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programmed drums in the 80s Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 10th September 2011
  #1
programmed drums in the 80s

I'm keen to know what it was like programming drums in the 80s, before digital recording. I was hoping someone here might be old enough (hehe) to have some experience doing such a thing, preferably in California making those rock records (where the drums are supposed to sound like real drums, not from early UK electro pop) like Starship, Heart, Boy Meets Girl etc when there's a drummer credited on the sleeve, but the kick and snare sounds are clearly way too consistent (and ridiculous) to be real.

What happened? were the real drums used to trigger drum machines/samplers? how? with what gear? how much of a hassle was it?
Old 10th September 2011
  #2
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musicl's Avatar
 

Sometimes a programmed kick & snare was used with real hats.

I was surprised to find some records are not programmed but heavily gated which was an 80s trick
Old 10th September 2011
  #3
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A big trick from back in the day was triggering sounds from digital units such as the AMS DMX 1580.

A sample could be stored in the unit and then triggered with another signal. I don't know if you could use MIDI to trigger sounds in the AMS.
Old 10th September 2011
  #4
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popmann's Avatar
Well, certainly you could trigger after-AlesisD4 had trigger inputs...but, I think you'll find that a lot of those "LA rock" drums are absolutely real. I know, because I mixed those kinds of records in a smaller studio. We occasionally triggered a kick...and for a while we had a Simmons set with real cymbals hooked up to the D4 going to tape--real drummer actually played it. That would've been the Def Leppard method. Those are fake. I don't think the majority of the era were fake. CERTAINLY not sequenced. Starship might've been...they always sounded like a drum machine. There's three components here--what is the sound (sample or real)...what did the drummer play (real or pad)...and was there actually a drummer.

The only time I sequenced drums professionally was when the people were SUPER cheap. Even if you wanted that sample sound, it was easier to just get a drummer to play pads.

Heart? I think you'd be looking at a snare that was just gated, sent to a Lexi, which in turn was hard gated and easily as loud as the attack. I'll listen next time I've got those old CDs out--what album are you thinking?

Maybe someone could tap Mr Wageneer? Having mixed your Dokken/Skid Row/Metallica/White Lion...pretty sure his stories would trump mine, in terms of high end "80s rock drums". But, I can make that sound easily with any track you send me. As long as the overheads sound good--everything else was basically reverb compressed and reverb manipulation.
Old 10th September 2011
  #5
I was kind of hoping someone would tell me they were all real, just a product of compression and massive amounts of gated reverb, but I'm keener on the Simmons pad idea. it makes more sense to me. But the samples - were there 80s hair rock standards, the same way hiphop had all those 808 sounds?

i hear you that each record was made differently, but on the records I grew up with (anyone remember It Bites?) it sounded like real cymbals and fake ass snares and toms, played at the same time. I guess one way to check which ones were programmed rather than triggered would be to stick them on a bpm grid and see if the hits lined up, since there was no way to quantise audio back then.

I was just wondering whether any famous platinum records were made using some horribly labour intensive, convoluted audio vs sample process that we could all laugh at in hindsight...
Old 10th September 2011
  #6
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Those roland mc300 and 500 sequencers had a real workflow to them which meant u programmed stuff a certain way. that's what I was using with korf and Roland drum machines, then with the s series samplers
Old 11th September 2011
  #7
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popmann's Avatar
When did those awful Akai Bob Clearmountain drums come out? There were plenty of sequenced drums in the 80s (synclavier)...just don't think it was a hair band stuffs.

I'm going to go pull some stuff out...I mean, another thing to keep in mind-a lot of those bands had drummers older than the rest of the band--meaning, rock solid. I don't think you can use modern drummers as a benchmark for how stable time can be kept any more than you can compare some dude in a rock band now on guitar to Steve Vai. I can attest, there was FAR more technically accomplished musicians circulating then.

