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tracking live with a sub-par drummer
Old 14th May 2006
  #1
Gear Head
 
le mieux's Avatar
 

tracking live with a sub-par drummer

here's a question for all of you seasoned professionals. (people obsessed with quantized-like tightness need not apply)

so i am working with a band that is set on recording live. i love the idea of tracking a rock band all playing together. this fits the style of music they are doing well. the only issue is that the drummer is way supbar in feel, consistency, and groove. if i had to say there was one thing holding them back as a band, drumming would be the issue.

my question is simple: what have you folks done in similar instances where a drummer was not where he needed to be but drum editing is out of the question???

thanks alot
Old 14th May 2006
  #2
Lives for gear
 

I'll jump in here and put out an answer.

If the band wants to do it live and they only have the budget to do it live and they intend to pay you..... record it live warts and all and be done with it.

Short of hiring a different drummer, there is no solution.... period.

My #1 criteria is for the vocalist to be good and next comes the drummer.
The first condition is usually met because I only record a few people and they are all great vocalists.
The second one is met because I only hire one guy to track my drums.
This is how importatnt the drums are.

If the drums suck... it ALL sucks.

Danny Brown
Old 14th May 2006
  #3
Lives for gear
yeah id hire another guy
Old 14th May 2006
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Maybe the drumming adds charm and character to the bands overall sound... just a thought.
If not, you simply get takes and edit in chunks (cutting tape style).
I sometimes use a more roomy sound with a not so tight drummer.
Dry and upfront might not be the best idea in this situation.
Hiring a drummer is not uncommon in this situation, but can be a tricky subject to bring up.
Old 14th May 2006
  #5
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Bishbashbosh's Avatar
 

If it's not your call then you've just got to work with what you've got....

If you're producing an album for a label that's expecting it to sound better than the band really is (!) then hire someone in..... whether you tell the band is down to you (and their ego....)
I get calls to replace drums quite a lot..... It's a really trick job, especially if the rest of the tracks have gone down on poorly played drums.
You can usually get away with it by re-doing drums, then chopping the bass (or beat-detectiving) to the replayed drums..... unless it's miles out!

Winey makes some great points though!
Old 14th May 2006
  #6
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max cooper's Avatar
 

Is this one of those bands where the guitar player(s) is (are) the drummer, effectively?

I think that's how Green Day is, at least on Dookie, and lots of other bands, for that matter. It's really apparent when the guitar drops out.

It can be ok if the guitar is really strong. But there's always the sense it coulda been better.
Old 14th May 2006
  #7
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
I'll assume that either you or the band is "producing" and replacing the drummer all togther is outta' the question right? I've actually had some A&R mooks request that the drummer was replaced...but that doesn't sound like this the case here.

That's kinda cooler...its the way things USED to be done!

If that's the case, don't even bring up the subject of using a ringer unless 'ya want to take a chance on getting fired!

OK.

You'll have to isolate all the guitar amps & stuff so that the only "live" instrument in the room is the drums. Set up headphones & let the band track in the same room with the drummer so they all have visual contact with each other for cues & stuff.

If the drummer can play to a click, then do that...it'll make it WAY easier to cut takes together.

If the drummer can't play to a click, then at the VERY least you can use the program of starting each take with a click & turning it off after the first 8 or 16 bars. That'll at least give them the same starting tempo on each take so with any luck they might be at similar tempos & be slightly easier to cut takes together.

If he's lacking consistency in his hitting you might want to stick triggers on the kick & snare and print those down just in case you need 'em later on.

Selecting the "right" cymbals, snares & tuning the rest of the kit is pretty paramount too. With the right selection & mic choice/placement coupled with being diligent in tuning & selecting cymbals that balance out with the acoustic volume of the drums you can get things to swing towards your side & make the drummer sound "better" then he is.

Not an easy task & if the drummer has lost his "R" (dummer ) then you might be screwed not matter what you try to do...but you'll need to invest some time into it.

See if you can talk to the band memebers too & see if they can get on him in practice to break some of the bad habits. I've seen HUGE improvements in drummers over the course of a month or so if they know they're gig is on the line.
Old 14th May 2006
  #8
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superburtm's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by le mieux
here's a question for all of you seasoned professionals. (people obsessed with quantized-like tightness need not apply)

so i am working with a band that is set on recording live. i love the idea of tracking a rock band all playing together. this fits the style of music they are doing well. the only issue is that the drummer is way supbar in feel, consistency, and groove. if i had to say there was one thing holding them back as a band, drumming would be the issue.

my question is simple: what have you folks done in similar instances where a drummer was not where he needed to be but drum editing is out of the question???

thanks alot

get alot of takes and prepare to do some edits...I get stuck with this often.
Old 14th May 2006
  #9
Gear Head
 
le mieux's Avatar
 

thank you all VERY much for the suggestions. thanks for taking the time to write. there is alot of insightful stuff in here. i apprecciate it. thumbsup

i am not in the position of being able to replace the drummer. its' out of the question politically, or it would be done, trust me.

they are one of those bands that prefer the feel of live and somewhat looser takes. i apprecciate this idea as well. to be honest, i normally think it is better. but i am well aware of the fact that it will have MUCH better results with a better drummer. they're a band that would much rather sound like the stones than blink 182...
Old 14th May 2006
  #10
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by le mieux
they are one of those bands that prefer the feel of live and somewhat looser takes. i apprecciate this idea as well. to be honest, i normally think it is better. but i am well aware of the fact that it will have MUCH better results with a better drummer. they're a band that would much rather sound like the stones than blink 182...
In that case...

