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Real Drums vs. Samples
Old 8th June 2006
  #1
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dtucker's Avatar
 

Real Drums vs. Samples

The previous thread on Dave Sardy got me to thinking. And, truth is, I've wanted to post something like this for a while now. (And this is not an attack on Sardy or anyone in particular...the Sardy thread just happened to be the impetus).

How can one get excited about a well known producer or mixer's drum sounds knowing full well that the sounds being heard on the recording are not the actual sound of the drum being played? In other words, if anybody can Sound Replace (or Drumagog, or whatever) the recorded drum with a better sounding sample...has the engineer or mixer really done anything that's special or worthy?

It's hard for me to put into words what I'm feeling. But basically...

If everything is being replaced why not just have the drummer play a MIDI drum kit or something and replace the crappy electronic sounds with real samples? Why go through the trouble of micing real drums in a great studio with Neves or APIs or what-have-you? You can save a lot of money. You can save time. Don't have to worry about making sure your mics are in phase. Don't have to worry about what the room sounds like. With reverbs and compressors you can CREATE a room. Whatever room you like.

With the exception of poorly recorded tracks...why bother recording drums at all if they're just going to be replaced with a sample?
Old 8th June 2006
  #2
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I can see pros and cons with real vs sampled - it's simply an artistic decision these days. There have been some classic songs recorded with drums machines or electronic drums, or hybrid sampled sounds - if it serves the song and sounds good, who cares how the sound was made?

If it doesn't serve the song, or sounds bad, then there is no justifying it. Regardless of whether the sound is real or imagined.

Choosing the right sample/s for a mix isn't always easy - it's not a no-brainer job to do it right.

As for whether an electronic drumkit should have been used in the first place ... midi isn't perfect. A drummer is happier on a real kit, even if the sounds aren't right. The timing and velocity information will be tighter than midi. OR - you can turn the audio hits into midi anyway - whats the problem?

Who is to say that mic'ing a snare is more 'real' than triggering a synth or sample/s? IMO, we are so far removed from reality that it doesn't really matter, if the end justifies the means. Our idea of a 'real' snare is fairly artifial at best, imo.

Depends on the song - I like to mic a snare, even though i've used samples for years.

They are just different approaches - use whatever works for the song.

But then again - I do feel cheated when I hear boring sampled drums on a McCartney album for example ... bring back Ringo I say.
Old 8th June 2006
  #3
8070
Guest
Samples suck...
unless they're used 'creatively'....such as some wacky snare sound that's totally meant to be out of place..

The whole band-aid, perfect sound thing just makes me wanna barf.


That's just me tho.
Old 8th June 2006
  #4
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Alexi's Avatar
 

is sardy using samples?........if you know it for a fact please tell meheh


cheers
Old 8th June 2006
  #5
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[QUOTE=dtucker]If everything is being replaced why not just have the drummer play a MIDI drum kit or something and replace the crappy electronic sounds with real samples? Why go through the trouble of micing real drums in a great studio with Neves or APIs or what-have-you?

With reverbs and compressors you can CREATE a room. Whatever room you like.

[\QUOTE]

I disagree that you can create a room. Nothing can recreate the sound of a room as well as the real deal.....at least yet.

And really, when people are replacing they are not really replacing as much as blending in samples.

producers use this technique because guitar sounds are so much bigger, and so is the crush at the mastering house. You have to compensate for this now:

Guitars get bigger in the master

Snare gets smaller

Also, by sliding a sample into a snare you ensure consistent hits throughout the song.
Old 8th June 2006
  #6
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I don't think it's as extreme as using a midi kit. Most of the guys that use samples are using them as reinforcement. In my eyes, not much different than using a compressor and EQ. When I use samples, it's mostly for some extra bottom end and/or ambience. At most, it's real kick / snare 60% and samples 40%. Just pulling up BFD or DFH Superior ain't gonna get you a drum sound fan club. You've gotta have a live foundation to work from.
Old 8th June 2006
  #7
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It's just part of the sound that stamps this period in music, isn't it? Like gated reverb in the 80s. If a client wants you to deliver "sound X", are you going to deny them that based on your own defintion of right and wrong? That approach could lose you the gig.

