You Can’t Replace a Drummer With Software

Kenny’s Tip of the Day - You Can’t Replace a Drummer With Software

This Tip would seem to be self-serving as I must give full disclosure - I am a Drummer.

But that’s certainly not the reason I’m writing this. As home recording has become the standard and not the outlier, more and more producers are choosing software over people. Humans. You know? Drummers.

And I’ll admit, we’re not an easy breed to deal with. We have tons of equipment, require a bunch of microphones, mic preamps and many inputs on your audio interfaces. Something you don’t really need for anything besides drums. We’ll leave out the unemployed slacker living on our girlfriend’s couch part for this.

Let’s look at this from a listener’s perspective. When you use drum software, no matter how multi-sampled this application is, at some point, you’re still hearing the same sounds over and over again. The brain is not fooled as easily as you may think. Especially when it’s all perfectly quantized.

I call it the “ignore effect”. It’s basically anything that repeats enough that your brain no longer processes it. In fact, your brain gets bored and moves on to other things.

To use a real world example, when I was younger I used to stay with my Grandma for a few weeks every summer. Her apartment was right below the train in Brooklyn. The first day or so it was incredibly loud and annoying. But eventually, I no longer heard it at all. It became normal and boring.

Are brains are wired to react to stimuli that changes. The things that stay constant aren’t absorbed by us. They are stored in our memories but we don’t pay them any attention.  

I’ll give you a musical example. Put on a dance track. No matter how awesome the beat is, after about 10 seconds, you no longer hear the drum sounds. You’ve moved on to other things. Because the sound of those drums, never change. Now this isn’t a bad thing for dance or any programmed music. Having a human element isn’t really required.

But this is terrible if you’re trying to simulate a performance of a real drummer. You’re trying to give the impression that a drummer is playing when he isn’t. It’s a facade. It’s fake. And people can hear this very easily as their mind will drift from the drums to the other instruments quite quickly.

Now if this is the desired result, I guess that’s OK but in most cases it’s not. The decision was made because of time, budget or a combination of both. So something is going to suffer. And in this case, it’s the human element of your drummer.

You can learn more by watching my videos over at www.groove3.com

https://www.groove3.com/recording-training-video-tutorials/tracking-rock-drums

https://www.groove3.com/recording-training-video-tutorials/recording-live-drums-on-a-budget

I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia