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So, as a non-drummer, I was wondering how folks approach drum tracks?

I definitely don't give these the attention they deserve, my go-to VST of choice is EzDrummer and I tend to (fairly quickly) pick a groove I like (based on what sounds right in my head for the track in question) then I use the variations available to build a song track. I might add a few fills and a few hand-played cymbals for effect and that's about it.

I'm not sure many of my drum tracks are humanly playable by one drummer on one kit; after all there's only so much you can do with two hands and two feet - right?

That sort of bothers me, I wouldn't knowingly program a midi guitar to play a chord that couldn't be physically fretted or play notes on instruments that are out of their natural range - so why should I be less careful with drums?

I guess my test is, if it sounds good, I'll run with it; but my lack of attention to detail still wrankles a bit.

Do the drummers on here listen to tracks like mine, pick up on those passages where I defy the laws of natural humanity and get bent out of shape about it? Or do they just roll their eyes and think, there goes another eejit who couldn't hit a cow's a*se with a banjo to a beat - let alone play or program drums and keep time. 😂

Am I alone in my crimes against drum tracks or are all non-drummers guilty as charged to a greater or lesser extent?

I do love the drums as an instrument and wish I had learned to play - kudos (and sincere apologies) to all you real drummers.

All tips on how I can improve or resources where I can learn to do better gratefully received.

Andy

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1 hour ago, AndyB01 said:

I'm not sure many of my drum tracks are humanly playable by one drummer on one kit; after all there's only so much you can do with two hands and two feet - right?

That sort of bothers me, I wouldn't knowingly program a midi guitar to play a chord that couldn't be physically fretted or play notes on instruments that are out of their natural range - so why should I be less careful with drums?

Try to imagine playing the part. That will fix most of it.

 

1 hour ago, AndyB01 said:

I guess my test is, if it sounds good, I'll run with it

That's what really matters.

 

1 hour ago, AndyB01 said:

Do the drummers on here listen to tracks like mine, pick up on those passages where I defy the laws of natural humanity and get bent out of shape about it? Or do they just roll their eyes and think, there goes another eejit who couldn't hit a cow's a*se with a banjo to a beat - let alone play or program drums and keep time. 😂

Who are you doing this for? Them or you?

 

1 hour ago, AndyB01 said:

I do love the drums as an instrument and wish I had learned to play - kudos (and sincere apologies) to all you real drummers.

Nothing is stopping you....

1 hour ago, AndyB01 said:

All tips on how I can improve or resources where I can learn to do better gratefully received.

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=how+to+program+drums&t=fpas&ia=web

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Going back to the 80's I've seen drummers use sequencers to play high hat parts on some songs. Some bands like the grateful dead had two drummers. Does it matter if it sounds good?

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, I'll echo the other comments here. What's the goal for this?

When I write drums and I know I want it to be realistic, I'll go to great lengths to make sure it's playable (even if it's got to be a world class drummer that does it), I'll write in variations of where the drum is being hit, velocity for both right and left hands, nudge notes to make it realistic as far as when a drummer would be able to get to the hit from going around the kit and all of that stuff - the parts are actually usually not that difficult but the tweaking to make it sound real, and then the subsequent mixing of splitting each instrument out to its own discrete track to process it like an acoustic drum can really take ages, but it makes all the difference to how real it sounds in the end.

However... that's not the only way to approach drums. I'm an 80s kid, so I'm happily at home with a LinnDrum or 808 playing absolutely impossible stuff, that's just not meant to sound real. Does it work for the song? Yes. Then it's correct. That's basically it.  And often, I'll layer a lot of my "dude you spent way to long making that stuff sound real" drums with very obviously programmed stuff because I like how it sounds together.

