by Anders Johanson January 30, 2021 11 min read
So you want to make trap music? You’re in luck. Trap is one of the most highly-demanded sample pack genres on today’s market. Trap music can feature a wide variety of drum and percussive elements but regardless of the mix of samples that you use, trap still has a very distinct and recognizable sound.
Originally born as a subgenre of hip hop, trap started to take on a life of its own after T.I.'s 2007 album “T.I. vs. T.I.P.” put the genre on the map. When T.I.’s follow-up album “Paper Trail” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 200 it cemented the genre’s place on the landscape of music. Now, trap has become one of the most popular genres among producers and remixers due to its ability to showcase a wide range of sounds and vocal styles over simple, yet groovy beats and layered synthesizers. The genre as a whole also has a very approachable style, with a lot of room for exploration and creativity. Other genres of music may seem difficult to produce but trap has one of the easier learning curves and an almost endless supply of sounds and resources available online, some you need to pay for but more often than not you can find them for free. Speaking of free - in this article we are going to be looking at a few of the best places to find free sample packs and drum kits across the internet. You are welcome to do additional research and find your own favorite spots, and while this list is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive, it should be all you need as a starting point.
If you are looking to get into producing trap music, it’s good to understand that there are a variety of elements that go into it. Synthesizers, pads, textures, basslines, samples, vocal processing styles, they all need to behave a certain way in order to achieve the sound you are going for. As important as those aspects are, though, there is one part that towers above all else when it comes to trap - the drum kit. You might think that synthesizers and other sound design elements should be the focus, but if everything is perfect and your drum kit lacks some luster, your whole song will feel like it’s missing something (because it is). Trap is traditionally produced at a tempo that might be a little slower than other songs, nestled somewhere between 70 and 80 beats per minute. (A good thing to remember - a song that is 150 beats per minute can also be read as 75 beats per minute. With a little bit of math and it will work out the same.) With that much space between the beats you are really going to want a drum kit that shines and makes its presence felt in the mix. If you know the ins and outs of the genre you can quickly whip up a mixing template that will get you where you need to be, and crafting your track in this way will help everything stand out exactly as it should - but most importantly, you’re going to want the drum kit to be the star of the show. Samples are important.
The internet will quickly become your friend on your search for samples. There are dozens of places to find samples of the classic Roland drum machines, the TB-303, the TR-808, and the TR-909, but if your plan is to just drop the samples into your project and not do too much post-processing you may want to use samples that are a little less recognizable. Nothing wrong with those Roland sounds, they are classics for a reason, it’s just thateverybodyuses them. One of the best spots to find a huge variety of samples is Splice. Splice is home to a massive library of sounds from all over the place. There’s a free trial if you need to check it out before you commit to it (something you should always do anyway), but a membership costs just $7.99 per month, and if you are regularly producing tracks it will quickly pay for itself. All of the sounds on Splice are royalty free, meaning all you have to do is pay for the subscription and you won’t ever have anyone knocking on your door asking for a check because you used their hi-hat way in the background of a track. People will find those things.
You have your caffeinated beverage of choice ready to go, your favorite digital audio workstation is loaded up, and you are staring at a blank screen, ready to make some trap music. No matter what genre you are producing, it’s a familiar picture. We have all been there. One of the best things you can do for yourself at this stage is go to YouTube and watch other people do walkthroughs of how they produced their tracks. Find out what they are using, where they get their sound packs, who their influences are. Start down the backwards road of discovering who and what inspires other people so you can better figure out where your own inspiration can come from. Don’t just watch one or two videos, watch as many as you can. No two videos will be exactly alike and even if you do not particularly care for the final track, watch how they made it anyway because I guarantee you will learn at least one new thing from their workflow and process. It might be a mixing technique, a website to go to for sounds, a keyboard shortcut, a piece of gear you’ve been interested in, or who knows what else. This will also give you a great starting point for when you are ready to start working on a track in a specific genre. Here are a couple of great videos to get you started. Every producer will go about it in their own way, so watch as many of these types of videos as you can.
Even in just those two videos you can see drastically different approaches. One producer starts with the drum beat and then builds on top of that, while the other one says he always starts with melodies and then fills in everything else around it. This should be a comforting thing to learn as both of those producers ended up with songs that sounded great, and if you listen to the final track you won’t have any clue as to where either producer started their track. It does not matter where you start, though, because eventually you are going to need some drum sounds.
In order to find the best trap drums for your track you first need to decide exactly what you need. There are two different types of files that you will commonly find one-shots and loops. A one-shot is a single audio file that always sounds the same no matter what. You can drag it into your project file and leave it the way it is, or process it further, but the raw audio will always sound the same. No velocity, no modulation, just the audio file. A one-shot can be a kick drum, a snare, a hi-hat, a shaker, or any sound effects or short audio clips. Using one-shots will give you complete control over how you sculpt your track and where you put each sound, so if that sounds like what you need then searching for one-shots will be your best option. Here's a surface level break down for each audio file type and what you're looking for:
A trap drum loop or otherwise known as a loop is a short musical snippets such as drum patterns, bass lines, electric piano grooves, which can be repeated as many times as you like and matched with other loops to create the basis of a track. These will be pre-constructed loops, sometimes with effects, that were created by combining the one shots we mentioned above.
