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When writing music, I use a program called Fruity Loops.

Of the music that I write that has percussion, some of them are written with all the percussion instruments being grouped into one pattern. This has the advantage that you can see where all the beats are in relation to the beats of the other instruments.

The rest of my music involves writing separate patterns for each instrument. This has the advantage that I can move the combinations about to do things like breifly offset the hi-hats to make it feel "disjointed" or something.

My question is this. When writing music, in what ways could it conceivably affect the way you compose, having all the drums on one pattern versus having them on many?

For bonus points, suggest a compromise with a reason.

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I suppose it depends on how you're thinking about your instruments and what you need for your piece.

If you put them together, you'll conceive of the music for them as a singular unit. If you separate them, you'll likely think of each instrument as a more independent entity. The effect here is how you envision your percussion to function: is it just to provide a simple backing, or are you going to be writing incredibly complex parts for each instrument that requires they be independent?

Since I primarily write acoustic music, I think of the people performing what I write. Your questions is similar to: all instruments on a staff, or multiple staves?

So for me, because I deal with people (though I have a lot of work that uses electronics, and I myself also use FL Studio for some of my work), separating instruments also serves a practical / logistical function:

If I group my instruments together, I need to think about how much time it takes for the player to actually play each instrument, to switch between them, to switch mallets, and the coordination of playing multiple instruments simultaneously. I also need to think about choosing instruments that aren't too difficult to find or are a pain to lug around. If I separate the instruments out, then I need more percussionists, which costs more $$.

Since you're primarily electronic, you have a couple different considerations: your own workflow. Before FL Studio created that thing where you can see other patterns on the piano roll, it was a nightmare for me to bounce between instruments because I couldn't see all the music at the same time. So the advantage to grouping there is that you can see everything at once.

Moral of the story, ask yourself these two questions: "What does my piece need?" and "What do I need?"

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What you describe will be common for those who prefer using drumsynths instead of samples. However, if you are using TR-XYX emulators or similarly developed drumsynths, a prefered method is to build many distinct patterns which include all of the triggers for the drumsynths. This is done to replicate the programming that was done on the original synthesisers and the intention is to create a drum style that was popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

One reason why you might want to separate them is if you want to do some syncopating, or delaying a particular drum behind or before the beat, especially if you are using drumsynths and therefore have to use two instances. The reason you would use two instances instead of relying on MIDI signals is if you wanted a particular delay measured in milliseconds (like say 40 ms).

With samples, I found grouping them was important and to collect all the ideas for specific groups, it was important to break it down into many patterns for each group. It is simply an organisation habit that I have. You might not have that habit which is perfectly okay.

  • I usually group them myself. I just wanted to word the question as unbiasedly as I could. – Douglas Dec 15 '17 at 11:13
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Whenever I write unpitched percussion parts, I almost never put all of them on one pattern. If my DAW came with only unpitched percussion soundfonts that sounded like several percussion instruments being played at once, I'd quickly find other percussion soundfonts (for single instruments) and use them instead.

In short, I generally reject composing with all the drums on one pattern.

(I have put the snare drum, the bass kick pedal drum, and a cymbal on the same pattern before for 4-bar phrases, but that was for some pretty distinctive parts of one of my compositions.)

  • This doesn't answer the question. For a complete answer, at least tell us why you do it that way. – Ye Dawg Dec 15 '17 at 5:16
  • Alright, my percussion-writing style is hugely influenced by my exposure to real percussion instruments, especially the immersive exposure I got by playing in school concert bands (and looking back at the percussion players). It's also influenced by all the times I've watched drummers of bands. In both cases, people strongly do not tend to play 4 or more percussion instruments in unison. I don't find sticking several percussion instruments on the same pattern to be realistic, which is why I avoid it at nearly all costs. – Dekkadeci Dec 15 '17 at 8:35
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    I think that by pattern, OP means a rhythm made from several instruments interacting, not unison playing on many instruments, maybe this was the source of confusion. The question is as far as i can tell about how to write rhythms in a DAW, if you should put each instrument on separate tracks, or all percussion on one track. – Ye Dawg Dec 15 '17 at 10:09
  • Ye Dawg is correct. A pattern is a drumloop featuring multiple drums at different times. – Douglas Dec 15 '17 at 11:15
  • When I looked up FL Studio definitions of a pattern, all the unpitched percussion ones I found were for one instrument only and seemed to support only one music channel each. – Dekkadeci Dec 15 '17 at 15:23

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