What are the best drum sample packs to improve your songwriting?
For starters, let’s be honest.
There are tons of drum sample packs online.
But, finding the drum samples that will work best for your music is often tricky given the sheer volume of choices (ranging from amazing all the way down to useless). We know many of you have scoured the internet for the right drums, from the free sites to the subscription-based options, and still keep looking. Many of you wind up here, still searching for elusive drum sounds and grooves that are going to actually make a difference in your songwriting projects.
With that in mind and coming from years of emails and requests from our dedicated users, these are the criteria that customers value most:
- Realism and Authenticity
Let’s discuss each criteria more deeply.
“…no one needs another “it can cover every style of music” type drum sample library”
First of all, no one needs another “it can cover every style of music” type drum sample library. It has to be a specific, dedicated library that is perfect for your songwriting style or else it’s money poorly-spent – not to mention, the time wasted looking for that one beat that will actually work for you if you do get such a set.
While many drum libraries offer hundreds of random one-shots and samples, are they the right style for what you plan to write? Beta Monkey develops drum sample packs aimed exclusively for specific musical styles and drumming genres.In fact, when many of our sample packs were released, we were introducing styles previously never offered. Double Bass Mania and Odd Time Meltdown (among others) offered musicians and songwriters genre-specific drumming styles they simply couldn’t find anywhere else. Sure, they been copied since then, but certainly duplicated. We knew what everyone wanted and did our best to get them exactly that.
While customers have sometimes used our loops in odd yet surprisingly wonderful musical contexts (Led Zep Bonham type groove in a jazz-fusion type situation? Sure, why not?!), most users want to know what they are getting and know the samples and loops will work for them. So, when you’re getting a copy of Odd Time Meltdown, you should know what you’re exactly getting (even if you decide to work it into a completely different musical idea).
[Related: Looking for Rock Drum Samples?]
“There’s a place for busy drum patterns, but it generally isn’t in the verse of a song.”
Right from the beginning, we realized that if a sample pack was going to have any value to songwriters, it needed to include all the components necessary for songwriting. It needs drum beats for the verse, the chorus, and the bridge, not to mention fills to make those transitions musical.
A downfall of many drum loop and sample products is that they are created with no song in mind. The drum fills are random and don’t make sense musically with the vibe of the style. In other words, they just don’t seem to be of much use in real musical application. Worse, many of the main beats sound like a drummer just riffing and showing off. Sure, they sound fantastic and impressive played solo, but no matter where you try to make them work in an actual song, they don’t fit. They don’t seem to make any musical sense with the music. There’s a place for busy drum patterns, but it generally isn’t in the verse of a song.
Musicality of the drum parts is crucial if a drum sample pack is going to be a valuable songwriting resource or not. So, that’s exactly what we did. We developed a naming system that makes it easy to identify what grooves will fit most musically in a song structure. No more hunting and hoping like your find on many libraries. You’ll find what you need and it will make sense musically because when the sample were recorded this was always a clear intention.
“…these are revered drum rooms for a reason.”
While some companies you find online are more than happy to record in a backyard barn or tool shed or garage (gotta get that lawnmower out of there first!), we made sure we got into the best drum rooms we could to capture the drum sounds we were after. Did it cost a lot? Yes, it did. Was it a pain in the ass? Usually. Wouldn’t have been easier to stay home and record in our backyard barn that fly to different cities across America, find/rent/borrow drums and cymbals, and spend 12-14 hours a day recording? Of course, why do you think few folks are doing or have done such things?
But, you know what? It was all worth it. Having experienced such amazing recording studios as The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA, Skyline Studios in New York City, and Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA (not to mention a few more in Los Angeles and Nashville), these are revered drum rooms for a reason. So, all that blood, sweat, and tears (not to mention money) was worth what we ended up with for a final product.
Side note: While we couldn’t have known it at the time, many of these rooms have closed over the years. So, while you not be able to get your drummer into Fantasy Studios to record your own “Don’t Stop Believin’,” we were lucky enough to get in there while they were still in business. We hope the great sounds of these rooms live on in your music until one day, maybe, they are re-established. We really, really hope they do.
“The goal is to give you, the user, as many options as possible.”
