Thread: I was an Internet drummer...

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  1. #21
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    The way we/I work with OceanWerks the drums do become an overdub instrument. Not being in the room with the drummer and working on riff and transition ideas together gives me no other choice.

    It's either that or asking the drummer for a scratch track that I can work with and then giving him the final arrangement to add his drums later which in my case can be a disaster as I've been known to change the groove half way through the writing/recording process.

    I work with loops mostly, so far I've had no complaints from the drummers we've used, including Dik on our latest...



    That said, I'd love to have my keyplayers in the same room, probably make the tunes better as well...
  2. #22
    Blonde on Blonde is a record? Calls Soccer Football
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    It would be cool, if there was a way to make the arranging of bass and drum parts / grooves more interactive in internet collaborations... only attempt toward this i know of is Ninjam:

    http://ninjam.com/

    ...but i must admit i've never actually used it. Has any of you?

    Halsu...pardon us fer a sec, Dik...but this looks very interesting...it sounds like it would work, and is a real look into the future for this biz!
    _______________________________________

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  3. #23
    Silly Rabbit Chocolate Muffin Eater...think Halle Berry!
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Halsu...pardon us fer a sec, Dik...but this looks very interesting...it sounds like it would work, and is a real look into the future for this biz!
    Warning: Possible thread hijack in progress...

    I hadn't heard of ninjam.com before, but I've heard quite a few people using Source Connect and Source Live software from http://www.source-elements.com/ and liking it.

    Source Live allows clients to listen to a stereo signal (like a mix in progress) in full quality from a remote location. Source Connect is for remote tracking in real time. The "Pro" version has unlimited simultaneous connections and the standard version just allows one. My understanding is that Source Connect inserts full quality audio into the track and even goes back and corrects garbled packets, inserting the corrected info into the track automatically. It's RTAS or VST.

    Back to the original thread topic...

    Dik, I really appreciate you bringing up this discussion. As a bassist, one of the things I've learned from CAPE 6 is how dependent I am on interaction with a drummer to establish a groove and even to come up with my part. Team schedule problems, etc. made it difficult to do things in the order I'd like - drums 1st , bass 2nd, scratch tracks from everybody else, retrack drums & bass, etc.

    I practice with a metronome/click but I never write to one.
    Miles complains about the length of 'Trane's half-hour solos:
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  4. #24
    Once did Lady Di on a bet Happy Roman... Gladiator
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Man, this is great. Keep it up, Dik.

    I find myself doing both. Let me echo Anduin: I get some WRETCHED tracks I'm supposed to make work as they wander far and wide from the click. I hate that. Being able to read and write charts has proven invaluable for dealing with that--"the fourth measure of the second chorus drags."

    Mostly I'm the first guy alone with the click though. This can be good or bad. Really good, if it's material I know or have heard a demo of which I'm supposed to mimic. Bad if I don't know enough about what the producer wants it to do. I sometimes suffer from having too many options, and without being together in real time can't present the producer with a menu. So I'll always revert to the simplest and most obvious, which isn't always best. My two CAPE experiences have been an example of each, to a degree.

    I'm working on a somewhat workable solution, depending on time zones. A Skypecast can allow for a semi-live session.
    Pax Christi,
    Johnny
    www.johnnydrums.com


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  5. #25
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    I worked with Dik in Team Tidal and he made it easy to get things rolling just as if we were working together in the same room. After modifying the original demo to reflect a key change for Mous, Dik laid the first scratch drum track. I fashioned an intro and laid a McCartneyesque bass line. Dik said 'hold the phone' and laid a second drum track to incorporate the new changes and from that we sliced and diced the final arrangement. At that point, Dik and I were ready to print our finals for the team to work with. That's a bit condensed but you get the idea. Thanx for being at the helm, meng. You rock!

    Knowing I wouldn't be prepared to work in that fashion for this iteration of Cape, I didn't sign up. It's bad enough when life impedes making it difficult to meet deadlines. I was lucky in that respect with Cape IV... not so lucky with Cape V. Hopefully things will work out for the next Cape.
    And as much as I'd love to do it, shouting "YOUR KIT SOUNDS LIKE A DONKEY'S ASS BEING SPANKED WITH A CAN OF PRINGLES" at the client isn't my idea of good customer relations.
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  6. #26
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    I'll add to the fact that Dik came into our web, OceanWerks, and struggled to give us a track that HE thought good-enough. All the while, they ALL rocked!

    He is the person who strives for the best he can do for a "client"....ooo...bad word!

