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Insin
Mallcore Kid

Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2015 12:16 am
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Location: United States
PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 11:44 pm 
 

I've been writing an album of 9-10 songs over the last few months, and I'm currently debating whether I should use real or programmed drums. Drums are my primary instrument, and even though I have a place where I can record about two tracks at a time (at no cost), it's a hassle to set everything up and the kits aren't very high-quality, so even after the mix it doesn't sound very good. This is still preferable to what I did on my demo, recording the full kit using just my built-in laptop mic (gross, I know).

Programmed drums won't allow me the same freedom on the kit (options for fills, dynamics, etc), not to mention I'm a bit of a purist. But quantization is a life saver and the sound quality will actually be good for once. A clean sound is more important to me on my second release.

TL;DR: Even though I'm a drummer, I am considering using fake drums for my next project because the sound quality will be better, but this still comes with some drawbacks. I'm not sure if I should use them or record on a real kit.

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CF_Mono
Metalhead

Joined: Thu Jul 08, 2010 5:21 pm
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:51 am 
 

The sound will be "clearer" with a machine, but "clearer" can just mean, well, that it's clear you used a shitty fucking drum machine. Unless you want to spend uncountable hours tweaking the velocity, tempo automation, and use round-robins in your rack, you're not going to get decent results. It's a pain-staking process. If I had the mics I would go with a live kit every time.
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ShaolinLambKiller
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:55 am 
 

drum machines should be used as a last resort. Real drums always sound and feel better on all recordings. I rather have a mediocre drummer or sloppy drummer playing on an album than a drum machine any day of the week.
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vashts80
Metalhead

Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2008 12:09 pm
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 3:43 pm 
 

personally i would record on the real kit and then sample in the mix.

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Ilwhyan
Metel fraek

Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:41 pm
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Location: Finland
PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:17 pm 
 

It's not even a contest. Even a relatively bad sounding acoustic kit always trumps programmed drums, as long as the drummer can play. Besides, there's a certain charm in kinda ropey sounding drum kits, for me.

There are great albums that have programmed drums, but in my opinion, bands should always aspire to have real drums.
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MawBTS
Metal newbie

Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 2:16 am
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:13 am 
 

What are you playing? Some genres (like industrial and tech death) can sound better with programmed drums.

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Awblaster
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:07 pm
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Location: United Kingdom
PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:23 am 
 

^ Tech death sounds shit with programmed drums. Unless you think sounding like a Guitar Pro tab is a good thing...

If you have the option, always go with live drums. If you're not happy with the results you're getting from the place you can record, set aside some money and go to a better studio/hire a better kit/whatever. If it's going to be a few months until you actually record, set aside a bit of money each month, even just $50 would be a good start. Practice as much as you can, then when you're ready to record, get a couple of days of studio time and do your drums there. Go to a decent studio with an engineer with half a clue (ask local bands/musicians with good sounding recordings for recommendations) and you'll get good results.

The hours you need to spend to make programmed drums sound "real" are hours that could be spent practicing on a real kit. And the results will be better. Programmed drums in metal should be for demos and when you genuinely have zero other options.
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Zodijackyl
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 1:31 pm 
 

Real drums, always. That adds a lot more to the actual performance, especially when you're good at drumming. It's always disappointing to see a band strive for mechanical perfection rather capturing the actual feel of a human player.

The set up time will pay off. Just tune the heads and replace them if needed.

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rexxz
Retired my ass!

Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2004 8:45 pm
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:37 pm 
 

I'd love to do a blind A/B test for everyone wanting to vote to see if they can tell whether a certain clip is sampled or live drums. I bet my soul that most of you would be surprised at the results.

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IntoNevermore
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:42 pm 
 

Real drums will always get my vote, but I've heard incredible results with programmed drums too, I read in a recent thread that Deathspell Omega uses programmed drums, so there's that.
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Ilwhyan
Metel fraek

Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:41 pm
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:35 am 
 

rexxz wrote:
I'd love to do a blind A/B test for everyone wanting to vote to see if they can tell whether a certain clip is sampled or live drums. I bet my soul that most of you would be surprised at the results.

You'd love to? Well, I'm game!
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Porman
Sweek Souvlaki Muncher

Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:00 pm
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 6:12 am 
 

Real drums. Always go for real drums, preferably with no triggers as well unless you aim to do some sort of industrial metal and want that mechanic sound.
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rexxz
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:20 pm 
 

Ilwhyan wrote:
rexxz wrote:
I'd love to do a blind A/B test for everyone wanting to vote to see if they can tell whether a certain clip is sampled or live drums. I bet my soul that most of you would be surprised at the results.

You'd love to? Well, I'm game!



Yeah it's just a lot of work compiling samples of my own and finding stuff that's out there :cry: What I might do instead is look for others that maybe someone else has done, if I find one and it feels satisfactory to me I'll link to it. Otherwise, I'll make my own but it will take time t get around to it.

