How To Beef Up Your Drum Loops

Have you ever downloaded the perfect drum loop but found is just doesn’t contain the right weight and punch?!  Yep.. been there!

Well, in this article we’re going to try and solve these issues and by the end, learn to fatten drum loops that you've been dying to use! So, here’s my go-top process when deciding how to beef up those loops.




How To EQ Drum Loops

The first thing to look at is can I add some weight using EQ?   This can be tricky because we’ll be affecting the whole drum loop but it’s always worth a look.  Here’s a few frequencies to look out for:


30-70Hz – This is the fundamental area that a kick lives in.  Try boosting this area to add more weight and size.  Be careful with the amount of sub that’s being added though.


Tip – Try adding a HPF into the EQ with your boost.  This can control super low sub frequencies that could effect your overall mix.


150-350Hz – Muddy areas – These areas can build up and cloud the loop.  A tight cut here can often change the feel of the loop which might be what you needed.

500-2Khz – This is where most snares live.  Try adding a little gain here for a clearer mid-range.




 A little compression can go along way with a full drum loop – adding energy, hit length and extra smack.

Try going for a slow attack and a fast release.  By setting the attack slowly, it means we don’t lose any of the initial drum sound (transients).  The fast release allows the compressor to be back at 0db before the next hit happens.



Tip: Experiment using different compressors and limiters – they all have different vibes and feels so it’s worth testing them against each other.  Personal Favourite – API 2500.



 How To Layer Drum Samples


Layering drum one shot samples over the top of your loops is a great way to add extra weight in the battle to fatten drum loops.  Here’s a few things to think about:


EQ – Try high-passing your drum loop then layer the new kick in.  This can provide focus and stop any clashing frequencies.

Timing – Really zoom in on those waveforms to make sure it’s as in time as possible – We don’t want any flaming kick drums.

Sample Selection – Are you using the right sample for job?  Maybe you need more sub in the loop so choose a sample that does the job.



How To get Your samples In Phase

 A common mistake made by producers is to layer samples but not check the phase.  The phase relationship between your samples can be the difference between a huge sounding drum beats and one that sounds thin.


There’s a few ways we can handle this:

1 – Zoom in and check the waveforms.  We’re looking for both waveforms to line up and match – like in the image below:



2 – Flip the phase.  This effectively turns the waveform upside down, making your once out of phase sample become in phase.

You can find the phase reversal button on things like an EQ or a gain plugin.



Note: Use your ears on this one.  Depending on the sample, the key and the frequencies the phase relationship can change as the sound continues.  Sometimes it will sound better out, it’s all about testing and checking though.


In the video below, listen to the bottom end of the kick.  When the plugin is inserted the samples go 'OUT OF PHASE'.. scooping the kick and maybe it sound weak. 


What is Parallel Compression?

 When we talk about parallel compression, what we’re referring to is the combination of a compressed and un-compressed signal.  It’s this combination of the two elements that allows us to balance the best characteristics of both.


  • The dry un-compressed signal possesses all those wonderful, raw transients of the actual drum tone.
  • The compressed version is hyped with exaggerated room sounds and extra long drum tails.

To add parallel compression to your loop, we can work 3 ways:


1 – Duplicate your drum loop and add heavy compression to one of the channels.  By slowly fading this ‘wet’ channel up you’ll begin to introduce the compression effects and fatten your drum loops.  Balance the mix to taste.

2 – Look for a ‘mix’ control on your compressor of choice.   This blends between the wet compressed signal and the dry uncompressed version.  Here we can balance between the two.



3 – Using an aux send some of the drum loop to a bus.  On the bus add a compressor and slam it.  The more we send the more you’ll hear.


Note: Try these parallel methods when fattening up your drum loops.  It can easily add some extra energy, weight and vibe to lifeless loops.


For more info one how to get your drums to smack and other great live drum mixing tips, check our 2 part live drum mixing special.


How To Use Parallel Distortion.


By utilising the same methods the parallel compression we can make the most of the extra harmonics creating in distortion and saturation.

The extra harmonics created can add energy to lifeless loops, creating more presence and cut in a mix!


Tip: Look for saturation in different places – The drive section of the ‘echo’ plugin has an amazing pre-amp that saturated beautifully, as does the different filter modes in Auto-Filter.


The saturation in the echo plugin can create great results.  Try adding this to the drum loop add drive the input using the settings below.



Live's auto-filter allows you to change the different filter circuitry types.  I like MS2 with the drive dialled up.