Anyone else starting to miss working with drum sets?

Anyone else starting to miss working with drum sets?


I can’t believe its almost 2019 and the need to mic, track, and mix an acoustic drum set is almost non-existent. I can’t believe how sample driven pop music is right now! I really really hope people start recording drum sets again because many of us have a shit ton of effort invested into learning what do with them in a mix.

To keep up with the trends, I started building relationships with guys that know the ins-and-outs of midi drumming and sample-to-grid drum programming. I’ve shifted nearly all of my outsourcing from guys with a modest home studio drum setup to guys with e-kits galore. I’m pretty comfortable with the workflow now, but Jeez!! What about those years and years some of us spent learning this craft. Man. Its like samples samples samples samples samples x50. Some producers can still argue that the feel of a live drum set and the human player can never be replaced by a quantization algorithm that mimics human performance. From where I sit, the consumer says ‘I just don’t care’.

The only TRULY live music recording I know of making ANY money whatsoever is film. And I think thats only because technology hasn’t figured out how to rid those pesky human musicians of their jobs yet (hint of sarcasm).

Does anyone else find themselves hoping that some day drums will become popular again in music?


Unfortunately, it may be a case of inherent obsolescence. Kind of like sliced bread in the package replaced making your own bread at home. Now, some people still make (and slice) their own bread at home because they want to have that appreciation, so drums will always be around to some degree. But the set up for recording live drums, and the acoustical challenges, have made the sample business so much handier - and cheaper. If you give someone a rifle to hunt with, and then ask them to go back to hunting with a bow and arrow … :smirk:

If you’re totally focused on pop music, you can hope, but it may have to wait for a renaissance of sorts. I’m sure lots of other genres don’t have as much focus on ‘artificial’ drums. There’s a whole area of traditional and ethnic music that is continuing to be made - and probably a strong need to preserve it for posterity (through recording) before it fades away. If you’re really longing to have “real” drums again, you may have to open up your perspective to other genres of music, and a wider variety of percussion.


There is also live band ‘in concert’ recording (and video) - which is exactly why I like to focus on exactly that. It will come back to us, a bit like vinyl has, as there is only so much Disco/EDM the world can take.

And it will include real, LIVE drums. And a lot of other stuff, like loud electric guitars, because they are just sooo damn fun and exciting to play.

I cant wait for crappy ‘performance’ technology to die :wink:

Obviously there will still be samples, but they dont have to be the overly loud, horribly gatuitous ones… instead of simple, subtle ‘sounds like the real thing’ enhancements, beautifully sculpted and blended with taste.

But Really, its the ROOM REVERB thats missing. That awesome huge churchy reverb on the snare drum that you can smash to oblivion in the DISTANT mics.

Thats where the fun stuff is, in the MIDrange - the range that sucks so badly with dynamic close micing and ugly, boxy PROXIMITY effect.

oh, I’d maybe better stop there :slight_smile:


Ugh. I know. Then theres the issue of keeping the bills paid :frowning:

What gets me is that drums are not disappearing from music - They’re just getting replaced with… well… whatever. I accept this change. It is what it is. All I’m saying is that years from now, I’ll probably be looking back and saying “I miss doing the old fashioned ‘drums’ thing”. :wink:


yeah, it was a bit of a rant… but I also came up with a plan. My next (& probably last) studio wont have a drum room, just a big ambient stairwell up to the control room. maybe 12L x 15W x 19H - for recording DRUMS (and other cool stuff) with lots of high mic positions built in.

So, a cool thread, Jonathan…thanks for the inspiration. :slight_smile:


Yup, the “sound of the moment” in so-called “modern rock” is basically Gary Glitter from 1972:

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2


Can you make a pop hit with samples? Yes. Can you make samples feel like the hesitations and anticipations great drummers playing well engineered tracks make? I think not.
Pay the bills, but if you have any spare time to record what you love, it will be real drums played by someone who can mess with your heartbeat.
Our world is way too willing to settle for the least common denominator. That’s why pop fluff gets major label attention while soulful music takes in .0016 cents per stream. If you need to make a living, you are a salmon swimming upstream into the bear’s jaws, but you know deep inside you shouldn’t have to die spawning.
(Wow, that was so heavy I am blushing at my own verbage). To put it more succinctly, they make robots you can have sex with now, and it probably works in a pinch.


This :slight_smile:

And this :confused:


I record real drums all the time. I am firmly planted in the camp of loving how a real drummer sounds and feels on a track.


And those sexbots have audio samples of orgasmic moaning to approximate the real thing. :rofl: Hey, I’m still on topic. Kind of. :upside_down_face:


I think it’s inevitable just because real drums are expensive, very loud, and it takes a lot of time to learn the various skills required to make them sound their best - to play, to tune, to record and to produce.

