Drum Programming

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by billinder33, Nov 6, 2017.

  1. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

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    I'm always amazed by the great and complex drum arrangements that posters on this forum compose.

    Lately, I have put composing aside to work on my guitar technique. But I need to get back to writing/recording after several months of not doing it. I'm struggling to get rolling, because I find drum programming to be pure drudgery... by far my least favorite part of the writing process. I use EZ Drummer primarily, the drum sounds in the expansion packs are solid and it does have a tool that takes a pattern and creates many variations of that pattern, which I find useful.

    Typically when I write, I either have a song scratched out on guitar and then choose drum patterns from my vast MIDI library to match the song, or I just start assembling patterns that I think would sound good in a song format, and then write/record on top of that.

    However, I want to try a different style of writing my next several songs... I want to write the lyrics first, then build everything around that. Regardless, I'm still going to run into the same issue... I hate the process of assembling the drum arrangements. Working with a live drummer probably isn't an option for me, because the time I can put into writing is very fragmented... an hour here, and hour there, sometimes late at night or early morning, so very difficult to work with others under those constraints.

    So my question for everyone here who programs drums: Do you find it inspiring or fun, or a necessary evil? What is your song writing process, what tools do you use, and do they make your songwriting process easier?
     
  2. jerm

    jerm SS.org Regular

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    I really love programming drums. I do most of my programming in Guitar Pro and then when i export the MIDI and import it into my DAW I add in some touchups to fills, using different cymbals and adjusting velocities, etc.

    Drums are so important for punch and aggression, and also transitioning between riffs.
     
  3. shnizzle

    shnizzle johnny

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    i also don´t like drum programming. its super tedious. but the end result is worth investing the time. drums have a big impact on how a song flows. when you half ass it, the whole song suffers form it. usually i first make a basic drum beat in the midi editor in the daw and record a riff idea i got. as i go on writing the song i always first build a basic drum beat that goes with the next section and then record the guitars to that. once i´m done writing the song the basic drum part is also already there. then i put in another hour to put more detail into it, like fills and adjusting velocities here and there. this is probably my least favorite part of song writing. but it´s the best when you´re done with it and the drums sound natural and are tailored to your vision and the song flows nicely and drags you along.
     
  4. Seybsnilksz

    Seybsnilksz SS.org Regular

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    For me it's fun, but gets a bit tedious if I sit too long at one go. Hearing the final result can be a great feeling.
     
  5. InCasinoOut

    InCasinoOut syncopAZN

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    I absolutely love it, and it is the core of my recording process, in that I always prefer tracking to the actual composed drums for a song instead of to a click track, so I always start each project with drum programming.

    Back when I was in high school, I used to play and practice the drums more than I played guitar though, and programming drums fills that void for me since I don't really get to play as often as I used to and my drum chops have fallen after years. Back then I was pretty obsessed with absorbing everything I could in music, even used to transcribe music in MIDI for fun (instead of doing homework haha), and invested many hours just trying to find and learn interesting guitar/bass/drum parts across genres to expand my musical vocabulary.

    I definitely think having the time and drive to immerse myself like that back then was important to never really finding the work now to be tedious. I just view it as necessary for the quality of the finished product I aim to achieve. I wouldn't half ass my drum parts while I slave over perfectly tracking the guitars, just like I wouldn't spend a week humanizing programmed MIDI drums by hand and then tracking guitars I didn't even practice for. I want my recordings to sound as if there were multiple musicians involved, putting in the same effort, even if it's just done by me in my bedroom.