Loops typically have the entire drum kit included in them, which gives you less flexibility in terms of placing hi-hats, rolls, stutters, kick patterns, and things like that, but they are definitely helpful if you need to just sketch out a song or use something to quickly build off of. If you don’t have a lot of experience programming drums and you don’t really feel comfortable tackling that aspect of a track then finding a drum loop you think you can work with will be the best for you. There is nothing wrong or right about either option, if you use one-shots you will most likely be designing a loop anyway, so the final result will be the same except that the loop is exactly what you wanted it to be rather than using a loop that was programmed by someone else.
There are many places you can go to find sound packs for your trap drum kits. Some places have entire kits in a folder, other places you can search for just snare sounds or only kick drums. Some websites offer free sample packs, one-shots, or loops, and others might charge for a pack of sounds designed by artists or producers specifically for their website. Go with whatever works for you, but definitely do some research into any royalty, licensing, or track credit information. That stuff can be in the fine print and might come back to get you later. Like I said, producers hire people just to find that stuff. Here are a few resources for you to use if you are looking to find drum kit samples for your trap music.
Purchasing sound packs and libraries will give you some peace of mind when it comes to licensing and other things, but here is a list of drum sample packs that are entirely free.
One of the best spots to find drum kits on the internet is actually on reddit. Reddit is a great resource for musicians, whether you are an artist, a producer, a beatmaker, or anywhere else on the spectrum of music making. Between the subreddits r/wearethemusicmakers, r/ableton, r/logicpro, and a handful of other various music production subreddits, there are discussions, tips, shortcuts, and sound packs shared on a daily basis by hundreds of thousands of musicians around the world. The subreddit r/drumkits is quite an active hub of people who are exchanging kits or looking for kits that have a certain sound. Digging through the archive on the subreddit will yield some fantastic results, and sorting the posts by new will show you a lot of the latest findings of the subreddit’s members.
So, we actually wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the best free drum kits on reddit and shared throughout the music production subreddits.
Ardist is one of the biggest up-and-coming producers in the genre, not just because of his work in creating and producing sample packs and drum kits, but also in full-on music production. Don’t let his young age of 17 fool you, Ardist is already working with some of the top producers and lyricists on the scene. The majority of his drum kits are entirely created by him, a process that is impressive and helps him to stand out among everyone who is using recycled sample packs. This kit was created by Ardist, using a Zoom H6 and Serum, and is entirely free, though there is a paid version that has more sounds.
Metro Boomin is a producer who has worked with a long list of some of the best rappers in the industry. This sound pack comes with over 250 samples that are ready for use in your tracks, though some of them require specific software or plugins in order to run. Click through the link to find out more about what is needed for this sound pack.
These next ones are among the top rated on the r/drumkits subreddit, but they link to Google Drive, Medishare, and other similar file sites to be downloaded onto your computer. These were companies, packs, or producers that have been referenced in conversations. Shout out to the users who took the time to show some love, these were some of the kits that have been shared across r/drumkits and beyond. As such, be prepared for whatever else could potentially land on your hard drive, but since they are so highly rated it is safe to assume they are virus-free and ready to use. Still, proceed at your own risk.
When you are making music that is highly sample-based, the best thing you can do for yourself is find high-quality samples. Having a quality sample is what will set you apart and be the difference between sounding like a beginner and sounding like a veteran producer, even if you are just starting out. Don’t make the mistake of downloading and using the first sample pack you see, grab a couple of different ones even if they are of the same instrument. One 808 sample pack might sound completely different from someone else’s 808 sample pack, for various reasons. The better starting point you have, the less work you will have to do, and the better your final track will sound.
One of the best things about living in a time where we have easy access to the internet is the wellspring of resources that are available for any creative person, but especially musicians. There are people who dedicate time and energy into making sample packs for music producers, and whether they offer those packs for free or they ask for a small amount of money, they are still available and easy to find. Use this list as a hub for your trap drum kit needs, and if you have any suggestions for smaller websites that we should add to it feel free to reach out via Facebook or Instagram so we can grow the list and share some sounds with everyone. Or don’t. It’s alright to guard the source of your drum kits and make sure they’re surrounded in secrecy. It will just add to your mystique as a producer.
Writer and musician based in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Hannah. Extensive career as both a writer and a musician previously working with brands such as Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, and Sports Illustrated. As a musician, Anders has played in several bands throughout the last decade, and has experience in touring, booking, band management, engineering, producing, mixing, and composing. Anders has recently composed music for short films and media presentations in universities, and has launched a podcast focusing on giving musicians and artists a place to talk about their work and the process behind their creation.
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