    ...back to you, Dik!
    _______________________________________

    "You don't make music for immortality, you make music for the moment, capturing the sheer joy of being alive on planet Earth... Everybody should live it that way." Ray Manzarek

  7. #27
    Hates these rank titles! Wife left with tractor salesman...got John Deere letter
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Great post, Dik. I've had experiences both in person and on the net where I've been the first in and the last in. Oviously communication is easiest face to face, and the instant feedback is important if your going in a direction that the songwriter/producer/bandmate doesn't like. It is much tougher getting feedback when doing internet collaborations, but it is possible to get a dialog going. It just takes longer to incorporate changes.

    Getting the chance to lay something down first with a click and a rough demo allows me to imprint most of my personality on a song. Getting that first rough mix out there hopefully gives other players a good idea of where I hear things going. If that is counter to what everyone else thinks, it is good to find out early in the game. I will try to present a couple of different ideas early in the game. I'll admit that in most of the CaPE's I've been in, I haven't had the time to really work on things with my teammates. I'll end up getting drum tracks together as soon as possible, but usually end up playing only against a click and the rough demo. Sometimes I'll sneak the bass track in there to play against if it is ready. I'll try to incorporate any suggestions from my teammates, but sometimes it can be hard to get any feedback. It is always fun to hear the finished product after being mostly in the dark about what's been recorded by the other players.

    As others have mentioned, drums as an overdubbed instrument can be a real challenge. It can be very difficult to get something to groove when the track is "organic" (read: multiple tempo changes!). I've done a few recordings where I've had to replace my own drumming, and even that can be a nightmare! Playing to a completely recorded song that was done by total strangers can drive a drummer insane, but sometimes you can really bring a song together even if you are overdubbing against a poorly played set of tracks.

    Communication and listening to any available feedback are two keys to successful collaboration, internet or otherwise. If you are a take charge drummer or not, you have to be ready and able to listen to the song, play something that you think will highlight the song, and adjust accordingly if necessary.

    Can't wait for the next CaPE!
  8. #28
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    If you are a take charge drummer or not, you have to be ready and able to listen to the song, play something that you think will highlight the song, and adjust accordingly if necessary.
    Excellent point and a clarification that I'll likely include in after-the-fact edits. Take charge does NOT mean inflexible. The idea is that until someone steps up and submits a concrete idea of a skeleton, things may not proceed well. So a drummer can't just bash away and expect people to get in line. They'll have to bash away with the as-yet-nebulous song in mind - and be ready to offer up some choices.

    Thus the "more than a drummer" section of the original post. Gotta be a musician.

    I'm working on the second installment this morning and will get that out ASAP. I'll also include something of the outline for the rest of the posts so you'll know what's coming up. Thanks everyone for the responses and helping with the additional points that need to be included.

    dik
  9. #29
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Yeah, sometimes what's needed is for the drummer to authoritatively lay down a concrete example of what the song shouldn't do. Then we all know and can move on.
    Pax Christi,
    Johnny
    www.johnnydrums.com


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  10. #30
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Thus the "more than a drummer" section of the original post. Gotta be a musician.
    It's also a huge help if the guitar player can try to be a musician. And if the keyboard player can try to be a musician. And the bass player can try to be a musician. And the vocalist can try to be a musician. There's a hidden point in this post.
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  11. #31
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    There's a hidden point in this post.
    I don't get it...
  12. #32
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    It's also a huge help if the guitar player can try to be a musician. And if the keyboard player can try to be a musician. And the bass player can try to be a musician. And the vocalist can try to be a musician. There's a hidden point in this post.
    Ding ding ding ding !
    Bingo.
  13. #33
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Welcome to the second installment of the series!

    (true confessions and broad discussion about playing drums on CAPE (or online collaborations in general))

    Another Intro

    The fact that I’ve mentioned the word “series” a couple times has already clued a few of you in to the fact that there’s more to come. The astute reader may even be wondering if we’ll touch on subject "X" or topic "Y". It’s likely that it won’t correspond cleanly with the actual posts, but in order to set the table for all of you, here’s something of an outline on what’s to come, starting with this post:

    2.call attention to the different requirements of a drummer for a CAPE song
    2.1.technical knowledge of recording, file transfer, general audio production
    2.2.much broader awareness of the rest of the instrumentation
    2.3.the ability to predict where a song’s going and help get it there
    2.4.an awareness of production scheduling requirements

    3.open discussion about how a drummer affects the recording and production process in CAPE3.1.a drummer interacts with the rest of the band one way in meatspace realtime playing
    3.2.a drummer in CAPE gets almost none of the cues and luxuries of realtime playing, but they have to accomplish the same objective

    4.talk about click tracks, when they’re required, what are some techniques for working with them as a drummer4.1.different clicks (click? bleep? doink? rattle?)
    4.2.Track sync. Clicks and single sample, including click on your tracks to line up. Include screen shots
    4.3.the click before the other instruments happen
    4.4.the click after the other instuments are there
    4.5.moving the click to affect how you play and other tricks

    5.Lessons from CAPE drumming that I can take into the real world5.1.attention to detail
    5.2.how do my drums really sound?
    5.3.clicks don’t kill groove, bad musicians do
    5.4.hey! Listening to the other instruments helps me play better!
    5.5.a somewhat detailed view of how others react to drums or play without them
    5.6.All the things that are different about drumming in CAPE are things you shoulda been thinking about in meatspace anyway!

    As you read on in wonderment at the breadth and depth of the topics in the list, You might be saying to yourself “Hey! He’s already hit on some of these topics! That douchebag probably padded his term papers the same way!” Fear not, for while I may ramble, I’ll do my best to not be not be redundant.
    The outline is a C&P from early on and so I may veer or re-direct as I go.

    Also – a few comments and responses so far have been posted in the thread that struck me as useful clarifications and expansions to the original posts. Thanks to everyone for their continued interest and contributions. I’ll be including these with some likely paraphrasing (and credits – GOTTA give props for the help). So I want to continue to encourage yall to chime in as we go so we can add to the knowledge base. So anyway…

    What do I need to know to play CAPE drums?

    As mentioned in the first post, playing drums in CAPE involves more than what you may be used to in a real-time situation. There are some issues to master from a musical standpoint, but before we get to that let’s touch on the basic technical skills required to actually make a drum part happen. If you can’t deliver tracks that are usable, correctly formatted and sync’d up with the other tracks, it may not matter how good a drummer you are.

    Can the mixer handle the sonic, formatting and track sync issues if you don’t address them, or if you make mistakes? Often the answer is a qualified yes. And in fact there are many mixers who will even (either on their own or at the request of a producer) futz with track sync and timing across ALL the instruments to help generate a better feel throughout a song. Just this CAPE, Goes211 re-formatted the drum tracks I sent to him because I had mistakenly sent 32-bit files instead of the requested 24-bit. I wasn’t even aware I had done it, and would’ve gladly fixed my error. Of course anyone who’s dealt with him knows he’s frighteningly productive and had the issue fixed before he even got around to mentioning it to me. But you can bet that I fixed my issue before I submitted for my other team. The point is that just because someone else can fix your issues, you shouldn’t wallow in ignorance and put off that responsibility for someone else to handle. Remote collaborations are very often a voluntary thing and helping to minimize the tedium/frustration level for others ought to be a guiding factor in your efforts and choices. And if there’s something you don’t understand on the technical end – ASK! I’m constantly fooled into believing that the human race isn’t a complete waste of time when I see the level of help and encouragement that’s available here on the forum and within CAPE teams.

    “But I don’ git all ‘em wuns n’ zeero dealies, main! I jus’ know how ta’ hit thangs n’ get asses shakin’.” Fair enough, then you’ll need to find someone who will help you get it done. Period. Do NOT plague others with your willful ignorance of the technical issues. It just ain’t right.

    Recording your instrument…

    First things first (this isn’t JUST a drum-related issue, by the way…): How do your drums sound to begin with? Seriously. I’ve been playing drums and talking to drummers and haunting various drummer bulletin boards and Internet forums for years and I continue to be flummoxed by questions along the lines of “what drum should I buy to get the sound I hear on (insert song/album name) by (insert drummer name)?” Is there any way to correctly answer this question? I’ve said it before, but choice of head, stick, tuning, dampening, playing technique, room, mic choice, mic position, signal chain, musical context, post-tracking processing and even what you had for breakfast or the weather that day will affect how any given drum sounds. A more important thing to have a handle on is: how do MY drums sound right now? (by “MY” I mean “YOUR”. I have a good idea already about how MY drums sound and you should as well).

    Before you choose and or place the first mic, you’ve got to get as close as you can to the desired end-result. Most drummers are gear-heads anyway, so you’ll likely have a choice of drums to begin with. From there, make some assessment about all the other factors mentioned above and make the necessary adjustments before you start to record. My personal opinion is that head choice, tuning and dampening have perhaps the largest effect on the end result. Others may feel that a maple drum vs. a birch drum will be the primary issue, for instance and the truth is we could discuss this banal shit for years and never come to consensus on it (that’s what drummer’s forums are for <g>). But we should be able to agree that you should use the tools at your disposal to get as close as you can to avoid requiring heroic measures to get the drum sound usable later on in the process.