As much as some drum sample collections advertise hundreds or even thousands of loops, how many are actually going to be usable? Too many samples packs offer random mixes from folder to folder, making one group of samples incompatible with another in terms of drum mix and drum sound.Sure, some of the loops will sound great if you’re only planning to use a single groove to drive your song. But, what do you do if you need a fill to transition into the chorus? Or, other drum patterns for all those other sections of the song?
The best drum samples packs offer cohesive and dedicated drum sounds and mixes, allowing you to pull samples from anywhere in the library and have the mix stay consistent.
An added benefit of this is that entire albums have been written from a single loop library as the drums sound as though they were all tracked at the same time (which is the case with Beta Monkey drum samples and loops). When we record and produce our drum sample libraries, we capture as much drumming information as possible from the session. Different feels, tempos, sound sources (all drums and cymbals), timekeeping options (hihats, ride, crashes), and more – if we feel anything can be of use to a songwriter we record it and release it.
The goal is to give you, the user, as many options as possible. And, in doing so, you’ll get a lot more use out of a Beta Monkey drum sample library than you will from any other drum sample content creator.
[Related: Beta Monkey Sample Library Compatibility]
Realism and Authenticity
“Recording experienced drummers, with years of studio time to their credit, translates into a certain authenticity, sensibility, and knowledge…”
Don’t get us started on this one. If you programmed a loop, using acoustic drum samples, that isn’t the kind of groove we’d call a “live” one! Every now and then, we’ll come across a sample from other companies and the drums are so perfect – as in, 100% quantized (“An expert explains… quantizing in music production”) and right on the grid – that we have to ask: did a human drummer actually play this beat? Sure, they line up perfectly and have exact BPM readings, but is that what you want in your music?
Or, are you after the unique musical DNA of a drummer locking in and creating a delicious pocket? We’ve come to learn over the years that most of you want the real thing.
And, if you don’t, that’s fine. You probably should be looking into MIDI drum loops in that case. And, don’t get us wrong, MIDI drum loops can be a fantastic way to craft your song’s drum track. And, many users are extremely skilled in creating drum tracks in MIDI. But, what you shouldn’t expect is that human feel that ONLY be captured when recording a live drummer. Disagree with us all you want, but it’s just true.
With all of that said, a great drum library should follow the same mentality of a great drummer and that is to always “serve the music.” Recording experienced drummers, with years of studio time to their credit, translates into a certain authenticity, sensibility, and knowledge when recording the drum samples and loops.
“The days of overpriced and underwhelming drum sample packs were over…”
When we began Beta Monkey in 2002, loop and sample libraries from Sony and the like were going for $50 or more. As an upstart company with nothing to lose, we thought that was bullshit. Especially after hearing how little these overpriced sample libraries actually offered (sadly, this is where that greed took them).
So, we priced everything at less than half of what they charged before finally settling in at a standard price of $29.99 for most samples libraries. Strangely enough, a lot of competing companies followed suit. The days of overpriced and underwhelming drum sample packs were over, and songwriters/musicians no longer had to break the bank to get high-quality drum samples for recording!
So, when you put down $29.99 (or, any other amount for that matter), you expect to write at least a handful, if not dozens, of songs from that sample library. We did our best to make sure that actually happens and folks would come back for more.
So, this is what musicians and songwriters want from any drum sample library.It seems so simple and clear yet so few companies actually put out content that can check off all those categories.
Do we have some libraries that fit the bill? Why, yes. Yes, we do. But, let’s move the discussion along and give you some recommendations for taking your songwriting to the next level.
In other words, the kinds of drums that you should be using in your music. There are many libraries that hit the mark for all of these elements.
So, without further ado, here are five time-tested user favorites (in no particular order) for…
Five of our Best Drum Sample Packs
1) Drum Werks XV – Rock drum loops and samples have always been our specialty. But, this one always seems to stand out in terms of the response we get from users. Though we never reveal the names of our featured guests, the drummer playing on this one is a BIG name. As in, a drummer that 9/10 musicians would know by name or the artists he’s played or recorded for. But, honestly, does it matter who is playing on the drum tracks when really what matters is that it sounds great and will serve as the rock-solid foundation for your music? You know, the type of drummer who knows what parts are right for a future platinum-selling record or GRAMMY-nominated release?
