How Do YOU Use BFD?

I’ve got a lot of questions. HaHa ! I’m primarily a guitar player / songwriter. I used a drum machine to record demos for a while. I got a BFD demo with Pro Tools, and have enjoyed its evolution over the years. I have got my ass kicked a couple of times in transitional periods ( like now) overall it’s been great.

I can play drums ok, in my head I’m amazing. So I make my own beats. And just doing that, I’m happy. But the more I learn about it, I see there’s a lot I don’t know.

I use BFD “live” on an instrument track. I have never really bounced to individual pieces to individual tracks. While I would love to add more reverb to my snare sometimes, I like being able to freely add / delete things at will is very cool.

I’m sure there are many ways to use this instrument. How do you use it ?

Well. It all depends. I mainly play the trombone, but I play a tiny little bit of everything and have all kinds of musical ideas. BFD is my drummer, before an idea takes off (if ever) and reaches my drummer friend, so that he has a good idea of what I’m envisioning for the piece.

Now, if I want to use BFD as a simple “drum machine” of sorts, just playing a repetitive and kind of placeholder beat to help me along while I’m putting everything together, I might:

  • Load grooves that are close enough to what I’m looking for.
  • Drag’n’drop them to the instrument’s track.
  • Leave the instrument output to a simple stereo pair, and just find a balance between Amb3 and direct.
  • Apply some quick and dirty effects to individual kit pieces.
  • Apply some parallel processing to the instrument.
  • Do none of that and wait it out, in case…

I want to use BFD as an imaginary drummer:

  • In this case, I might reset the mixer, activate every output available on the instrument so that each kit piece returns to my DAW as a different channel.
  • I will manually write grooves using the excellent paint tool which makes writing rudiments a breeze even between kit pieces, organize those grooves, apply Groove FX to them and drop them to the instrument track. This is fairly time consuming as it requires much refinement in multiple passes, be it re-evaluating hits (usually removing some of them so that it sounds closer to real playing), further refinement of velocities, fills etc.
  • At that time BFD is done, and the mix takes place on the DAW level. Compression, grouping, parallel processing, effects and all that.

And last but not least: I may just load up a kit and a groove palette, set BFD to palette play and jam along.

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Thanks, you mentioned some things I’m not familiar with. Paint tool ? Reset the mixer ? Groove FX? Parallel Processing?

If you have time, please explain.

I do have some time, I think. :laughing:

Paint Tool

You select a rudiment, and then choose the paint tool. When you click and drag, the rudiment will be written on the selected articulation. You can also select a secondary articulation, and split the rudiment between those two pieces while dragging (split the rudiment by left and right hand, that is).
Paint Tool

Groove FX

You can apply groove fx to a groove, or a whole palette of grooves. This means you can add or subtract weight (increase or decrease velocities), you can compress or expand velocities, apply swing or straighten a groove and more.
Groove Fx

Reset Mixer

Many times I start off with a preset. A preset may have specific effects inserted on some channels, or specific levels set at the faders, or panning applied, or anything else. Some times, I need to keep the loaded kit, grooves etc, and just reset the mixer. I could always opt to NOT load the mixer settings when loading the preset, but most times I just forget I can actually do that.
Reset mixer

Parallel Processing

Parallel processing is a fairly simple idea. You have your mix. You split it off to a second bus/group/aux call it what you want. You then go to this second group and mangle it up with heavy compression, FX, EQ, distortion, whatever you want. You then blend the “tame” mix with the “wild” one, and you get the best of both worlds. You can even split to a third group, apply a Low Pass filter, or a High Pass filter and just treat this band or that to taste. Imagination and taste are the only limiting factors in my opinion.

Parallel Processing

I know this gif isn’t very helpful, but there are many great video tutorials on youtube that you could watch, that explain it at length. What I’m doing here is Sending all kit pieces to a new aux group, into which I then load a heavy handed compressor and a very thick reverb. Alone, it would sound way too much, but balancing the level of the aux group against the master mix we can find a good balance.


I use them in my productions and only recently started to use the grooves to make backing tracks to practice my live instruments. I’m big on routing all the mics to individual channels for a better mix.

Dude by the name Stro Elliot convinced me to get serious about finger drumming so I’m fairly decent in that regard. That’s primarily how I use them

Are you some kind of wizard or something? How did you post that ? Haven’t read them yet, thanks

There’s a little program, licecap, that captures your screen into a gif. Gifs are fairly small in size relatively to video, and even though they come out choppy (eh, they’re gifs) I think it’s a good tool to use here for the forum. A picture is a thousand words!

Its amazing how one can spend so much time using an app and completely miss certain features. I’ve even watched a multiple hours long BFD tutorial dvd :slight_smile:

The rudiments window I totally forgot existed and have never used. Thats going to change. And the parallel processing tip was good stuff. I’ve been doing that in other ways, but your way is a click/time saver.

Excellent post! :smiley:

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Glad to be of service! I too learn much from other users, it’s great when forums work like this! :slightly_smiling_face:

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Nice one, you have shown some good stuff, it will take a while to try them.

I too got into BFD with a lite version years ago from Pro Tools. I eventually got the full version of BFD and then upgraded to BFD2. I would always program my drums in Pro Tools using a MIDI keyboard, then fine tune the velocity and timing until my eyes popped out. Back then I didn’t know much about mixing, but I would process the drums as best I could within BFD and then bounce a stereo track.

I never upgraded to BFD3 and moved on to Steven Slate Drums for a few years. As my mixing got better, I started to bounce individual drum tracks in Pro Tools and mix there, as it was just a more normal workflow like when you get multitrack with live drums.

So now I’m back with BFD and it’s been great to hear these kits and the details I was missing with SSD 5. This time around, I’ve been messing more with grooves and the editor, trying to see whether it’s better to construct my beats in BFD, or Pro Tools. I feel like the editor isn’t quite there yet to be my one stop for creating a whole drum track. It’s a little wonky at times. I will say, that just loading up some grooves is a quick way to jam and get song ideas going though.

My plan is to use BFD3 for my main kit sound and print individual tracks in Pro Tools and I’ll use Slate drums for kick, snare and room and blend them. That way I can have a lively kit sound, but some added punch.

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