    As for my songwriting process, I actually write every part out in TabIt (similar to GuitarPro), and flesh out every instrument as closely to the finished project as possible. This becomes my reference and template when I start recording, so I can hear even in MIDI a detailed version of my composition even before instruments are tracked. I also like being able to visualize the whole arrangement this way, because I end up knowing just how much is left or there is to do until the track is done. It is extra work, but I do end up with a finished recording, a full transcription of the entire song on every instrument, and the MIDI data to make a 8-bit style chiptune remake of it all. :p It's invaluable for when I had a band because it almost couldn't have been any easier for bandmates to learn my songs.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
  6. brutalwizard

    brutalwizard Pretty Your Petunia

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    When i right with for my main IRL band my guitarist, drummer. and i all work on creating real neat parts. When i am just writing whatever i just use toontrack and 3rd party midi libaries. I writing drums can be cool but midi libs make life and being creative on the guitar easier at times.
     
  7. schwiz

    schwiz Lefty

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    I'd rather edit/quantize real drums than program drums. Sooooo tedious.
     
  8. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    All of the above. :lol:

    I've been picking back up a project I've been working on with my dad and uncle recently, folk-rock and blues stuff; I bike all summer and then focus on music in the off season for cycling, so it's that time again. It's mostly recorded, so the last week or so I've been working on drum programming.

    As far as tools, I use the Reaper piano roll to feed Superior, 3 these days. That, and usually at least a half bottle of wine or two or three strong drinks. :lol:

    I enjoy the fact that it's very hard to make step-sequenced drums sound convincing, but that when you get it right you can add an amazing degree of realism to a track. I guess that's also the thing I hate about it, too, come to think of it. :lol:

    As far as general tips, I'd say if you ever get the chance to sit down behind a real drum set and have a drummer show you how to play a basic 4/4 rock beat and a fill or two, do so. It'll kelp you understand some of the physical limitations to drumming and make sure that you respect those. As a drummer, you have two hands and two feet at your disposal, so you can't simultaneously hit the snare, crash cymbal, and a tom, or can't play fast double bass while doing hi-hat pedal articulations, etc. Also, having some idea of what's physically hard to do vs what isn't is useful when working on volume articulations and making a roll sound natural.

    One thing I've been honing into more on live drums than sequenced ones recently is how a good drummer can build dynamic contrast between different sections of a performance, and that doing things like changing up how hard your drummer is "hitting" the kick drum at different parts in the song structure can help add some further differentiation and life to your performance. Likewise, how they transition between them can add a lot of realism too. This is true within a meter, too - even as something as simple as editing the volume of your hi-hats to get a sense of groove and variation that corresponds to the song structure within a measure can go a long way to making them breathe a lot more.

    I'll often start with a "scratch" drum part, where I'll get the basic groove down, usually as a separate "verse" and "chorus" groove, and I'll often just record to these scratch drums. When I'm done, I'll go back and cut it up as needed to create fills, and edit those fills into the little sections I've snipped out of the main groove. I'll generally glue it all back together when I'm done, and then throw a little random volume and tiny amount of random time humanization on them in Reaper.

    Really though, writing "real" sounding sequenced drum performances is about learning how to think like a drummer. If you ever have the opportunity to get behind a kit, learn a beat, and jam with someone, do it. It's a lot of fun, and it'll help you think about drum parts.
     
  9. AntonioPetrole

    AntonioPetrole SS.org Regular

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    I love doing it personally. I've always done everything very basic bitch with programming until I started covering songs. When I cover a song, I program the drums hit for hit, stroke for stroke exactly how the song is. It's a lot of fun and teaches you a tremendous amount about drum fills, patterns, unique things certain drummers do etc. I started with a Fallujah cover, working on a Thy Art Is Murder and an Insomnium cover as well currently. It's crazy how much of a difference there is between each style. I'd recommend you pick a song and just try and program it all. I'm putting together a tutorial on how to do just this so I'll share it in this thread when it's done if you're interested
     
    schwiz and InCasinoOut like this.
  10. InCasinoOut

    InCasinoOut syncopAZN

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    Yeah this is definitely a great way to get a crash (lol) course into the mind of a drummer. There are plenty of amazing drummers who transcribe or tab out their drum parts, and taking those transcriptions and trying to make a realistic replica with programmed drums is a great exercise.
     

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