If y'all can excuse a bit of arrogance on my part, due to my experience and background, the idea here is that I'm very confident in the top tier drum/percussion sample libraries ability to replicate a very satisfactory, believeable human performance. They include all kinds of minor articulations and whatnot these days that go a long way towards hitting that human mark, not to mention if these samples are played by a real human performer on an electronic kit, they sound even better. The samples I'll find will be played by human drummers, but won't be a real acoustic kit, just triggered samples. I've got thousands of recorded MIDI files from actual drummers on e-kits that I can synch up to my own samples. Throw in some mic bleed, good room ambiance and you won't really be able to tell the difference. Of course I have to find samples of drums that are both live and otherwise, and they have to be closely matched in recording fidelity. It's always easy to tell a live drummer apart from a sampled one when the live recording sounds like shit :lol:

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Ilwhyan
Metel fraek

Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:41 pm
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Location: Finland
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:15 pm 
 

Yeah, if you're using great samples, telling apart 100% sampled drums tracks from tracks with no samples used can be very difficult, especially if the latter is played by a skillful drummer. I don't think I could tell them apart much of the time. What I had in mind was more like a drum machine vs. something performed by a drummer, samples or not. I think it's quite common (in metal) to augment acoustic drum tracks by blending samples with the real sounds, or even sample them entirely based on either a library or samples recorded from the kit itself by the drummer in the studio.
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rexxz
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 3:08 pm 
 

No doubt, a live performance is what makes the difference. I think many people are prejudiced against samples for the wrong reasons, but that's exactly what I was trying to say. When I use drum samples I make sure the performance is real.

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CloggedUrethra
Metalhead

Joined: Sat Nov 30, 2002 4:30 am
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 11:38 am 
 

For some people, it's only a matter of whether the drums are actually real or not, and the fact that samples/triggers can sound realistic is irrelevant (whether the performance was done by a human or not). IMO, samples/triggers, quantization, overdubs, punch-ins, etc. are just needless tools for over-production. I can forgive sloppiness, mistakes and sound quality if the performances are real.

To the OP, for me I'd definitely use the real drums if they're available, if not then the drum machine. Drum machines are cool in that you can program whatever you want and not be limited by your physical ability as a drummer, but once I started playing drums I never went back to the machine.
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rexxz
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 11:46 am 
 

You must hate 90% of metal bands because it is such a common practice to layer samples on top of your own kit these days that most albums have them unless it's a garage-style recording. I find nothing needless about them, personally, and am quite glad for the practice.

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CloggedUrethra
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:16 pm 
 

I wouldn't say hate, I just think it'd be nice if more musicians would choose to not record that way.
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rexxz
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:21 pm 
 

That's fair, I can respect that.

My personal feeling toward it is that it entirely depends on the type of music. I really don't enjoy hearing crisp, hard hitting sampled kits (whether blended with originals or not) in certain styles of metal that are meant to feel "old". But there's a certain production standard and expectation with a lot of modern music that to not use all the tools in the bag would be detrimental in most cases. For example, I know with 100% certainty how one of my favorite producers does his drums, Jacob Hansen. He's been a part of several of my favorite albums, and I know that he likes to produce drums the way I do. That is, to record a live drummer on a real kit as normal, but also taking sampled hits of the same exact kit from the kick, snare and toms at different velocity/dynamic levels. Then blending those sampled hits with the normal tracked drums via trigger. The result is a drum sound that is very natural but also consistently heavy. There are hundreds of bands that also record this way and in the hands of a competent engineer and producer it sounds phenomenal. It would be a shame to lose out on that approach for whatever reason.

In the end, I always make production choices based on the context and the purpose of the recording.

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thrashinbatman
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:31 pm
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:27 pm 
 

The idea that real drums always are better than virtual kits is a bit ridiculous to me, and I'm someone who prefers real drums in general. If you don't have the equipment or an acceptable space, your real kit will not sound as good as well programmed drums. If you can get the necessary amount of mics for the style you're trying to capture, and the room is good enough to work, then go for it. But throwing two mics on a drum kit in a bad room will NOT sound as good as a drum plugin.

It's a tool to be used just like anything else. There's nothing wrong with using them, nor is it less legitimate. Yes, I prefer real drums, and I always strive to do things as real as possible (real amps, real drums, as little editing as I can get away with), but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. If you won't get an acceptable result from real drums, don't force yourself to do it because it's the "right" way.
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awheio
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Joined: Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:00 am
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:26 am 
 

Yeah, I was just very enthusiastically listening to Darkspace -- and their sound would be seriously diminished if they were to use a real drummer.

