Music Player Network
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
I'm really quite proud of this article, because it's about playing more realistic drum parts, not just how to make more realistic drum sounds. It's also a bit of a tribute to my Dad, who was an excellent jazz drummer, and taught me a lot about rhythm and how the rhythm section functions in music. I hope you like it.

1 member likes this: Doerfler
Sound, Studio, and Stage Island
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Nice.

Drums were my first instrument so I prefer to play them in live, but for those who don't play drums, there is some good advice there.

Notes


Bob "Notes" Norton
Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
Bookmarked to my "Music Listen" folder for future reference.

I have Native Instruments Studio Drummer and Drum Lab. I do like converting MIDI to audio, you added a couple of nice tricks.

Guitar is classified in orchestral music as a percussion instrument (so is piano). I do spend considerable time honing my right hand skills on acoustic guitars, especially sans pick since I mostly play electric with a pick.
Sometimes an acoustic guitar part is all the percussion needed.

I've also got a box full of fun percussion toys, a decent large floor tom, 3 crappy tiny snare drums, a Korg Wavedrum and a Roland Handsonic.

I'm with you on the cymbals, I keep an eye out for a hi hat stand and cymbals. Hi Hats are one of the most expressive components of modern rock kits.

For all that, I just attempted and completed my first drum "arrangement" with MIDI drums and now I'm going to have to go back in and tweak it!


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 601
Likes: 41
N
Gold Member
Offline
Gold Member
N
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 601
Likes: 41
This was really good, thanks!

Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
This was really good, thanks!

Glad you liked it! So many articles concentrate on the technology, which is fine...but these days, I'm trying to couple the technology with the art as much as possible.

Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 601
Likes: 41
N
Gold Member
Offline
Gold Member
N
Joined: Jan 2015
Posts: 601
Likes: 41
I think that is the win. The gear is all described and demo'd to death. But the number of people showing how to extract more musical expression from it? Almost zero. Most of the gear is going into amateur hands of various sophistication. I suspect there is big space for "how to use it musically" type of material.

Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
I concur, it's not about what your tools can do, it's about what can you do with your tools.

It's also true that ideas shared freely mean progress for all. We all think, feel and create differently, using the same tools but not for the same reasons.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
It's also true that ideas shared freely mean progress for all.

Interesting you should say that. At one point I was staff synthesist for the Group Motion Berlin dance company, and one of their main people, Manfred Fischbeck, talked about the process of sharing to "speed up evolution." His premise was that it was up to us to keep people from re-inventing the wheel, and in so doing, progress would happen faster.

He had a profound influence on my thinking.

Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
It's also true that ideas shared freely mean progress for all.

Interesting you should say that. At one point I was staff synthesist for the Group Motion Berlin dance company, and one of their main people, Manfred Fischbeck, talked about the process of sharing to "speed up evolution." His premise was that it was up to us to keep people from re-inventing the wheel, and in so doing, progress would happen faster.

He had a profound influence on my thinking.

I do believe that you can speed up evolution. Are you familiar with Lean and Kaizen? Constant improvement.
I am not sure that preventing people from re-inventing the wheel is a productive use of one's time. The goal should be to go beyond the wheel so that nobody cared about wheels. Solarpowered maglev transit?
Maybe someday if enough people focus on it. Not me, I've evolved a Strat to where I like it and now I just want to play music. I am an evolutionary dead-end, so it goes...

And what about music? Should we not play the same old things that we love because it's been done before? Humans find considerable comfort in favorite musics and may not care for uncharted waters. I've had hella fun playing new unprecedented "music" even if a lot of it probably sounded terrible. Fun, maybe that's all we need sometimes...


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Some of you may already know these points, but as a reformed drummer grin I thought I might contribute. *

May I add that most drummers have a stronger and weaker hand. The dominant hand hits harder, which changes the tone of the drum a bit, and the weaker hand on single stroke roles and some of the other rudiments may lag just a tiny bit.

Also in live performances, the drummer may hit both the head and the rim on the backbeat if he wants to drive the song - especially in harder rock songs. You can use the Hi Timbale for the rim sound and move it a tic or two ahead of the snare to bring out the crack.

If using a brush set, listen to plenty of drummers using brushes - and listen to the sounds they get. Once you get that in your head, judicious use of pitch bend on the snare will go a long way in emulating that. Of course you need a separate synth for snare only so the rest of the drums don't get pitch shifted.

If you have many synth modules, you can put the bass drum on a channel with no reverb to make it sound punchier.