    Mic placement, mic choice, how many mics/tracks, etc…

    You’re kidding, right? It’s completely beyond the scope of this document to handle questions of this nature, and the truth is out there already. But I will state up front that mic placement, choice and track count is definitely secondary to the sound of the drums before you ever start to mic them up. Couple that with playing your drums well and appropriately for the song, and THEN you can dive into all the hardware issues. Suffice to say I won’t go into it further unless someone adds some useful broad general comments in response.

    Is my recording setup good enough?

    Now we’re getting somewhere. At the very beginning of this series I characterized the posts as “true confessions…” and so here goes. We get into a LOT of discussions about what hardware is “required” to get a usable recording and the information certainly has merit in the larger sense of educating ourselves about where we stand in the continuum of “bedroom studio hack” through “moist-pro golden-eared platinum-credited veteran of the business”. But I’ll setup this discussion by making this verifiable claim: I haven’t ever had anyone send my tracks back to me for sonic reasons, and so by extension I can surmise that my recording setup is likely adequate given the circles I travel in. What’s my recording setup?
    - A single set of Tama Starclassic Birch drums with mostly Zildjian A-series cymbals
    - A few choices of snare – Tama Starclassic Maple 6.5” x 14”, Tama Starclassic Birch 5.5” x 14”, Mapex Steel 6.5” x 14”
    - SM57s for toms and snare top and bottom, Beta52 for kick, some obscure Yamaha dynamics for overheads
    - A crappy room over my garage at home that (so far) has absolutely no deliberate treatment, complete with a very squeaky floor and the rumbling of the traffic from the street on the other side of my yard
    - All into the preamps on my Mackie 1402VLZ and an old PreSonus Blue Tube
    - Into my M-Audio Delta 1010
    - Into Sonar

    An embarassingly bottom-of-the-barrel setup by just about ANYONE’s standards, including mine. Would I have better gear if I could? Absolutely, and I fully intend to continue improving this setup. But it sure as hell isn’t going to stop me from playing drums and recording. Why is this admittedly second-class setup capable of producing drum tracks that will work? Because I’ve spent a LOT more time learning how to choose heads, tune, and play my drums than I have scheming and sweating about what recording gear I should buy. And I also spent a lot of time experimenting with where the drums are in my room and where I place the mics that I do have. When other drummers have come up to my horrible room and sat behind my meager setup, every one of them has commented about how good the drums sound and feel. And that’s before they put on the headphones. Worth repeating… BEFORE THEY PUT ON THE HEADPHONES. Which brings me to the next item:

    Do I rrrreeeallly (copyright 1999 by J. G.) have a clue about recording my drums?

    If you’ve got gear that’s better than the list above and you’re getting less than acceptable drum tracks, the problem isn’t the gear. In retrospect, that’s one of the driving bang-for-the-buck decisions I made along the way to get the setup I currently have. When trying to figure out what mics to get in light of what I could afford, I realized that if I couldn’t get good drum sounds with the old-faithful SM57, then the problem wasn’t the mic, it was me. Guess what my next expenditure is going to be? Room treatment. Not mics, not preamps, not a mixer, not software, not even a new drum.

    Getting your drum tracks sent to where they’re going…

    I’ve mentioned at least one time so far that there are things that will be outside of the scope of this document, and a larger discussion of moving ones and zeroes around the world by wire falls into that bucket. General and introductory info regarding FTP is already available on the CAPE primer and by the way, that’s a good document to review/internalize before you embark on your next CAPE episode.

    But one thing that should be brought up is the idea that drum parts are (with some rare exceptions) multi-track entities and so one should be prepared to deal with them as such. That means that for every take you produce, you’ll have more than one track. More likely that you’ll have somewhere between 3 and 33 tracks for every take, depending on how big your drumset is or how much you’re overcompensating for something else. No, I’m not talking about your “package”, I’m talking about putting a mic near anything that you might accidentally hit with a stick in the hope that SOMETHING will sound good enough. But unless you are specifically requested to do so, do NOT simply submit a stereo mix of your drums for the final version of your part. Mic what you need, need what you mic, send it all raw. That way your mixer can adjust the overall “picture” that your drum recording presents and have some options. With those options comes the likelihood that the mixer will place your drums somewhere in the mix where they can be heard, where they’ll take their appropriate place in the final presentation of the material. …And isn’t that what it’s really all about?