Perhaps oddly, I am bothered by what rexxz describes though. I can totally understand wanting to get the best sound possible, but the thought of a drummer presenting that recording and saying, "Hey, I'm the drummer of this band" really bothers me. And I have general concerns about dehumanizing music (it's like the autotune of heaviness), but that's complicated.

Anyway, I'm also super curious about how rexxz's idea for an A/B test of how well people can actually discern this stuff. I'm skeptically inclined, and wine tasters are full of shit apparently, but I also personally have a terrible ear for drums.

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rexxz
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 12:29 am 
 

Which part of what I described bothers you? If a live drummer performs the piece on a drum kit, whether it is electronic or not, they are the drummer. This situation is analogous to guitarists who use software to model their amps rather than having a real physical amp. They played the music, did they not? The second situation that I described is much better for an ideal sound that uses the characteristics of an acoustic drum kit to their fullest potential and something I promise you that most metal bands with a modern, heavy sound participate in. I'm talking about what I said in the post above thrashinbatman's.

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thrashinbatman
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:31 pm
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 10:30 am 
 

Yeah, if you played the part, then you played it. You're the drummer. If you're using an e-kit triggering samples in a plugin, you're still the drummer. Plugins these days are very well-designed, and allow for a large range of dynamic playing. You still have to play well and hit hard. If you're playing a real kit and bringing in samples to augment, you're still playing. You're still the one who has to hit the drums well in the right places.

I guarantee if drums are sampled/programmed well you won't tell the difference. So many, SO many records these days feature sampled/programmed drums, and you can't tell unless they aren't done properly. The process has gotten good enough to where any dehumanized elements are operator error, not the fault of the samples.
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SweetSilence
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 8:52 pm
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2016 8:00 pm 
 

awheio wrote:
but the thought of a drummer presenting that recording and saying, "Hey, I'm the drummer of this band" really bothers me.


I think this is a valid point. For example, there's a new "side project" that sprouted up recently by some dudes I know in a town over or two and they're releasing an ep or something. I've seen their main band live, and while they're all good dudes and I love em, they don't practice like they should and try to write music that's way too complex for them. They've got some demo recordings of this band, but for their new band they went all out with guest solos and crisp as fuck guitars, and then there is the programmed drums. All it took was ten seconds into the song for me to know that it was programmed, and not even because of how it was mixed, it was blatantly obvious that this drummer would never ever be able to replicate these tracks live for a very long time simply because he isn't as good as what's been programmed. I understand wanting to have the music sound like what you want, but it is kinda ridiculous making it so you would need to practice for hours every day to achieve what is on the recording, like it's if you heard the new Metallica album and it was full of blast beats and hauling double bass. Just not happening, man.

But I plan on using "fake" drums for my solo project. I'm a pretty capable drummer and I've been playing for about 7 years, I can play along to most of None So Vile note for note, but I simply do not have the equipment to get a good sounding live drum recording. Not to mention it will probably be a lot easier on me when it comes to mixing and making sure the rest of the instruments are able to be heard, but that is another process that's new to me.
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CloggedUrethra
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Joined: Sat Nov 30, 2002 4:30 am
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Location: Ontario, Canada
PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2016 3:05 pm 
 

thrashinbatman wrote:
The idea that real drums always are better than virtual kits is a bit ridiculous to me, and I'm someone who prefers real drums in general. If you don't have the equipment or an acceptable space, your real kit will not sound as good as well programmed drums. If you can get the necessary amount of mics for the style you're trying to capture, and the room is good enough to work, then go for it. But throwing two mics on a drum kit in a bad room will NOT sound as good as a drum plugin.

I don't disagree with that. I actually think the modern drumming sound with triggers/samples (whether a real drummer or programmed) sounds awesome sound-quality-wise. But for me, hooking up my modest mic setup to my crappy drums and recording them that way is more important than the best sound quality.
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rexxz
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2016 6:04 pm 
 

As it should be. Working with what you've got and doing it completely your way is what artistic expression is all about. Some of us don't have drum kits though and so we also work with what we've got.

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awheio
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2016 11:52 pm 
 

rexxz wrote:
Which part of what I described bothers you? If a live drummer performs the piece on a drum kit, whether it is electronic or not, they are the drummer. This situation is analogous to guitarists who use software to model their amps rather than having a real physical amp. They played the music, did they not? The second situation that I described is much better for an ideal sound that uses the characteristics of an acoustic drum kit to their fullest potential and something I promise you that most metal bands with a modern, heavy sound participate in. I'm talking about what I said in the post above thrashinbatman's.


I have no problems with electronic drum kits, as I have no problem with electronic guitars. My problem was with what you said in the post above thrashinbatman's, I think: If a significant amount of the final sound is the result of editing in and blending in samples, I think it's just misleading and dishonest for the drummer to take credit without explicit qualification. Just like if I was recording guitar, but every few notes had to edit in my buddy's playing to make it sound better. Maybe that's not a perfect analogy, but hey.

