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Is it possible to quantize drums to a click?
Old 13th September 2020
  #1
Is it possible to quantize drums to a click?

So, I've recorded a dozen songs with a drummer who can't play to a click. I think I'd like to quantize the drum tracks to a click - we haven't yet recorded any other tracks that don't need redoing anyways. Can this be done with something like Studio One? I've been working in Audacity so far. Originally I was just going to do the tracks and have someone else do the mix but that might be a problem now :-/
Old 13th September 2020
  #2
Opinion first. Quantising live drumming defeats the point of live drumming. Drumming is all about the feel and that's a human thing and you will throw it away by quantising. If the feel of the drum take is bad, redo the take. If the drummer can't achieve a good feel, get a different drummer. If you need a drummer to play to a click for your production, find a drummer who can play to a click (and play with feel around a click) and hire one. Otherwise whatever you end up with may as well have never been recorded.

Now the bit you want to hear. Yes, you can quantise any audio in Studio One. If the transients are clean and detectable there will be a lot less detail work and the whole process will go better. The more separated the drums across your multi-tracks are the better this will work. Beware the implications of moving single tracks around if the drums are also in the overheads or room mics! Also beware of the phasing issues you can create across mics that spill. It can get very, very complicated and you can spend endless hours on it and ultimately end up with something that sounds worse ... so tread carefully and keep a copy of the un-mangled tracks for A-B-ing or reverting.

But on the other hand - there's only one way to learn the hard lessons I guess. Have at it!
Old 13th September 2020
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by ambiguous signal View Post
If the drummer can't achieve a good feel, get a different drummer.
This is the 4th album of a band that released their first in 1999 - replacing the original drummer is not an option. His declining health will probably make this his last album.
Old 13th September 2020
  #4
Gear Maniac
It's not so very hard to do this in (for instance) Reaper. Bit fiddly maybe, but you can fold all the drum tracks into a single multichannel item, that way at least they'll stay together as you edit (should avoid phase issues). I've done this sort of thing by manually splitting into chunks (2 bar, 4 bar, 8, or single measures, whatever works) and stretching/squeezing to fit to the grid.

This way you can keep some of the feel within phrases, and if you wish, set up a tempo map that follows the drummers musical intention (even if not executed perfectly) - if you don't want a rigid tempo...

If you find that you're having to go to finer (beats) granularity, then there's ways of doing that - but this is a lot of work and prone to errors, so more work fixing them...

Once you've done that, you can render/freeze and explode the drums back to multitrack for normal processing.
Old 13th September 2020
  #5
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Wolf LeProducer's Avatar
 

I don't know how to do this in Studio One, this is a piece of cake in Cubase Pro
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Here for the gear
 

You can 'detect transients' in S1 and 'bend audio'. Whilst that's fairly straightforward for your close mics I can't see it working with the overheads. But you say you're working with Audacity so I guess you are only recording in stereo? 2 mic set up? Might be possible that way. If you are on a low budget have a look and see if there is anything in Reaper that can do this. (Reaper forum).

I'm not a fan of click tracks tbh. They used to be known as song killers back in the day. If it's possible to get the band playing together do that. You can put the guitar/ bass etc straight into the desk and then re-amp afterward.

I guess another option is using something like superior drummer to drum replace and then quantize. Again, you'd be putting work in on the cymbals. But SD3 is pretty clever.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
The first reply is correct - quantising defeats the whole purpose of live drumming - however out of time the drummer is.

This is going to be painful - but use your ears!
Lot's of pretty good drummers are not very tight to click tracks, but you would never know by just listening to their natural playing style.

Have you listened to the drum takes without the click? Are there obvious timing issues when just listening to the drums without the click?

By far the proper thing to do is to manually move or correct any out of time bits of the drum performance. Only the worst bits.
Record producers hire someone who's job that is. backing tracks are recorded, and as each song is tracked a person in a second room spends a day fixing any out of time drumming by cutting, moving and pasting the audio by hand.
never quantise live drums.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
Gear Head
 

