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How to Choose Drum Samples for Your Song

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Drum Samples can make or break your track completely. I and So many producers learn this the hard way but here are some guidelines for you to always select the right ones..

How to Choose Drum Samples for Your Song?

With the following tips you can select the perfect drum samples that will go well with your song. Your drums should be based on-

  1. The size of your song.
  2. The vibe you are going for.
  3. The other instruments in your song.
  4. The lyrics of your song.
  5. The sections of the song.
  6. A reference track.
  7. Your personal taste.
  8. Experimentation.
  9. Your signature sound.

Lets look each one of these in detail..


Choosing the Right Drum Sample Based on The Size of Your Song

Yes every song has a particular size.

What difference do you feel when you hear Hans Zimmer’s orchestral scores and when you hear any hip hop song?

Feel some difference?

You can feel how epic Hans Zimmer’s film scores are.

They sound so huge that they take the whole theater down.

  • A track so huge gives you goose bumps. It raises your heartbeat and blood pressure. You feel the warrior within you.

The percussions used in those tracks are just ethereal and large in number. They sound like they’re being played in a huge open place like a war zone or what not where nothing can be seen for huge distances.

These drums are physically huge in size as well.

If you are making an anthemic song or an orchestral song, you need huge drums to compliment the size of your anthem as they will be the best for the expected feel for an anthem.

  • If you’re making a rock track, you would have a hard time fitting these huge drums into your track with those distorted guitars and it may turn out that they don’t work out that well in rock music.

It will be wise to take rock drums instead because they hit harder and sound in your face and Rock is an in your face!

With that said, mostly the first thing that should come to your mind when selecting drums is to check what size of the track you are making.

Ask yourself are these drums complimenting the size of the song?

Do they feel the same size as the song? Or are they lost in the rest of the instruments?

Getting answers to these questions will help you select the right drum for your project everytime.

  • Frustrated about your drums not working well?
  • Confused while selecting the right one from the huge warehouse of samples?

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Choosing the Right Drum Samples Based on the Vibe of Your Song

Vibe stands for vibration.

Vibration has frequencies that make us feel in a certain way. We like it or we don’t.

The overall feeling that a song creates and the atmosphere it has, makes up the whole vibe thing of a song.

An EDM track for example, has a dance vibe to it.

Whenever we hear it our feet move, we nod our head.

All these movements that we develop listening to an EDM track is because it has an energy and impact to it which is a result of the hard hitting drums it has.

This impact gets transferred into the listener.

  • Do an experiment, just remove the drums from an EDM track and may be put an orchestral drum kit to it. Do you feel the same energy now? Are you dancing to it in the club?

Not at all! The vibe will be dead!

The EDM drums are very typical to the genre as they give the right vibe to it that no other sounds can give! 

The hard hitting kicks and the snappy snares are what move you along with the rest of the percussion that is typical to EDM.

They create the vibe which is staple to EDM.

You cannot play an EDM track on a dance floor which have orchestral drums or may be rock drums.

It sounds crap already!

I cannot move to it! That’s absurd!

Those drums won’t provide the right vibe.

Those drums won’t hit the chests of the people in a pub or in a dance music festival.

People will start wondering what’s going on.

This is crucial! Drums give the vibe to the songs and you should be aware of it while selecting them!

Study the song’s vibe first and visualize the result before you reach out for drums.

Choosing the Right Drum Samples Based on the Other Instruments

Like a painter makes his colors go well together in his paintings, the music producer also needs to make all the sounds work together with each other in a song.

After studying countless tracks made by professionals, i have developed a great depth of insight about the drum selections based on the instrumentation.

  • Starting with the low end, always consider whether the kick or the bass is driving the track and prioritize any one. This is not a rule but it’s better to use complimenting samples. A bass heavy kick with a less subby bass and vice versa are good.

If the melodic part is dense and thick use a snare that cuts through. Layering two snares can be helpful – one with a fat and round bottom and one with a crisp top end.

The lengths of the sample also matter.

In a dense instrumentation, long white-noise layered snares (that go tishhhhhhhhhhhhh) work well.

They draw attention and don’t get lost.

Listen to dubstep.

  • Use short hard kicks for a clean bottom end if the sub bass is strong and heavy. 

If there is too much going on in the high end, use hats which are strong in the 2k to 8k range to get noticed.

You need to find some less dense spots in the track and the right drum samples that will fit well there if you have a busy instrumentation.

P.s. – I still remember when i started getting my hands into the EDM genre. I fell in love with Knife Party in particular. Listen to their tracks, how clean and crisp their drums are.

I just love those guys’ production!


Choosing the Right Drum Samples Based on Lyrics of Your Song

Every song is a mixture of many things.

The sounds used in it, the chord progression, the melody and lastly the lyrics which is the most important characteristic of a song.

The lyric is what the whole song is about. The lyric will decide what the whole music is going to sound like.

  • If your song is about bragging and boasting, you wanna choose the drums that sound very confident and call for attention! Drums that make a mark. Aggressive and bold percussions will suit such lyric.

Same is with any revengeful or angry lyric. The drums should portray the same anger and rage.