Do whatever it takes, I say.
Old 8th June 2006
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dtucker
......Why go through the trouble of micing real drums in a great studio with Neves or APIs or what-have-you? ......
I wouldn't. If I were going to record drum tracks to sound-replace, I wouldn't pull out anything expensive. It would be the cheapest crappiest mics, I mean a '57 or a knockoff or anything on every drum and individual cymbal plugged into board pre's, or 002 pre's, or whatever you have that you can use for filler type tracks. All you need is a transient. You have drummer banging away on set that sounds like and sounds/feels just like what he's used to and then you engineer a.k.a. create/build a beautiful sounding drumset out of what bonehead's banging on.

For the record, give me the nice a$$ drumset w/ beautiful cymbals through great mic's, great pre's, and whatever outboard I could imagine and I'll take that any day. I'm just sayin'.
Old 8th June 2006
  #9
Led
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Depends what ya mixin it for, but if it needs some extra spark you tart it up. You give it what it needs to get it across the line. That's the task at hand aint it?
Who cares how ya get there.
Old 8th June 2006
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by desol
Samples suck...
unless they're used 'creatively'....such as some wacky snare sound that's totally meant to be out of place..

The whole band-aid, perfect sound thing just makes me wanna barf.


That's just me tho.

ignorance
Old 8th June 2006
  #11
Gear Head
 

I like recording live and then adding in sampled snares/kicks. This allows for the rides/hats to sound live and real while having consistency and a ton of choice in choosing a kick and/or snare.
Old 8th June 2006
  #12
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

the only real drum is the one getting hit in the room. once you record it, it's all samples, usually somewhere around 48000 in a second if you're on a daw.

how you play it from there depends on the effect you're after.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 8th June 2006
  #13
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dtucker
With reverbs and compressors you can CREATE a room.
true.


Quote:
Whatever room you like.
FALSE.

and whatever else you can do with artificial reverb, you can't put air between the source and the mic. you can create artificial reflections *around* the source, but you can't make it sound like the mic that was 2" away from the neck joint is suddenly 1 foot away. that kind of space is what makes or breaks the depth of a mix, and it has to be captured at the source, when you hit the red button.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 8th June 2006
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

my drum teacher had a studio job in a high-class studio and after he had played for hours to complete his tracks , all the samples were replaced by the engineer and chosen by the producer....

Of course he was pissed but at least it wasn't his cd...


Nowadays there are so many big libraries full of good samples (BFD: over 200GB in total) that drum recording has become a form of art that is about to be learned with lots of discipline , time and knowledge.

It's my goal to be a good engineer in case of drumsounds in the first place... and that desire won't change... of that i'm sure!!

Blind
Old 8th June 2006
  #15
I think true drum tracking and mixing is becoming a lost/dying art. 90% of mainstream rock cds today have that fake snare and kick sound, and you know what, most of the time it sounds like ****. I don't want to hear a machine play the drums... even on metal! I want to hear a human playing the drums.

Even though drums and masters get processed to death, and I'll be the first to admit to it, there is still something about real players pounding, strumming, thumping, belting, etc. There's a connection that I make with the music, when more people are actually 'playing' the instrument.

I equate drum sampling to PODs. Yes, you're still playing on a real guitar, with a real pick, and a real cable. And yes, they make sense for someone without the amps, cabs, effects, mics, etc. But, if you've ever, properly miced up a real cabinet, through a decent pre, the difference is amazing. The sound comes alive, it moves in the room, it transcends 'the sound' and moves the listener. Takes them to another place. That's what I believe anyway. All the little things count, as well as the big picture.

Yeah you could say that any song, sampled or not, can do that. But I do think that you're losing a generation. Too many hands have touched 'the sound', and it starts becoming just a sound.

I want to hear spontaneous, carefully planned, sound.

I want to hear the truth.
Old 8th June 2006
  #16
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Why go through the trouble of micing real drums in a great studio with Neves or APIs or what-have-you?
I do both, but not mention which is what. No tell!
Old 8th June 2006
  #17
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I just never thought some other engineer's idea of a "good" sound meant anything.
Samples are another engineeer's sound, not mine!

Also, recall that most musical instruments are made to be sold retail, so the sounds in a whizz bang drum sample set or "drum machine" are made to sound good on the floor of the music store. They rarely sound as good in the studio.

Sometimes you end up doing something like re-triggering stuff and adding samples BECAUSE YOU CAN!
I willl admit that kicks in some speed metal can benefit from re-triggering.
I've wasted some hours doing that!