There's also no rule to say that you can't use a basic drum VST that you're running MIDI loops into it or your own basic patterns in your songs. If you're personally trying to go for realism and it's falling short, then sure - there's areas you can "improve" but if you like how it all sounds despite it not being "real" then... ehh... it's good. This is art at the end of the day and is subjective. If you like it, then that's the answer: it's the correct part for you. :) 

EDIT:  If you *do* want to get your programming chops up, have a look at Scott's course here: https://spectredigital.com/product/metal-drum-programming-mastery/   It's metal oriented but metal is one of the hardest styles to get sounding realistic because rolls especially sound absolutely terrible programmed unless you really know what you're doing, and you can apply this knowledge to any rock or pop style.

Edited by Lord Tim
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Interesting replies and thoughts - I reckon I am over-thinking it but appreciate the links, I'll take a look at those when I get the time. @bdickens - as for what's stopping me learning the drums - how long do you have... ?

  • wife
  • space
  • cost
  • noise
  • neighbours
  • lack of talent
  • too many instruments already (wife's opinion)
  • time
  • work
  • chores
  • did I mention the wife?

😂😂😂😂

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50 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:

Interesting replies and thoughts - I reckon I am over-thinking it but appreciate the links, I'll take a look at those when I get the time. @bdickens - as for what's stopping me learning the drums - how long do you have... ?

Fair enough. However:

 

51 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:

wife

 

52 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:

too many instruments already (wife's opinion)

I would hope this could be negotiated.

 

53 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:

space

 Understandable.

 

54 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:
  • noise
  • neighbours
53 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:

Electronic drums. Solved.

55 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:
  • time
  • work
  • chores

Understandable.

 

1 hour ago, AndyB01 said:

lack of talent

BS excuse. Like genius, talent is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

 

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I am a big believer in people can pretty much do whatever they want to do if they put their minds to it. You just have to put in the work.

Yes, some people have to work a lot harder and for some it comes easier, but if you put in the  work you will get there.

I prefer to think in terms of how can I do this rather than reasons why I can't.

 

I realize I am also extremely fortunate to live in a rural area where I don't have to worry much about the neighbors and to have a wife who is not only supportive but who is also my sometimes partner in crime.

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Back on topic: I forgot to mention to really listen critically to the drums on songs like what you are trying to do and emulate that.

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@AndyB01 We seem to be similar in that we aren't expressly drummers unless sitting behind a kit playing around counts for something. I have played bass. I fact I'm probably playing bass tomorrow. Drums, bass and often rhythm guitar are what hold the beat or bottom end of most songs. Most musicians have a sense of rhythm.

My issue is usually with having too many choices in both drums and loops. Let me know if you ever get that simplified because I have a tough time with it. Would be like a pianist who can pick the sound of each key almost. It's crazy what we can do with drum software. Me being a classic overthinker I often get bogged down.

One thing that has helped me is to listen to tracks I respect and listen to the drums in them. If you do this is becomes apparent in most songs, the drummer could almost read a book while he or she is drumming. Very simple rhythms using very simple samples, often very dry in a mix.

I almost need to approach it like I'm decluttering things most of the time. What I have, or what anyone has even with something like EZDrummer is severe overkill.

In a word-Simplify. Then if I need something more I'll add it later. If I have an 8 bar verse I might put a sample drum under it with a feel I like fully expecting to modify the midi later. I put enough rhythm under the song to make a complete song. Then I go back and make changes. Often I won't use a canned loop. I might use some of one and make modifications to it later to make it feel like a real drummer felt a sudden urge to hit a snare for emphasis. Even though I'm not a drummer i try to imagine I am when putting together drums.

Even though most drum parts are fairly simple, I have found that with later modifications they can sometimes take enormous amounts of time to make the way I want them to be. Might be 20% or more of my time into one song.

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Oh yeah. It is really hard to go wrong with doing something simple. It would be really unusual to say the least to ruin a song by underplaying.

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I'm working on a country/folk/pop album right now for an artist and I've been brought in to also program drums (they're usually an acoustic duo) and do keyboards on the tracks, as well as production. The mantra is As Simple As It Can Be, As Complex As It Needs To Be with this stuff.