* (Reformed drummer: I don't have a drum kit anymore, just a couple of MIDI drum controllers)

Insights and incites by Notes


Bob "Notes" Norton
Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 711
Likes: 23
MPN Advisory Board
Gold Member
Offline
MPN Advisory Board
Gold Member
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 711
Likes: 23
The best way to play more realistic drum parts is, first, learn how to play drums like real drummers. I'm not sure which is harder - that, or learning to do that using a computer or dedicated hardware, mouse and keyboard (computer or white-and-black). At least pads will get you something sort of familiar to your drummer's hands and brain.

The next best way is to read Craig's article, because it makes sense and is somewhat motivating.

Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
I like pads myself. They bounce the sticks back up like 'real' drums do which will enable you do do things you can't do otherwise.

My best advice:

Get sticks and a practice pad. Learn the first dozen to 15 drum rudiments (these are the drummer's equivalent to scales). Practice them until you are decent. This will help you hear what drummers are doing. It's the vocabulary of drumming. There are plenty of rudiments, but the first dozen or so will get you a long way.

Listen to drummers and analyze what they are doing. For different reasons I recommend Hal Blaine, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Ginger Baker, Neal Peart, and John Bonham, that is if you want to play pop/rock. For jazz there is another list, funk another after that.

Then just like you do on your guitar, horn, keyboard or whatever, practice. I understand this takes time, it isn't instant gratification, but then I don't know of any musical instrument that is. Too many people underestimate what a drummer does. A good drummer uses a lot of technique and applies it artfully.

Understanding what a drummer's job is and how he/she goes about doing it will give you knowledge that will make the entire rhythm section make sense to you

Second best advice:

Hire someone who can play drums.

Notes


Bob "Notes" Norton
Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 2,963
Likes: 32
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 2,963
Likes: 32
You can get a decent set of electronic drums like the Alesis Turbo Mesh Kit for $299; this and a few lessons can go a long way. Now if only I had the time and the space...

Joined: Jan 2014
Posts: 1,702
Likes: 39
Platinum Member
Offline
Platinum Member
Joined: Jan 2014
Posts: 1,702
Likes: 39
Excellent article, Craig. I selfishly wish you'd stop telling people all my favorite tricks, e.g., that a combination of quantized rhythm plus a little slop on velocity goes a long way to humanize drum sequences. Of course, if I want a sequence to really emulate my playing, it would have to rush the forte sections and the fills....


-Tom Williams
<First name><At>AirNetworking<dot>com
PC361, PX-5S, AX-Edge
M-Audio Keystation 88, Axiom 61
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
Originally Posted by Marzzz
You can get a decent set of electronic drums like the Alesis Turbo Mesh Kit for $299; this and a few lessons can go a long way. Now if only I had the time and the space...

Yes to all of the above!

My reality is that it would take a LONG time to develop the hand/foot coordination that could execute what I hear in my head. In my upcoming album, every note of every drum part was "composed" based on what I would play if I could play in real time smile

Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 4,865
Likes: 5
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 4,865
Likes: 5
I'm wanting a Tensor Flow a.i. trained plugin that automatically massages the timing and dynamics (of midi date) to match the habits of certain famous drummers.

Hats and rides are the hardest to deal with. I don't think round robin works properly in most drum VSTis, in that there is usually a range in velocity that is supposed to represent "drummer variance" but within that range the timbral changes are too subtle versus the volume. In other words, dynamics change, but not the timbre within that range. A closed high hat that gets louder and softer - but sounds basically the same while doing so - doesn't sound real, hats still moving from a previous hit sounds different than just starting from a stand still.

And swing functions need to incorporate a velocity scaling aspect for the same reason. A 16th feel with just timing offsets is not how a real drummer plays. It's bizarre that some VSTis leave out swing entirely.


I suppose swing has been extricated from modern perception, based on observations of new students trying to play anything that is swung or shuffled. Or some drummers that are technically very adept, but are oblivious to the subtle in dynamics of ghost strokes on James Brown funk beats or a Purdie shuffle, or Stewart Copeland time keeping.

I have wasted too much of my life doing tweaks like in Craig's article, there really should be a better solution in the year 2020. Jamstix gets close, but is too monolithic. I want "swing style","swing percentage", "swing dynamic curve", "swing variance beginning/middle/end of measure".. and more.

Last edited by Chip McDonald; 11/06/20 04:07 PM.

Guitar Lessons in Augusta Georgia: www.chipmcdonald.com
Eccentric blog: https://chipmcdonaldblog.blogspot.com/

/ "big ass windbag" - Bruce Swedien
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
Originally Posted by Chip McDonald
I'm wanting a Tensor Flow a.i. trained plugin that automatically massages the timing and dynamics (of midi date) to match the habits of certain famous drummers.