We could tell you or you could let your ears decide.
2) Jazz Essentials II – This collection of jazz drum tracks is the second installment of the Jazz Essentials Series. And, it’s a little bit different from many jazz drum sample packages out there. Rather than offer simple one, two or four-bar loops, we decided to offer a complete drum tracks. Literally, these are the complete takes from a seasoned New York City jazz drummer as he played along and interacted with a number of jazz standards. These grooves and fills are the real deal, reflecting the truly organic improvisational spirit of jazz and jazz drumming in particular. The tracks begin with simple timekeeping and develop more sophisticated musical phrasing as the tracks progress.
And, let’s be honest, you’d be very hard-pressed to program the level of touch and nuance in this library with your favorite drum software virtual instrument. The swing of every true master jazz drummer is like a fingerprint, completely unique to the individual. Last we checked, getting that right kind of pocket necessary for jazz isn’t found in any DAW’s quantization preset settings.
3) Classic Backbeats II – It seems like everyone loves the classic “old school” rock n roll drum samples! This is a collection of drum samples that we see customers picking up on a (nearly) daily basis. And, we’ve often wondered why. Maybe it’s the diverse collection of fills and grooves that drove so many hit records of the early days of rock. Or, maybe, it’s the truly organic sound you can only achieve with four microphones (two overheads, one each for the kick and snare). Possibly, it’s the warmth and authenticity of a vintage 1960s Ludwig kit (as in, the ones Ludwig rushed to get out once Ringo was seen by millions on The Ed Sullivan Show in ‘’64).
These drum samples found on Classic Backbeats II are like a time capsule, taking us all back sonically to a time when drums rattled, hummed, rang out, and breathed… the way drums are supposed to! Highly recommended if your songwriting tastes lean back to the roots of rock n roll. With a naturally clean sound and minimal processing, these are the drum sounds you need if your musical tastes are rooted in the classic rock n roll mixes of the 50s and 60s.
4) Percussion Samples Toolbox – This finely-crafted library of diverse percussion instrument samples will really make your drum tracks stand out. The tones bright and energetic, yet miles away from the generic, perhaps even cliché “percussion loops” that are tossed about online. You’ll find no shortage of ways to use these different percussive voices in various ways to take a generic drum groove and give it some rhythmic life. Percussion just adds that certain “something” to any type of groove.
So, if you already have some drum arrangements on file, you won’t go wrong experimenting with the percussion loops on this one. Think of them as the final ingredient to a great drum track, one that will clearly stand out from the mundane.
5) Double Bass Mania VII – Want brutally live and massively heavy metal drum tracks? This library delivers brutal metal styles from classic thrash and power metal to doom and modern metal, the Double Bass Mania Series remains the one and only “all in one” solution for getting powerfully aggressive and brutal drum tracks.
When we introduced the Double Bass Mania Series years ago, there was literally nothing else on the market like it. This was even before the days of Toontrack and their Superior Drums Sample Collections (which, admittedly were good when they came out and continue to develop some excellent products!). But, for those of you who can’t program like their favorite metal drummer (or maybe simply don’t want to), then the Double Bass Mania Series will be the metal drummer of your dreams.Covering metal styles from classic thrash and power metal to doom and modern metal, the Double Bass Mania Series remains the one and only “all in one” solution for getting powerfully aggressive and brutal metal drum tracks.
A good place to start? Try Double Bass Mania VII – it’s got an incredibly aggressive mix and equally aggressive drumming to get your next metal songwriting project off the ground.
Let’s wrap up this discussion and boil it down for you.
You could fumble and struggle with MIDI loops. Or, you could try recording your favorite drummer for an afternoon. But, if you want to get started right now, with the right drum style and sound, with a way more affordable (not to mention, less aggravating) option, we hope our list of recommended drum loops have given something to seriously consider.
Did we leave any of the drum loops you love the most off the list? Let us know in the comments below.
Until next time, enjoy the grooves and visit the download page for the drum sample packs you’ve really been looking for.