I'm familiar with programming realistically sounding drums. Many programs include sampled real drum instruments organized in kits, such that the included drum samples sound good together. All that's left to do is to program a MIDI pattern.

Electronic beats are more complicated; they don't tend to be "kitted", and there is infinite freedom in selecting the sounds. I browsed some drum sample libraries and feel overwhelmed by the variety of sounds and the prospect of organizing them.

I'm looking for guidance in terms of what to consider in creating "kits" for myself and how to narrow the field of sounds as I go.

Some of the considerations I have in mind:

  • Are synthesizer plug-ins (as opposed to sample libraries) better organized in terms of collections of compatible sounds?
  • Do I need to assume from the start I will have to edit the sounds myself to get good matches, or can I expect to find matches without editing?
  • Are there well understood characteristics of different drum/percussion sounds that would make them more or less likely to work together (say, in choosing between many different hi-hat and kick drum samples)
  • Similar to the above, is examining the technical parameters (e.g., frequency spectrum, length, or amount of FX) used in the sample much help when selecting the samples?

If there are other, better considerations, I am eager to hear those as well.

  • I think this should be a few separate questions. Each point could be its own question really, except possibly 5 (opinion-based)
    – Edward
    Apr 4, 2021 at 21:20
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    @Edward I wrote several sub-questions in order to add some focus to my question. I feel they are related. At the moment I don't even have enough understanding of the topic to ask them as separate questions. Concerning 5, if this is a valid question: music.stackexchange.com/questions/30334 why would 5. be opinion based? Apr 4, 2021 at 21:46
  • @user1079505 I think I understand your question, but your good intentions of breaking out the sub-questions does make it sound like a bunch of different questions, each deserving its own answer. I'm joining the close voters for that reason; however, I think it's primarily an issue of the writing of the question rather than the question itself. I wouldn't hesitate to vote to reopen a sufficiently focused articulation of the same issue(s).
    – Aaron
    Apr 4, 2021 at 22:24
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    @Aaron Seems like catch 22. I intended the sub-questions to limit the scope of the main question, not to broaden it. I listed them in points so the may indeed seem or "sound" like individual questions, but I seriously worry they could become XY problems if posted separately, which we obviously don't want, and which may mean they might not be proper individual, unrelated questions. Apr 4, 2021 at 22:49
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    @Edward please explain why do you believe that "what are advantages or disadvantages of X vs Y, when I should use X or Y" is not opinion based, but "does X has advantage Z over Y" is? Apr 4, 2021 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


How to? That's nearly always subjective. What concepts help you find the sounds you want?

With acoustic kits, there's a fair amount of agreement as to what sounds belong together, as you noted. Not only are electronic sounds not in kits, they're not drums, so you don't get that categorization either.

A rational approach would be to take Fourier spectrums of them all, and sort similar sounds together. The problem with this is that some hi-hats, shakers, and tambourine taps will end up in one bin together, and some louder hi-hats, light snare drums, and tambourines in another. Likewise your "bass drums" may be mixed with other things like door slams and tympani based on audible resemblance. Sounds won't necessarily sort by the object that made them. If that doesn't bother you (and with electronics it may not), the system has a lot of advantages, including that it can be automated without your having to listen to and judge every sample. Once you have categories, they're relatively simple to name. You could even build random kits by selecting sounds from a set of categories - a boom, a couple of thuds, a smack or three, and a few taps.

But I've never heard of a music library that does anything remotely like that. Every one I've seen focuses on the authenticity of the object or situation, and they just make up fifties sci-fi names for electronic sounds. Sometimes they have tags. Perhaps a systematic application of tags would work, but it's a lot of work coming up with and applying them. Not saying there aren't better systems, just that I haven't seen them.

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