I play Alt Rock, and drums were my first instrument. So in every project I’ve been in, live drums have been basically taken as read. I’ve also, until the last 6 months, always had a space where drums could be kept set up, tuned and ready to record.

The advantage of having a drummer on board is pretty obvious in pre-production/ songwriting, where it’s an extra person to bounce ideas off, and you can chop and change very quickly, try different arrangements, put together grooves in different ways… if the drummer’s great. If the drummer’s bad, it’s a world of hurt.


Enjoyable discussion. How do you feel about drummers who play e-kits via midi into their DAW to get more accurate velocities & such?


Funnily enough, I know a chap who works for a company that primarily sells drum sample packs and he thinks that electric kits still aren’t accurate enough in dynamic sensitivity or timing to match excellently played/ recorded real drum kits, even if fantastic sample packs are used.


Seems like there would still a business is recording drums. Hire a session drummer to make what you want so that you can always have the best fills to replace the crappy programming that a customer has.


The irony (regarding the expense of real drums) is that to play live with electric drums is MASSIVELY expensive. Not counting the drums and the engine to produce sounds…you literally need a pretty hefty PA or pro level monitors just for the drummer to hear himself, and easily double that for the band / audience to hear him. A ‘vocal’ type PA will crap out pretty quickly with all those high end transients, and for the bottom end, your gonna need some serious subwoofery too.


I think it goes in waves. If you remember the 70’s, everything had a drum kit in it - even disco! When the 80’s synth wave came along, you couldn’t see a drummer in sight, unless you count the haircut rock bands. But the mainstream pop music was nearly 100% drum machine at the time. Ironically, those same drums are now fashionable again! But if you remember the 90’s was almost a rejection of the synth movement, and you had to be “authentic” and live, and raw. It was hard to be a synth group and be mainstream for a while.

If trends follow trends, I will predict that in a number of years, when rap has consumed itself and EDM is so mainstream it’s not “cool” anymore, the youngsters will look at the music scene and yearn for real drums again.


Now i am a lover of all well made music so well i enjoy an acoustic drum set (notice i don’t say a real drum set that would be like saying that an electric guitar is not a real guitar.) I also enjoy all other forms of percussion if done well.

I would argue though that there is still plenty of acoustic drums being recorded. For sake of space i will choose just one channel but there are others. Go check out what it going on on audiotree and you will find a lot of acoustic drums.


Just as an aside, my new band played our first gig last night at kind of an outdoor Woodstock on a decent sized stage. We have a very good drummer, and I was amazed at how much room I had to work with, playing around with the swing he added naturally. I know that software allows you to simulate this to a certain extent, but It’s kind of the same as an amp sim. Even though you can make it sound fantastic, it just doesn’t feel the same. I find it very difficult to play to a grid; not so much from a timing issue as not being able to put in the little variations that happen naturally with a good drummer. It also gives me a greater appreciation for people who can program drums and get them to sound natural.


I hardly ever use programmed drums. When I get people in my studio wanting to record albums and EPs I always try to get them to use real drums - they make such a positive difference. They really bring a track to life.


Honestly, some of the best drum recordings that I like is usually done by people that didn’t know exactly what to do with them.
For example Noise Records early thrash/speed bands that went to pop studios that didn’t know how to track or mix this “noise”, same with Metallica early albums.
I think studios became too flashy and there’s a big degree of cork sniffing when it comes to today’s (by that I mean 2000 and onward) drum sounds.
For example, metal musicians were quite OK with Lars Ulrich’s disappearing kick on “Ride the Lighting” but if you put out this kind of production today critics will maul you.
Personally, I’ve actually gone more and more towards using traditional drums, we’ve even managed to wire our rehearsal room and stick the mics on most of our gear permanently as we tour with different kit and amps. I am doing more and more live drum recordings as direct result of that.

A well recorded and mixed drum kit is a plus but I don’t definitely agree with the aesthetics that you need to spend all this time learning the craft as @Jonathan stipulated. Last studio we recorded at we got about 20% better drum sound done totally right but the performance suffered somewhat as the drummer was uncomfortable and unable to perform at his best.

I know a band that is at their third drum tracking album pass as for the producer there’s phasing that he doesn’t like when the drummer hits one or two cymbals on the record :slight_smile:

I’ve done a few midi drum sessions where for some reason it seems harder for me to get the sounds as I want them as I can live with a live kit not being 100% optimal as it sounds “natural”. A lot of times I have to fight to make the midi drums feel and sound natural, even when a live human performance has been tracked.
Here’s the song, I probably spent twice the amount ot mix the midi drums as I would’ve real live set: