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How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
#3033786 03/17/20 04:38 PM
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This was inspired by a response in a different thread, but thought it was a sufficiently important topic to have its own space.

My solution in many cases is to use loops played by an actual drummer. The Discrete Drums loops were, at least to my ears, by FAR the best ones out there. Unfortunately, they are no longer available as sample libraries, but many of them have been incorporated in Sonoma Wire Works' DrumCore 4. I've used them all over my latest releases, and even real drummers think I'm using a real drummer...because I am. I do a LOT of cutting, pasting, slicing, etc. to keep the loops from getting repetitive, and throw in a fair amount of one-shot sounds (the Discrete Drums libraries included one-shots of the drums used in the loops - how helpful!).

I have a bunch of other tricks too, but I'm curious to hear what y'all have to say on the subject. How do you make non-drummer-generated drum parts not sound like fake, mechanical parts - especially MIDI-based ones?

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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033791 03/17/20 04:50 PM
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Yes drum loops work best when you can find what you want and are in a situation where you can use them

I generally am not in a situation where I need to sequence drum parts any more, but I did play in a duo for many years where all the drums were sequenced. A few things:

Dynamics - it's too easy with discrete drum sounds to make everything static. Make sure there is variation and dynamics
Variation - use a variety of sounds. A snare sounds different depending on where on the head you hit it. Hihats arent only open or closed, there are lots of variations in between
Authenticity - play patterns that can actually be played on the drums. You cant hit a crash, snare, and tom at the same time.
Feel - don't quantize the shit out of it.


Dan

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.
Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033796 03/17/20 04:58 PM
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All good points. Regarding the hi-hats, a trick I use is that with MIDI drums, you often have synth-type processing modules. Using an amplitude envelope on the open hat can add variations that don't require additional samples.

I also tie sample start point to negative velocity for drums so that softer hits have a softer attack. This makes a big difference in terms of the sound being more realistic.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033819 03/17/20 06:24 PM
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I purchased the entire library from loop loft several years ago on a black friday sale. Good stuff

https://www.thelooploft.com/


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
davedoerfler #3033855 03/17/20 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by davedoerfler
I purchased the entire library from loop loft several years ago on a black friday sale. Good stuff

https://www.thelooploft.com/

Do you mean the $1000 bundle of everything, or specific drum bundles?

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033862 03/17/20 10:00 PM
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Hire a drummer, maybe? Lots of musicians are short of work these days.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033863 03/17/20 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by davedoerfler
I purchased the entire library from loop loft several years ago on a black friday sale. Good stuff

https://www.thelooploft.com/

Do you mean the $1000 bundle of everything, or specific drum bundles?


Just drums. I believe it was similar to this

https://www.thelooploft.com/collections/drum-loops/products/the-platinum-pack


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Mike Rivers #3033872 03/17/20 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Hire a drummer, maybe? Lots of musicians are short of work these days.

Try fitting one in my studio.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033873 03/17/20 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Hire a drummer, maybe? Lots of musicians are short of work these days.

Try fitting one in my studio.

rimshot

loop loft it is. cool


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033881 03/18/20 12:11 AM
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It's not just a question of space, either. There are neighbors, you need several good mics and stands, isolation so you can hear what's happening with the tracks while the drummer is drumming, and I guarantee a drummer isn't going to bring over 12 different kits so you can choose the one with the right sound.

Besides, with the loops, I basically did hire a drummer. He got royalties smile

I remember services where you could send your song to a drummer who would record a drum part. Are those still around? Anyone use them?

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033891 03/18/20 01:51 AM
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I'm a drummer/percussionist (I'm the whole f***ing band I can play keyboards, drums, bass, guitar, sing, run sound, repair gear...)

Depending on the song I play the parts from my electronic kit or from the keyboard. I don't use loop sets nor do I own a real kit.

If you're trying to sound like a drummer, it's much harder playing the parts from the keyboard. I often change the dynamics of stuff like the hihat. Drummers play a lot of grace notes and rapid fire rudiments on hihat and snare, which are not easy to pull off from a keyboard.

As a drummer, a lot of electronic drum kits do not feel like a real drum kit. That impacts your playing. My electronic kit is a hodge podge of triggers I have collected over the years. It started as a Simmons kit. By the time I added Acupad snare controller, Dauz triggers, DW kick triggers, others only the Simmons pads were left for toms. That plays like a real drum kit.

If the song only needs a simple pattern and/or loop with few dynamics, I'll just play the part from the keyboard.

