Getting Creative With Homemade Foley Drums & Percussion

When it comes to studio recording, the drum kit can be one of the most time consuming and awkward instruments to get right.

With so many variations in mic placements to consider, finding the right balance between capturing the quality of the kit whilst complementing your studio’s ambient sound is tricky for even the most experienced of pros.

Getting Creative With Homemade Foley Drums & Percussion 6

While drum machines and sample sequencers have advanced prolifically in recent years, sadly they still lack the natural swing and groove of a real kit.

Ultimately, a rhythm section with poor sound quality that’s lacking in energy, will bring the rest of your track down. So, how can you take your drums and percussion to the next level?

Think outside of the standard five piece drum kit and experiment with Foley or found sound for some truly original samples that are completely unique to you and your mix.

What is Foley?

Foley gets its name from sound-effects artist Jack Foley, who pioneered the use of reproducing everyday sound effects that are added in post-production in film, video and other media.

When used in films, Foley helps to pad out the soundscape by recreating sounds such as footsteps, doors opening and other background noises that can make a scene feel empty if omitted.

For musicians, recording your own sound samples created in the same vein as Foley and using clever editing and mixing techniques can add something unique to your recordings that you can’t get anywhere else.

Your found sound doesn’t have to be as in your face as banging trash can lids like Stomp or smacking beer kegs with a baseball bat like Slipknot, but subtle additions to your mix can help to complement your drum kit, or even replace it.

If you’re looking to experiment adding Foley and found sound to your recordings, here are some pointers to get you started.

1. Capture Your Own Foley Sounds

Part of the fun when creating your own sounds is that nothing is off limits. You can record just about any object with percussive qualities to pad out your soundscape.


Owl City’s Adam Young demonstrates this perfectly in a short demo where he layers sounds as diverse as shaking a leather jacket, banging on a car trailer to biting on an apple to create a drum track.

Capturing sound can be as simple as using your smartphone’s voice memo facility to grab a clip of your front door slamming, or as hi-tech as a top-of-the-line condenser mic, recording a chain falling to the floor of a sound booth.

The possibilities are endless but if you’re looking for a place to start, download one of our unusual percussion sample packs for some inspiration.

2. Collate And Layer Your Tracks

Getting Creative With Homemade Foley Drums & Percussion 1

When you’ve found an awesome sample that you want to record and incorporate into your mix, you need to be mindful of where in the harmonic range your found sound will sit.

If you’re creating an entire Foley drums set solely from found sound, consider how to give your kick and bass drums those all important low frequencies, recreate a punchy snare-type effect by boosting your mids, or create airy hi-hat-esque sounds by making your top end sparkle.

An ideal starting point is by building from the bottom. Start with your kick and plan out the rest of your soundscape from there, carefully building up layers as you go to create a powerful sound without cluttering.

3. Shape Your Sounds

Getting Creative With Homemade Foley Drums & Percussion 3

Whilst recording your own unique sounds is perfect for creativity, the downside is that objects such as leather jackets, car trailers and apples are not particularly well known for their musical output.

When you import your sound files into your DAW, make sure you study the waveform and pick a sample with a good sound level, trimming the clip cleanly to ensure that you get the attack with a bit of decay to add a bit of extra ambience.

Using EQ, remove any extraneous hiss or unwanted low and high frequencies and boost your ranges carefully to give your sound extra power where needed.

4. Take It To The Next Level

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If you’ve gathered your sounds and they’re working well but not quite blowing you away just yet, keep experimenting and tweaking to take it to the next level.

One way you could make your drum tracks feel more organic is by creating copies, tweaking the EQ or quantisation slightly to create swing or groove to otherwise formulaic sounding parts.

You could also try experimenting with different rhythm patterns to bring inspiration from obscure genres and create a drum and percussion section that truly brings the energy to your track.

5. Get Creative And Bend The Rules

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One of the great things about creating your own music is that you don’t have to adhere to any one style or genre, so keeping bending the rules, stretching yourself and thinking outside the box.

Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, so keep your ears out for those sounds that could be the making of your next killer mix, even if they’re from the most obscure household object or seemingly banal source.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules, just let your imagination loose and run with it.

Download music sample packs from Prime Loops here
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