Session Drummer 2: custom kits and instruments

screen shot image of Session Drummer 2 gui
note: the illustrations in this tutorial use a custom skin for Session Drummer 2.
download the custom skin here

 Session Drummer 2 is a professional drum sampler and pattern player that appears in the Soft Synths plug-in list in Cakewalk's SONAR. Custom instruments can be used with Session Drummer 2 but it may be a bit confusing to learn how to do this. This tutorial will try to make it easy to use your own custom kits.

 To begin with, let's define several file types that are used in Session Drummer 2's library structure.

Program: a collection of kits and midi patterns. The file extension is .prog

Kit: a collection of instruments. The file extension is .kit

Instruments: a sound font or collection of .wav files defined as a list. In Session Drummer 2 the various .wav files correspond to MIDI keys and ranges of MIDI velocity assigned in the .sfz file. The file extension is .sfz

 All these file types can be viewed in a plain text editor like NotePad but only the .sfz instrument files may be saved with such a text editor. Program and Kit files must be assembled and saved within Session Drummer 2.

 This tutorial focuses on preparing and assembling .sfz instruments so that they may be incorporated into .kit and .prog files with Session Drummer 2.

 Locate your Session Drummer 2 directory:

 Open the Contents directory:

 Open the Kits directory:

 note: The .kit files can be viewed with a text editor but Session Drummer 2 .kit files are created, edited, and saved with Session Drummer 2. You must use Session Drummer 2 to edit and save.

 Each Session Drummer 2 .kit file refers to 10 .sfz instrument files named something like this:

01) _Bass.sfz
02) _Snares.sfz
03) _Hats.sfz
04) _Hi Toms.sfz
05) _Lo Toms.sfz
06) _Floor Toms.sfz
07) _Crash.sfz
08) _Rides.sfz
09) _efx.sfz
10) _bell.sfz

 As an example, let's look inside the 2 - Snares directory:

 The .sfz files shown above can be created and edited with a text editor. These are the sound font files that are essentially lists of .wav files making a collection of sounds known as an instrument. Think of a .sfz file as the instrument.

 It can be helpful for organizational purposes to keep the collections of .wav files in directories. Here is a partial view of the collection of .wav files in my MQ Tama Snares directory:

 To summarize, a soundfont or instrument is a .sfz file and it's associated .wav file collection.

 Here is a portion of the contents of my custom made MQ Tama Snares.sfz file:
// -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
// MQ Tama Snares Sample Set
// Tama Star Classic Performer (Birch) 14"x5.5" tuned for woody sound
// recorded on May 13th 2007 by Mike and Gia McCue
// -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

// Acoustic Snare:

<group> key=38 loop_mode=one_shot

<region> lovel=000 hivel=015 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 01.wav
<region> lovel=016 hivel=024 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 02.wav
<region> lovel=025 hivel=033 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 03.wav
<region> lovel=034 hivel=042 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 04.wav
<region> lovel=043 hivel=047 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 05.wav
<region> lovel=048 hivel=052 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 06.wav
<region> lovel=053 hivel=057 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 07.wav
<region> lovel=058 hivel=064 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 08.wav
<region> lovel=065 hivel=069 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 09.wav
<region> lovel=070 hivel=074 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 10.wav
<region> lovel=075 hivel=079 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 11.wav
<region> lovel=080 hivel=084 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 12.wav
<region> lovel=085 hivel=089 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 13.wav
<region> lovel=090 hivel=094 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 14.wav
<region> lovel=095 hivel=099 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 15.wav
<region> lovel=100 hivel=104 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 16.wav
<region> lovel=105 hivel=109 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 17.wav
<region> lovel=110 hivel=114 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 18.wav
<region> lovel=115 hivel=119 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 19.wav
<region> lovel=120 hivel=127 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 20.wav

This line:

<group> key=38 loop_mode=one_shot

defines the MIDI key that triggers this instrument and the loop mode. The loop mode can be loop_mode=one_shot or loop_mode=loop_sustain

Lines like this:

<region> lovel=075 hivel=079 sample=MQ Tama Snares\MQ TamaStarClassic14x5birch 11.wav

define which .wav sample file will play within the MIDI velocity region specified. Notice that the sample= entry includes the directory info.


a step by step how to:
add a DIY custom instrument to a Session Drummer 2 kit:

 Here is a screen shot of a "Master".wav file of 30 crash cymbal hits:

 The cymbal hits were recorded in SONAR 7. I played the cymbal at various intensities trying to create a progression of low to high volume hits. The .wav file shown above has been edited in the waveform editor, Adobe Audition 2, to create a progression from lower to higher amplitudes.
 The amplitude and character of each hit should correspond with the velocity region that each sample will be assigned to

 Use the "Master".wav file to make seperate .wav files for each cymbal hit instance:

 You can create the clips maually or with several automated slicing methods.