How to avoid sounding like a drum machine... Grace notes are a good way to sound like a drummer or percussionist, to minimize repetition in a loop. It does require careful listening to real drummers, I recommend watching videos of renowned drummers or percussionists on YT. Watch what they're doing with their hands, the grace notes go by fast. Some drummers "choke" the head of snares/toms, some let them ring. Guys like Carter Beauford and Dave Weckl are nuts. If I'm using loops I may add grace notes.

Play air drums while thinking out your parts. Yes I'm serious!!! The drummers with certain "feel" are about the MOTION. How they swing the arms, the long trajectory while striking cymbals, economy of motion. It may look like they're emphasizing the visual element, but it's part of the feel too. Even if you're not a drummer, this is something you can learn from YT videos.

Accents on hihat can reduce repetition in loops IE in a four bar loop I'll slightly change the hihat pattern in one or two bars. Most drum kits/sample sets emulate closed/open/foot hihat. I add mid closed hihat, that's closer to a real drummer.

It is ridiculous how expressive and dynamic the snare, ride cymbal, and latin percussion can be. Not just level but timbre. Those are very hard to achieve with samples. Even the density, composition, tip material, and how you grip the drum stick has an impact on the expression of what they are striking. A world of tones live on the head of a snare depending on where you strike the head, rim shots, side stick and where you "choke" on the head... Dizzying to say the least. Same with the way you play percussion by the various "cupping" of your hands. That's a level of expression that live players can offer and samples can't even begin to approach. To approach that using note editing may be more work than it's worth.

Few drumboxes have the facility to varying the timbre with velocity. A sampler system with filters gets you there, and sounding like a drummer. You don't just want low pass filters; high pass filter on a snare makes them sound more realistic. A real snare drum loses low frequencies with lighter playing, which helps with those grace notes.

Loops and playing from a keyboard are VERY basic starts, to be honest. The more authentic you want the sound, the more tweaking you have to do. That can be a lot of work and you reach a point where a live drummer playing the parts is the easier option.

And lastly... digital reverb. The better the reverb algorithm the more you'll sound like a drummer in a room. Ambient reverb with very short tails rule, but I have yet to find a reverb plugin that does short room ambiences like my outboard Lexicons and Eventides. Until you try one of those you'll never appreciate the difference. Skip to 1:15 in this video for a demonstration with/without ambient reverb


Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
The Real MC #3033896 03/18/20 02:48 AM
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Originally Posted by The Real MC
Loops and playing from a keyboard are VERY basic starts, to be honest.

I agree about keyboard, but not loops. Audio loops ARE a real drummer, playing a real drum part, on real drums. Most of the loops I use are by Chris McHugh, and he's an A-list Nashville guy. This is why drummers don't realize I'm using loops, although as mentioned, some of that may be because I cut/paste quite a bit, so that there are very few repetitive elements that scream "I am the same thing being repeated over and over."

Another major benefit is that even though I don't play drums, my father was a fine jazz drummer. I was brought up hearing what good drumming is all about, and it was burned into my DNA from an early age.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033985 03/18/20 06:26 PM
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Here's an article on my free educational site called More Expressive Electronic Drums. I hope you find it useful!

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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3033993 03/18/20 07:02 PM
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I read your More Expressive Electronic Drums. It IS useful, thanks!

Korg Wavedrum Global offers a great range of expression for snare drum sounds but it requires a player. You can easily hear the differences between sticks, brushes, hands and fingers. Moving the strike zone from the center to the edge changes the tones in a similar way to a real snare drum. The force of the strike is accurately represented as well.

It is an electronic drum but it does not play samples or have MIDI, it lives in it's own category. The A Frame drum seems similar, would love to try one. All that said, it doesn't have the same sort of rim as a snare drum and I haven't found a way to get an authentic sounding rimshot. I've picked up 3 small snare drums for kid's drum sets at thrift stores - all different sizes and all sounded good in the store. $5-6 each. With proper tuning and mic'ing they should work well here. I may create my own sample library of rimshots and then donate them back.

I've also got a couple of tom toms (one BIG floor tom with double heads) that may find a place. And a box full of fun percussion stuffs I've picked up along the way.

I do want a cymbal or two and would LOVE a real high hat stand with decent hats. Real hats offer expression that is difficult if not impossible to attain otherwise.

It will happen as these things appear at absurd prices.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034000 03/18/20 07:48 PM
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I'm a want to look at it from two different schools of thought; 1. background tracks for my duo and 2. my own song creations.