Talk to them & see what they're goals are.

If they aren't worried about being able to do punch-ins on the guitars & bass and the room is big enough (like 20x25' min.) then you could try setting everything up in the same room & letting 'em blow through takes without headphones.

Go for the vibe rather then 'perfection.'

You'll need to spend a fair amount of time sorting out the positions of the amps, gobos, & getting everyones volume in check...but if you can get all that sorted out you STILL won't be able to punch-in without it sounding wonky, but you'll be able to fully replace/retrack things if needed.
Old 15th May 2006
  #11
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Gregg Sartiano's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Kahrs
Talk to them & see what they're goals are.
Obviously being the best band they can be is not a goal.

It's show "business," not show "friends."

Take the gig and do your best. Hopefully, they don't want you to be "producer" -- find someone within the band who can be accountable for signing off on takes, etc. as you go, or else they'll return a few days after they get the roughs wondering why they sound like s&*t. And I sincerely hope you're getting paid per hour/day and not per track, or tweak sessions can turn into a nightmare. The less solid a foundation is, the more people try to throw s&*t at it to fix it.

I only say this because you referred to the drummer as "subpar" in multiple areas, so there's no leeway for "well, he's not click-tight, but he's got FEEL!" No, he doesn't, and you know it.

I feel your pain. I would make every effort to minimize your exposure to 'musicians' whose idea of commitment to music is staying in a band with a s&*tty drummer because it's politically convenient. I assume they know he/she is not a quality player.
Old 15th May 2006
  #12
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Rednose's Avatar
Great answers guys!
Sub par drummers are the norm, allways have been.
I wouldn't get a ringer, just do what you can with the what you've got.
Using a click can be great, but if the drummer isn't experienced with one, it can be a disaster.
Do the best you can. Don't try to make every band into Led Zeplin when their not.
Good luck!
I agree, Vocals and drums are most important.
if the drummers blows, spend a little extra time on getting some great vocal tracks.
That will bring the cd up a notch.
If you try to get the drummer to play great, it will take too long and the band will run out of $.
Just let the band leave with a quality product and it will do great for your studio.
Old 15th May 2006
  #13
Gear Head
 
le mieux's Avatar
 

again, great answers. thank you all. the drummer can play to a click, no problem. it's just his feel or complete lack thereof really...
Old 15th May 2006
  #14
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seaneldon's Avatar
 

i'd rather have a drummer with great feel than someone who can fake their way through a click track.
Old 15th May 2006
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

get a di of everyone (giutars, bass , keys) so theres no bleed on the drum track (use sansamps to give te cue mix some feel)

isolate te singer

reamp later

splice, edit, comp, quantize, (replace?) your drums

david
Old 15th May 2006
  #16
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max cooper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rednose
Sub par drummers are the norm, allways have been.
I agree but have often wondered why this is.

My experience has been that lots of rock drummers practice chops for hours and hours but most don't take the time to focus on timing, tuning and how they hit the drum.
Old 15th May 2006
  #17
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by le mieux
again, great answers. thank you all. the drummer can play to a click, no problem. it's just his feel or complete lack thereof really...
There's your answer!

Have him play to a click & stick triggers on kick & snare at the least so you can trigger solid hits on those & provide a good backbeat even if the drummer can't himself.

If his hitting is that all inconsistent volume wise then you might have problems getting enough seperation from the individual mics to trigger samples cleanly, EVEN with gates or something like Drumagog.

Tiggers are pretty fool proof. They're either on or off.

Sounds like you'll have it licked though!
Old 15th May 2006
  #18
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KrisNY's Avatar
 

I was actually in this same position a few months ago - tracking a punk band live who'd never played to a click before (so that was out of the question). We ended up just doing a bunch of takes and finally getting a usable one - it just took time. After every take, I'd head into the live room, tell the band what I thought, make a few pointers, and do it over again. Kind of a good ol' fashioned solution, but it worked.

Also, FYI, I used Drumagog on just the kick, as I was able to get an actually impressive snare sound with reverb, Pultec EQ, and a gate.
Old 15th May 2006
  #19
Lives for gear
If he has no feel, but can play to a click, then you may as well use beat detective. In fact, thats exactly what you should do. Then use drumagog to slide in a snare sample.

