Programmed drums are not everyone’s favourite. There’s indeed nothing like being able to nail that perfect take and capture it on tape. But, every once in a while there are reasons to opt for programming drums, be it stylistic or necessity.
By ALEX DIERICKX@ JEDDRAUDIO RECORDING STUDIO
I must admit, it wasn’t until recently that I started to see the benefits of using programmed drums. Like many, I aimed at redoing takes during recording until the drummer nailed it. Honestly, I still prefer recording acoustic drum kits, as that complexity was what got me into running the studio in the first place.
I started seeing the benefits once the lockdown dictated new ways to keep releasing music. Also, a growing range of subgenres, especially in metal and hardcore, have made it stylistic requirement. That’s when I decided to add programming drums to my production services.
Programmed drums in practice
While working on the next release for The Lotus Tree, Covid-19 hit and we decided to program the drums to be able to continue. The guitars and bass were than being recorded over those fresh and tight drums at home by the respective musicians, which helped the overall tightness of the final mix.
In this case, we had demo tracks we made during pre-production. They allowed me to use that as a guide and replicate exactly what the drummer plays into the midi lane of pro tools. Adding only a few more complex patterns as accents where the song could use it.
After drawing out the midi, I tweaked the tempo map a little bit to add some more movement to the song and made sure it didn’t sound robotic by randomising midi parameters like timing and velocity. It became very fun when I heavily reduced the speed of the breakdown at the very end of the song. Try accomplishing that with acoustic drums!
The sound of virtual drums
This is where the luxury of programmed drums really starts. To establish a good base sound, all I had to do is shop around for a decent library online.
My bad video recording skills can be bypassed, by listening to the raw bounce here. Remember, no additional samples or mixing was applied here.
How about your project?
I’m still offering recording and mixing for real acoustic drumkits, ofcourse. And now I’m expanding my services with drum programming. Imagine what it can do to your endless blast beats, help augment your drum tracks or speed up songwriting.