    Beyond that, there are repercussions of being the person on the team who has the highest track-to-take ratio. You’ll be using a lot of space and bandwidth. In CAPE, someone is usually able to accommodate the file transfer and storage needs. But think about whether or not it makes sense for you to look into getting your own FTP space. If you like CAPE, you’ll start doing this outside of CAPE and then you’ll want to be more self-sufficient. Again – if it means that you’ll be handling an issue so that someone else doesn’t have to, it’s probably a good idea to be on top of it. During tracking, however, be ready to supply sample mixes of your drums without much processing (an over-processed sample mix will hide issues with your raw tracks and you don’t want to put that discovery off). A good, honest rough mix of your take will present your ideas better to your team and increase the likelihood that they’ll get AND like the part. Send a horrible rough mix and it won’t impress. I’ve heard Mixerman say that he NEVER submits a first-pass mix. He only submits the one that he thinks will knock his client out – THE final. Words of wisdom, kiddies. And you can even apply this mentality to the rest of your life with good results.

    Timeline and how your submittal affects the schedule…

    In many types of project work the concept of Critical Path comes into play. Entire books have been written on this, but the general idea is that some things HAVE to happen before others in a project schedule otherwise the entire schedule slips, and in a worst-case scenario the entire project may fail. Others have referred to the drummer’s part as the foundation of the song, and if that’s the case, one can see where it may be necessary to establish a drum part early on. So being efficient at tracking and being aware of the needs and plan for the rest of the song is absolutely the drummer’s responsibility. Everyone else needs to shoulder this as well, but if you’re the drummer and you’re the weakest link in this aspect, you’re going to absolutely kill the project. Timeline isn’t so much a technical issue. It’s a project management issue, and how you fit into the schedule affects how much time you and your teammates have to deliver a take, which affects how good your drum part is, which affects how good the end product will sound.

    Next time I’ll get into the murky waters of discussion from a musical standpoint…

    dik
  14. #34
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    Major stuff here.
    Hats off.
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    Dik! Good stuff! Great content and great writing.

    Recording your instrument…
    One trick I invented (which I'm guessing thousands of others have as well) for getting the snare to sit in the centre of the stereo overheads is simply to measure the distance from the centre of the snare head to the mics.

    And I do it the easy way: use 3 or 4 sticks held in a straight line with the bottom resting in the centre of the snare and the top at the mic. I don't care about how far they are in an actual measurement (cm or inches or bushels or pecks); I just want to know that the two overheads are very close to equidistant from the snare. (There's other issues like where they're aimed etc., but you get the general idea.)

    Using this technique will result in the overheads probably looking oddly off kilter if you stand back and look at the kit as a whole (because the hi hat side mic will probably be off to the side compared to the floor tom side mic being over the actual kit). But remember that you can adjust in three dimensions (try up and down, fore and aft, as well as side to side).

    This stuff is probably obvious to many people, but it ain't all that apparent to the newbie.

    Oh yeah, and remember to flip the polarity of the bottom snare mic.
    CAPE 9:

    CAPE 8: Team Horizon
    CAPE 6: Team Qwezirider
    CAPE V: Team Omen
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  16. #36
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Welcome to Installment #3 of the series

    I was an Internet Drummer

    (true confessions and broad discussion about playing drums on CAPE (or online collaborations in general))


    Can anyone tell where the song is going from my drum part?

    Hey Yall!

    Yes, I realize how Gomer that sounds. I don’t care. It’s a side-effect of growing up in the South in the U.S. I’ve come to accept that it’s part of who I am, and that there’s something to be said for people being able to get some hint of where I’m from or what kind of person I am when they hear me speak or read something I’ve written. Some people go out of their way to suppress or mask their geographical roots. They don’t give away much about themselves. Don Juan imparted to Carlos Casteneda the idea of “erasing personal history”. The condensed version of that concept is that if a person has no past or history for others to relate to, then their ability to hold power over that person is diminished because there’s no frame of reference for that person’s actions, no way to predict what they’ll do or how to size them up. But since musical performance is principally concerned with communication, that personal history and personality is an incredibly strong tool in your arsenal. Your personal contribution to any piece of music will be enriched by your personality, your idiosyncrasies, your past experiences. It’s why music played by humans is so powerful – entire stories and lifetimes are spontaneously transmitted within seconds.

    Does this have anything to do with drumming in CAPE? Hell yes! This introduces the idea that a drummer on a song can tell the listener (and other musicians in CAPE) where the song is going from the very first beat. Let’s take some examples:

    When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
    Walk This Way - Aerosmith
    Swingtown – Steve Miller (yes, I know it’s a retarded song but it helps demonstrate a point)

    One could make a strong argument that the entire song is telegraphed, introduced, setup, hinted at from these small bits of drum intro. And all of these are songs that have other elements that could be identified as primary to the song depending on your point of view. These songs aren’t necessarily drum-oriented, but they benefit greatly from the introduction given by the drum parts at the beginning of the song.