 I used a piece of freeware from Second Face Productions called WaveKnife v1.14alpha to automatically cut the "Master".wav file into 30 single hit, sequentially numbered .wav files:

 Some times the file names are cumbersome. I use CKRename from CKSoft Software to automatically rename file sequences:

 Here are the files which I have placed as a sample set in \VstPlugins\Session Drummer 2\Contents\Kits\MQ Tama Starclassic\MQ-Av16PaperThin\

 Here is a custom MQ-Tama2008-crash.sfz instrument file that has been written and edited with NotePad.
 Notice the use of the thirty 16PaperThin_**.wav files for the Session Drummer 2 Crash Cymbal 1.

//MQ Tama2008 Zildjian Crash cymbal collection


//16" Zildjian Avedis Paper Thin Crash
// Crash Cymbal 1
<group> key=49 loop_mode=one_shot

//30 levels
<region> lovel=000 hivel=007 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_01.wav
<region> lovel=008 hivel=011 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_02.wav
<region> lovel=012 hivel=015 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_03.wav
<region> lovel=016 hivel=019 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_04.wav
<region> lovel=020 hivel=023 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_05.wav
<region> lovel=024 hivel=027 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_06.wav
<region> lovel=028 hivel=031 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_07.wav
<region> lovel=032 hivel=035 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_08.wav
<region> lovel=036 hivel=039 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_09.wav
<region> lovel=040 hivel=043 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_10.wav
<region> lovel=044 hivel=047 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_11.wav
<region> lovel=048 hivel=051 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_12.wav
<region> lovel=052 hivel=055 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_13.wav
<region> lovel=056 hivel=059 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_14.wav
<region> lovel=060 hivel=063 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_15.wav
<region> lovel=064 hivel=067 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_16.wav
<region> lovel=068 hivel=071 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_17.wav
<region> lovel=072 hivel=075 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_18.wav
<region> lovel=076 hivel=079 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_19.wav
<region> lovel=080 hivel=083 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_20.wav
<region> lovel=084 hivel=087 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_21.wav
<region> lovel=088 hivel=091 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_22.wav
<region> lovel=092 hivel=095 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_23.wav
<region> lovel=096 hivel=099 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_24.wav
<region> lovel=100 hivel=103 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_25.wav
<region> lovel=104 hivel=107 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_26.wav
<region> lovel=108 hivel=111 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_27.wav
<region> lovel=112 hivel=115 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_28.wav
<region> lovel=116 hivel=119 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_29.wav
<region> lovel=120 hivel=127 sample=MQ-Av16PaperThin\16PaperThin_30.wav

// 8" Zildjian Avedis Fast Splash
// Chinese Cymbal
<group> key=52 loop_mode=one_shot

//21 levels
<region> lovel=000 hivel=015 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_01.wav
<region> lovel=016 hivel=024 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_02.wav
<region> lovel=025 hivel=033 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_03.wav
<region> lovel=034 hivel=042 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_04.wav
<region> lovel=043 hivel=047 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_05.wav
<region> lovel=048 hivel=052 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_06.wav
<region> lovel=053 hivel=057 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_07.wav
<region> lovel=058 hivel=064 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_08.wav
<region> lovel=065 hivel=069 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_09.wav
<region> lovel=070 hivel=074 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_10.wav
<region> lovel=075 hivel=079 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_11.wav
<region> lovel=080 hivel=084 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_12.wav
<region> lovel=085 hivel=089 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_13.wav
<region> lovel=090 hivel=094 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_14.wav
<region> lovel=095 hivel=099 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_15.wav
<region> lovel=100 hivel=104 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_16.wav
<region> lovel=105 hivel=109 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_17.wav
<region> lovel=110 hivel=114 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_18.wav
<region> lovel=115 hivel=119 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_19.wav
<region> lovel=120 hivel=124 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_20.wav
<region> lovel=125 hivel=127 sample=MQ-Av8FastSplash\8FastSplash_21.wav

