After showing you my favourite plugin brands & products and my virtual amp simulator collection in the past, it is time to talk about my go-to virtual drums and drum replacement tools that are used in my production's daily life. The article will present you tools and virtual instruments that can be used for various genres and are all in an affordable price range even for beginners in the production environment. Enjoy!
Naughty Seal Audio
If you are searching for ready-to-use drum sounds that already fit perfectly into the mix and sound incredibly good, Perfect Drums would be your best choice. Naughty Seal Audio delivers an outstanding virtual drum tool that suits for modern rock such as metal or post-hardcore tracks the best. A significant advantage of Perfect Drums is the option to use it in standalone mode, so you do not need a complex DAW to run it and play around with your e-drum kit or controller. A built-in sampler allows you to stack, blend or replace drum sounds directly within the instrument that is a handy and unique feature. Thanks to the various choices of each drum component (kick, snare, toms, different cymbals etc.) you can choose from, you can quickly create your perfect sounding drum kit that suits your vision of the track. That piece of software is one of my go-to studio virtual drum kits for a final production sound and is for 150$ a real no-brainer if you ask me.
Steven Slate Drums
Since I am producing rock music, I am a proud owner of Steven Slate Drums, in short SSD. Shortly before Black Friday 2018, Steven Slate released SSD5 that was advertised as a groundbreaking update of the previous version SSD4. The sound may have been improved in the latest version, but unfortunately, they did not redesign the user interface from scratch. The sounds of Steven Slate Drums are great to use in studio productions and are very versatile to be used in all sort of genres. The big downside of that product line from my point of view always was the horribly looking user interface and the often awkward usability of it compared to competitor's products. The drum kits usually need some more editing in the mix to fit perfectly and are not as easy to use as Perfect Drums. That is not always bad but worth mentioning. If you have a fancy for signature sounds of famous record engineers and record producers, Steven Slate offers you several SSD expansion packs created by David Bendeth, Chris-Lord-Alge, Terry Date and John McBride (Owner of the Blackbird Studio). SSD5 is available for 149$ and is equipped with a MIDI groove library, and a lot of different drum sounds and drum kit presets.
Steven Slate Trigger
Steven Slate's Trigger 2 is my go-to drum replacement tool in the studio production environment. Like SSD, it is very versatile regarding its sound and comes with a massive library of drum sounds straightaway and can be expanded with the above-mentioned signature expansions. Browsing the available sounds and finding exactly what you want, can be quite time-consuming and frustrating if you are not familiar with the sounds library. But after a while, you will know your favourites, and the workflow will be far more fluent. When you have found your wanted trigger samples, the handling of the trigger settings is very straightforward. For 149$, Trigger 2 can be yours.
Native Instruments also offers an extensive product range of different virtual drum kits including NI Studio Drummer (149€) and Abbey Road 50s/60s/70s/80s/Vintage/Modern Drummers (99€ each). Those run in combination with NI's Kontakt sample engine and can not be used as a single plugin like the other presented products in this article. Every available drum instrument comes with up to three different kits, a large MIDI groves library and different mixing presets for various types of music. In general, NI drums are quite versatile in sound, but I prefer it for Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop or Indie/Alternative Rock if I need realistic sounding drum kits out of the box.
The MPD18 Editor (free) is a standalone tool to control the hardware features of AKAI's MPD18 more in detail and is not a plugin to be used in your DAW. I usually use the MPD18 with a standard sample engine of the currently used DAW and load my favourite .wav samples into it (like hot Hip-Hop drum samples). This AKAI controller and therefore the associated software are nowadays categorised as "legacy". If you google the current software packages of the latest AKAI controllers of their more affordable product range to the professional top line, you will see that AKAI offers its DAW-like software that can also be integrated as a plugin in all other major DAWs. Over the years, it became more and more powerful, but its complexity can also be distracting - if you ask me - especially if you use the AKAI hardware as simple controller and not as central hardware component for your studio as beat producers may use AKAI's flagship products.
That was a brief presentation of the tools I use in my music studio routine. What are your favourite virtual drum instruments and replacement tools? Let us know by leaving a comment! See you next time :)