Hats and rides are the hardest to deal with. I don't think round robin works properly in most drum VSTis, in that there is usually a range in velocity that is supposed to represent "drummer variance" but within that range the timbral changes are too subtle versus the volume. In other words, dynamics change, but not the timbre within that range. A closed high hat that gets louder and softer - but sounds basically the same while doing so - doesn't sound real, hats still moving from a previous hit sounds different than just starting from a stand still.

And swing functions need to incorporate a velocity scaling aspect for the same reason. A 16th feel with just timing offsets is not how a real drummer plays. It's bizarre that some VSTis leave out swing entirely.


I suppose swing has been extricated from modern perception, based on observations of new students trying to play anything that is swung or shuffled. Or some drummers that are technically very adept, but are oblivious to the subtle in dynamics of ghost strokes on James Brown funk beats or a Purdie shuffle, or Stewart Copeland time keeping.

I have wasted too much of my life doing tweaks like in Craig's article, there really should be a better solution in the year 2020. Jamstix gets close, but is too monolithic. I want "swing style","swing percentage", "swing dynamic curve", "swing variance beginning/middle/end of measure".. and more.

I like your ideas!!!!
Everything you mention regarding hi-hats is also true of snare hits. Pre-Covid, an open mic regular would just bring a hi-hat with stand, a snare drum and use a chair off the floor for a "throne".
He and I jammed a few times, he was available to sit in with just about everybody. An amazing range of subtle inflections available in just those two pieces of the drum kit. I have some small snare drums, have yet to tune them up and learn to mic them. I want some hi hats!!!

And, despite the constant distractions endlessly offered in our world, I am slowly learning how to use the tempo mapping features in Waveform. Craig has written some great pieces on that topic for Presonus Studio One but the interface is different although I suspect the capabilities are very similar.

The client I am working with now has an original song that consistently goes from 117 bpm in the verse to 123 in the chorus. If I let her just play and sing it is remarkably consistent.
I'd love to be able to make a MIDI drum track that worked for the song.
Will probably end up just adding some things in the analog realm and tweaking as needed.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
Originally Posted by Chip McDonald
I have wasted too much of my life doing tweaks like in Craig's article, there really should be a better solution in the year 2020.

Even if there was, I'm not sure how often I'd employ it. In my previous projects I used acoustic drum loops played by a real drummer, because they were really well-played and fit the music like a glove. I've not found any kind of loops designed for the genre of music I'm doing this time around, so I had no choice but to play the drum parts. Similarly, I'm not sure an algorithm would have done what I needed.

And yes, I did a lot of tweaks! But I prefer not to see it as wasted time, I see it as time that has served the music well. At least I think so smile

Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 4,865
Likes: 5
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 4,865
Likes: 5
I didn't mean YOU wasted time, *I* have wasted a lot of time doing that. There *have* been things I should have just resorted to using a canned beat, or a mechanical/electronica kind of thing.


Guitar Lessons in Augusta Georgia: www.chipmcdonald.com
Eccentric blog: https://chipmcdonaldblog.blogspot.com/

/ "big ass windbag" - Bruce Swedien
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
Originally Posted by Chip McDonald
I didn't mean YOU wasted time, *I* have wasted a lot of time doing that. There *have* been things I should have just resorted to using a canned beat, or a mechanical/electronica kind of thing.

Oh, I didn't take any offense or anything. I just accept it as part of doing music in the 21st century as a solo artist smile

Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
For me the timing with MIDI drums is not the problem, it's the lack of the different tonalities from each drum.

A good drummer can get plenty of different sounds from his snare, toms, and cymbals. A good hand drummer can get plenty of sounds from each conga.

Doing pitch shifts can help, but each drum should be on it's own channel or else they all shift the same, and that doesn't work either.

But this comes from someone who plays the drums. I'm sure guitarists have the same problem with MIDI guitars, and sax being my primary instrument, I have the same problem with MIDI sax (although the Physical Modeling Yamaha VL series does a better job in that respect than more sample based sax patches).

Music in the digital 'machine age' is different, not as nuanced as it used to be, so we do the best we can with the tools we have at hand.

Charlie Parker is quoted saying: "You don't play the sax, you let the sax play you." I interpret this as exploiting what the individual sax can and cannot do. Play with it, experiment, see and hear all the different sounds you can make with it. Then indulge yourself in what it does well, and don't try to force it to do something it is totally incapable of.

I feel the same way about all instruments, including individual synth patches. Make the best music you can with the tool you have in your hands.

So my drum patch may only have one snare sound, a little detuning alternate strikes can help and I can still do flams, diddles, paradiddlles, flamacues, ratamacues, and so on. The basic drum rudiments that most drummers use can go a long way to making your drum tracks sound more interesting.

