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Drums in rock/pop: Keep them "real" or go wild?
Old 2nd April 2009
  #1
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GeorgeHayduke's Avatar
 

Drums in rock/pop: Keep them "real" or go wild?

Hi!

I've been going through some rather old mixes. I've learnt a lot since then, which is nice, but I don't want to become rule driven even if I try to go by certain principles now.

For instance, I intuitively try to keep my drums more "real" now, in an effort to get my mixes more real sounding, even in the face of using a lot of programmed sampled drums in rather haphazard kits where each drum might not be part of the same "kit".

What I mean is this: I try to imagine what a drummer can pull off with two hands, and not add more to it than that (except truly percussive instruments, - oh yea and cowbell obviously transcends all boundaries, lol).

I do stack things but a stacked kick still counts as one foot

I can't figure out if this is worth pursuing consistenly or I am developing jitters, lol.

Btw. I'm talking rock/pop guitar/synth stuff.

Comments are welcome!
Old 2nd April 2009
  #2
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Blast9's Avatar
I often add things like closed hats to a section where there's crash/ride mayhem happening:

Get the compressor crushing in an exciting way = cymbals too loud/washy

turn the level down = too indistinct

Add short hat = restore the high freq rhythmic element.

Hey The Police and Van Halen used to overdub stuff like ride cymbals in addition to the whole kit so why not!

PS "more cowbell"
Old 2nd April 2009
  #3
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mejon's Avatar
whatever works for the music. There are no rules. I always enjoyed the aforementioned overdubs of The Police and the Beatles did tons of that sort of thing too.
Old 2nd April 2009
  #4
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m.vette's Avatar
 

IMO you can pull off a ton of extra layers in percussion/drums if it works to push the groove or adds to the song in any way really.

In reality the only people who might notice that a few of these things are impossible to play are 1. drummers 2. drummers & 3. maybe producers/engineers. What I think? If anyone is listening to these sorts of things, they're not really listening to the SONG anyway and instead just listening to its parts, so they don't count.
Old 2nd April 2009
  #5
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It's all good.

Some groups have two drummers - you can too.
Old 2nd April 2009
  #6
Sky
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mystr Tiger View Post
Some groups have two drummers - you can too.
Yup, I just imagine more and more drummers joining the band.

The realist in me usually starts with a part that one drummer could play, then I add whatever works for the song. E.g. David Gray is one of the first I became aware of to layer subtle electronic textures under his acoustic kits.

Sky
Old 2nd April 2009
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeHayduke View Post
dlydoo

Btw. I'm talking rock/pop guitar/synth stuff.
Heck, then take a tip from classic Duran Duran and overdub 16th-note hi-hats through the entire length of the song, while the kick and snare keep a beat AND lengthy 16th-note fills on the toms play - without the hi-hats dropping out. That crazy Roger Taylor and his five arms!

Oh, and don't forget to put a flanger on the hi-hat for the bridge section.
Old 2nd April 2009
  #8
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Blast9's Avatar
uh-oh 80's alert!
Old 2nd April 2009
  #9
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robot gigante's Avatar
Unless there is a reason to deviate from it, my goal is to make the recording sound timeless, not dated.

Enough said.
Old 4th April 2009
  #10
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Hey!

Thanks for all your answers.

Yea, I guess this is a common situation I'm thinking about:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blast9 View Post
I often add things like closed hats to a section where there's crash/ride mayhem happening:

Get the compressor crushing in an exciting way = cymbals too loud/washy

turn the level down = too indistinct

Add short hat = restore the high freq rhythmic element.
I guess I'm not alone in getting frustrated in situations like that.

In fact, when I stumbled upon, years ago, hi hats riding 16th-notes, I was like "yea, this rocks" in that very 80ies way. I did that for a few songs, but afterwards I think that was the easy solution and it leads up to this comment:

Quote:
Originally Posted by robot gigante View Post
Unless there is a reason to deviate from it, my goal is to make the recording sound timeless, not dated.
I do strive for a "sound", but at the same time, a sound that won't make me want to change everything two years later.

Generally, are there a lot of 5 handed drummers in music that doesn't soon become dated in a period/genre sense (all is relative, but still) because of it's "unreal" sound? I mean, even in rather recent urban productions, I can't say I've actually thought about drums being "unreal" except for soundwise. Is that because it is skillfully placed or because people know their **** and work with good recordings, if using live drums?

(I'll admit off hand that I can't say I've spent much time actually checking for it systematically myself.)
Old 4th April 2009
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robot gigante View Post
Unless there is a reason to deviate from it, my goal is to make the recording sound timeless, not dated.

Enough said.