    When you meet me and get the “Hey yall”, I set up some expectations for you to chew on. Not only does it tell you some things about me, it also gives me the opportunity to surprise you with other facets of my identity that may be incongruous with your initial impression. So I give you some ideas early on and then I have the option of reinforcing them later or using them for contrast and emphasis.

    Let’s step forward a bit and think past the drum intros on a song. In the same way that a drum intro will telegraph the song to come, the drum part can serve as a constant reminder of the nature and intent of the song. Drum fills and patterns can couple with and reinforce other elements of the piece. That’s almost a no-brainer when one considers the relationship of drums and bass. These two instruments are supposed to lock in a broadly recognized way, but many drummers forget that there’s just as much opportunity for this kind of interlock with the other instruments, the vocals and the lyrics. Think about the old Carly Simon tune “Anticipation”…

    Anticipation
    Is making me late…

    …and what comes next? A glorious two-bar drum fill that is specifically phrased with holes and timing to deftly set up the next lyric:

    Is keeping me way-ay-ay-ay-ay-aiting…

    It’s perfect, and it’s at least one reason why Jim Keltner played on so many high-profile records of the day. Stop thinking about how old that example probably makes me or whether or not I'm very, very sad for remembering that, and go find that song if you aren’t familiar with it cuz it’s a solid illustration of how the drum parts can inform the rest of the song in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Which brings me to the next point.

    Broader knowledge of the instrumentation/tempo/feel/mood of the song

    Your drum parts can’t achieve the level of interlock required to hit paydirt unless you, the drummer, have some knowledge of the song to come. Typically all you have to work from is a demo of the song. The demo can span a broad range from simple outline to nearly finished product, and that’ll greatly influence how you proceed with your drum tracking.

    If you’ve got a very simple demo, or a demo that doesn’t have much in common with the intended direction of the song, then you’ve got to do your best to communicate with the producer (or the other musicians or artist depending on the situation and pecking order for the project) to understand what the target is. I can’t overstate how important this is. This level of understand has to go beyond “what’s the tempo and what’s the beat?” and get into the instrumentation, how the instruments will be presented in the song, the song arrangement, how the singer sounds and some detailed understanding of the lyrics, etc. It’s way bigger than technical expertise. It’s artistic interpretation with an ear toward the collaborative nature of the project.

    There’s a fairly simple set of directions for accomplishing this level of understanding, this internalization of the song. It’s simple, but it is NOT easy. It’s just one of those journeys that we all have to continually devote ourselves to if we’re going to become better musicians. The process involves doing your best for the part, opening your mind to see how others react, humbling yourself enough to listen to and understand their comments and direction. Then you’ve got to take that knowledge and bring it to the next song, project or experience.

    Given enough time and enough beer, I could go on about the philosophy and psychology of music and interaction between musicians for hours and hours. It’s a subject that approaches a religious importance to me. But in print it seems too abstract to be of much use as a monologue. So I’ll break here and let yall prattle on about those ideas here and in the rest of the Womb.

    Next installation we’ll get into some detailed mechanics of the dreaded click track...

    dik
  17. #37
    SoundBlaster™ Expert Jewish Rapper... Busta Hymen
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Given enough time and enough beer, I could go on about the philosophy and psychology of music and interaction between musicians for hours and hours. It’s a subject that approaches a religious importance to me. But in print it seems too abstract to be of much use as a monologue. So I’ll break here and let yall prattle on about those ideas here and in the rest of the Womb.

    Next installation we’ll get into some detailed mechanics of the dreaded click track...

    dik
    Bravo

    If you'll ever be in my neck of the woods you'll get that beer for sure.
    Thinking and talking about the philosophy and psychology of
    music (or art in general) gets more and more lost in this world
    of gear lust.


    Again, Bravo!


    Mac

    .
    Mac

    Don't be worried about your anosognosia.

    Being a professional is not about how good you are at your best,
    but how good you are at your worst.

    Creating complex solutions is easy.

  18. #38
    Junior assistant coffee maker trainee ACME recording engineer...just add water.
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    Pie Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Welcome to Installment #4 of the series
    ...and the final installment, by the way...

    I was an Internet Drummer

    (true confessions and broad discussion about playing drums on CAPE (or online collaborations in general))

    This is likely the last in the series and then all that’s left is to go back through comments to edit/add to my original posts. At that point we’ll have this primer/FAQ for dealing with the drum parts on CAPE events for others to refer to, so remember to pipe up if there are any additions/corrections I should make.