Danny Brown
Old 8th June 2006
  #18
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Quote:
I want to hear the truth.
Oh I doubt that very much ...

I think you probably want to hear waveforms conforming to the pschoacoustic idealised perception that you have built up in your own mind, based on listening to many highly engineered recordings of drumkits, using every artifical recording technique known to man ...
Old 9th June 2006
  #19
Gear Addict
 
LaLaFaV's Avatar
 

The last time I recorded drums, I used 10 mics. Since I don't have 10 ears, I can't say I was going for what I heard the drums sounding like in the room. I'm going for what I think sounds cool and for the parts of the kit I want to give impact and punch to. Otherwise, I'd just use a great stereo pair in a great room if I want realism.
I know I don't like the sound of a snare that's (ouch) 6" away from my ear as it is being smacked by someone playing a loud rock song. At the same time, I like what it sounds like on the million records I've heard where they used that mic placement.
A sample is just a different trick for getting what you want sometimes.
Everyone has their own idea and opinion about what sounds good to them.
Old 9th June 2006
  #20
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gsilbers's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dtucker
The previous thread on Dave Sardy got me to thinking. And, truth is, I've wanted to post something like this for a while now. (And this is not an attack on Sardy or anyone in particular...the Sardy thread just happened to be the impetus).

How can one get excited about a well known producer or mixer's drum sounds knowing full well that the sounds being heard on the recording are not the actual sound of the drum being played? In other words, if anybody can Sound Replace (or Drumagog, or whatever) the recorded drum with a better sounding sample...has the engineer or mixer really done anything that's special or worthy?

It's hard for me to put into words what I'm feeling. But basically...

If everything is being replaced why not just have the drummer play a MIDI drum kit or something and replace the crappy electronic sounds with real samples? Why go through the trouble of micing real drums in a great studio with Neves or APIs or what-have-you? You can save a lot of money. You can save time. Don't have to worry about making sure your mics are in phase. Don't have to worry about what the room sounds like. With reverbs and compressors you can CREATE a room. Whatever room you like.

With the exception of poorly recorded tracks...why bother recording drums at all if they're just going to be replaced with a sample?

yep...


even further...

why use compressors or EQ...

just use a L2 at the master buss after layering samples, which have been already precompressed and pre EQed.



having a drummer playing on a MIDI drum... psss.. just download a GM MIDI style preset from the web. ahhaah


my 2cents...

its comes from the loudness wars... and it depends in the style. if your doing modern rock ,pop, hiphop electronic music etc then yes.. use samples...
i mean.. to make something like the eastwest symphonic orchestra or vienna .. its a multimillion dollar project.. using the best mics, players, compression EQ etc... same as BFD , it also creates a different side of the music economy for different companies employing diferent engineers, players etc.

but for things like jazz, classical music composions, and stuff with a lot of dynamics or more acustic sounding then of course get a good engineer with a good sounding studio with tons of expensive gear. its worth it... but if you are doing paris hiltons latest album or red hot chilli peppers then please .. please use samples. oh my, have you heard red hot chilli playing live... they suck!!!!

i wanna listen to bands like TOOL live, no samples, although i know the drumer has a midi triger for percusion sound he recorded himself.


technology is chainging a lot of things, like it change in a lot of industries.
so better get used to it and not only that, but learn how to replace, program and mix sampled drums the fastest way, and that it sounds "real".
its actually really difficult.

find the best samples to replace for different styles of rock and pop.
record your own drum samples with the best gear and drums and use them in your recordings. create wierd and unique effects so you can stay competitive.
soon a client will come in the door asking for THAT sound.




as for the consumer/regular listener... whatever they want... what they want they buy , what they buy is demand... ways to mesure it .. billboard.. whats on billboard.. bands with samples drums...
point being.. they dont care. most will be happy just turning the radio on to the "my genre, market segment/ style" station and listen to bands they can talk gossip about later on at the watercooler.
sad.. but true.




so who cares.. i can argue that while you say why bother recording a drummer if its being replaced with sampled drums then why even record them in the 1st place, with all that gear if its going to change the sound sonically one way or another. if its not going to sound like the real thing. its just newer and "better" technology replacing another one. dont fear change embrace it.
Old 9th June 2006
  #21
Kiwiburger,

Sorry if I came off as arrogant, or naive. I just noticed that most rock music, especially hard rock, has the most boring, uncreative, 'me too' drum sound (let's not get into the writing/other sounds). I'm extremely passionate about this issue, almost more so than the loudness wars. But I do agree with gsilbers, about samples stemming from them.