//10" Zildjian Avedis Splash
// Splash Cymbal
<group> key=55 loop_mode=one_shot

//20 levels
<region> lovel=000 hivel=015 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_01.wav
<region> lovel=016 hivel=024 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_02.wav
<region> lovel=025 hivel=033 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_03.wav
<region> lovel=034 hivel=042 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_04.wav
<region> lovel=043 hivel=047 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_05.wav
<region> lovel=048 hivel=052 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_06.wav
<region> lovel=053 hivel=057 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_07.wav
<region> lovel=058 hivel=064 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_08.wav
<region> lovel=065 hivel=069 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_09.wav
<region> lovel=070 hivel=074 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_10.wav
<region> lovel=075 hivel=079 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_11.wav
<region> lovel=080 hivel=084 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_12.wav
<region> lovel=085 hivel=089 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_13.wav
<region> lovel=090 hivel=094 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_14.wav
<region> lovel=095 hivel=099 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_15.wav
<region> lovel=100 hivel=104 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_16.wav
<region> lovel=105 hivel=109 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_17.wav
<region> lovel=110 hivel=114 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_18.wav
<region> lovel=115 hivel=119 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_19.wav
<region> lovel=120 hivel=127 sample=MQ-Av10Splash\10Splash_20.wav


//16" Zildjian Avedis Thin Crash
// Crash Cymbal 2
<group> key=57 loop_mode=one_shot

//25 levels
<region> lovel=000 hivel=009 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_01.wav
<region> lovel=010 hivel=014 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_02.wav
<region> lovel=015 hivel=019 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_03.wav
<region> lovel=020 hivel=024 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_04.wav
<region> lovel=025 hivel=029 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_05.wav
<region> lovel=030 hivel=034 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_06.wav
<region> lovel=035 hivel=039 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_07.wav
<region> lovel=040 hivel=044 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_08.wav
<region> lovel=045 hivel=049 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_09.wav
<region> lovel=050 hivel=054 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_10.wav
<region> lovel=055 hivel=059 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_11.wav
<region> lovel=060 hivel=064 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_12.wav
<region> lovel=065 hivel=069 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_13.wav
<region> lovel=070 hivel=074 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_14.wav
<region> lovel=075 hivel=079 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_15.wav
<region> lovel=080 hivel=084 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_16.wav
<region> lovel=085 hivel=089 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_17.wav
<region> lovel=090 hivel=094 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_18.wav
<region> lovel=095 hivel=099 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_19.wav
<region> lovel=100 hivel=104 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_20.wav
<region> lovel=105 hivel=109 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_21.wav
<region> lovel=110 hivel=114 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_22.wav
<region> lovel=115 hivel=119 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_23.wav
<region> lovel=120 hivel=124 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_24.wav
<region> lovel=125 hivel=127 sample=MQ-Av16Thin\16Thin_25.wav

loading a .sfz instrument into Session Drummer 2:
 Here is a step by step example that will illustrate how to load the MQ-Tama2008-crash.sfz instrument file, mentioned above, to make a custom kit and program.

 Launch SONAR and open an instance of Session Drummer 2:

 Click on the Crash Pad to activate it:

 Right Click on the Crash Pad. You can load instruments from here and you can also see what "Notes" are assigned to the Pad. The instrument .sfz file can reference each of these "Notes" to a sample set of .wav files.

 Rather than use the Crash Pad to load instruments move the cursor to the top left of the Session Drummer 2 window and look at the 3 menu items labeled "PROG", "MIDI", and "PAD". In this example the current Crash Pad is the stock sl tight dry crashes.sfz instrument file:

 Click on the "PAD" to view the menu choices. You can load instruments and manage kits. This is the primary place to create, edit, and save Session Drummer 2 .kit files.

 Select "Load Instrument"

 Locate and select the .sfz instrument file. In this example I have selected the MQ-Tama2008-crash.sfz:

 Now the PAD menu indicates that the custom crash cymbals instruments is loaded:

 Now you can save the custom .kit file. Click on the "PAD" to view the menu choices:

 Select "Save Kit" or "Save Kit As":

 Save the kit:

 Click on the PROG to view the Program menu:

 To make a new Program select Save Program As...

 This example shows how to save the custom program file MQ Tama Starclassic 2008.prog:

 Now the PROG menu indicates that the MQ TAMA Starclassic 2008.prog Program file is loaded:

 Click on the MIDI to view the MIDI Pattern menu:

 This example shows how to Unload All Patterns:

 Now the MIDI patterns are cleared:

You can load suitable MIDI Pattern clips to complete a custom Session Drummer 2 Program package.