Currently I'm trying to build some backing tracks for covers gigs so I want to emulate that which already exists and is widely known while at the same time keeping it in a support role behind my wife and I as we remain the focal points. It's interesting and challenging but not what I call fun. Overall I want to keep tempo reasonably consistent but with occasional variation where it's truly expected. Most of the material we cover was clearly not recorded to a click but constantly varying tempo from measure to measure is not practical, necessary or even desired in this circumstance. It's a long list of songs I'm trying to get this done on and each seems to have unique challenges. I'm constantly at battle with my OCD here!

When I can get back to creating my own music (which I'm waaaaayy behind on doing!) then I'm totally up for experimentation and I see some great suggestions and helpful advice posted here which I'll certainly explore. And yes, there's a good chance that I'll get a real drummer to come over as well!

Last edited by Greg Mein; 03/18/20 08:02 PM.
Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034110 03/19/20 03:01 PM
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I'm a little late to this party. Here is my advice:

1) Get a pair of drumsticks, a practice pad, and enough lessons to learn the basic rudiments (drummer's equivalent of scales). There are 40 rudiments. You don't need all but you should know the first 15.

2) Listen and emulate great drummers like Hal Blaine, Bernard Purdy, Ginger Baker, and so many more (for pop/rock).

You have to understand the instrument to emulate it.

Fortunately my first instrument was drums. I didn't understand sax until I learned how to play it. Same for bass, guitar, flute, wind synth, keyboard synths, vocals. I'll never be a full-time pianist, it's not my desire, but I learned enough about piano to get piano parts down. I've gigged on drums, bass, guitar, flute, wind synth, and doubled on keyboard parts.

When you learn how to at least properly manipulate the drum sticks you know you have a strong hand and a less-strong hand and they both sound different when they hit the drum. You will learn how minuscule increments of time make the difference between a groove and a robot, even how a simple thing like a roll isn't just a bunch of equally timed, equal volume, and equal tone sixteenth notes.

When you learn your basic rudiments you will recognize the difference between a single stroke roll or a double stroke roll by ear. Be able to hear flams, paradiddles, ratamacues, and so on. Drummers use these, and if you can recognize them and play them, you will be able to use your personal taste to insert them and coax the right sound out of the rather stagnant MIDI drums.

To get you started. To get a single stroke roll to sound NOT like a machine gun, detune every other note a bit flat (weak hand) and play it a hair late.

I've played this in live using drum controllers and noticed the time lag. The detuning is hitting the drum head in a different spot, and not quite as hard. There is more to it than that, but this much MIDI can do.

The next best option is hire a drummer.

I hope this helps,
Notes


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034111 03/19/20 03:19 PM
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LESS IS MORE !

When I first started playing drums 45 years ago, I wanted to play a roll/break every 8 bars. Not that I'm lazy today, but I only add a roll when I FEEL it is time...maybe twice in a song. That way it STANDS OUT at the right time. And don't play crazy 16th note triplets and 16th note rolls all of the time. 1/8 not rolls are better.

NEVER PLAY A ROLL WHEN A VOCALIST IS SINGING and don't fight with another lead instrument.

Dan

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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
techristian #3034130 03/19/20 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by techristian
LESS IS MORE !

When I first started playing drums 45 years ago, I wanted to play a roll/break every 8 bars. Not that I'm lazy today, but I only add a roll when I FEEL it is time...maybe twice in a song. That way it STANDS OUT at the right time. And don't play crazy 16th note triplets and 16th note rolls all of the time. 1/8 not rolls are better.

NEVER PLAY A ROLL WHEN A VOCALIST IS SINGING and don't fight with another lead instrument.

Dan

Excellent advice here!

There is LOTS of excellent advice in this thread, thanks Greg for wanting it and Craig for starting it.

I DO "air drum" often. Sometimes I slap out beats on my thighs to the turn signal in my car when I am waiting at a stoplight.
If it makes any sense, I try to play "across" the timing of the turn signal. Any sort of fairly consistent click will do.

If I am listenting to music at the grocery store or other retail outlet, I'll try to parse the beats.
As a guitarist, I am also playing a member of the percussion family. I play a LOT of rythm parts, my job is to serve the song. When the vocals are the main focus find something that supports them and is different than what others are playing.

Or, as a friend told me once "Whatever I do, don't do that." Seems to me if you can play music in time, lay back into the groove, etc., you can play drums at some level.

Here's another good one, learn 3/4 time. We get requests all the time for songs that are in 3/4 time and we can do them justice. Happy crowd is a tipping crowd.


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034142 03/19/20 05:40 PM
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Here's another tip: Quantization strength. In my experience, non-drummers often lead or lag the beat subconsciously (as they should), but overcompensate because they don't have the finesse of an experienced drummer. Quantizing with 50% strength pushes the sound closer to the beat, without strangling the feel. If it's not enough, apply 50% again.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034145 03/19/20 06:01 PM
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Here's my bullet list on this:

> you'll just have to commit some time, do a bit of thinking, a whole lot of listening, and some training.

> find a good percussion track you like, study it, and re-create it in your software.

> as Dan said, keep it as simple as works. Cull unneeded notes. If the drums are noticed, the noticeable parts have to be just what's needed, no more.

> identify a drummer you particularly like, listen to all you can find with that person on the skins, and analyze what they do.

> build a collection of MIDI files with grooves, fills, patterns, that you have actually used in your tracks. Re-use them constantly and tweak as you go. Get totally familiar with them, love them, take care of them (i.e. back up!)

My go-to pop-rock drummer is usually Jim Gordon. Poor fellow is locked away forever as criminally insane, but he was really great. So clear in his intentions, never flashy, musical, a master at building things up, pulling things back, settling into a groove, creating grooves that can make a track sparkle. He's the guy on Rikki Don't Lose That Number, Layla, and about forty million other tracks in the 60s and 70s.

My go-to jazz drummer is Antonio Sanchez. He did that entire soundtrack for the Birdman movie (remember? Micheal Keaton and Emma Stone?) He was also Metheny's drummer for the latter phase of Metheny's career. He floors me constantly.

nat

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034146 03/19/20 06:01 PM
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An interesting anecdote just occurred to me, thinking back to the time when mp3.com was the rage, back in the mid to late '90s. I was doing a lot of recording with Sonar then and I sent a disc to a regional college radio station who played a cut from it (I was told but never heard it myself). The song was sitting on mp3.com and suddenly one day I noticed plays had shot through the roof! It leveled off at number 6 or 7 on the instrumental chart nationwide in the USA and stayed in the top 20 there for a week.

The thing about it is that I couldn't really find a drum beat I liked for it and finally eschewed all other avenues and just put the beat in myself with the keyboard. I thought I did a pretty crappy job but there I was with the biggest original music success story I'd ever had.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
techristian #3034372 03/21/20 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by techristian
LESS IS MORE !

When I first started playing drums 45 years ago, I wanted to play a roll/break every 8 bars. Not that I'm lazy today, but I only add a roll when I FEEL it is time...maybe twice in a song. That way it STANDS OUT at the right time. And don't play crazy 16th note triplets and 16th note rolls all of the time. 1/8 not rolls are better.

NEVER PLAY A ROLL WHEN A VOCALIST IS SINGING and don't fight with another lead instrument.

Dan
That's what I like about drummers like Bernard Purdie. The rolls fill holes in the most tasty ways and never step on the melody.

Also never-ever quantize or step enter a drum part, drummers play with a groove.

Insights and incites by Notes


Bob "Notes" Norton
Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
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The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<
Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034391 03/21/20 05:07 AM
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Another option for more realistic sounds is to use real cymbals. Sampled cymbals just don't sound as rich as "the real thing," and it's probably not too difficult to the cymbal on the beat, where needed. If you're really really bad at timing, then record cymbal hits on their own tracks, shift them to the correct timing, and if you like, bounce into a stereo track.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034417 03/21/20 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Another option for more realistic sounds is to use real cymbals. Sampled cymbals just don't sound as rich as "the real thing," and it's probably not too difficult to the cymbal on the beat, where needed. If you're really really bad at timing, then record cymbal hits on their own tracks, shift them to the correct timing, and if you like, bounce into a stereo track.
Indeed. Even more so than trap kit drums, cymbals have a variety of sounds depending on where you hit them, how hard you hit them, how much you let your stick bounce, and at what angle you hit them.

Hand drums are also capable of a wide range of sounds.

There are things you can't do on a MIDI set that you can do with a 'real' drum, and vice versa.

Notes


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Notes_Norton #3034421 03/21/20 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Notes_Norton
Indeed. Even more so than trap kit drums, cymbals have a variety of sounds depending on where you hit them, how hard you hit them, how much you let your stick bounce, and at what angle you hit them.
I find it's almost impossible to have a realistic ride cymbal sound unless you use a physical cymbal, or a loop of a drummer playing a physical cymbal.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034428 03/21/20 05:46 PM
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Agreeing with Anderton and Notes, real drums and cymbals can create subtle and different tones "on the fly".

Recorded drums are good too, my go-to is NI Studio Drummer which is a solid pack of loops recorded in studios using a drummer and drums - coverted to MIDI.

I have a few select drums and really want a decent hi-hat stand with cymbals. A crash and ride would be nice too.
They will come my way.