I have done lots of this with Studio One and Melodyne. Studio One forums have some instructions of this (https://forums.presonus.com/viewtopic.php?f=152&t=15319), but there are lots of tricks that you need to learn by doing.
Melodyne makes it very easy and I think the recent Melodyne version is even better.
We have recorded drums and bass first without a click and then later put the backing tracks to tempo map and bars with this technique. It is so much easier to edit and add new tracks when the bars are there. You can also then use tempo delays and sequencers even when the tempo is varying.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
Have you listened to the drum takes without the click? Are there obvious timing issues when just listening to the drums without the click?
Yes - maybe they'd blend in once everything else is layered over them.
Quote:
By far the proper thing to do is to manually move or correct any out of time bits of the drum performance. Only the worst bits.
Record producers hire someone who's job that is. backing tracks are recorded, and as each song is tracked a person in a second room spends a day fixing any out of time drumming by cutting, moving and pasting the audio by hand.
never quantise live drums.
I wish this had the budget for that - or I had the patience to do it myself. I'm hoping some semi-automated method of fixing the kick would get the rest good enough.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawnobi View Post
But you say you're working with Audacity so I guess you are only recording in stereo?
I'm actually recording on a Zoom L-20 and importing that into Audacity. Audacity can be compiles to support any number of inputs via ASIO. I've 8 tracks of drums - two overheads, kick, 3 toms, snare top and bottom. I can clean up the kick with a gate well enough to get a good timing reference - I figured I'd just quantize to that and leave the rest "organic".
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ambiguous signal View Post
If the drummer can't achieve a good feel, get a different drummer.
QFT
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by smoltron View Post
I have done lots of this with Studio One and Melodyne. Studio One forums have some instructions of this (https://forums.presonus.com/viewtopic.php?f=152&t=15319), but there are lots of tricks that you need to learn by doing.
Melodyne makes it very easy and I think the recent Melodyne version is even better.
We have recorded drums and bass first without a click and then later put the backing tracks to tempo map and bars with this technique. It is so much easier to edit and add new tracks when the bars are there. You can also then use tempo delays and sequencers even when the tempo is varying.
I've done with studio one and melodyne too. Melodyne is very easy to do this but like others have said becareful if you make them perfect you can really kill your song..I'd you can't get the band to play together or just don't have a live room have the singer and guitar play cut a dummy track to a click or easy drummer. Then have the drummer track to the dummy tracks. It will get you pretty close if have drummer that can't play to a click and it will still have a human feel.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lumpcalhoon View Post
I've done with studio one and melodyne too. Melodyne is very easy to do this but like others have said becareful if you make them perfect you can really kill your song..I'd you can't get the band to play together or just don't have a live room have the singer and guitar play cut a dummy track to a click or easy drummer. Then have the drummer track to the dummy tracks. It will get you pretty close if have drummer that can't play to a click and it will still have a human feel.
The good thing in this technique is that you do not need to quantize. The grid is set, but you can decide how much or if not at all you align hits to the grid. It is also possible to edit tempo fluctuations if you need that.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
Here for the gear
 

TBH my preference for this would be to give the drums a rough mix to a decent volume (Bit of limiter push) and bounce them to a 320 MP3.
Then give them to everyone on the band to jam to for a few weeks. Get them so they know when things change, they expect it, and will move with it.

I'm in a band and our drummer speeds up and slows down all over the place. But the rest of the band know where he pushes and pulls and we all instinctively move together.

Obviously you have your own circumstance, but being click accurate isn't the be-end-all of a song and shouldn't be. You may end up doing more harm than good trying to achieve it.

Hope you find a way though, dude.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by smoltron View Post
The good thing in this technique is that you do not need to quantize. The grid is set, but you can decide how much or if not at all you align hits to the grid. It is also possible to edit tempo fluctuations if you need that.
Using the dummy tracks method works great just have them re track to the drummers tracks after and everything should be close and you'll still keep the human feel
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by lumpcalhoon View Post
I'd you can't get the band to play together or just don't have a live room have the singer and guitar play cut a dummy track to a click or easy drummer. Then have the drummer track to the dummy tracks. It will get you pretty close if have drummer that can't play to a click and it will still have a human feel.
I actually failed with that - unfortunately I tried it with a song that the drummer just can't play the rhythm needed. I programmed it in Hydrogen ( http://hydrogen-music.org/ ) and it sounded awesome with vocal, guitar, and bass over it even though it is just a quickie drum track. This is a sample of the "hard part", three accents that are on the beat, then off the beat, then back on the beat. That repeats several times throughout the song.
Attached Files

HHWSOTT Sample.mp3 (219.7 KB, 519 views)

Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RoadRanger View Post
I actually failed with that - unfortunately I tried it with a song that the drummer just can't play the rhythm needed. I programmed it in Hydrogen ( http://hydrogen-music.org/ ) and it sounded awesome with vocal, guitar, and bass over it even though it is just a quickie drum track. This is a sample of the "hard part", three accents that are on the beat, then off the beat, then back on the beat. That repeats several times throughout the song.
So this isn't a tracking or technical issue it's a the drummer can't play the part issue...I would just have him trck to the dummies until he gets it...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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chrischoir's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ambiguous signal View Post
Opinion first. Quantising live drumming defeats the point of live drumming.
The point of a drummer is to keep everything in time

