Creating Realistic Drum Sounds With FXpansion's BFD3

There's not much you can't achieve with drum sounds using FXpansion's excellent BFD3. In this tutorial, Matt Vanacoro puts it to the test and shows how to create realistic sounds using it!  

BFD3 is a powerhouse of a drum instrument. The amount of options available to you for the customization of your sound are just staggering. Sometimes, with so many options, it can be difficult to tell where to start when you want to create that ‘just right’ realistic drum sound. Let’s dive into 4 areas of the user interface that will help you dial in a sound so real people will swear you recorded it with an actual acoustic drum kit (I won’t tell if you won’t).

Mic Positions?  Check!

Microphone placement when you’re recording a set of real drums is an art. It’s tough to get it perfect, and it’s one of the main things that can give a sound engineer their ‘signature sound’ that bands are willing to pay through the nose for. The way Chris Lord-Alge records drums is completely different from the way Brian Eno does. Although they may both have an artist using a Yamaha Recording Custom kit, the sound will be totally different.

Mono Mics - Adjusting the various mono and comp drum mics that BFD3 has to offer can completely change the sound of your virtual kit.

Mono Mics - Adjusting the various mono and comp drum mics that BFD3 has to offer can completely change the sound of your virtual kit.

Adjusting the various room and mono mics is typically my first ‘stop’ on the road to drum perfection. BFD3 gives you a lot of choices in this arena. I like to mute all the room mic channels, then flip them on one at a time and see how it affects my sound. A good mono drum mic can add punch, clarity and focus to your drum sound. You can add these mono mics at various distances to give your drums more punch or more air.

Who Says Bleeding and Leakage is Bad?

When recording a real drum set, bleed between the instruments (i.e., the snare drum sound leaking into the other drum mics) is something we’re typically trying to avoid, but can never completely circumvent. BFD3 allows you to adjust if a particular drum leaks into the kick or snare mics and control just how much spillage there is. Keep the bleed to a minimum for a controlled, tight funky sound. Spill away if you want a bigger, more organic sound.

Leakage - BFD3 allows you to control the bleed into the kick and snare mice on an individual ‘per-drum’ basis.

Leakage - BFD3 allows you to control the bleed into the kick and snare mice on an individual ‘per-drum’ basis.

Resonance : Not Just For Analog Synths Anymore

Another characteristic that engineers work so hard to eliminate is drum resonance. When you hit a snare drum that’s close to a tom drum, that tom will vibrate a bit. If the toms aren’t tuned properly, this vibration can be anything from a pleasant overtone to a shrill annoying ring. BFD3 introduces the ability to simulate this behavior, and control how much resonance you hear. You can file this under ‘something I didn’t have before but now I can’t live without’. Once you put a little resonance in your kit, you’ll be amazed by how much more ‘real’ it sounds on the whole.

Resonance - A new feature for BFD3, tom resonance is one of several adjustments you can make to get a realistic drum sound.

Resonance - A new feature for BFD3, tom resonance is one of several adjustments you can make to get a realistic drum sound.

Damping : No Tape Required

From gaffer’s tape to a torn piece of a guy’s sock (really!), I have seen the weirdest things being used to tame the out-of-control overtones on various drums over the years. Most of the time, a good tuning can solve this problem, but sometimes you’re just looking for a really ‘tight’ sound and don’t want a particular drum to ring out for long after it’s been struck. BFD3 will give you spectacular control over how much decay/overtones you hear from the drum after the attack, and controlling this will allow you to get the drums closer to the sound you’re looking for.

Damping - Tighten up those drum decays for an old-school funk sound.  Let it ring out for a more powerful rock sound.

Damping - Tighten up those drum decays for an old-school funk sound. Let it ring out for a more powerful rock sound.

There really isn’t a ‘perfect’ drum sound out there; just the one you have in your head that you wish you were hearing in your ears. In the end, all that matters is the flexibility and technology that allows you to make it sound the way YOU want it to. These 4 features will get you on your way to getting that awesome drum sound out of your head and into your DAW!

Matt Vanacoro is one of New York’s premier musicans. Matt has collaborated as a keyboardist in studio and on stage with artists such as Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Mark Wood (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Mark Rivera (Billy Joel Band), Aaron Carter, Amy Regan, Jay Azzolina, Marcus Ratzenboeck (Tantric), KeKe Palmer, C-Note, Jordan Knig... Read More

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