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How To Use Drum Samples In REAPER (Step-By-Step Guide)

To use drum samples in REAPER, start by dropping in audio files of whatever samples you want to work with. Once you have done this, you can copy-paste, chop, loop, reverse, rearrange, and mix your drum samples however you see fit.

Using Drum Samples In REAPER

Using drum samples to create interesting, cohesive, driving rhythms is vital for modern music production. 

Without a solid drum beat to back up your track, listeners will have difficulty engaging with and enjoying your music. This is why it is vital to utilize drum samples properly.

In this step-by-step tutorial, I will show you how to use drum samples in REAPER!

What You Will Need

To follow this tutorial, you will need the following:

  • REAPER DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
  • Drum samples to practice and work with

Step One – Creating A Kick And Snare

When putting together a drum track using samples in REAPER, the first thing I do is build a solid kick and snare pattern.

To do this, drag and drop the drum samples you want to use and place them on the grid accordingly. 

For this example, I am using a somewhat simple pattern to have room to add other percussive elements to the beat. 

Once you have placed a drum sample, you can duplicate it by copying and pasting it in the desired position.

Video – Creating A Drum And Snare Pattern

Now your kick and snare pattern is complete, go ahead and glue each item together so that we can loop it easier later.

Step Two – Adding Claps

The next thing I like to do after I have a kick and snare pattern laid down is to reinforce the snare hits with a clap. This will help to add impact and presence to our snare beats. 

To add claps to your snare hits, simply drag, drop, copy, and paste them where you need them.

Video – Adding Claps To The Drum Pattern

Reinforcing your snare hits with claps is not only simple and easy, but it will add more to your drum track than you might think!

Step Three – Add 808s To Beef Up The Low End

Now that we have our kick, snare, and clap pattern in place, let’s beef up the low end by adding some 808s. 

I plan on making the rest of this track in the key of d minor, so I will be using 808 samples that fall in the same key.

When selecting an 808 pattern, I like it to be similar to my kick drum rhythm but slightly different.

Video – Adding An 808 To Our Pattern

With our low end sounding nice and full from the 808s, we can move on to the rest of this drum beat.

Step Four – Using Hi-Hats To Add Drum Groove

The next step that I like to follow for building a beat using drum samples in REAPER is adding a catchy hi-hat pattern. 

In my opinion, an excellent hi-hat pattern has variation and rhythm changes to help drive the beat and keep it interesting.

Video – Adding Hi-Hats To Our Pattern

Take your time coming up with a hi-hat pattern that will enhance your drum track and keep your listeners engaged.

Step Five – Extra Details To Polish Drumbeats

Our drumbeat is nearly done since our kick, snare, claps, 808s, and hi-hats are in order. 

One of the last steps for building a great drum track in REAPER is adding extra details and sounds to serve as ear candy.

I like to get creative with where I place these sounds and often choose to play on off beats to add extra flavor. These extra details can include things like crash cymbals, additional snare hits, woodblocks, cowbells, and much more.

For this example, I’ll be using some crash cymbal hits and a second snare drum.

Video – Adding Extra Details To Our Drum Pattern (Part 1)
Video – Adding Extra Details To Our Drum Pattern (Part 2)

Adding a few interesting sounds and instruments to a drum track can go a long way in setting your beat apart from ones made by other music producers.

Step Six – Adding MIDI Details To Drums

The final element that I want to add to this drum track is another couple of extra details utilizing MIDI VST instruments. 

Although we have used nothing but drum samples up to this point, there are no rules that state we cannot throw in a virtual instrument or two as well. 

For this example, I am using a woodblock and some metal percussion from sample libraries made by Spitfire Audio.

Video – Adding MIDI Details To Our Drum Pattern

Now that we have written a basic drum beat and added more exciting elements, our drum track is complete!

Step Seven – Looping Drums In REAPER

The only thing left to do with our drum track is to loop it to our track’s desired length. 

To do this, you must have the correct REAPER extension downloaded. 

Once you have the extension downloaded and your settings updated, looping your drum track will be as easy as clicking and dragging. 

Check out this article that covers How To Loop In REAPER in depth. This will clearly show you how to download the correct extension and use it in REAPER.

Can You Program Drums in REAPER?

Yes, although REAPER is not as geared towards beat making and looping as other DAWs such as Ableton, FL Studio, Studio One, etc., it is still a very flexible DAW. You can use it for all types of things, including drum programming. 

You can program drums in REAPER by dragging, dropping, copying, pasting, rearranging, and looping drum samples to your desire.

Also, you can program drums in REAPER by performing them on MIDI VST instruments.

Why Is a Real Drummer Preferable to A Drum Machine?

A real drummer is preferable to a drum machine because no drum machine can add the human touch and groove that a real drummer brings to the table.
 
Drum machines sound much more robotic and less expressive than real drums.

In some genres like Hip Hop and electronic music, however, electronic drums are usually preferred to a real drummer as this is part of the style.

When Should Drummers Use Samples?

Drummers should use samples when working on demos for songs and do not have time to record proper drum parts.

Drum samples can come in handy at times like these, so I recommend that every musician and music producer has drum kit samples that they can use when they need them.

Does REAPER Include a Collection of Drum Samples?

No, unfortunately, REAPER does not come standard with any drum samples. REAPER is a DAW that is more useful for engineering and recording than production, so it does not include any sample libraries.

However, REAPER is fully compatible with other third-party sample libraries, plugins, and VST instruments. 

Does REAPER Stand for Something?

Yes, REAPER is an acronym for Rapid Environment for Audio Production, Engineering, and Recording.

REAPER is a highly efficient and flexible DAW that music producers can customize to their liking. 

Does REAPER Include Plugins?

Yes, REAPER comes with a whole collection of plugins that you can use for mixing and mastering. Not only does REAPER have these standard plugins such as EQ, compression, saturation, etc., but it also has some more eccentric and creative plugins that you can use. Click here for our Best Plugins For REAPER guide.

Where Can You Find Free VST Plugins to Use in REAPER?

Two fantastic sources for free VST instruments online are the LABS collection from Spitfire Audio and Komplete Start from Native Instruments.

Not only are these VST instrument bundles totally free, but they also both include a ton of incredible sounds!

Final Words

My number one piece of advice for using drum samples in REAPER is to be creative and have fun! Once you create a drum loop you’re happy with, I recommend you bounce it to audio and save it to use in future projects.

Want to learn more? Click here to find out How To Cut In REAPER.