Also, I usually mix the room mics up, and pull the overheads and close mics way down. So my drums can sound more natural and 'in the room'. That, I feel, is a million times more truthful, and superior sounding, then mixing in samples. That's sort of what I meant by the phrase "I want to hear the truth".

While what you say about, basically, hearing what I want to hear and not 'the truth', may be, in a sense, correct. I don't feel that denying a greater truth, in music, should be accepted. I'm not talking about the perfectly natural, physical reproduction of a recorded waveform. This, I know, is not possible. It's also something I don't usually strive for. I'm talking about certain ideals that musicians (including engineers, and producers) seem to lack or, at least, walk around.

No, I'm not talking about rules either. Honestly, this is too difficult to explain on a forum. I could go on for hours about this. Plus, I don't disagree with others using samples. I just find it disappointing.

Which brings me to my other point.


"How can one get excited about a well known producer or mixer's drum sounds knowing full well that the sounds being heard on the recording are not the actual sound of the drum being played?"

Firstly, Brilliant and thanks for wondering about this dtucker.

I certainly can't and I don't think anyone should get excited. I do think samples can be done badly and they can be done well. But that doesn't make it truly challenging.

Come on, it's can't be hard, tuck them under a decently recorded and processed drum track. With the mouse wheel, cycle through a few samples and tune. This isn't difficult folks. Try tuning a drum. Better yet, try tuning the drums to play in harmony. Let alone, placing the drums in the room, choosing heads, cymbals and sticks, choosing mics, placement, pres, compressors, eqs. Samples can take a lot of these variables out of the mix. Which is easier, but will yield boring results I think.

Most mixers, artists, and labels, want to take the safe route and hit you on the head (no pun intended). But this is creating the most cookie cutter sound, ever! If it were so hard, why does every band have the same drum sound?

Just my 27 cents
Old 9th June 2006
  #22
Gear Maniac
 
Bolt Thrower's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by audiomichael
I don't think it's as extreme as using a midi kit. Most of the guys that use samples are using them as reinforcement. In my eyes, not much different than using a compressor and EQ. When I use samples, it's mostly for some extra bottom end and/or ambience. At most, it's real kick / snare 60% and samples 40%. Just pulling up BFD or DFH Superior ain't gonna get you a drum sound fan club. You've gotta have a live foundation to work from.
Well, for a session I once hired one of my drum heroes, recognized around the world as one of the most talented drummers in the Florida deathmetal scene (if you know deathmetal, then you know why Florida is like Mecca). Many of the most important albums of the genre were recorded/mixed at this one famous studio. The story this drummer told me was that some of these legendary albums were drummed so poorly that the kick drum tracks were more or less entirely reprogrammed in MIDI!

Also, the big-name producer/engineer was known for triggering the double-kick on many of his recordings, in order to keep a consistent level and overcome weaknesses in the various players. I could name a few albums in this category, and they are great records. So in my view that pretty much settles the question of if samples have a place wherever they're needed. I personally don't scorn such albums in any way. Whatever it takes to bring me a classic record -- do it.

My point here is that drum-sound fans most certainly exist based on samples.
Old 9th June 2006
  #23
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ScumBum's Avatar
 

I think most drummers just suck nowadays , so they got to use samples .Many drummers can't even tune their own drums .
Old 9th June 2006
  #24
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Curtis Franklin's Avatar
 

if you have a large enough budget to entertain EVERY option you should record a great sounding kit in a great room with great gear....


then, you can replace it later if you change your mind.... but at least you have the option.


plus it gives the drummer something to do.
Old 9th June 2006
  #25
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Your avatar rules -- R.I.P. Ted Knight!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dtucker
how 'bout a Fresca?
(sneering) Did you go to Harvard?

- Chuck Shick

[or perhaps, even more appropriate]

Nice hat. When ya buy a hat like that, I betcha get a free bowl o' soup, huh? ... Looks good on you, though!

- Al Czervik
Old 9th June 2006
  #26
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Yet there's nothing better than the drummer applauding the engineer for making their kit sound better than they could have ever imagined.

