself spend hours programming beats. So in SM19, Organic House, we upped the one-shot ante to serve up over 400 drum sounds, all painstakingly crafted from scratch and lovingly fed through our naughty signal path.
Of course, I can’t say whether the results match DrumDog or SoundsinHD – that’s not for me to say. All I can say, is that they’re sitting in my go-to beat-making folder – especially the percussion hits – that breathe in the mix in a way few seem to.
FatLoud – The Collection
Finally then, to FatLoud.
S2S was about six months old – a mere digital baby – when FatLoud released its first sample pack. It was good. Very good. And in the two years since then, they’ve risen to the top of their game, putting out not just superlative urban loop packs, but also exploring areas that few of their competitors bother with. And in The Collection FatLoud injected their own brand of production magic into the occasionally stale world of the urban one-shot.
The result? A genre-defining collection of fat kicks, tight snares, taut percussion hits, crystal-clear hats, layered claps and shimmering cymbals, its quality matched only by its size (you get a hefty 1,200 hits), but also it’s fantastically low price (just £28.49 for the lot).
For me The Collection marked FatLoud’s transition into the sample world’s premier league. I dip into it all the time.
Over to you
As I explained earlier, these are the drum sounds that I turn to – for both house and urban production. You’ll find free one-shots from these packs on our ever-expanding Free Samples page – so do check them out. All of my recommendations have sold well on the site, so have clearly garnered other fans too. But there will be many packs I’ve missed. Feel free to add your recommendations. We’ll check them out.