The basic beats are crazy simple (especially compared to the metal stuff I do) but treating the drums as part of the ensemble where the rolls accentuate certain parts, or the kick pattern grooves with the bass makes all the difference to how well it works. From a programming point of view it's not much different complexity-wise than doing mostly 4-on-the-floor 8th note grooves, but getting it locked in and going back to refine it to work in the context of the track is definitely key here.

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As noted earlier, some band have 2 drummers. I've done some things with 3 drum vsti setup up to play different parts as if I have 2 drummers and a percussionist. So as several have repeated if it sounds good it is good. And if you program something that is complex enough, and you or someone else wants to perform it live, then either bring the tracks or hire enough people to play it... One more thought, simpler is generally going to sound more realistic in most situations. One thing I tend to do is set up the midi for the song and then strip out as much as I can while still retaining the essential aspects. This leaves room for other instruments which don't mask the drums  or are masked by them. Hi hats and cymbals are usually the first things I scale back. 

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As a drummer, I have no problem making realistic drum parts. But in reality, I have heard of songs where the drum part is a bit unrealistic when it's supposed to be realistic, like they have closed hihat while playing djent metal style double pedal. Listening to those actually make me think how I can possibly, or creatively play it rather than complaining and crying like "No it's not realistic!" although I sometimes feel like we drummers don't usually do this, we can't do this...how can we do this...or perhaps can we, actually...?

For that example, I try to think that It's actually playable if you set 2 hihats with one always closed or something. Also, nowadays, if a drummer used some sort of sampler or e-drum set up, more things can be technically playable.

There are drummers who can play very complex drum'n'bass patterns which originally weren't meant for playing it on an actual drum set. I actually think, some drum patterns by non drummers are actually creative and inspiring sometimes especially when it's complicated.

When it comes just a normal rock drum, non drummers probably don't know how "lazy" drummers can be. What I mean is, let's say there is a normal 8 beat pattern, and you hit a crash cymbal at the beginning of the bar. Let's say you use your right hand to hit the cymbal and then subsequently hit hihats to continue the 8 beat pattern. This totally depends on how you play it or the tempo, but sometimes we don't hit the hihat until next snare hit. This is because the accent is basically on snare and when you hit snare with your left hand and hit hihat with your right hand simultaneously, it's easier than busily hitting all the 8 beats hihat.

This is one example but I really do something like this when my right hand gets busy. There are times when hihat or ride cymbal parts are omitted. And naturally, drummers are not robots so we tend to make phrases easy to play, like imagine a drum and bass pattern snare with random accent on 16th notes while having busy hihats vs average simple rock drum patterns. 

That's said when I actually write Midi with my mouse, I often forget these or write something that is not so natural nor easy to play but technically playable if I try hard. Maybe I can't play it but someone better can.

 

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39 minutes ago, Quick Math said:

As a drummer, I have no problem making realistic drum parts. But in reality, I have heard of songs where the drum part is a bit unrealistic when it's supposed to be realistic, like they have closed hihat while playing djent metal style double pedal.

Drop clutch.

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Or a second set of hats - that's very common on a lot of the big kits I record.

Can't say I'm a big fan of djent style drums though, personally. They somehow sound more like a drum machine than a 1984 Frankie Goes to Hollywood 12" remix 🤔

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15 hours ago, Quick Math said:

Also, nowadays, if a drummer used some sort of sampler or e-drum set up, more things can be technically playable.

Yeah, I've noticed a fair number of drummers and percussionists using an spd-sx. I got one to input midi, but it's fun to trigger loops on some of the pads as well ...

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On 8/7/2022 at 4:53 PM, Glenn Stanton said:

As noted earlier, some band have 2 drummers. 

I spent my late teens listening to Genesis and God alone knows how many drummers they had playing on some of their albums - so I guess I think anything is possible. 😂

Some great insights on this thread that have been a really interesting read - so as the OP that started it - thanks to everyone who has contributed.

Andy

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27 minutes ago, AndyB01 said:

I spent my late teens listening to Genesis and God alone knows how many drummers they had playing on some of their albums - so I guess I think anything is possible. 😂

Phil was just that good.

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