Emulating any instrument is like a comedian doing an impersonation of a famous person. They don't have the same voice as the famous person, but still they sound like them. They do this by finding the speech nuances that famous person uses, finding which ones they can do well, use and sometimes slightly exaggerate the nuances they can do and stay away from the ones they cannot.

Same goes for emulating instruments. Craig's advice for watching and listening at the same time is excellent.

Insights and incites by Notes


Bob "Notes" Norton
Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
Notes, I am with you on the expression thing, there are lots of analog instruments that have vast capabilities in terms of variiations in in pitch, timbre etc. It is a huge part of what makes music "speak" to us.

Our drummer bought a Roland electric drum set and it didn't take long before he put his cymbals and snare drum back in the kit. Too many sounds were missing.
One of my most prized possessions for studio/recording is a Korg Wavedrum Global. It doesn't play samples, there is no MIDI. It has a real, tunable drum head and a wide range of expression. Where you strike the head changes sounds, how hard you strike the head changes sounds and pressing on the head can also change sounds. It isn't a "real drum" but I haven't found anything that is fully electronic that is more expressive. I can plug it in, put headphones on and track at 2am without disturbing the neighbors next to me and above me (multi unit condo).

Here is something from late 2014, written and recorded to celebrate the Winter Solstice. The "udu" and bells are all Wavedrum. I played all parts.

https://www.reverbnation.com/opossumapocalypse/song/25501212-toward-the-light?source=artistMusic


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 9,515
Likes: 186
The Wavedrum really was an exceptional piece of gear. I hear the current "Global Edition" is pretty amazing too...

Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Nice Craig!

I'm with you on analog instruments whenever possible. I don't any drummers around here that use a digital snare or cymbals for live performance.

A lot of other musicians underestimate what a good drummer does.

I spent some time in San Juan, Puerto Rico and a good conguero can get almost infinite variations of sounds on each conga drum. There is no way any MIDI set I know of that can emulate that. Where he hits, how hard he hits, what part of the hand/fingers he hits with, what angle he hits, how soft or stiff his wrist is, how many milliseconds the hand stays on the head and so on. (I love Salsa music and IMO P.R. has the best Salsa).

Another really impossible thing on any MIDI set I know is a good jazz drummer with brushes. Hundreds of different sounds and levels of sustain by dragging the brush (drag is one of the basic rudiments).

The closest thing I get to entering MIDI congas is a Korg Padkontrol. It has that X/Y pad that allows me to control pitch and that can emulate the conga enough for general listeners if it is in the mix and played live. Like many emulations, most musicians wouldn't be fooled. But you can get away with a lot in live performance that I wouldn't want to put on a recording for all posterity to hear.

You have to do the best with what you have to work with sometimes.

I haven't played a real drum kit in a long time. I miss it sometimes, but I have to prioritize. Sax/wind synthesizer/vocals are my primary instrument followed by flute, bass, keys and drums.

Notes


Bob "Notes" Norton
Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
Originally Posted by Anderton
The Wavedrum really was an exceptional piece of gear. I hear the current "Global Edition" is pretty amazing too...

I have the Global Edition, one of the few things I've purchased new. I've had it for a few years but I think it is still the current version, they don't update the Wavedrum line often.
I've had it plugged into a PA and up pretty loud. It will feedback if you are not careful!!!! There is a microphone inside, and a pressure sensor.

You can hear your fingernails scratching the head coming out of the speakers. It is sensitive, aiive like a real drum. The pressure sensor can take the pitch of the head and/or the rim up or down depending on the program. I've never attempted to program it, I do have the manual. Some great snares, kicks and all sorts of trippy, ambient sounds. No hi hats but I'm not complaining.

I've jammed on it for hours at a time here and there, I plan on setting it up and leaving it ready to go soon.

It took me a long time to figure out that you can get a much larger range of tones if you turn it way up and play it with fingers. Some of the subtle tones will be overlooked if you just smack it.
Truly and easily the most expressive electronic percussion instrument I've ever played, nothing else has come close. You don't get anything by scratching the head of a MIDI sample playing drum.
Brushes sound different than sticks or mallets ona Wavedrum but I love using fingers or one bare hand and one stick for the rim.

I will never sell it, if it was gone I would have to get another one. I don't say that about any of my other percussion gear - except for this one tiny drum I have that has fishing line coming out of the center of the head that is looped around a notch in a stick. Twirling the stick makes incredible 'frog croaks" and I'd have to replace that too because it's too cool.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 471
Likes: 20
I think a Wavedrum is on my Christmas List now grin


Bob "Notes" Norton
Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 3,244
Likes: 267
Originally Posted by Notes_Norton
I think a Wavedrum is on my Christmas List now grin

Awesome, you will enjoy it!


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...

Moderated by  Anderton 

Link Copied to Clipboard
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.5