7. Sub Analog Drums - Sampleson
6. Cassette 606, 808, 909 - BPB
5. RoyoToms - Alan Vista
4. MT Power DrumKit 2 - Manda Audio
3. Bazz Murda - DistoCore
2. GB DrumBox - Sample Science
1. Cymbalistic - Alan Vista
Drums are the backbone of just about any conceivable song. They set the tempo, mood, and give listeners one of the first indications of the genre.
In some instances, drums are so influential that they can indicate the region of the genre, just by the timbre of the drum and the beat itself.
With that said, expanding your samples of drums and loops can only serve to help your productions and provide your fans with a unique listening experience.
Drum plugins are becoming increasingly valuable to engineers and producers.
Some of the sounds we’ll cover are to be expected, while some are more unorthodox and niche.
So whether you’re looking for some interesting new samples , or you’d prefer to find a more traditional drum sound, let’s delve into our picks for the Top 7 Free Drum Plugins.
These plugins aren’t samplers that require you load in the samples yourself or sequencers that simply arrange samples in a loop, but instead, tools with which you can craft beats and make new drum sounds.
Although some of these plugins will be more useful t you than others, we’ve put these in no particular order since they all work as described and offer a relatively versatile experience.
We hope that at least one of these instruments will play a role on your next single, EP, or album - so be sure to stick around to hear all of the samples for yourself.
The Sub Analog Drums offers 16 channels that can be customized
Although seemingly simple at first, Analog Drums offers a lot of flexibility when you consider some of the parameters with which you can control your samples.
Whereas other drum plugins have banks of samples that can be filtered through, Analog Drums has 16 samples that can be altered with rotaries in the plugin’s virtual mixer.
Each sample has a panpot and a level fader , which alter the position in the stereo image and the amplitude respectively.
The Bass drum, Snare, Toms, and Congas all have more customization settings.
The bass drum sample has the most parameters with which you can alter the sound. You can adjust the click rotary , which introduces a sweepable resonance filter, and the decay which alters the decay, sustain, and release of the sample.
On the far right of the plugin, you’ll notice additional parameters for the bass drum, including the bass drum’s sub frequency pitch, the same sub’s decay, and the gain of the sub.
The snare drum also includes some settings like the tone which is sweepable resonance filter, and the snap, which adjusts the amplitude of the snare’s high-frequency vibration and rattle.
On the far right of the plugin, the sub can be altered, as can the main volume.
The toms and congas can have their pitch altered, in turn making these 6 unique samples behave more like 30 or so unique samples.
To the right, there are some additional samples including a cowbell, maracas, and other classic takes on percussive instruments.
Lastly, a master rotary controls the output.
The only main issue that I have with this plugin is that the samples are not aligned on a keyboard in the same way they’re aligned in the plugin.
I expected that they would follow the same order, but unfortunately, they’ve been mapped to different keys, with no simple way of remapping them.
The Cassette series offers unique and classic lofi tones.
If you’re looking for classic tonality with the convenience of modern sampling, the Cassette series is a great choice.
With 3 separate instrument sets, each with 3 unique kits, it’s easy to find some samples that you’ll love.
Multiple instrument samples are grouped.
The samples range fromkicks, snares, hi-hats, toms, and cymbals. These groups are collectively controlled via the rotary above each strip.
The top rotary is the level or amplitude, while the lower rotary determines the sustain of the note after it has been hit.
So if you only tap the key relative to the sample, and the rotary is to the full left you’ll only hear the sample for as long as you hold on, but if the rotary is to the full right , the full sample will play regardless of how long you hold onto the key.
The number below the rotaries relates to the output channel - meaning you’ll most likely use 1 unless you selected the multichannel output option.
These groups can be disabled by clicking on their name.
If you’d prefer not to hear a group of samples, or if you don’t want them enabled, you can click the group's title to turn them off or on.
You can switch your sample sets between a Hot, Warm, and Clean kit, each denoting a unique timbre and amount of distortion.
Additionally, there’s a master output rotary to control the level of your signal.
The Cassette 808 and 909 are also included in the download.