    Click tracks, when they’re required, what are some techniques for working with them as a drummer

    As threatened in the last post, this one will address the dreaded click track. No, I will NOT be discussing Beat Detective (including any number of variations on that product), or its use because that’s an editing tool, not a performance tool.

    It’s important to define what the purpose of a click track is in very definite terms. But we also should cover at least one thing that a click track is not. Clicks are NOT a tool to help musicians play with decent time – at least not during performance/tracking. As a practice tool, a metronome can be a great aid and vicious taskmaster to help a musician internalize and hone their sense of tempo. If you’ve ever practiced with a metronome, you’ve probably recognized things that you’re rushing or dragging and then used that information to enhance and solidify your sense of time. But practice with a metronome is just that – practice. During performance, the idea is to take the lessons learned and skills aquired during practice and then apply them to your performance. The performance benefits from the practice but one doesn’t drag their learning tools to a performance to use as crutches. The same goes for click tracks, and you may have noticed that I don’t use the terms “metronome” and “click track” interchangeably because they are very different tools for different purposes.

    So what IS a click?

    It’s a reference tool. A way to allow people to mark out the parameters of a song with respect to tempo. In the case of CAPE, it’s a way to lay a framework for musicians to exchange ideas on arrangement, chord changes, instrumentation, etc. on the way to final tracking… the performance part of the recording process.

    When is a click required?

    It’s really simple – a click is required when the previously determined tempo of the song is constant (at least in large chunks of the song), and when there isn’t any other finished track to play to/with in the early stages of the song. If a song doesn’t have a constant tempo (Team Dnafe’s version of “Join” in CAPE VI, for instance) or if there’s a keeper part that’s identified as core to the song, then a click is optional and may actually be counter-productive. If you’re using a click to keep the band in line, you’re screwed from the start – you’ll be retracking or editing at least some of the parts.

    With all that being said, realize that often the drummer in a CAPE event will only have a click and a rough sketch of the rest of the song (sometimes very rough). But through various discussion, that drummer will know where they fit into the picture and generate a track that may be the final drum track, or at least a guide track that’s a LOT more helpful for tracking purposes than a simple click or drum machine part.

    How does a drummer use a click and rough track to produce a performance that others can take inspiration from?

    I can only speak from personal experience on this one, so here goes: When I’m playing drum parts at this early stage in a CAPE, I’ll play with the click at a level I can easily hear and the rough tracks fairly low so that I don’t react/adjust to those tracks all that much. That doesn’t mean I’m slaving myself to the click, but rather that the click is there as a reference while I play with as much intention as I can muster, using the rough track as a reminder of what I need to keep in my head as the target for my part. The important thing to remember is that I may be pushing or pulling the tempo, I may rush fills or drag them… all the things a drummer might do when playing live – but I’m doing that while holding this imaginary image in my mind of the instruments that will be tracked later. If my image of the instrumentation to come is off base, then that’ll cause trouble later on. It’s one of the pitfalls of playing in bits and pieces remote from the other musicians.

    But at this point there is no established interaction between the various instruments, the click and the drum part. That’s an incredibly important point. Because later on if you’re playing drums to final tracks that are done except for the drums, your approach to using the click (if there is one) will be entirely different. We’ll touch on that in just a second. But first…

    Track Sync

    One of the least glamorous roles of the click in CAPE is for the purposes of sync’ing tracks as they’re passed from one place/platform to the next. Least glamorous, but perhaps most critical. It’s one thing to deal with the click as an audible guide, but to use it as a track sync tool, we want to take advantage of the tools at hand to line up tracks as accurately as possible. And it’s possible to be VERY accurate. First, let’s look at a pic of the audio click that my DAW software produces (a pretty standard metronome click sound):



    …You’ll notice a few things here. One, the leading edge of the click sound is actually about 4 milliseconds after the absolute zero point of this bar of the song. Two, the beginning of the waveform is somewhat defined, but different people will interpret this placement differently, and even SEE it differently depending on what the display on their DAW looks like. The upshot from this click is that the alignment of the tracks from one person to the next can vary by as much as 8-10 milliseconds, and that can completely screw with how one track feels against the next. It can kill a groove absolutely.

