great post. from an engineering perspective I agree with most everything Mr. Meeker said.
I will say this though, using samples is in NO WAY a cop out for the real deal here in 2012 IF you are a well practiced, well trained, passionate professional musician. it should start and END ALWAYS with the music and what is appropriate for it and how the artist wants to communicate to the listener. if that means you have the technology to make your snare sound like a dying cat and that is your goal.. then by all means.. DO IT.
what gets me is the inherent argument that a good real drum set played by a great player with killer mics and a great engineer in a great room is ALWAYS going to sound better then samples or triggering in the same situation (in context to non electronic music of course), and unfortunately that simply isn't the case any longer (modern computers and sampling programs CAN, and DO recreate EXACTLY the same amount of dynamics on a drumset if played properly as the real deal does).
I saw doom64 make a very relevant post stating that getting a killer drum sound with real drums would be great, but just isnt practical for him being in a small basement studio with "ok" drums recording bands for little to nothing. He then showed some examples, which from an example standpoint were excellent. from a music standpoint however...sorry to be the dick here.. but holy cow was that music BAD.
See, THAT is the problem. it's not SUPPOSED to be about getting the "perfect" drum tone, it's SUPPOSED to be about learning your craft, practicing for unending hours with your instrument, learning how to use it, learning how to play, then playing with other like minded musicians who LOVE what they do too THEN going into a studio and recording your well thought out, beautifully performed music. The reason everything sounds the same nowadays in the commercial music market with only a few exceptions is because too many "pro musicians" DONT learn their craft and then RELY on technology saving them from being crappy musicians, engineers and producers. It's NOT just because of technology, it's NOT JUST because everyone uses the same samples, it's because the person decided at some point in the recent past that "hey..I can afford a cheap drum set! yeh! now i'm definitely gonna be a rockstar, because i have a drum set!, and an m-audio sound interface!". doing music for fun is great, but i think the point of a post about getting great drum tones with REAL drums is lost on too many people nowadays. It sure seems to me that the "line" between what being a professional music person (engineer, musician, producer) is and what being a hobbyist is has blurred to the point that the majority of people don't see the difference anymore. I'm in no way calling out any individual here, but commenting about how samples are just as good as the real thing IS NOT a good argument if you say it because you only have two sm57s in an untreated basement with a cb percussion kit (sorry cb.. but you suck
e), and it is your ONLY option to making something sound less than terrible in context
e. If that's the case for you, honestly, you probably should be spending your time practicing so your 2 sm57's can eventually turn into recording professionally. Trying to learn how to do Calculus BEFORE you learn basic math is foolish. even if sometimes you can grasp an advanced concept without the basic skills.
Mr Meeker gave a BUNCH of great examples of some drum tones, i read many people talking about the police, and how they did the drums one track at a time for total isolation. i didnt really see the response that said how EVERY SINGLE ONE of the examples he linked were played by REAL, PROFESSIONAL, TRAINED, WORLD TRAVELED, MEDIA AWARE MUSICIANS. these people LIVE for music, like me. I'm not saying people should stop aiming for their goals, by all means.. if you have a goal of being the next john bonham...then get a vistalite kit, sit in a room for 6-12 hours a day, for A LONG time, preferably with a metronome click and get to work
e. i hate to be the bearer of bad news though, but mediocrity, unless your last name is Kardashian, will NEVER get you to your goal unless you are starting the journey with a truckload of money. if your recording in your basement with 4 mics and you are trying to make a living doing that, and you didn't spend literally thousands of hours either self teaching through the internet, or going to a school so you can know WHY something sounds the way it does, you're probably NOT going to be successful. PRACTICE YOUR CRAFT. if you are trying to be a producer..learn how to find and acknowledge a GREAT band, if your trying to be an engineer, learn how to say "NO, im not going to engineer your shitty band, because no matter how great the "sound" is...your still a shitty band". "but Bubba, i read that the foo fighters recorded their last album in Dave Grohl's garage, with very little room tuning, and minimal technology, so see, you CAN get that great drum sound in your basement". STOP RIGHT THERE. Use your common sense. I could put a radioshack dynamic mic on a kit in a closet and you know what...if Taylor Hawkins was playing on it, it's gonna sound GREAT. you know what else..Dave Grohl is FREEKIN AWESOME, the guy is a historical figure for goodness sake, YOUR BAND ISNT GONNA SOUND LIKE THEM (I speak of quality, not style or genre) It's not that you CANT sound like them, or be at that level, but most "musicians" out there today are more interested in the fame, the money, than learning how to play an instrument through to a professional level so the people that hear it can be effected by it, and have an emotional response from the audience other than "whatever". there is no gate, no reverb, no plugin IN THE WORLD, other than maybe the program melodyne for the voice (and even that has limitations) that will make someone that is NOT GOOD, BE GOOD. The best possible sound 100 percent of the time, is having a great player, writer, producer and performer. ALWAYS start with solid, well played music, and you will be SHOCKED at how quickly you can go from having 4 mics in your basement, to recording some band with sold out world tours.
now that i went off on a tangent there lol, for the love of all that is dear to you, if you want to know how to get a great live drum "SOUND" taking away the performance and everything THE MOST IMPORTANT THING with a real kit is LEARN HOW TO TUNE IT. i mean, really really learn how. every single kit is different. Standing in the room to hear how well you tuned your floor tom really isnt gonna do it either, do a scrub take..listen...adjust. then WHILE RECORDING pay attention to changes that may be taking place so you can keep the kit tuned. i personally also use another person to go into the live room with a headphone talkback while i listen to him/her move the room mics around the room until i have found the "sweet" spots. that will make a HUGE difference. if your in the same room, scrub...listen...move room mics...repeat until you get the optimal sound. Also nuthin will piss off a rock drummer more than laying their awesome beat down, only for the take to be poop because the engineer wasnt paying attention to the fact that the snare head got too loose because the drummer did 10 dave lombardo style takes and the engineer didnt MAKE SURE the kit was still in tune. If you plan on being a pro music engineer with emphasis on drum engineering, you NEED to invest in a great drumset in its entirety. nowadays that unfortunately isnt cheap. even if you dont play drums. it is SOOO nice to be able to tell your client "i noticed you are using sunlight cymbals, can we swap those out for these sabian HHX's, or these paiste or zildjian avedis cymbals?".
I've personally switched over to the edrums running into a computer using a bunch of different virtual instruments, but in particular, i find the steven slate drums 4.0 to be outstanding, as well as the native instruments studio drummer apps. playing an ekit and having it sound JUST like a real kit IS possible but DOES have a drummer learning curve since most of the higher end edrums have much more of a "bounce" off the head than a real drum does. for me personally after about a month i now actually can play BETTER on an e kit than on a real kit. There is absolutely NO WAY you could tell i did not use a real drum kit in a blind test..NO WAY, with the VI's set up properly with VERY low latency going into the computer. plus you also have the added bonus of being able to use those weak ass 7a or 8a sticks on your drums without any effect on the sound, as long as you setup the ekit properly.