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Ambient Drums?

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Hi, I am quite new to the whole home studio concepts and skills. I have started roughly an year ago. I am a competent self-taught guitarist and have a solid musical root from professional piano/theory lessons before I stopped. I've recently started to produce some of my own music ranging from electronic music to my preferred style of jazz/fusion. a few examples of my skills and limitations

Anyways, I have recently stumbled upon a very interesting form of music - ambient. The drum patterns and sound design very much fascinates me and I would like to learn how this is produced. <- an example of what I desire produced by Owsey.

Would someone please care to guide me through this? In detail if possible and specifically for Ableton, maybe?

Thank you!

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Hi Dyz,

Welcome to soundpunk and apols for taking so long to reply!

If I were to analyze the drums in the Owzey track, they represent some techniques and sounds that you'll find throughout the ambient style, so I'll start with that:

- sparse, open, minimal 'main' drum track, peppered with occasional but complex mini-patterns around the top end percussion

- the main patterns are so simple I'd be sequencing them note for note using single samples, rather than bother finding present loops. The more sfx-type syncopated mini-patterns could either be preset loops or sequenced yourself. Me, I tend to use abut 50/50 loops vs sequencing so whatever works is fine by me.

- sounds like a TR-808-type kick drum. 808 kicks are good for ambient as they are round, full, a gentler attack to them, with a med-to-long decay. The kick in this track blends really well with the bass, sounds like the attack of the bass notes and the bass notes sound like the decay of the kick... very clever.

- sounds like two kinds of real (i.e. acoustic) hi-hat samples. One that plays the two and four like a very light snare, while another of different pitch/tone skips around a syncopated 16th feel. Put them on two different tracks so that one pattern can be dropped in and out easily and they can be panned to different speakers for space.

- TIP - for those very soft-attack hi-hats I hear in the track, try using samples of hats being closed by the pedal, rather than hit with a stick. 'pedal-hat' is the usual name of these kinds of samples. The soft 'chuff' attack instead of the typical 'chick' attack can be good for slow and minimal ambient patterns.

- the hand clap sound is so loose and spacious because the left and right channels are playing claps slightly out of time with each other - could be the sample itself or a delay effect. Try creating this effect on sounds like claps (or any other really), by applying a very short (~5-10msec) delay to one channel of a stereo track (may need to split it into two mono tracks). Double-benefit of slight time shift and extra stereo width is achieved.

- There are some interesting high-percussion patterns that sound quite metallic. This is where you can get more 'out there' with the production. Scan the web or your sample library for metallic, synthetic metallic, or ambient metallic samples. Even try sound effect libraries for industrial metal hits and noises - pipes, anvils, steel blocks, brake discs, that kind of thing. Use short sounds you can sequence as notes. Then add a long reverb for spaceyness, and a hi-pass EQ to remove all the bottom end, at a minimum below 500Hz but even below 1000Hz if you want it sounding thin and shiny. Maybe even a hi-shelf EQ to boost all the top end above 12kHz for extra shine and 'air'.

- Last, a more general tip based on the last thing above. For ambient, go nuts trying out different sound effects and using them as drum parts rather than actual drum sounds. Spooky, industrial, sci-fi, technology... these are the keywords to search sfx libraries for. Look for any sounds that have fast attack and short duration. Add lots of reverb and/or delay, and Filter/EQ to taste. Pan them all over the mix - wide stereo helps create spaciousness. Keep the patterns simple or sparse if you have lots of huge pads and atmos tracks, to give these sustained sounds room to breathe in between the percussion sounds.

Hope this helps ;)

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