Recording Drums...

 

Its been long said that to get authentic sounding drum tracks in your midi compositions you have to "think like a drummer".  This is not as easy as it might seem.  Go listen to some midifiles that are out there, where the composer can't hide behind audio drum loops. The art of midi drumming is becoming a bit of a lost art.  But for the really true professional doing mainstream, rock, top 40, country, i.e., all the stuff that makes money,  drum loops simply will not cut it. And bringing in a drummer and miking the kit--hours down the drain, often leaves no option but to do MIDI drums. It is possible to get authentic, live sounding drum tracks from a keyboard, sound module or drum machine that may fool the ear into thinking you have a real drummer. But to get it, you need to really know drums like a drummer does. And interestingly, many of the techniques drummers use to get their signature sound are things that are difficult or at minimum time consuming to do with midi sequencers. Here's a short list of drum accents:
 Cymbal chokes, flams inside of rolls, playing light "ghost hits", playing cymbals with soft mallets, rim shot in the middle of a roll, exploiting the timbral variety of a drum by going from soft to hard hits, tapping back and forth from the center of a cymbal to its periphery, playing the snare slightly ahead or slightly behind beats 2 and 4 often differently for each bar, playing with brushes on toms and cymbals, double hitting a drum with two sticks, one slightly behind providing a "snap".  That's the short list.  And the important thing about good drummers is that they they don't repeat these accents all the time.  They put them in  whenever they think they can get away with it, not only at the fill. 

A reasonably good midi sequencer like Cakewalk Sonar will have a number of tools available to get decent drums in your mix.  Soft synth drums like "Studio Instruments" allows you to put down drum tracks quickly but the "Step Sequencer" gives you the ability to use any soft synth drum you have and sequence your patterns using sixteen or more instruments.  You can quantize with a swing feel to humanize the pattern.  You can use any drum kit you may have available making it very versatile.