What are the best drum sample packs?
Let’s be honest. There are tons of drum loop libraries online.
But, finding the drums that will work best for your music is often tricky. We know many of you have scoured the internet for the right drums, from the free loop sites to the subscription-based options, and still keep looking. Many of you wind up here, still searching for elusive 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.
First of all, no one needs another “it can cover every style of music” type loop 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. Many loop libraries offer hundreds of loops, but are they the right style for what you plan to write? We have many hyper-focused drum packs, aimed exclusively at a certain style of music or vibe.
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 drum samples/loops will work for them.
Right from the beginning, we realized that if a loop 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.
While some loop companies you find online are more than happy to record in a backyard barn or tool shed (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 a thing?
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 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.
As much as some loop packs advertise hundreds or even thousands of loops, how many are actually going to be usable? Too many loop packs offer random mixes from folder to folder, making one group of loops incompatible with another in terms of drum mix and drum sound. The best drum loop sets offer cohesive and dedicated drum sounds and mixes, allowing you to pull loops from anywhere in the library and have the mix stay consistent.
An added benefit of this is that entire CDs 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 loops).
Realism and Authenticity
Don’t get us started on this one. If you programmed a loop, using acoustic drum samples, that isn’t the kind of loop we’d call a “live” one! Every now and then, we’ll come across a loop from other loop companies and the drums are so perfect – as in, 100% quantized 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.
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 drum loops.
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 packs 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 loop sets. Strangely enough, a lot of competing companies followed suit. 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 you come back for more.
So, this is what musicians and songwriters want from any drum sample loop 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.
Let’s move the discussion along and get you some of the best drum sample packs 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)…
The drum sample packs we recommend
1) Drum Werks XV – Rock drum loops have always been our specialty (we have developed over 30 of them over the years, after all). 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 one 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 – 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 loops 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.
4) Percussion Toolbox – This percussion loops collection gives you tons of options to spice up your existing tracks. 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.
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 – 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 deathcore (or, dare we say it…djent!) styles, 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.
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 (stop by the download section of our website for more drum sample offerings)!