When you download this instrument, you’ll also receive 2 additional instruments - the Cassette 808, and 909.
These plugins behave in the same way as the 606, but with different samples and timbres.
Royotoms focused on the tone of classic toms.
With an interface inspired by Dark Side of the Moon's album art, and tom samples straight out of an 80’s Rush album, the Royotoms is a great plugin for anyone looking to emulate a beloved era in drum history.
Dedicated solely to the sound of toms , this plugin is great for evoking the timbre of classic rock songs while maintaining a level of realism one would find in actual recordings.
There are 8 toms in total, each with gain and level panning.
There are 8 toms in total, each with a dedicated panpot and level rotary, This way you can adequately place the toms in your stereo image without having to duplicate the plugin multiple times.
The push rotary controls the decay of all of the toms, with more punch equating to a longer and more resonant decay,
Each tom has 3 velocity settings which can be observed at the top. This is controlled by the dynamic rotary, and can also be controlled by your midi controller or within your DAW.
There are two velocity levels, and reverb, which can be controlled on the top of the plugin.
The reverb time and reverb level rotaries introduce reverb to your toms and give a classic algorithmic digital reverb sound.
To the right in the rainbow prism graphic, you have your master output.
Although this may not be a go-to plugin for a lot of engineers, it does offer something unique that other drum plugins don’t - a classic drum sound that isn’t 808 or sample-based.
The MT Power DrumKit 2 is great for traditional rock sounds.
If you’re looking for a classic drum plugin, one that provides traditional rock drum samples, and loops to get started, then the MT Power DrumKit 2 is a great option.
The plugin consists of 3 primary windows:
In the Drum Kit section , you have the plugin’s most intuitive display. In this display, you can simply click on the drum you want to sample and hear that sample.
In the mixer, you can affect the level, pan, and compression amount of 16 tracks.
While in this window, you can still use a midi-controller to hear the samples, but click on the drum image is an option as well.
In the mixer section , you have a simplified analog emulation mixer, which allows you to control the pan, the level, and a basic compressor at the bottom. Additionally, you can also alter the signal’s output and mute the signal’s output.
If you’re like me, and you want the midi-mapping to match the order of your mixer’s channel strips, then you can click on the settings tab, and remap your midi notes to a chromatic scale on your keyboard.
In the settings section, midi mapping is available.
Lately, let’s look at the Groove or Loop Section of the plugin.
On the left there are multiple folders to choose from, each offering different loops at various BPMs.
You can then select the groove from the middle window, and insert any fills you want from the right window.
In the groove section, you can drag and drop multiple loops into your DAW.
These files can be dragged and dropped into the Composer bar, which can then be dragged and dropped directly into your DAW as midi data.
Lastly, you can switch these grooves between 3 velocities located under the style window on the left of the Groove section.
The Bazz Murda plugin is a synth that creates kick and bass samples.
Bazz Murda is a unique entry on this list. Unlike the other plugins, it isn’t exactly a drum instrument as much as it is a synth used to make kicks.
By using 3 oscillators and a lot of different settings , you can create unique kick sounds that range from the expected 808 tonalities to the unorthodox and sometimes jarring.
Now we won’t cover every function in this synth since that would take a long time, but let’s cover some of the basics.
There are 3 oscillators that can be affected.
First off, there are 3 main oscillators , each with a possible 40 wave types . You can then enable a low-frequency oscillator and match it to the phase of your wave or introduce an inverse phase.
The phase of your oscillator can be altered, as can the pitch and tune.
This middle section allows you to create high and low pass filters, with or without a resonance filter included.
To the right of the oscillator section, you can sync the frequency of your LFO modulation with your oscillator, as well as amplify, tune, filter, pan, and saturate the modulation.
The Volume and Filter ADSRs can be altered.
You can then edit the ADSR envelope of your pitch, volume, and of the modulation filter by using the various parameters and rotaries in each respective section.
Next, you can alter the FX of your filter and modulator with functions like a basic high pass, low pass equalizer for your filter, and additional oscillation from your modulator.
In the distortion section, you can introduce some harmonics with digital distortion like bit-rate reduction and aliasing.