I have all sorts of fun hand percussion. Easy to find for cheap.

There are LOTS of choices on YouTube for "hand drum lesson". Some great stuff there!


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034448 03/21/20 07:34 PM
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I’ve sat out of this for a while but I feel myself getting sucked in (or I’m terminally bored from sitting at home).

Is your question about “tone” or about the appropriateness of the parts being played?

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
dboomer #3034474 03/21/20 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by dboomer
Is your question about “tone” or about the appropriateness of the parts being played?

To me, it's about both...although I think appropriateness of the part being played is probably the more important of the two. But, if you play an appropriate hi-hat part, I find it difficult to believe that a sampled hi-hat would convey it properly.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034482 03/21/20 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by dboomer
Is your question about “tone” or about the appropriateness of the parts being played?

To me, it's about both...although I think appropriateness of the part being played is probably the more important of the two. But, if you play an appropriate hi-hat part, I find it difficult to believe that a sampled hi-hat would convey it properly.

Funny, as I see it the other way. If you play that hihat in the right spot with the right feeling if it is even anywhere close the song should work. Oh, well smile

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034483 03/21/20 11:30 PM
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Last edited by dboomer; 03/22/20 01:49 AM.
Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
techristian #3034492 03/22/20 01:07 AM
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HA HA, Beavis, you said "NEVER PLAY A ROLL WHEN A VOCALIST IS SINGING and don't fight with another lead instrument." That should almost be in every band's charter. When did anyone truly fail by pulling back and playing two notes instead of seven? Not as an absolute, but also not a bad starting point.

I don't try to kid myself into thinking I'm a drummer trapped in a keyboardist's brain, but I do a lot of finger drumming. I use an XKey and the short throw makes it surprisingly workable. I build some things completely by hand, using two or three tracks to fit it all in if needed, hooray for DAWs. I have a near-unholy mass of arps & loops that came with various pieces of hardware & software, as well as a colorful collection of free WAV sets from many years of casual surfing. Some of them naturally become part of the bones of things, since they're a collaboration between you and the designer. I like to humanize anything semi-auomated with a hand-played layer or two. I also truck in a fair amount of strangeness & tympani-bending, so "realistic-sounding" isn't my first priority. cool


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
dboomer #3034497 03/22/20 01:44 AM
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Originally Posted by dboomer
Funny, as I’m just the opposite. A well played part with feeling trumps tone every time unless that tone is so bad as to be objectionable. Oh, well smile
Actually I said " I think appropriateness of the part being played is probably the more important of the two" so we're on the same page. But I don't dismiss the sound, because to me, what makes a drum part come alive is the dynamics, the pedal working the hi-hat, the way the sound of a drum changes when you hit it in different places...

A Ginger Baker drum part played on pads and feeding sampled drums will still sound like a Ginger Baker drum part, but it won't sound like Ginger Baker, if you catch my drift.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034555 03/22/20 03:34 PM
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I think appropriateness is far more important than tone.

Think outside of the drum world for a minute. What is the perfect guitar tone? Hendrix? Page? Slash? Beck? Clapton? Benson? Pass? Burrell? Django? Gale? Remler? Orianthi? or someone else?

The two most popular jazz saxophonists of the 20th century were Stan Getz and John Coltrane. They both played tenor sax, but if you played a cut from each to the average non-musician, they wouldn't think they were playing the same instrument.

How about bad tone singers? Dr. John, Blossom Dearie, John Lennon, Stevie Nicks and others.

Why are all these people at the top of their genres in popularity? Tone? Nope. Expression. YEP! All the nuances that turn empty notes into expressive music are the single most important thing in music. Everything else combined is minuscule in comparison, and that includes tone.

So if you don't have the real cymbal or snare drum sound, and you hit them at the right timing and with the right dymamics and play the right fills at the right time, other musician's might notice that there wasn't a variety of tones like there should be, but the general audience will not have a clue. Because they listen to expression, not tone. Add tone nuances only after you have the expressiveness down, it's the sprinkles on the icing in the cake.

You can play for yourself, you can play for other musicians or you can play for the general public. If you are good enough at it, you will get the audience you asked for.

So to get back on topic. Work on your drum chops. Study the expression and dynamics of great drummers like Hal Blaine, Bernard Purdy, Ginger Baker, or a host of others. What makes them work? Which beats are played early, which ones late? Which ones are stressed and which suppressed.

Drums are not instant-play any more than guitar, bass, or saxophone. It takes learning how to play them and a lot of practice to get it right. There are no short-cuts.

