In this post, we’ll learn how to use a free sampler plug-in from CWITECH to create a custom drum kit with audio samples. Creating your own drum kit to play MIDI parts allows you to have creative control over your kit’s component sounds and can allow you to develop a reusable signature sound for your productions. Let’s get started to create a TX16Wx sampler drum kit in Tracktion Waveform 11 Free.
09 June 2020 – Written by Michael R. Myers #mykmyrs
Skill Level: Intermediate
What is a Sampler?
At a high level, software audio samplers allow you to define your own virtual instruments. You can assign specific audio sample files to a MIDI keyboard mapping so that the keyboard plays that audio sound when the keyboard key is pressed. Your mappings can be simple, with one audio sample assigned to one key. Or, for the advanced user, multiple samples can be assigned to one key at various velocities or to just blend multiple audio samples together. Samplers are a great tool to create new, unexpected and unique sounds.
Virtual Drum Kits and Samplers
If you have ever used a virtual drum kit, like MT Power Drumkit, you’ll quickly recognize sampling in action. When using the plug-in, your MIDI notes are automatically rendered as drum kit pieces’ audio. Standard MIDI mappings help to ensure that drum kit components are used as expected so your output audio is rendered as expected. Using a virtual drum kit is easy for many people because the mappings are already present and you can just drop it into your project and render your drum parts.
In contrast to drum plug-ins, samplers are very manual by nature and require time to set up and mapping audio samples to keys. Fortunately, most allow you to save your layouts for easy re-use in the future. Be aware that creating your own sampled drum kit can be very satisfying, but there is time spent on building, testing and tweaking until it’s ready for instant re-use. Your rendered audio will be as good as the quality of the audio samples you use.
Multi-velocity Hits Make Sampled Drums Sound Better
Now that we’ve briefly covered what a sampler is used for, and contrasted how it’s similar to a pre-made virtual drum kit plug-in, let’s talk about audio samples. The quality of your audio sample files is extremely important. If you are looking to really make your sampler sound like a convincing acoustic drum kit, you’ll need high-quality samples and samples made available for multi-velocity hits.
MIDI allows for the specification of note hit strength from zero (0) to one-hundred and twenty-seven (127). If you set all of your samples to trigger at the same velocity, say 127, it will be the loudest representation of the sample and it will sound like a machine is playing the part. There will not be any natural variation in the hit strengths and it will sound very tedious to the listener.
By setting variable MIDI velocities, we can tell the sampler to play specific files at a velocity value, or for a range of velocity values. For example, say we have four (4) multi-hit samples for a snare drum. We can tell the sampler for velocity twenty (20) to forty (40) to play “snare_hit_light.wav”. Then for ranges forty-one (41) to sixty-four (64), we tell it to play “snare_hit_medium.wav”. Hopefully. You can see that we are now alternating between two (2) different samples based on the MIDI notes’ hit strength. After we map our remaining four (4) samples, our snare will sound much more varied than using one (1) sample for all velocities.
Some audio sample producers provide a free set of samples, usually with one hit per instrument. In my experience, quality kits that require payment contain multi-hit files, some with eight (8) or more velocities per instrument. Be certain to investigate your drum audio samples before spending money to make sure that there are multi-velocity hit samples and that the files are in a non-lossy format, like WAV or AIFF.
What You’ll Need to Get Started
- Tracktion Waveform 11 Free
- CWITECH TX16Wx Free. Current version is 3.4.0a for Windows and Mac
- Any high-quality drum kit audio samples. I use the paid version of Manic Metal Kit samples from DrumsOnDemand for most of my work.
- A reference to standard MIDI instrument mappings
I have limited experience with sampler software. This tutorial is the result of me searching, struggling, cursing and finally coming up with a free, working, repeatable solution. If there is anyone who can recommend easier, better or faster, I am proverbially all ears. I welcome any constructive feedback that can help us all get there better and faster.
Finally, the steps in this tutorial will produce a full drum kit, however it will be a stereo (Left and Right) output of all sounds combined. While this will probably work for a majority of people, if you want to split the outputs onto separate channels, you’ll need to do research how to do that on your own. It also does not use multiple velocity groups or any sort of round-robin to randomly select samples from groups.
Steps to Create a TX16Wx Sampler Drum Kit
- Install the CWITECH TX16Wx sampler on your computer with its installer.
- Create a new Waveform 11 project.
- Create a new track and name it “TW16wX_Drum_Sampler”.
- Add a drum kit MIDI pattern or file onto the track. It should have multiple kit instruments within the pattern.
- Add an instance of the TX16Wx plug-in to the track. Your project should look similar to this image.
- Open the sampler plug-in you added to the track. We need to set a few properties and save it. First, change the Midi value to “Omni”. Second, name your program. I called mine “Myersclan_Kit”. Finally, click the Save Program As button and choose a location on your computer. I recommend storing it in your Waveform project folder so it stays with the other project files.
- Let’s create our kick drum trigger in the sampler. Click the Regions button located below the Save Program As button you previously clicked.
- The regions view will show a piano keyboard and a screen with grid lines.
- Click the New Region button. By default, the region fills the entire grid with a green colored fill. Resize the green area to fit on the C2 keyboard key only. You can verify the C2 area by looking at the LO K and Hi K values under the grid.
- To the right of the Create New Region button, click the button that looks like it has six (6) small squares on it. This enables velocity layers when we drop our audio samples in an upcoming step.
- In a separate file explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac) window, open the folder that contains your kick drum samples. We are going to drag and drop them onto the Regions screen on the C2 key.
- Select your kick drum sample(s) and drag them to the Regions window and drop them on the C2 key. You may need to resize and re-order them. For my Manic Metal samples, I have four (4) kick drum samples, named KickV1, KickV2, KickV3 and KickV4.
- Under the piano keys, the grid contains rows for each sample and its mapping. Edit/Configure yours similar to mine, but factor in differences like the total number of samples you are using. Since I used four (4) samples, I divided the one-hundred twenty-eight (128) possible velocities by four(4) to get thirty-two (32) hit values per group. Use the Lo V and Hi V values to specify the range starts and ends.
- Test your configuration by using your mouse to click on the C2 piano keyboard key. You should hear your kick drum sound play back. If so, you’re ready to move on.
- Optionally, depending on the samples, you may need to adjust the tails of the audio samples so they play fully. Click the Sounds button near the top of your kit. At the bottom of the screen, a blue section will appear. To adjust the tails, click the round markers and drag them to the right-hand side. The longer the blue bar, the longer the sample plays.
- Return to the top of the screen and click the Save button to store your changes.
- In Waveform, play your track. You should hear only kick drums at this point.
- Now for the work involved with sampling – repeat this Key assignment process for each of your kit’s pieces by adding samples for them to their key assignments. Refer to the general MIDI recommendations for drum key assignments to keep your kit standard. Here’s the final kit image of my complete drum kit.
Where To Go From Here
With some additional effort, you can modify the configuration of your sampler instrument’s pieces to output audio to dedicated channels instead of the standard combined 1/2 output that was presented here. Some folks want to have fine-grained control of the audio outputs they configure for their projects, and that is a definite possibility with some TX16Wx configuration. Just be aware that the sampler does have a limit on output channel pairs in the free version.
Setting up a software sampler is a great way to make a drum kit that defines your personal style. You can combine one or more samples to really create new and unusual sounding kits, or you can aim to make a really convincing kit that may sound divine on your final track. Either way, you have the power and choices to drive how your TX16Wx Sampler drum kit will sound.
If you would like to add to this content to help other folks, please contact me and let me know what you have in mind.