I’ve said it before, I’m a big fan of EZDrummer. More accurately, I’m just a big fan of all the drum software programs out there. Steven Slate Drums, BFD, Strike…the list goes on and on, and they all sound FANTASTIC!
You’ve undoubtedly heard EZDrummer if you’ve listened to any of my music. All the drums on Out of Indiana were done using EZDrummer and a mouse. I found a MIDI groove that I liked, then I would manipulate it, change it … [insert a few hours of programming] … and come out on the other side with a decent sounding drum track.
Does it work? Does it sound good? Sure. A drummer friend of mine even asked me who played drums on “Treading Water.” 🙂
While I love drum software, and while it’s awesome that anybody can have great-sounding drums for only a couple -hundred bucks, I definitely miss having a real drummer.
On my next album project (which I’ll tell you more about on another day), one of my big goals is to use a real drummer. (As I mentioned in 7 Things I Would Have Done Differently on my Album, I would have LOVED to use a real drummer on that album.)
Do I have regrets? Not at all. I learned a lot about drum programming and how to make them sound fairly realistic. And for a lot of you, drum software is your best option. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
More than a Drummer
It’s not that I believe having a real live human drummer will make my songs automatically sound better. Not at all.
What I’m looking for is bigger than that. It’s the chemistry that happens when a bunch of good musicians “lock in” on a song. Something happens, and you end up with a recording that is greater than the sum of its parts.
That’s really hard to do when you overdub everything. That’s what I did with my last album. I recorded guitar, then programmed drums, then tracked bass, etc. etc. Everything was done one instrument at a time. When you record this way, it’s much more difficult to get the same energy and chemistry that you have when you track everything live.
You end up having to forcefully inject groove/feel into the song. It never sounds quite as good.
Is overdubbing everything wrong? Not at all. The last year or so I’ve gone from playing and singing primarily by myself in my studio to playing with a full band several times a month (with my church). That’s what I’m looking for with my next project. If the recording is a little sloppier, that’s okay. If it captures an awesome performance from everybody, I’ll be happy.
All this rambling to say…I’m hoping to have a big “tracking day” for my next album. Get bass, drums, guitar, and maybe even vocals laid down. Then overdub extra stuff. That’s the goal, anyway. I know way too many great musicians to not take advantage of their awesome talent.
3 Ways to Record a Real Drummer
Recording drums is usually the biggest obstacle for most home studio folks. It requires a lot of equipment to pull it off, and then it STILL may not sound that great. Here are some approaches for you to chew on:
Recording a Real Drum Kit
There are two ways to think about this:
1. Buy all the gear and do it yourself. This can be a lot of fun and a HUGE learning experience. Remember, though, if you’re drum room doesn’t sound great, your drums might not sound great.
2. Book a studio. There are few things better than recording drums in a GREAT room through GREAT equipment. This probably won’t be free for you, but it’s worth considering.
MIDI Drum Kit
Here’s a “hybrid” scenario for you. Get a MIDI drum kit, and have a drummer record on THAT. You get the benefit of a real drummer, and you get the great sounds of drum software.
It’s not a bad option at all. Check out the Roland HD1 Kit. Pretty affordable option.
I’ll be talking more on this in the future (it might actually be HUGE), but don’t overlook the option of “outsourcing” your drums. If you don’t have the people or the resources to pull off a drum recording, there are lots of drummers out there who will record them for you, in their own studio.
My buddy Travis Whitmore does this exact thing. You send him a mix of your song, he tracks drums to it, and he sends you back the multi-track drum files. All without ever needing to meet in person.
Check out his website: silverlakestudio.com.
What do you think? Do you record human drummers already? Are you thinking about it? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
[Photo by david.dorban]