You can use drum loops, but are they exactly right for the song? Or are they some generic one-size-fits-many beats? Do they have the exact groove you need? Do they use the right sounds? Would that chrome snare sound better if it was a wood one? Does the bass drum ring too much or is it to dead for your song? And what fun is it to have others play your parts for you? You may as well just listen to the radio or stream.

Learn to play and you don't have to make compromises.

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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Notes_Norton #3034557 03/22/20 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Notes_Norton
I think appropriateness is far more important than tone.

Think outside of the drum world for a minute. What is the perfect guitar tone? Hendrix? Page? Slash? Beck? Clapton? Benson? Pass? Burrell? Django? Gale? Remler? Orianthi? or someone else?

The two most popular jazz saxophonists of the 20th century were Stan Getz and John Coltrane. They both played tenor sax, but if you played a cut from each to the average non-musician, they wouldn't think they were playing the same instrument.

How about bad tone singers? Dr. John, Blossom Dearie, John Lennon, Stevie Nicks and others.

Why are all these people at the top of their genres in popularity? Tone? Nope. Expression. YEP! All the nuances that turn empty notes into expressive music are the single most important thing in music. Everything else combined is minuscule in comparison, and that includes tone.

So if you don't have the real cymbal or snare drum sound, and you hit them at the right timing and with the right dymamics and play the right fills at the right time, other musician's might notice that there wasn't a variety of tones like there should be, but the general audience will not have a clue. Because they listen to expression, not tone. Add tone nuances only after you have the expressiveness down, it's the sprinkles on the icing in the cake.

You can play for yourself, you can play for other musicians or you can play for the general public. If you are good enough at it, you will get the audience you asked for.

So to get back on topic. Work on your drum chops. Study the expression and dynamics of great drummers like Hal Blaine, Bernard Purdy, Ginger Baker, or a host of others. What makes them work? Which beats are played early, which ones late? Which ones are stressed and which suppressed.

Drums are not instant-play any more than guitar, bass, or saxophone. It takes learning how to play them and a lot of practice to get it right. There are no short-cuts.

You can use drum loops, but are they exactly right for the song? Or are they some generic one-size-fits-many beats? Do they have the exact groove you need? Do they use the right sounds? Would that chrome snare sound better if it was a wood one? Does the bass drum ring too much or is it to dead for your song? And what fun is it to have others play your parts for you? You may as well just listen to the radio or stream.

Learn to play and you don't have to make compromises.

Insights and incites by Notes

This is a great post, kudos!!! Cheers, Kuru


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Notes_Norton #3034578 03/22/20 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Notes_Norton
You can use drum loops, but are they exactly right for the song? Or are they some generic one-size-fits-many beats? Do they have the exact groove you need? Do they use the right sounds? Would that chrome snare sound better if it was a wood one? Does the bass drum ring too much or is it to dead for your song?

Well, now you're making my point that tone is also an important factor. I didn't say more important than the part, in fact I said the opposite, but it DOES matter. Hendrix would still sound like Hendrix the musician if he played on a nylon-string guitar, but he wouldn't sound like Hendrix the rock guitarist.

Quote
And what fun is it to have others play your parts for you? You may as well just listen to the radio or stream.

Learn to play and you don't have to make compromises.

I think Beethoven enjoyed having others play his parts for him smile Remember, I spent quite a few years as a studio musician, and I've hired studio musicians as well, so I'm coming from that perspective. I think it's a hell of a lot of fun to have others play your parts for you if they're effing awesome players, and what they play contributes to your music. I could try to learn to play acoustic drums until the day I die, and I promise you, I would NEVER be as good as Chris McHugh. When I use his loops, I'm basically hiring an incredible studio musician whose drumming style fits my music like a glove.

That said, I've played electronic drums on many of my songs, which is the source of the articles I've written over the years about what I've learned to make them sound more expressive. But, I don't play acoustic drums, I don't have acoustic drums, and my studio can't accommodate acoustic drums. Besides, having others play your parts can be a lot of fun if you're an arranger, which I am. I put a lot of effort into cutting, splicing, and moving those loops around. I cut parts from some loops and plop them in the middle of others. I'll take one drum hit and move it slightly. I really do think the results speak for themselves. For the music where I use acoustic drum loops, even drummers don't realize I'm using loops. However, they do wonder how I learned to play drums so well smile

Would I rather have a big studio, a never-ending mic locker, and great acoustics, where I could hire Chris for a week and record his playing? Sure. But frankly, I'm not sure the end result would be much different than what I have now. After all, it's still Chris, it was recorded in a studio with great acoustics and a never-ending mic locker, and his parts are phenomenal. Best of all possible worlds: Great player, great sounds...this is why people hire studio musicians.

