Howie Snow on Drum samples in my recordings?…
Well, that’s only partially true. I want to get right to discussing something that I feel very passionately about, and that is drum production in metal music. I have always felt that in the metal genre, when so much of what you are hearing is already heavily processed and compressed (this includes guitars as high gain tones are by nature heavily compressed), why not give the drums- the one instrument that is acoustic in nature-the treatment it deserves by preserving all of the qualities that help determine how you “experience” the music.
Unlike guitars and bass, the drums have a very wide dynamic range and sound very different based on who is playing them. Ten different drummers can play the same parts on the exact same kit, and you are guaranteed to hear many differences between those drummers. Now, I understand the arguments behind justifying the use of drum samples. And in fact, let me take a moment to break down some facts about the use of drum replacement.
As you may or may not know, there are multiple ways to make use of drum samples. I even have my own methods of using drum samples and those methods change from project to project. On one extreme you have complete drum replacement. Of the different ways to use drum samples, this is the way I always stay away from-the only exception being when the drums are actually programmed or when a band is absolutely dead set on having or needing that sound. I feel this is hands down the easiest way to strip a recording of it’s “feel” and have it sound more or less just like many other modern metal albums that have been released in the past years (I must stress that I’m solely speculating on the production of albums and not their musical content).
On the other extreme of using drum samples, you can do what I call “supplemental replacement.” An example of this is placing snare samples in such a way that they line up with the actual snare drum performance. There are many benefits of using this method, the most obvious being that you can process the samples in any way you like without adversely affecting the other parts of the kit, which as you know, you cannot do with the actual miked drum tracks. You can boost the ever-living crap out of whatever frequencies you like on a snare drum or tom and alas, there will be no cymbal washiness. You can also compress them to your heart’s content, all without affecting any of the other tracks. You can even trigger reverbs or delays with those samples and not even have the samples be audible. Go figure!
I have one other thought about this whole drum sample thing. I have also found that most of the time, drum performances that have been completely replaced with samples have also been heavily quantized which I feel plays an equally effective role in stripping a performance of its personality. It’s as if the two were made for each other. Just as much as different drummers hit with different velocities, different drummers hit at different times down to milliseconds. Some play more ahead of the beat, some play behind. Some play right on the beat. I must be clear, I’m not trying to make believe that I’ve never taken advantage of elastic audio or quantize functions ever. I’m just making the greater point that it’s something I feel could be used more gracefully.
I’m sure there there’s a world of listeners, musicians, and engineers who may agree or disagree with me on some or all of these points. As I’ve previously stated, this is something I feel very passionately about, but more importantly I want to know what you have to say about all of this. One thing I might add is that I am not taking into account how any given album is actually mixed as far as drums go. That’s a different blog for a different day. But please don’t let that stop you from bringing up any thoughts or questions you may have pertaining to any of this.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing what you have to say!
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Hey there! Welcome to my blog! My hope for this blog is that everyone can engage in discussing many different topics relating to audio production and music. I have made a commitment to helping listeners, musicians, and engineers of all skill levels, styles, ages, etc. learn all they can about audio and all of its wonders through discussion, tutorials, straightforward blogs, and just about any other method you or I can conceive of.
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