And they say samples are a bad thing.
Old 9th June 2006
  #27
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Bolt Thrower's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by desol
The whole band-aid, perfect sound thing just makes me wanna barf.
I think some people (not necessarily you) lump in quantization as well with their objections. The impact of quantization on musicality overshadows that of samples, i.e. the robotic timing is a dead giveaway and generally boring. Perhaps the time/money pressures prevent more realistic drum programming, despite the additional time afforded to project studios. It's so much easier to just lock it all to the grid and focus on the layering. Or bring in a real player on a MIDI kit.

Which is not to say there's no musical need for quantized beats. Quite the opposite. Electronic music is cool, etc. I just wanted to distinguish timing and dynamics from the actual samples used. Samples are, I think, not the problem.

I'm a strings player, and non-drumming musical loners like me have the greatest need for drums. Personally, I really enjoy drum programming, but I never quantize and tend to ignore BPM in my sequencer. It has to groove, which is really hard to accomplish when I'm performing in thousands of tiny little bits over a long period of time. I suppose a purist might really hate my approach, which involves absolutely cut-throat cheating to get the most realistic sound. That sound is of course an ideal I enjoy working towards, thanks to the relative freedom afforded by my day job.

I think the right programming objectives include:

- Avoid quantization at all costs
- Record in real-time to build and keep the groove
- Extensive velocity editing to ensure musical dynamics
- Try to match the limitations and style of real drummers
- MIDI drums OK (if only I could play them)
- To mix, nudge recordings backwards an amount equal to your sample monitor latency

I'm not sure if the greater challenge is the programming, or the mixing. I'm definitely a much better programmer than mixer. In any case, my goal is for the listener to ask who the drummer was. To those who really hate samples, maybe it's because you also recognize the challenge of making them sound realistic. Meeting that challenge is cause for celebration.
Old 9th June 2006
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MushroomKingdom
I think most drummers just suck nowadays...
This is probably the most disappointing thing I've read on this forum.

Most drummers suck? Are you talking about people in legitimate, talented bands, or just any 14 year old that pick up some sticks and got a set of Exports for his birthday?

Sure, there are a lot of bad drummers. There are a lot of bad cab drivers, politicians, optometrists, parents, etc. Specifically with the wave of budget priced gear, there is more opportunity than ever for just any joe to buy the "tools" and consider himself an adequate musician.

There is the equal opportunity for musicians that would otherwise have had no way of discovering their gift, to see it flourish.

We need to be careful of generalities.

Without fail, everytime something new comes along or gains mass appeal, there are the "devout few" who protest, "no, the way it WAS is the way it should be -- this new stuff is garbage!"

Go back 40 years and ask the oldtimers what they thought of what was being recorded then!

It never fails.

If there is inspiration, if there is passion, if there is any shred of care for excellence, great music will be made, samples or not. Some tubes of wood, some stretched plastic, some ones and zeroes. They are all tools, and in the hands of the right person, all can do miraculous things.
Old 9th June 2006
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bolt Thrower
Well, for a session I once hired one of my drum heroes, recognized around the world as one of the most talented drummers in the Florida deathmetal scene (if you know deathmetal, then you know why Florida is like Mecca). Many of the most important albums of the genre were recorded/mixed at this one famous studio. The story this drummer told me was that some of these legendary albums were drummed so poorly that the kick drum tracks were more or less entirely reprogrammed in MIDI!

Also, the big-name producer/engineer was known for triggering the double-kick on many of his recordings, in order to keep a consistent level and overcome weaknesses in the various players. I could name a few albums in this category, and they are great records. So in my view that pretty much settles the question of if samples have a place wherever they're needed. I personally don't scorn such albums in any way. Whatever it takes to bring me a classic record -- do it.

My point here is that drum-sound fans most certainly exist based on samples.
WOW, that is extreme!

To be honest, for a metal type thing, I wouldn't be against full on kick replacement. I like my metal drums tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. But most of the time I wan't a more organic sounds. So I go for the 40/60.
Old 9th June 2006
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
Matt Smith's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sword in Hand
Kiwiburger,

Also, I usually mix the room mics up, and pull the overheads and close mics way down. So my drums can sound more natural and 'in the room'. That, I feel, is a million times more truthful, and superior sounding, then mixing in samples.
But try that approach on a thrash or death metal album with huge layers of guitars and vocals and whatever else, and you'll have a mess really quick. Which, again, is a matter of taste and choice, but there's no way you'll hear every kick drum in that scenario. To me, it's all style dependent.

Matt
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