It's also a misconception to think that all people who use loops just paste in 4 bars and hit the duplicate button. Sure, some do. But that's like seeing a singer who uses auto-tune, and assuming that all singers use auto-tune.

Hmmmm...now that I think about it, given that I live in Nashville, maybe that's not the best example smile

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034595 03/22/20 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
[quote=Notes_Norton]You can use drum loops, but are they exactly right for the song? Or are they some generic one-size-fits-many beats? Do they have the exact groove you need? Do they use the right sounds? Would that chrome snare sound better if it was a wood one? Does the bass drum ring too much or is it to dead for your song?

Well, now you're making my point that tone is also an important factor. I didn't say more important than the part, in fact I said the opposite, but it DOES matter. Hendrix would still sound like Hendrix the musician if he played on a nylon-string guitar, but he wouldn't sound like Hendrix the rock guitarist.

Which then begs the question ... would it matter?

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
dboomer #3034608 03/22/20 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by dboomer
Originally Posted by Anderton
[quote=Notes_Norton]You can use drum loops, but are they exactly right for the song? Or are they some generic one-size-fits-many beats? Do they have the exact groove you need? Do they use the right sounds? Would that chrome snare sound better if it was a wood one? Does the bass drum ring too much or is it to dead for your song?

Well, now you're making my point that tone is also an important factor. I didn't say more important than the part, in fact I said the opposite, but it DOES matter. Hendrix would still sound like Hendrix the musician if he played on a nylon-string guitar, but he wouldn't sound like Hendrix the rock guitarist.

Which then begs the question ... would it matter?

Only if we knew of both possibilities and didn't care for one of them but liked the other. Otherwise, no.

This thread has made me realize how I have barely scraped the surface of my best sounding "drummer in a box" - NI Studio Drummer.
I always seem to find a loop that will work with a song idea but that's been as far as I've taken it. There are always lots of variations on the loop in question plus fills. I never break those out.
I'm in progress on a new project, time to start using them.
Plus there is a pitch control, it does sound good if you can get the drums to compliment the rest of the arrangement's pitch center.

The tones are certainly very good, 3 variations (number of voices) of 3 drum sets so lots of variety.

The mixer allows using the kick part from one song and the snare from another, etc. by blending multiple instances.
Never messed with that either.

These are not covers so there is more leeway there.

I've never been one to worry about covers sounding just like the record anyway.

In my experience it truly does not matter to the audience. Maybe 4 times in 40 years of playing live I've had somebody come up to me on break and point out that I didn't play the "correct" part.
One time it was a singer I was working with, we were playing Top 40 Country. I asked him which of the 5 different guitar parts he wanted me to play and he stared at me in disbelief.
Well, there could have been 6, it was some radio hit with a big sound and all sorts of stuff going on. We were 4 players and 2 singers, can't be done!!!!


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
dboomer #3034613 03/22/20 10:31 PM
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Originally Posted by dboomer
Originally Posted by Anderton
Well, now you're making my point that tone is also an important factor. I didn't say more important than the part, in fact I said the opposite, but it DOES matter. Hendrix would still ound like Hendrix the musician if he played on a nylon-string guitar, but he wouldn't sound like Hendrix the rock guitarist.

Which then begs the question ... would it matter?

I'm with KuruPrionz on this one "Only if we knew of both possibilities and didn't care for one of them but liked the other. Otherwise, no."

For example, there are "unplugged" versions of songs that sound equal to, or sometimes even better than, the electric versions. But if I want to hear "Foxy Lady," I just don't think it would be the same on a ukulele...well, unless Weird Al was doing it. Then it might sound cool.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034698 03/23/20 03:23 PM
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We musicians and others in the music profession care more about tone than the general public does. And I'm not saying that's wrong, nothing could be farther from the truth. We should care about tone. With each new sax I get I spend countless hours facing the wall so I can hear the reflected sound and changing the shape of my mouth, the shape of my throat, the embouchure, and the tension of all the muscles involved to explore the varieties of tone I can get out of the horn so I can use them as I need.

BTW, if Hendrix played a Les Paul with Humbuckers instead of a Strat with single coils it wouldn't have made a bit of difference to the public. It wouldn't have made a bit of difference to me either, even though I prefer single coils (I like P90s a lot).

Tone is important, but as long as it's in the ball-park for the genre, technique and artistic interpretation is hundreds of times more important to me - YMMV

Of course, there is more than one right way to make good music.