I would have said the same thing about autotuning years ago, and maybe it's still valid. But autotune is well-known nowadays, so if somebody says, "yes this is me singing", it's often understood that production and editing may play a significant part in the final product. If people are unaware of the conventions for recording, or of the idiosyncratic techniques in particular cases, it can be dishonest to just flat-out claim credit for the performance; you are communicating to your naive interlocutor "I am capable of playing this just as well as you hear it", and that's false, misleading, etc.

And of course one can try to object by pointing out other similar things: Is it misleading to say that you are playing a particular guitar part, when in fact what they're hearing is four recordings layered? Well, I suppose it can be. Ideally, everybody would know of the tricks, and they would understand that sounding "professional" is not just about skill on the instrument. But sometimes the tricks are reasonably ignored, and other times they are so significant as to turn ignoring them into sheer dishonesty. I think the production tricks you mentioned fall more onto the "dishonest" end of that spectrum if one isn't forthcoming about it. I don't know. I'm trying to not be purist about it, and I'm not saying that it shouldn't be done -- but I do admit to an obnoxious obsession with authenticity.

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rexxz
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 12:50 am 
 

The reason people do that is to produce a certain sound on recorded format. They aren't doing it to be dishonest in any way. It's like someone programming a synthesizer to sound as cool as possible, I mean at the end of the day there was an effort made by human beings to achieve a certain sound and it really has little to do with taking credit for performance. If you're a fan of a certain type of production job in metal, I can promise you literally none of those bands would achieve it without using the aforementioned engineering techniques. And you'd be hard pressed to tell me that someone like Peter Wildoer can't perform his part just because they are augmented by sampled hits. I personally don't see any problems with any of this, it's unfortunate that you do is all I can say.

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thrashinbatman
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 9:22 pm 
 

At the end of the day, all that matters is "can I play this?" If the drummer can reproduce his parts live, then what does it matter? If I replace your snare with a sample, it's still being triggered by the actual snare hit, and obviously work is being done to ensure the velocities are matched. It essentially becomes changing the snare that you played, or acting as a form of EQ, such as adding a sample of a really snappy snare to augment a thick and punchy one. It isn't dishonest or misleading. Editing and quantizing could be considered dishonest, especially if it's done to fix a bad performance versus to fix small errors that weren't noticed during tracking. If samples are cheating, what are things like compression, EQ, or double or quad tracking? These also modify the sound, and change the sound of the performance.
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awheio
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2016 6:35 pm 
 

I don't see a problem with the production itself really. I just feel a discomfort about the implications of its use. It used to be the case that you could listen to a recording of a musician and know that there was a direct connection from musician to instrument, that every nuance emerged immediately and directly from something about themselves in that moment -- and if they were masterful, it would exhibit a direct channeling of emotion to music. Now, there is no assurance that there is any such connection.

There is a lot more to being able to play a part than just being able to bonk the proper circles on the proper beats.

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rexxz
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 12:21 pm 
 

awheio wrote:

There is a lot more to being able to play a part than just being able to bonk the proper circles on the proper beats.


Yes, and with great players and musicians this still remains true with samples... they change nothing tbh

Anyway, I posted this in a different thread, might as well post it here!

Okay, try this. Here's a few links to some drum performances. Link one has a few different performances in a single track, but the other two are single performances. Can you spot which ones are real, live acoustic recordings and which ones are samples?

http://tindeck.com/listen/izmmu
http://tindeck.com/listen/qbber
http://tindeck.com/listen/ktzmw

They all have different mixes as well, some are dry and some are produced and engineered as part of an actual song, but they are all in isolation.

and more importantly, how *confident* do you feel in any of your responses? Whether you get them right or not, if you even hesitate just a bit to decide whether one clip is samples or real, that should say something in itself.

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Arkhane
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 9:37 pm 
 

Honestly doesn't matter for me. As long as the robotics don't stick out like a sore thumb (Wraith of the Ropes), I'm good.
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Iron1
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Location: United States
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 7:49 am 
 

http://www.betamonkeymusic.com/dbm3.html

Loops. Sound way better than drum machines (recorded by real pro drummers on pro kits).
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thrashinbatman
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 1:43 pm 
 

Iron1 wrote:
http://www.betamonkeymusic.com/dbm3.html

Loops. Sound way better than drum machines (recorded by real pro drummers on pro kits).

But then you run into the issue of not being allowed much flexibility in terms of mixing (unless they give you the raw multitracks as well), and also the fact that everybody is gonna be using the exact same loops in this scenario, and you end up with a situation where you get almost all of the downsides of programmed drums with the only upside being they sound real (but again, it takes only a bit of elbow grease to make programmed seem real, too).

You also say "real pro drummers on pro kits", but guess what drum sample libraries and plugins are ;).
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