Quote:
Originally Posted by ambiguous signal View Post
Drumming is all about the feel
Feel vs timing is not a binary option. It's not one or the other There are plenty of drummers who can play in virtually perfect time and yet they still have feel. Neil Peart and Steve Gadd are 2 off the top of my head. There are other drummers who played out of time and still had great feel. Keith Moon or Lars come to mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ambiguous signal View Post
If the drummer can't achieve a good feel,
Good is subjective, Good feel is subjective. Every musician has feel.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
The point of a drummer is to keep everything in time
And groove, and inspire. Time is not the only point, otherwise everyone would have switched to machines 30 years ago.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
otherwise everyone would have switched to machines 30 years ago.
a lot did.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
But they spent three times as much time trying to find some groove and dynamics in a machine.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
But they spent three times as much time trying to find some groove and dynamics in a machine.
I would have a d summer whose timing isn't perfect but has a great feel for the song any day of the week. Locking everything to the grid is a large part of the problem with modern music the other was auto tune. In the search for perfection the groove And emotion is lost...just my opinion

Last edited by lumpcalhoon; 4 weeks ago at 12:14 PM.. Reason: Misspellings
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by lumpcalhoon View Post
the problem with modern music
Also, it's too loud and you can't whistle the tune.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by JonnieK View Post
Also, it's too loud and you can't whistle the tune.
We actually have a pro-level whistler available for this album - along with a Celtic harp player and a Sitar player.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
Lives for gear
 

pro tools experts in los angeles do this all the time via "beat detective". the software detects the transients and splits the audio on each track into numerous individual samples accordingly. then you shift the drum hits so the transients line up with the beat subdivisions using the "clip conform" command. you then use the smoothing/crossfade feature to glue each audio track back into a coherent sound.

it's not only possible, it's done very often.

here you go:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6ePSB-4ugE

Last edited by gearstudent; 4 weeks ago at 01:53 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
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bitman's Avatar
Cakewalk by Bandlab is free robust and has multitrack audiosnap across drum tracks.

This is what you want.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #27
Life is far too short for messing around with bad drumming from inferior drummers. Just get a good drummer. They are around, often overlooked on the local scene. The trick is being able to tell (feel) the difference. A lot of people I know cannot. But then again, if one cannot feel the difference, I guess it really does not matter in that case.

I know there's a lot of Beat Detective shifting going on. I used to do a lot of that for bands with bad drummers, and sometimes, especially if you are trying to make a living recording bands, you don't have the option to say no. But life's just so much easier and more enjoyable when the drummer can play.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #28
The problem is one person's great drummer is another's bad drummer.
I used to replace 'bad' drummers all the time, and it often led to the drummer leaving the band, the band never really recovering from that, or the sound of the band completely changing from the sound that got them signed.
This all changed with the advent of Pro Tools.
Drum tracks were able to be improved, while bands were able to retain their original line-up.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
The problem is one person's great drummer is another's bad drummer.
Yeah, truth. I've heard drummers who rushed every roll terribly, but they fit perfectly in the band they were in; a kind of nervous energy. One band I play with has a drummer who is cymbal drunk, and is far too busy for most bands, but it works in this band, and other, far "better" drummers leave the band sounding sterile.

Everything is situation dependent. Nobody ever said Bob Dylan is a great singer, but his voice communicates something to the listener that is unique and wonderful. Mature, naive and honest all at once. I heard the amazing Renee Fleming singing outside her opera genre on Elvis' Spectacle, and, for me personally, it just didn't work at all.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
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jdier's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by JonnieK View Post
It's not so very hard to do this in (for instance) Reaper. Bit fiddly maybe, but you can fold all the drum tracks into a single multichannel item, that way at least they'll stay together as you edit (should avoid phase issues). I've done this sort of thing by manually splitting into chunks (2 bar, 4 bar, 8, or single measures, whatever works) and stretching/squeezing to fit to the grid.

This way you can keep some of the feel within phrases, and if you wish, set up a tempo map that follows the drummers musical intention (even if not executed perfectly) - if you don't want a rigid tempo...

If you find that you're having to go to finer (beats) granularity, then there's ways of doing that - but this is a lot of work and prone to errors, so more work fixing them...

Once you've done that, you can render/freeze and explode the drums back to multitrack for normal processing.
A few quick comments on this as it relates to Reaper.

I do not fold the drum tracks together... instead I choose to select all of the audio files in the drum tracks then GROUP them. Once you do that you can edit the top audio file and all the cuts and moves will apply to all of the audio files.

Also, I do not stretch or do anything that time stretches the audio. I simply cut into chunks and move them around to get everything in time.

It is a somewhat tedious process, but once you get the hang of it (especially once you get familiar with the hotkeys in Reaper) it can move pretty quickly.
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