I'm curious, how do you accomplish that?
Old 4th April 2009
  #12
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robot gigante's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mystr Tiger View Post
I'm curious, how do you accomplish that?
If you have to ask...
Old 4th April 2009
  #13
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Mike Brown's Avatar
 

Go nuts man... and post samples!
Old 5th April 2009
  #14
Sky
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Sky's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robot gigante View Post
If you have to ask...
I actually think Tiger has asked a fair question. How do you define timeless drums in the various musical styles you work with?

I.e. does a bebop jazz recording have to conform to the muted, ambient club vibe of the 40s and 50s? Likewise, is Digital Duke timeless because the drum performances are classic, or not because its sound is too sterile?

Sky
Old 5th April 2009
  #15
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robot gigante's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sky View Post
I actually think Tiger has asked a fair question. How do you define timeless drums in the various musical styles you work with?

I.e. does a bebop jazz recording have to conform to the muted, ambient club vibe of the 40s and 50s? Likewise, is Digital Duke timeless because the drum performances are classic, or not because its sound is too sterile?

Sky
Well, it simply breaks down to not adding anything to the recording that will obviously date it to 2009. If we were living in the 80's and discussing reverb I would respond the same way.

Overuse of loops and drum samples in rock or pop, well, it's almost worse than the 80's overuse of reverb. Furthermore, it's not exactly what I would call a fresh and innovative approach to rock/pop production these days.

This is just my opinion.
Old 5th April 2009
  #16
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drBill's Avatar
Having a great drummer in a great room with good equipment solves all those "problems". I may still use some stylus or loops, but the groove belongs to the drummer. thumbsup

I agree with robot - in 15 years all these "prefectly" beat corrected and sample replaced songs are going to sound to our ears like drum machines from the 80's sound to us now. Cool sometimes, but way too "stylized" for long term consumption, making one wish they had chosen "timeless" over "flavor-of-the-day".
Old 5th April 2009
  #17
Even top pro drummers overdub parts if the song needs it. It's no different than overdubbing like 4 guitar parts, even though you know you'll only be able to play maybe 2 of them live. However, since sequenced/sampled drum parts already sound fake, having "impossible to play" stuff might just make it sound faker if abused. Not a problem with the real thing though.
Old 5th April 2009
  #18
Sky
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Sky's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robot gigante View Post
Well, it simply breaks down to not adding anything to the recording that will obviously date it to 2009. If we were living in the 80's and discussing reverb I would respond the same way.

Overuse of loops and drum samples in rock or pop, well, it's almost worse than the 80's overuse of reverb. Furthermore, it's not exactly what I would call a fresh and innovative approach to rock/pop production these days.

This is just my opinion.
Fair enough.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I agree with robot - in 15 years all these "prefectly" beat corrected and sample replaced songs are going to sound to our ears like drum machines from the 80's sound to us now. Cool sometimes, but way too "stylized" for long term consumption, making one wish they had chosen "timeless" over "flavor-of-the-day".
I have to agree with that, and guilty as charged. I have some recordings that could have been pretty special if not for an uninspired rhythm track. My best work was in a pro studio with an excellent drummer. Yes we did some digital editing of the drums but left whole phrases intact as much as possible. The positive difference is undeniable.

Sky
Old 5th April 2009
  #19
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LimeMusic's Avatar
 

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not afraid of sounding "dated". I mean, you work with what you have at the time, and you are always going to be somewhat influenced by the music of the day. But trying to make a good sounding recording is different than just trying to emulate what others are doing (as an example: ALOT of hip hop/rap songs that have come out recently have very similar beats, and have similar synth sounds pushed WAY up in the mix, and in 10 years, people will probably recognize that as the "2009" sound of rap). Emulating what is popular at the time is going to date your recording (like much of the 80's stuff we're talking about), but recording a great song with great sounding instruments... that's timeless, and won't be considered "dated" IMO.
But to the original question...
I program drum tracks often, and I like to keep to the playing as "natural" as possible. But you can get away with alot as far as having more things played than the drummer has arms as long as it sounds smooth. I always use this as a test: When I play my stuff for my friends or clients, if they ask whether the drums were programmed or not, I know I need to go back and make the drums sound more "human", if they ask me who played drums on that track, I know I did a good job!
Old 6th April 2009
  #20
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Well, there is definitely something to be said for capturing the feel of the moment. I think we all enjoy music that reminds us of past moments, where the dated sound is part of the appeal.

So if the song/arrangement/client pushes me to work that way, then that is definitely a reason to deviate from what I normally do and embrace stuff I would normally not do.

Working under the fear of sounding dated is not a positive thing for music either, so I would rather risk sounding dated than let that get in the way of creativity.

All the same, drBill's comment is right on the $$ imho.
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