Pull out some of my faves...Winger...Bad English...Whitesnake...I think it's safe to say those are real. Hell, the guy from Heart has been a session player ever since, no?
Old 11th September 2011
  #8
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popmann's Avatar
Starship (no protection)...definitely sequenced. listen to the super clean cymbal/hats. The synth bass lines that perfectly mechanically match the kick.

Bad English 1st, Heart Bad Animals, Winger (in the heart of the young)...no way. Killer drumming on those. Did they use some triggers to beef the snare/kick up? I think what you'll find is that's STILL more trouble than making a real kit sound like that. It's not that hard in a DAW.
Old 11th September 2011
  #9
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My older brother is a drummer, started playing in the early 80's. Even back then we knew the majority of songs were programmed tracks with some live elements overdubbed on top.

Phil Collins and Neil Pert were exceptions.
Old 11th September 2011
  #10
don't get me wrong, I love all these bands, and I love the production, I just wanted to know how it was done back then, because the sounds are far from natural and the engineers were working with a new technology.

the heart album I had in mind was Bad Animals, which on another listen, doesn't sound that unnatural...
Old 11th September 2011
  #11
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Quote:
don't get me wrong, I love all these bands, and I love the production, I just wanted to know how it was done back then, because the sounds are far from natural and the engineers were working with a new technology.
I understand what you're asking.

Some "popular rock" music back then actually used real kits and a lot of drum replacement, heavy compression on the samples, and lots of gated reverb.

Others just used a drum machine (with the same compression and reverb), and added live cymbals.
Old 11th September 2011
  #12
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popmann's Avatar
I think you'll find a lot of that "heavy compression", at least from my memory was often jus clobbering the tape-except the kick which had a full time DBX and Aphex unit along with a graphic EQ patched into that mixer hannel full time. Eq>dbx>exciter if memory serves. Maybe it was a BBE...had both...

Plus, when you're gating that tightly, and building a sound out of verb, you don't really need the hits unnaturally uniform to sound unnaturally uniform.

I seem to remember that first Bonham (as in Jr) record being a high watermark for that kind of drum sound...probably a reason he still plays today! Funny, though, I don't have a copy of that to listen now...wonder where that went? Maybe I left it at the studio when it shut down in the early 90s because the owner didn't get why "everyone wants to sound like they recorded in their garage now"...
Old 11th September 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Plus, when you're gating that tightly, and building a sound out of verb, you don't really need the hits unnaturally uniform to sound unnaturally uniform.
True, and if my memory serves me, you don't play any cymbals during the first take, just the kick and snare. (the cymbals will accidentally open the gate sometimes, so record them on another pass).
Old 22nd September 2011
  #14
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Rick Allen of Def Leppard only recorded the cymbals for the album Pyromania-1983. The drums were generated thru a Fairlight computer. Mike Shipley who engineered that album plus Hysteria has a Q&A on this forum & mentioned it.

Hysteria-1987, I think was done the same way as far as real cymbals being recorded.

Don
Old 22nd September 2011
  #15
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Ha! I knew a one-armed drummer couldn't play all that. Just common sense.
Old 22nd September 2011
  #16
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slingudwig's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Liquid360 View Post
Ha! I knew a one-armed drummer couldn't play all that. Just common sense.
He still had both arms for when they recorded Pyromania. They used the Fairlight because they kept changing the makeup of each song and so they didnt want to keep re recording the drums each time. So it was easier to use a basic drum beat to change as needed and then add the more detailed drum sounds after everything was recorded. Although I have read that he did use a Ludwig Black Beauty snare for some of his cool snare sound & another story that Mutt Lange used a SD5 tom sound combined with a snare buzz sample using drawmer gates to achieve his snare.

Don

Last edited by slingudwig; 22nd September 2011 at 05:13 AM.. Reason: add info
Old 23rd September 2011
  #17
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Pyromania: Yea, I know (now). But I used to watch my older brother tune his kit for hours to try to get that sound back when that album came out, which is impossible.
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