Here I discuss the mentality of sound processing.
Sound processing your samples starts with one fundamental Ideal. Make it sound better! There are many ways to achieve the same sound, many ways to achieve slightly different sounds and many ways to ruin sound or just plain exaggerate it. So let’s define good sound vs. bad sound. First up is in the method to avoid bad sound is to make sure your level is proper. You don’t want your sound to appear as a brick. This means if your sound is up to loud and your using a digital interface to work with sound anything above 0db will be truncated and the wave will just be shelved resulting in a waveform that looks like brick. The sound will be harsh and unpleasant so be sure your levels allow enough head room before your peaks touch 0db. A good idea is to stay about -3 to -12 db or so. You want to have the sound loud enough to not be lost in the noise floor (this is the level where with no sound you hear hiss or electrical noise in you recording) but also leave enough headroom for dynamic processing. Saturation is a bit like clipping but this usually occurs in an analog sense of the word where when sound goes above 0db instead of simply truncating the amplitude of the waveform harmonics can be introduced. This is something we can use to our benefit but often should be avoided at the early point in sculpting the sound.
Phase cancelation. This occurs when layering your sounds together if the positive slope of the wave is peaking when the negative slope of the layered sound is peaking the two frequencies can cancel each other out resulting in a thin or sometimes even 0 sound instead of bolstering the sound as wanted.
This can be fixed with either a phase reversal or even slightly adjusting start times of the sample.
Sculpting the sound in general usually will involve a few aspects.
Filtering (essentially picking which frequencies you want to be heard) commonly used filters would be High pass (HP) low pass (LP) Band pass (BP) Notch and cut. A low pass filter will only allow the frequencies below the selected frequency cut off to be heard. The High pass is just the opposite. Pretty standard stuff here.
Driving (adding subtle harmonics to your sound) such as using a fuzz pedal or an amp simulator like guitar rig.
Enveloping ADSR etc (deciding how the sound is presented in terms of timeline) this is referred to an envelope and basically is just a way to control the speed and strength of the sound being triggered along with it’s release tail.
Truncating (chopping your sound to the specified length) also referred to as slicing this is just setting where the sample starts and ends.
Layering (adding new sounds to create a thicker more complex sound) this is useful for creating complex or thick sounds.
The first step is to take your samples you’ve recorded and place them in your Daw or sampler.
Once the raw samples are in the DAW you can begin understanding where your sound can be improved.
I often start by chopping out any dead air before and after the sample. Leave a little bit of room at the end if you want a more “airy” sound.
Next I will begin by filtering the sound how I choose. Using a LP or low pass filter allows only lower frequencies through and can use resonance to peak the sound where your filter cut off is set. This is helpful to make a kick drum pop more in the mix.
Next I will add a layer if needed let’s say I have a kick drum that sounds overly Dark and I would like a little higher end slap to it. Well you can try things such as adding in a second sound layer with a lower gain and filter out the low frequencies using a high pass or HP filter so as not to clash with the low end sound. Resample the sound once stacked together and now you have a sound that is more locked. Keep in mind that you will want the two samples to sound good together so use your ears to find the pitch that matches best with your sample. Sometimes using a tuning software can help with this. Even a simple tuner like in guitar rig can help you better put samples in key with each other.
Next I may apply some compression or saturation etc depending on how I would like it to sound. This is where your own character is really revealed. I would say try not to overdo it when it comes to squashing a sound and also watch out for transient peaking as the loudest transient of the sound will dictate how loud the rest of the sample can be. If you have a sharp transient but the rest of the sound is at a very low DB the sound my not have a beefy character and end up sounding thin as any increase in volume would cause the transient to clip. This is where limiting and compression need to be used within reason.
Once done you can resave the sample and you have your own unique drum.