MY THOUGHTS ON DRUM REPLACEMENT

MY THOUGHTS ON DRUM REPLACEMENTScreenshot 2015-06-17 15.10.32

I know it’s been awhile since my last blog so I’m doing a quick one here.

When bands come into the studio to record drums on of the big topics of debate is that of drum replacement. For those of you that don’t know drum replacement is a technique where the recorded drum track ( either microphone or trigger) is few into a software that senses each hit and plays a prerecorded sample instead of the recorded audio.

I have mixed feelings on this, and I’ll tell you why.

I think it has a time and a place.

Modern metal music has gotten increasingly precise, intricate, and FAST! So much so is the need for precision that some bands don’t even record real drums at all for their records. They program their drum parts into software instruments like Toontrack’s EZ Drummer, or Superior Drummer.

With that said drum replacement has been happening for years. Way before the computer studio. Electronic drums were used a ton in the ’80’s and those hardware units got used for drum replacement in the ’90’s. Even Nivana’s “Nevermind” album featured a sample replaced kick drum.

The reason to use drum samples is a matter of control, and consistency. At 290bpm a drummer playing 16th note double kick parts is not going to have the power and consistency of hits as he does in sections where he is only using single kick. It’s just physics.

So in order to make the drum part sound like he is hitting fairly consistently, and each hit with power, we can use samples to make this possible.

The other main reason is sound isolation. Now we are used to hearing such produced, clean, recordings it’s tougher than ever to get a “pro sound”. When miking up a drum kit it’s common practice to put a mic on basically every piece of kit, totaling 8-16 or more mics!CREEZ DRUMSET

While this creates many issues than can be discussed in other articles for us here this means one thing….

BLEED!

As in parts of a kit “bleeding in” to other microphones on the kit. The biggest offender by far is the hi-hat bleeding into the snare mic. The snare drum itself is probably the loudest and bleeds into every single other mic, however this isn’t as problematic as the hats bleeding into the snare track.

A snare drum is one of the most prominent parts of just about any mix. It provides the punch and groove of a song and needs to be consistently featured. This means pretty heavy compression and eq for modern styles of music. This also means that anything else in that mic is going to get louder and more prominent as well. This is also true to a lesser extent to cymbal bleed in to the tom tom tracks.

the cymbal bleed on these tracks has a tendency to wash out the mix and destroy stereo imaging of cymbals.

One of the solutions is to replace the hits with samples. It’s an easy solution. You get nice clean snare and tom tracks with no bleed and the imaging of the whole kit is superb and you can also remedy the hit consistency mentioned earlier.

These are the most common types of replacement and I do use them.

However…..

I don’t like to.

One of my favorite things to do in the studio is to get a great drum sound.

You work so hard picking the right drums, tuning them, and picking just the right mics, placement, and signal chain.SM7 snare placement

All just to use the tracks as fancy triggers?

I try to work with the idea that I won’t ever be replacing the sounds. I use the pickup patterns on the mics and their placement to control bleed. I also work with the drummer to see if I can get a bit more distance between problem spots like the hat and snare.

But here is the most important drum mixing device ever created!

The drummer.

The best drums sounds come from a drummer who hits consistently with confidence and knows how hard to hit each element, in effect “mixing” himself. So if I have a good drummer and a good kit, I’d rather do a few extra takes and get things so sound great right then and there than just go around sample replacing everything after the fact.

But if I do.

I try to record samples of the actual kit we are using.

You can just use “boxed” or “canned” samples that you purchase or come with the software, but I prefer to use sounds that we worked to create.

I like to blend in samples.

I will mix the kit the best I can and then add the samples in as another track and just blend them in enough to do the job.

So in the end, as with anything else, I see a technology that has something good to offer and I see it’s overuse. This is however art and is therefore subjective, so do whatever gets you the sound YOU want.

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