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Tips, Tricks and Road Stories


Pitch Shifting Techniques for Your Drum Tracks

June 12, 2012; Michael Saladis

Spicing up the Kick Drum Track with Pitch Shifting
The bass drum is such a huge part of music, especially modern styles including house, dance, hip-hop, etc. I am always looking to spice up my kick track somehow, and simple pitch Shifting has always given me dramatic results.

Start by Splitting the Kick Drum Track
I start by splitting the kick into two separate frequency bands depending on tonality. I do this through two separate bounces using a multi-band compressor, but any frequency splitting/filtering device can be used effectively. Find where the “click” and punch of the sample starts to cut off and use this as the split (usually I find mine around 250-500Hz).

Use Pitch Shifting on the Separated Tracks for Creative Effects

The point of this procedure is to have the high and low ends of the kick separated for individual processing in order to change the characteristics of the drum throughout the song without losing its main tonality. For example, try pitching the low end of the kick to a quarter note bass line that meshes with a synth bass to create a flowing rhythm. Also try raising the pitch of the low end for a verse or bridge, and dropping it low for a chorus or crescendo.

This technique also works great for build-ups, as one part of the kick can remain constant while the other rises in pitch, creating a sensation of “frustration” that adds tenacity. It’s really easy to create unique and creative effects with the kick separated this way without having to add extra low-end heavy layers, which could muddy up a mix easily. Also, crazy pitch modulation water-droplet sort of sounds can be achieved through playing with automation relative to the start and stop of each individual hit. For example, at the transient attack the pitch would be unchanged, but would rise exponentially by the time the sound has decayed, creating a rapid increase in pitch that has a very distinct sound. You can also shift down for more “drop” or vinyl stop type sounds.

Experimenting with Pitch Shifting Effects on the Snare Drum

I also find myself using pitch shifting on snare drums, although in a slightly different way. For example, I’ll find or record a dirty, noisy snare sample with a moderate amount of sustain to it, and modulate the pitch down to make a dirty, long, crunch sort of noise. When the volume envelope is messed with and it is blended with other variations of the same snare or even other snares, it gives it some more presence to the mix and can be a nice alternative to larger doses of reverb. If I want a snare to have a little less weight in the verse, no problem: reach for the pitch control and bring it up so it’s a little thinner and snappier. Depending on what the music calls for, pitch shifting snare drums can create all sorts of cool textures and sounds.


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