Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Making drums sound more powerful, part two.

Backtracking just a little, I mentioned a few different ways in which we all like to get drums recorded. I like to either write drums with midi or to simply place (drag and drop) midi lines of drum loops into my music using a drum software like any one of Toontrack's many unique products.

This is just my work flow and you may or may not like using this same method. Let me explain why I like to use midi drums in my songs.

First, and probably most importantly, as a songwriter I like the control that midi drums give me. I can quickly switch the drum sample out with other drum samples in order to find the perfect fitting sound for each song. I can also place these switches at any point in a song, or double different parts. But more on this stuff in a few paragraphs....

Moving on, I like to edit each piece of a drum kit separately (like adding reverb on just a snare). Midi drums allow me to place each piece of the kit onto its own track. I can get confused at times if I place too much midi information onto just one midi track. I also like to play with volume and velocity as I write, and this is easy when each piece is on a separate track. This technique also allows for easy automation of all aspects of a drum kit. Effects parameters, or the effect types themselves most often need automation in order to get the most out of them. Automating effects and parameters like distortion, panning, velocity, wah, reverb, and volume is just easier when each piece of a kit is on its own track..

Lastly, midi information is just so darn easy to work with! I can easily copy and paste the midi information from one part of a song to any other part in a song in a swipe of the mouse. I can automate the pasted parts differently in order to make them sound just a little bit different too. Editing midi is a snap, well, once you get used to writing with midi anyway.

Toontracks Superior Drummer 2.0 actually took this “each piece of a kit gets its own track” technique and ran with it. Their Toontracks Superior Drummer 2.0 software allows for adding track by track effects, or the adding of effects to each piece of a drum kit separately. Toontracks Superior Drummer 2.0 ships with some awesome effects too, and these effects take up very little processing power. Look here, back to an older post, to read more about Toontracks Superior Drummer 2.0.

We all enjoy placing a snappy delay on a kick, a reverb on a snare, and effects like distortion on everything else that we can get away with. Here is one more idea that I would like to share with you all.

What I like to do is to copy a kick line, and paste it onto a new track. Now I can pick a second kick drum sample for this track and now I will have a more interesting and a way more powerful kick drum. Sometimes I will change the drum samples between the verses and the choruses, just for some dynamics. This idea works great on snares also, and please have some fun with this idea. Try adding a sub bass, or even metal strikes as doubled samples.

One thing that I try to do when writing rock and roll drum lines is to decide what a person could actually play. Layering drums and adding sub percussive beats on top of the main beat may be too much for a person to actually play out live. However, it could be done by joining other drummers to the band. If I am using two percussionists for a song idea, then I like to make sure that the midi that I write would and could be played by just two people. However, with rock music I try to keep it real. I stay away from impossible notes and over the top drum lines. Dance music is a different beast all together, and different rules might apply though.

To get a live player vibe, I like to sum the outputs of all the drum kits pieces to a stereo track. Then, I will add a send/return effects loop in order to add some room sized reverb. I like to play the wet track along with the dry track, just to make it sound authentic. Keep the reverb short and life like, as a little reverb goes a long way. Long decays on reverbs can get quite awful sounding, so listen close to what you are placing on your tracks. Make sure the delays don't get too confusing for the listener by making sure they are short too.

Another idea is to only add a send/return reverb loop track to only the hi hats tracks. That way it will sound as if a drum room was used to record the whole drum kit. With the illusion cast, you can then dazzle the listener by adding some cool delays and reverbs to the rest of the kits pieces.

No comments:

Post a Comment