Best Drum Trigger Plugins (Free and Paid Options)

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Recording drums can be tricky. Even if you capture amazing drum recordings, you might decide that you don’t love the tone of the snare you used that day. You may be recording a drummer who doesn’t hit as hard as they should. Or maybe your kick drum just isn’t filling in the mix as much as you’d like. That’s where a drum trigger plugin comes in.

No matter the reason, eventually most engineers or mixers will end up layering in some drum samples. When it comes time to add samples, there are many routes you can take. The easiest and quickest way is using a drum sample triggering software! Picking which drum trigger plugin is right for you

Which drum trigger software is right for you?

Each plugin will have its own pros and cons, and at the end of the day, you’ll need to choose which one is right for you, but we can help you make an informed decision. All of the drum replacement plugins will have different workflows, different built in tools, and some even come with drum samples you can add to your sample library! Below are several drum sample replacement plugins that you can check out!

Free Option:

Slate Trigger 2 Free

The best free option you have is the free, never-expiring trial of Slate Trigger 2.

Slate’s free version of Trigger includes 6 kick and 6 snare samples. You’ll need to make an account on Slate’s website to download the software, but it only takes a few minutes. We have an in depth article about this plugin here!

Download Slate Trigger 2 Free!

Besides being an incredible drum replacement software, did we mention that it’s free? Considering the fact that Slate is one of the leading drum software companies, the fact that this plugin now has a free version makes it the obvious choice.

Addictive Trigger by xln audio.

Addictive Trigger Drum Sampler

Addictive Trigger is a great option if you want to load up a plugin, make some tweaks, and then move on to the rest of your mix. It features Audio Fingerprint, a feature that analyzes your drum tracks and adjusts the parameters based on what it hears. That feature alone makes this an intriguing choice for a drum sample plugin.

The optional Drum Vault expansion makes this a great choice as well. These high quality samples make it quick to nail the drum sound you’re after, and we find the samples to be diverse. There’s nothing worse than clicking through 500 snare samples to find the one you’re after, and the Drum Vault sounds all sound unique enough to cover all the bases without being overwhelming. We especially like the included snare sounds.

There is a free trial option, so you can test out the Audio Fingerprint for yourself! Addictive Trigger is by xln audio, a trusted plugin manufacturer who also makes Addictive Drums, one of the best MIDI drum plugins on the market.

Try/buy Addictive Trigger!

Drumagog 5 by WaveMachine Labs

Drumagog was actually the very first drum replacement software I ever heard about. In ~2010, a friend of mine used it to add samples to a drum cover he produced for YouTube. Since then, they’ve put out several new versions and added tons of features. New to Version 5 is the file browser, which allows you to browse your whole computer for sample files.

Drumagog 5 has a nice looking interface, and has lots of options that other plugins don’t offer. The humanizing multisample features are great for keeping an organic vibe to your recording.

Get Drumagog on Sweetwater!

Slate Trigger 2 Platinum by Steven Slate Drums

My personal favorite drum replacer is Slate Trigger. I have used it on dozens, if not hundreds, of songs over the years, and it’s probably one of my desert island plugins.

Allowing up to 8 samples per drum, and with tons of built in mixing capabilities, Trigger allows you to get the most out of your drum recordings. The included samples sound great, but they also offer a vast array of expansion libraries. My personal favorite is the Chris Lord-Alge Expansion, which I use on rock drums often.

Get Slate Trigger 2 Platinum on Sweetwater!

The Cheapest Option: APTrigga3 by apulSoft

APTrigga3 is a wildcard pick here. Coming in at under half the price of the other options, APTrigga3 is great for someone who wants more flexibility and doesn’t mind doing some ground work. Since APTrigga3 doesn’t come with any samples, you’ll have to do some work to find (or create) your own. The interface also isn’t the prettiest, but we’re chasing the best sound, after all.

If you’re looking for a budget option, this could be the one for you. There is a free trial period, so give it a spin and see how you like it!

Get apTrigga3 here!

How to use Drum Trigger Software

Using drum trigger replacement software is a pretty straightforward process.

Step 1: Record your drums!

Record with drum trigger software in mind. For example, if you know that you’ll probably be replacing your snare drum, try to get as little of the snare in your other mics as you reasonable can. Perhaps you can place your hi-hat mic farther from the snare, and keep your overheads more over the cymbals than the shells.

However, you should never lazily record your drums knowing that you have the option of replacing them later. Whether or not you’re planning on using drum replacement software, take the time to tune your drums well, mic them up properly, and capture great recordings. You’ll spend less time mixing and editing your drums if you take the time to record them properly.

Step 2: Edit and do a quick mixing pass.

It’s a lot easier to pick your drum samples if your recording is quantized (if you’re a fan of quantizing) and somewhat mixed. Give yourself a clear picture of what your drum sound is lacking, and what your samples should be doing to improve the drum mix.

Step 3: Add the samples!

You’ll want to follow the instructions that come with your drum trigger software. Typically, I’ll start with the kick drum, and try to find a kick sample that plays well with the style of song I’m working on, the tone of the bass guitar, and the vibe of the rest of the drum kit. Next up, I’ll work on the snare using the same criteria, except I’m looking for a snare that cuts through the guitars and plays nicely with the vocals.

You may need to adjust the sensitivity of the drum trigger to make sure it’s not misfiring when you hit other drums. It can be useful to strip out any portions of the audio track when you’re not hitting the drum you’re replacing, or to add a noise gate before your trigger plugin to remove background noise.

Now you should have some hard hitting drums that add to the overall vibe of your song! Whether you add samples in the recording and tracking phase, or the mixing phase, is up to you!

The best drum trigger software

is the one that suits your needs the best. My top pick is Slate Trigger, and the addition of a free option is awesome! Take the time to download the trial versions of all of the software options, play around with the user interfaces, and see what jives with your workflow. For me, Trigger has the best UI, and the included samples sound great.

If you enjoyed this drum replacement software roundup, check out the rest of our software reviews here!

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About the Author: Adam Sliger

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I'm the founder of makethatlouder.com, and a producer, musician, and songwriter based out of Orlando, FL. I have 10 years experience producing and owning a commercial recording studio. I write and produce music for artists, TV, and for my solo project, Night Winds. When I'm not writing and recording, I'm into food, coffee, and riding rollercoasters!

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