Distortion can be trick to turn drums into weapons of expressing your anger.

When I am producing for a romantic song, I prefer a short and sweet clap or a soft white-noise snare. I prefer softer intimate drum sounds for a romantic song. Even a heavy shaker layered with a short clap works good as a snare with a romantic lyric.

  • I use the drums only to support the rest of the song for a romantic lyric.

Just get to the core emotion and use that as a guide for selecting the perfect drum sounds.


Choosing the Right Drum Samples Based on Sections of Your Song

I have learned this trick from bollywood music.

They are known for making their songs spicy.

In bollywood, a song typically lasts for about a minimum of five minutes.

They do have verse chorus sections but they flavor their songs by putting totally different music within the sections as a bridge.

Those sections can have a totally different instrumentation. For example if a song is a soft rock one, they may put an EDM section as a bridge between every chorus to verse section.

Even verses can have different drums and the chorus can have different drums too!

  • Well its not practical to make a five minute long song in today’s streaming era. But you can surely select different drums for different sections. You can have a softer drum track for the verse and hard hitting drums in the chorus for impact or vice versa.

You can use this tip with a mixture of the other tips as well.

But there is one challenge that you’ll be facing with this. You will need to process these drums differently while mixing and mastering. Although it can be handled but still it’s going to greet you!

Choosing Drum Samples Based on A Reference Track

One more trick.. and this one sounds simple.

While searching the right drums for your song you can use a reference track.

This reference track should be in the same style that you are making.

Even this could be the track that inspired you in the first place.

  • For beginners, its actually a good practice to try to mimic the tracks that are doing great in the charts. Producers learn a lot from mimicking chart topper tracks.

Nothing can teach you better than that!

Even I started in the same way! Every successful producer has!

Ok now literally try to copy the drum sounds that you like in your favorite track.

There’s a reason the track caught your attention.

It connected with you in some way! Moreover its commercially produced.

So if you are trying to make a similar song, what can be better than using similar sounding samples?

For this you need to search for the most similar sounding drum samples in your library.

If you don’t have a library, start creating one. Get high quality samples from wherever you can. Every producer collects samples.

  • You can check our high quality hardest hitting Apache Essentials Drum Sample Pack here.

After finding the most similar sounding drum sample, process it to make it as similar to the reference as you can.

Use EQ, Compression or Saturation for that. Make sure you know about using Saturation before or after Compression.

To know more, read – Mixing With Compression

Remember, samples are gems for every producer! Its like colors for an artist!

Get them and then make them your own by tweaking them a little.

Sooner you will have a huge arsenal of samples that will speed up your production and will make you stand out from the rest!


Choosing Drum Samples Based on Personal Taste

Besides all the staple rules of any art, there’s always a special place for your own touch and your personal taste.

Everything said in this article will work very well with your production.

But as an artist, a music producer needs to develop his own sound gradually.

  • You are never restricted to use your own drum samples. You can use whatever you like in your production. The tips here are only as a guideline. Just get familiar with the basics first.

Work with all these tips to learn and then create your own sound that will set you apart from the creed.

Look at Timbaland. He is a maestro!

He introduced very unique sounds into hip hop and broke the barrier successfully.

He is respected in the industry and has given so many hits.

But he also started at some point and gathered experience in production which made him this successful.

When you are experienced with the basics, it will be effortless for you to switch the gear!

Choosing Drum Samples Based on Experimentation

After learning the rules.. simply break the rules! Try to do something different.

  • With experimentation comes the element of surprise. A sound that surprises is interesting to the ears.

Select drums that go really off track. Allow yourself to do weird stuff.

Creativity comes from being childish.

When I used to learn in the earlier days, I used to give myself few short breaks where I would do crazy things with a copy of my project.

I would use a hip hop kick in an EDM song, an EDM kick in a rock song, a Rock Snare in an RnB song.

You get the point.

You can follow a simple mantra- Surprise the listeners whenever you can!


Selecting Drum Samples Based on Your Signature Sound

This one is for branding.

As a producer you should aim to become a brand.

You go to a particular restaurant because you like their unique signature spice.

It’s their secret blend that pulls customers back to them again and again.

  • Every seasoned producer is known for some uniqueness in the industry. And yes everyone should be. Uniqueness is what people are looking at you for. If all were the same, why would anyone be interested.
  • For this a producer needs to explore the ocean of sound and discover what sound portrays his personality best into his song or which sound sets him apart.

For example, listen to Michael Jackson’s snare drum in his track Dangerous. Almost every song by Michael has the same snare which was his signature sound. If you hear nothing but only his beats, you’ll know its an MJ song.

This is how signature sounds brand a producer.

To get even better results you can apply Drum Compression.

Explore and discover your own sounds and make a brand out of it.


Check out our high quality Apache Essentials Drum Sample Pack



  • Rhythm is the foundation of music. Without rhythm, there cannot be music!

To express rhythm with different colors we use different sounds depending on the feel of our song.

With all the above tips, learn them as best as you can so that you know what you are doing and why and try to develop your unique style that will take you ahead of the curve.

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