Thursday, March 12, 2009

Think like a real drummer (even if you can't play like one)



One of the things I struggle with in my home recording sessions is programming drums. I'm not a drummer and therefore don't know how to think like one, but I've been trying to educate myself.

My quest started with a dvd tutorial called Complete Drums. I got it from Barnes & Noble last Christmas for less than $10 (regular price is $18). I suppose, for the money, it's a good place to start, especially because you're learning the very basics on how to play REAL drums.

That's the secret of doing anything convincingly enough when using synthesis or sampling techniques: you must understand the real instrument, how it is played, and what it sounds like.

My MIDI drum programming is done in Logic, my sequencer of choice. The sound libraries I use couldn't be more basic. I either use my trusty Alesis QSR rack synth ('97), which has standard Alesis drum machine sounds, or Toontrack's EZdrummer software plug-in. The latter is not only easy to use, as advertised, but also comes with a very nice library of MIDI drum patterns that helps a lot if you don't want to start programming from scratch.

I know a lot of people love to get into flame wars about the best gear, best sound library, etc., and yet they forget that most of the time what really counts in order to get a great sound is how well you know and use your instrument, not how much you paid for it nor how many gigabytes of multi-sampled hits it has. A few months ago I saw a video of this guy playing crazy drums on a simple drum machine; it was mind boggling and it sounded fantastic.

For now, I'm happy with my drum sounds options. They might not be the best around, but I still have a long way ahead to outgrow them. Until then, I best get my hands busy and my fingers nailing every single hit of those keyboard drum heads. ;-)

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