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DrumThrash Drum Machine Software for PC

How to quantize and humanize drums in DrumThrash

Quantizing drums is actually a fairly simple task, replicating the characteristics of a real drummer isn't so straight forward. As we go through the quantize toolbar, we'll see how we can use the tools to bring life to our tracks. We'll also learn how the Quantize threshold works, check out the new Tuplet feature, managing user presets, and finally, we'll create a swing beat. By the end of this read you will have mastered quantization and on your way to the art of humanizing. How to start programming drums
What is Quantization?
Using the Quantize toolbar
How to quantize beats
What is humanization?
How to humanize beats
Should I humanize?
How to make a swing beat
Creating Tuplets
Quantize Threshold
Quantize User Presets
Humanizing tips
Where to next?

What is Quantization?

Quantization is to align musical notes to their absolute position according to the resolution set by the current grid division. A more simple explanation might be to place all notes or "hits" on a division line.

Using the Quantize toolbar

From left to right, Quantize toolbar buttons are:
DrumThrash quantize toolbar

When Snap to Grid is enabled, clicked hits will always align to the nearest division to the left. When this option is disabled hits will be placed where you clicked.


Constrain will ensure that hits do not drift to different measures when quantizing.


This will align hits to the current grid division set on the Quantize toolbar.


See Selecting a grid division.


Tuplets can be created for any note division other than dotted. The max that the grid can be split is 256. See Creating Tuplets.


Quantize strength is the percentage in which hits will be pulled to the nearest division line. Setting the strength to 100% will cause notes to be placed absolute on the division lines. If the strength is set at 50% the note will be pulled halfway to the closest division line.


Upon quantizing hits will be pulled to the nearest division line. They will then be pushed away either direction randomly between zero and the random tick amounts that have been set.



Swing is calculated in percentage. Note that swing is not available for every division. The swing button will become disabled if it's not available for a particular division.

How to quantize beats

In the next image notice how the notes do not align to the grid. This is before any quantization has been applied.
Not quantized
To quantize hits you first select the appropriate note division on the Quantize toolbar.

The beat in this example was created using quarter note divisions.

Next set the Quantize strength to 100.

Set both random tick values to 0.

Ensure that the Swing is disabled.

After clicking the quantize button drum hits will be perfectly aligned to the grid.
Hits quantized
You can quantize entire patterns or use the Selection tool on the Tools toolbar to quantize only selected hits.

What is humanization?

Humanizing involves shifting notes around so that they do not align to the time grid. Drummers have small fluctuations an imperfections in their playing which isn't necessarily a bad thing. One wouldn't notice these imperfections because they are so minute.

How to humanize beats?

To humanize a drum beat you first need to select an appropriate division by selecting the closet division in which the beat was created.

Make sure the Quantize strength is set to 100.

Now this is where we add a little randomization. Increase one or both of the random tick values. Start off with small values at first.

Click the Quantize button on the toolbar to apply changes.

Another option you could try is disable the Snap to grid feature and freehand it.

The Nudge tool comes in handy for placing hits exactly where you need them.

Should I humanize?

Drum machines can be too perfect, producing a stiff or rigid sounding beat. Making a beat imperfect can actually be a step in the right direction. Procession timings can work great for some situations and styles where tight playback is required. If you do decide to humanize your tracks, be sure not to over do it. Remember we don't want to over humanize as we don't want our drum track to sound out of time. Best practice here is that you probably wouldn't want to notice the unevenness

How to make a swing beat

Swing is usually defined as the groove of the beat. Even a small change to the swing value can make a beat feel completely different. It can help give a beat that human element. A swing beat can be programmed using only Tuplets. Below are examples of different swing beats along with their ratio, swing percentage, and Tuplet equivalent. Set a percentage then click the Quantize button. Swing is only available for even divisions.
1:1 - 0 % Swing = Strait eight
4:3 - 40% Swing = Septuplet
3:2 - 60% Swing = Quintuplet
2:1 - 100% Swing = Triplet

Creating Tuplets

A Tuplet is when a beat is divided into an equal number of subdivisions. Tuplets are calculated using a ratio such as 5:4 or 5:3. A ratio of 3:2 contains three notes within the time span of two notes.
Quantize toolbar format
The format on the Quantize toolbar is as follows. "1/4(7-let)" This tells us there are seven notes for every quarter note or a ratio of 7:4. 

You can create some really interesting drum fills using Tuplets.

Use the Brightness button on the View toolbar
to adjust the brightness of subdivision lines on the grid. See Setting the view.
Brightness button

Quantize Threshold

The Quantize Threshold helps to ensure hits do not get placed on undesired divisions.

If the threshold has been exceeded the Quantize button will change to an amber color.
Quantize button threshold
To meet the threshold you can do the following:

Reduce divisions.
Increase the Quantize Strength.
Reduce Random ticks.
Reduce Swing amount.
Understanding the Threshold

Consider the following settings.



A straight 1/64th division has 60 ticks between divisions.


If a hit is on tick 30 "half way" the hit will be quantized to tick 0.


quantize example1
If the hit is on tick 31 then it will be quantized up to 60. That would be 29 ticks away.
quantize example2

Using the examples above we can calculate that a safe threshold for a straight 1/64th at 100% strength without swing is 29 random ticks.


These settings meet the threshold requirement.



After quantizing to either tick 0 or tick 60 the hit would not be pushed any further than 29 ticks from the division.


Quantize strength, Random ticks, and Swing are all calculated into the Quantize Threshold.


Note that if Constrain is enabled hits will not position themselves on different measures regardless of the thereshold being exceeded.

Quantize User Presets

You can save the state of the Quantize toolbar for quick access.

Left-click the note division box to open  the drop-down menu.
note division presets

Click Save Current from the menu.


The following settings will be saved:



The recent list will allow you to access recently used divisions.


Presets will be added to the bottom of the division drop-down menu.


Clicking User Presets will open the User Preset window.

DrumThrash user presets

Humanizing drum tips

Drag and push:
Drummers will often purposely play just behind or ahead of the beat which can change the way a song feels. Using the Selection tool you can humanize different instruments or different measures.

Nudge tool:
Use the Nudge tool to place hits exactly where you need them. It's also useful for adjusting flams. A Flam is a technique used by drummers which involves two consecutive hits played in rapid succession, usually on the snare drum. The two hits are played closely together making them almost sound like one. Lowering or raising the velocity on either hit will have a different effect.

Don't go too random:
As mentioned earlier in this selection, making a track sound too uneven might be worse than a fully quantized track.

Mix it up
Try humanizing different instruments. Leave the kick drum fully quantized to provide a solid feel and only humanize the hi-hat.

Where to next?

See Programming a drum beat in DrumThrash for more tips. Explore your own unique sound see Creating Drum kits.
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