Notes


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034704 03/23/20 03:45 PM
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But there's one more aspect to tone. Remember, the point of this thread was how to create realistic-sounding drum parts, not what element contributes more to realism. One of the biggest cues to me that a drum part is electronic-trying-to-be-acoustic is the sound of the drums, particularly the hi-hat. If the electronic hi-hat plays a great part, well, that's wonderful. However, that hi-hat is just not going to sound like Tony Williams working it during "In a Silent Way." Does that detract from the musical impact? That's up to you, maybe, probably not. The question I'm asking relates to whether that electronic hi-hat part trying to sound like Tony Williams sounds realistic? I doubt that would be the case, so I was hoping this thread would shed more light on how to close that gap.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034818 03/24/20 01:42 PM
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Better synths help. But IMHO synths are different beasts. They do things their acoustic counterparts cannot do, and the acoustic instruments can do things the synths cannot do.

Charlie Parker is quoted as saying, "You don't play the sax, you let the sax play you."

I think that goes for any instrument, acoustic, electric, or electronic. Find out what the strengths and limitations of your synth patch. Use the pros to make as expressive music as you can, and avoid the cons. Or as Johnny Mercer penned:

You've got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mr. In-Between


Don't play the synth patch, let the synth patch play you.

Notes


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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034867 03/24/20 06:07 PM
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There is nothing like the feel of a real drummer. Even a simple overhead mic and a kick mic will generate tons of feel for less effort than many would suppose. There are tons of talented drummers who are itching to contribute. Understandably, sometimes we have to roll your own however ...

There has not been a better time to do the drumming ourselves, as so many genres are evolving toward sonic support, synthesis and processing. But I believe drummers offer a lot more than feel ...

The top three for me are dynamics, phrasing, and orchestration. A drummer can carry a band from the whisper to roar as no other instrument can. A drummer also signals the beginnings and endings of musical statements. While a Carter Beauford fill sounds different from a Bill Bruford fill (does Bill Bruford actually fill?) they both shape what a band says. Lastly, good drummers orchestrate, not just balancing and complementing timbres, but also foreshadowing, echoing and developing musical ideas. I guess I am struggling to suggest that to be good at realism we need to be good at the music also. YMMV of course. smile thu

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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3034871 03/24/20 06:17 PM
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Absolutely! And let's not forget the open channel of real-time communication between a good drummer and bassist (as well as the rest of the band). I think one of the most important aspects of a realistic drum part is tempo changes that let the music breathe. You can add this after the fact in DAWs, but that's a workaround. The drummer is the one who does the tempo changes, and provides the "master clock" that everyone else follows - and it's a master clock and moves and breathes, not flat-lines to a tempo and stays there.

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Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3035320 03/27/20 08:42 AM
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I used to programm drums since the Atari ST. Basically I play everything with the keyboard trying to give the best feel then I do dynamics retouches and complex fills by hand inside the daw. The more articulations you have, the better, especially on certain genres. The problem I'm facing now is trying to get that organic sound you hear on, say, Kravitz's albums... even if they are very simple I really cannot get 'that' sound, no matter what. It's way easier for me to fake complex hard rock drums than those simple 70's drums. For the perfectionists, I suggest you to try MODO drums by ik multimedia, you have a new way to control hit-hat and snare variations, it's a game changer wink

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Anderton #3035324 03/27/20 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Another option for more realistic sounds is to use real cymbals. Sampled cymbals just don't sound as rich as "the real thing," and it's probably not too difficult to the cymbal on the beat, where needed. If you're really really bad at timing, then record cymbal hits on their own tracks, shift them to the correct timing, and if you like, bounce into a stereo track.

Futureman, the drummer for Bela Fleck, does really good work triggering samples on stage on his home-made Drumitar. But then there were some concerts where he brought some cymbals to complement his electronic rig. Left hand on his drumitar for kick/snare/toms. Right hand laying waste to the cymbals, like he had been deprived all his life. A ringing cymbal sounds different when you hit it again and there are a million ways to hit it. For those of us who had heard this band for many years, the wash of sound was stunning.

Re: How Can Non-Drummers Get Realistic-Sounding Drum Parts?
Tusker #3035361 03/27/20 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Tusker
Futureman, the drummer for Bela Fleck, does really good work triggering samples on stage on his home-made Drumitar. But then there were some concerts where he brought some cymbals to complement his electronic rig. Left hand on his drumitar for kick/snare/toms. Right hand laying waste to the cymbals, like he had been deprived all his life. A ringing cymbal sounds different when you hit it again and there are a million ways to hit it. For those of us who had heard this band for many years, the wash of sound was stunning.

Cool, thanks for chiming in. The other thing about cymbals is there are also a million ways to mic them!

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