In the distortion section, bit and sample rate-distortion can be introduced - as can compression and expansion.
Your dynamics can also be altered to create some basic compression and saturation or to create unique compression and expansion relationships in the signal.
At the bottom right of the synth are some universal functions, including but not limited to tuning, harmonies or voices, an EQ section, a panpot, an output rotary, and others.
In the master section, global parameters can be altered.
If you’re in doubt, try filtering through some of the presets provided with the plugin, but be sure to do so with your volume down. Some of these presets can be pretty abrasive.
The GB Drum Box is comprised of retro video game samples.
This next plugin definitely won’t be a lot of people’s first pick, but it is no doubt the most unique and niche plugin on the list.
Interestingly enough, the GB in GB DrumBox stands GameBoy, because each sample that’s used in this plugin is from a retro video game.
Whether the samples are taken from the GabeBoy itself, the Atari, or various arcade cabinets is kind of up for debate. Despite where the samples come from, it makes for a great way to introduce some unexpected nostalgia into any production.
In the top section, you can alter the kit bank, the LFO, and other parameters.
12 Drum Kits can be cycled through via the top display, each with 8 unique percussive video game samples. From this same top panel, you can introduce an LFO, a high pass or low pass filter, and use a midi controller to alter the velocity, pitch, and other parameters.
Each sample can have its level, pan, and decay controlled via a rotary. Up top, you can introduce a cutoff, global reverb, an amp, as well as adjust the LFO’s depth and rate.
Up top are a cutoff, reverb, amp, LFO, attack, and volume rotaries.
Additionally, you can slow the attack of the plugin to create a gradual build in the sample’s amplitude . Lastly, the volume rotary acts as the output for the plugin.
And in case you missed it, the icons for each sample are from space invaders - so if you need another reason to try this plugin, there it is.
Cymbalistic includes 40 samples in total.
Last up is Cymbalistic - another plugin by Alan Vista, the same developer that created the Royotom we discussed previously.
It seems that Alan Vista has a knack for creating plugins you don’t think you’ll need until you actually try it.
At first, the notion of using a plugin dedicated solely to cymbals doesn’t sound appealing, but when you listen to the samples you realize the value.
These samples are broken into groups of 5, which can have their levels, pans, and releases adjusted.
Fake cymbals or cymbal samples are often an easy giveaway that a drum set wasn’t recorded organically , but with the Cymbalistic plugin, you can create realistic cymbals and versatile percussion.
There are 40 samples in total , made up of 8 categories with 5 samples each. These groups can be panned, turned up or down, and have their release time adjusted.
The dynamic range can also be altered at the top of the plugin, which alters the available velocity between two settings.
Lastly, a master volume rotary can be used to alter the output.
Snare Buzz adds a snare buzz whenever an instrument is played.
This bonus plugin isn’t a virtual drum instrument, but it is one of my favorite drum plugins. I found to when making one of these free plugins lists, but haven’t been able to find a time to talk about it.
That said, I thought I’d include it here, since it is after all, free.
Essentially this plugin creates a snare buzz as if the instrument you place it on is in the room with a drum set.
The plugin also includes a reverb that can be used to adjust the buzz and instrument onto which its been placed.
For example, if you place the plugin on a bass guitar, then every time a note is played, a snare buzz will be generated.
The amount of buzz, as well as the general response this plugin has to the incoming signal, can be altered, as can a room reverb via the room size and room mix rotaries.
The gain, pan, and wet/dry can be adjusted in the master output.
In short, this doesn’t seem like a plugin you’ll need until you try it, and then you’ll want to use it on every instrument to create a realistic practice-room like sound.
Not every plugin and virtual instrument on this list will be useful to you, but hopefully, at least one will.
Regardless of the genre that you spend the most time making or producing, there’s always time to expand your soundscape and choose new samples with which you can create unique music.
Whether you just want a loop you can practice to, like with the MTPower DrumKit 2, or maybe you want to emulate classic loft sounds with the Cassette 606, there’s something here for almost every producer, engineer, and artist.
If you use one of these plugins, let us know how it goes in the video’s comment section.