Beat detective can take the feel out of drums, but in this case, it sounds like you dont have any to begin with...so may as well put this dude on a grid so the band sounds tight.
Old 15th May 2006
  #20
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statikcat's Avatar
If you multitracked into a DAW then it is time to learn to edit. If there was no click track.. good luck.
Old 15th May 2006
  #21
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Kahrs
IGo for the vibe rather then 'perfection.'
That's the only chance you have.

You know, it's not everyone's birthright to be a great recording band. It's probably just not meant to be with these guys. So take the money, let them have their fun, and maybe by some longshot something great will happen that surprises everybody.

-R
Old 15th May 2006
  #22
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macr0w's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by max cooper
I agree but have often wondered why this is.

My experience has been that lots of rock drummers practice chops for hours and hours but most don't take the time to focus on timing, tuning and how they hit the drum.
You guys just need to hang out with better musicians. It's the whole bands fault if their drummer sucks and maybe he/she should either practice or get a new hobby. I say record them live "warts and all" and let them hear how bad the drummer is. If they can't hear it then F'em and mix that **** up and get paid.
Old 15th May 2006
  #23
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Tapeworm's Avatar
 

Tell them "acoustic is the new black" and hand the drummer a tambourine.
Old 15th May 2006
  #24
hire another guy, period.

that's like saying:

ok, i'm jack welch, and my refrigeration department is subpar, but i don't wanna keep losing money in that division - what do i do?

lose the refrigeration division. period.

success.

happiness.

profit.

everyone wins.

sooner, or later - the chances are that drummer will SINK the band.

there are a few exceptions to this rule - but you know the saying -

it only takes one rotten aplle to spoil the barrel.

if the band got into this to MAKE MUSIC, and their DRUMMER sucks, well.......

i got news for you, too...

when you're standing on line at the deli counter, waiting to order your sandwich,
there are, GENERALLY, TWO THINGS YOU HEAR over the speaker system -

the VOCALs, and the SNARE.

if EITHER Of those are out - you might as well throw the track out.

just my $.02.

good luck.
Old 15th May 2006
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Since you're recording live, try to have the amps and a PA out in the room to make everyone as comfortable as possible (don't worry about isolation since these are the final tracks)...It sounds like this guy isn't a studio drummer so maybe a click is not going to work. Try to make it feel as much like a live show for them since that;s where their comfort zone probably is. Leave it raw, flaws and all, get the best take, and get a really killer mix which can usually compensate for sub par playing.
It is what it is.
-Brian
Old 16th May 2006
  #26
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yumdrum's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by macr0w
You guys just need to hang out with better musicians. It's the whole bands fault if their drummer sucks and maybe he/she should either practice or get a new hobby. I say record them live "warts and all" and let them hear how bad the drummer is. If they can't hear it then F'em and mix that **** up and get paid.
Well said!
Old 16th May 2006
  #27
Gear Head
 
le mieux's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by statikcat
If you multitracked into a DAW then it is time to learn to edit. If there was no click track.. good luck.
oh i can edit. that's the least of my problems. they just don't WANT editing. haha
it's an odd situation and i normally wouldn't work with a band that has a bad drummer, but this is a situation way out of the ordinary. this band is fantastic as far as everything else is concerned. songwriting is phenomenal and everyone else plays great. a band like this doesn't come around all that often and they've only really got one weak link. honestly, i've not met a group of better songwriters. yes, everything you all say about drums being second most important, i wholeheartedly agree.... hmmm
Old 16th May 2006
  #28
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Rednose's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by max cooper
I agree but have often wondered why this is.

My experience has been that lots of rock drummers practice chops for hours and hours but most don't take the time to focus on timing, tuning and how they hit the drum.
Tell me about the tunning thing.
I'm ussually the one tuning thier drums.
I attended a drum tunning seminar (just a 3 hour class) and I still only have a vague idea of whats going on.
Alot of guitar players are the same way, have no idea how to intonate thier ax.
Just tracked drums for a 15 song cd last week.
The drummer came in with heads older than some of my underpants.
I just put the mics up and did the best I could.
It would have taken hours to re head and tune them, thats when they run out of coin.
To all the responces that suggest quantizing the drums...
I thought he said a live band?
If you quantize the drums, it won't be on with the band.
Once again, quantizing drums takes some time, I would estimate about 1-2 hours per track.
Old 4th June 2009
  #29
SK1
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SK1's Avatar
 

Life is too short to put up with bad drummers. That goes for percussion too.

Old 4th June 2009
  #30
Here for the gear
 

First of all, comping is better than to actually start cutting transients and quantizing, beacause when you start you have to do the whole song like that. Try to get it in sections or even bars. Secondly, perhaps he could be convinced to play as simple patterns
as possible. Try to use tambourines or percussion to fill it out if the songs need "busy" rythms. Sometimes people do not know their limits.
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