    Here’s a screenshot of something more useable for sync’ing tracks:



    It’s a one-sample click with the leading edge placed EXACTLY at the zero point. Even after rough mixes, bounces to MP3’s etc. that happen as you’re trading files back and forth, this waveform makes it easy to line up tracks. Problem is, it’s a horrible sound to PLAY with as a metronome click. So there’s a happy answer to that:



    It’s the audio click AND the one-sample click stitched together in my DAW. I’ll typically just place the one-sample at the “one” of the first couple bars and then glue that onto the front end of my tracks (ALL of them) before I send files off to someone else. That way, the click is easy to play with, and confirming that the tracks are lined up properly is simple as well, regardless of the platform someone else is working on. If making this edit in your DAW is difficult, well… your DAW sucks at this particular task. But I mentioned several posts ago that this kind of technical grasp of the process is a requirement, not an option. So if you need help on making this happen, ask your friends, or even someone over here in the Womb who is using the same DAW you are. Just don’t be lazy about it ESPECIALLY if you’re the drummer - because the feel that you’ve worked so hard to lay down can get destroyed at this step if you don’t tend to it.

    Different Click Sounds (beep, tik, doink, burp, spank…)

    Since I mentioned that the one-sample click isn’t my favorite click “sound” to play with, that brings up another point about the click track. What does it sound like? Which sound is best? There’s kinda no right answer to that question except “the sound that works best for you”. People will have their own favorite when it comes to what sound they play to. Many prefer a cowbell-ish sound or a metronome click. Some would rather a shaker partially because the placement of the “click” isn’t so friggin’ defined, thus making it easier to push and pull against it. It’s largely a matter of personal taste and you should be ready to experiment and adapt depending on the situation and tools at hand. GID knows that a click can be absolute torture when it’s smacking your earhole in the headphones for multiple takes.

    That brings up another point. A click in your headphones can be really, really, really LOUD especially when you’re trying to get it above the ambient bleed from the drums in the room and the music in the phones. Be careful about this and make sure you don’t hurt yourself. A particularly percussive sound like a cowbell click is a prescription for hearing damage.

    Which brings up ANOTHER point. What about the click bleeding from the phones into the mics? It’s a real possibility even when the click isn’t dangerously loud. You’ll usually notice it at the end of a song as the gloriously tuned and mic’d drums fade to zero and the song is fading away… leaving you with a vision of hap… WHAT is that irritating dink, dink, dink that’s there underneath the fade? It’s the click. D’OH!!! Remember that you don’t just have to turn on a click and live with it. You can construct a click specifically for the song. Drop the level on the count-in, during breaks and on fade-out at the end of a song. Maybe even just stop it after the last downbeat and certainly if there’s a retard at the end of the song. Just build an actual audio track to play to and edit as required. It’s SO worth the effort.

    The Click after the other instruments …

    …And moving the click to affect how you play. I talked earlier about how I typically use a click when the rest of the keeper tracks haven’t been done yet. That’s a completely different kettle of fish compared to playing drums to a song that’s already been tracked except for the drums. The truth is that all musicians will interpret a click differently – many play in a very relaxed manner against it while others are completely constrained by it and will stiffen up. Some people will push and pull all through the song and it’s not a big deal when there’s just a click. The deceptive part is that you can turn the click or drum machine off and the instruments will sound just fine together. But then you try to play with the existing tracks and just NOTHING works. No matter, you’ve got to get the take that stitches everything together BETTER than the drum machine did, impart that human goo that makes everything kick up a notch. What are some tools to make that happen?

    The main trick one can employ (other than different click sounds) is to move the click around in relation to the other tracks. That’s right. Nudge the click track ahead or behind. You’ll be amazed at how far you can move an audible click track and it still sounds like it’s doinking along just fine. But that move can drastically affect how you play to the tracks. And you can move it differently in different sections of the song, too. This is the scenario where constructing an audio click track begins to really pay off in a CAPE situation. It’s just another track to manipulate so that you can play with some fluidity and make the song really stand up.

    I guess my primary advice is that one shouldn’t spend hours fighting a song before they start to screw around with the click track. Do a couple takes and listen to what you’re doing. Make some adjustments with the click and then try again. Does that help? No? Move it in the other direction. Make it louder in the mix. Try softer. Try different things. At some point you’ll say to yourself “THAT’S what I’m talkin’ ‘bout” and then you can likely track from there in a fairly minimal amount of time.

    Or don’t even use the click. There’s always the possibility that the combination of performances on the existing tracks, your headphone mix, comfort level with the song, what you ate for breakfast, phase of the moon will all line up and you’ll just knock it out with no click whatsoever. Just educate yourself about your abilities and limitations and be aware enough to make some judgements along the way. Much like what you have to do if you’re playing live with other musicians. Which brings me to my final point…

    Lessons from CAPE drumming that I can take into the real world

    Attention to detail. We’ve touched on a pretty long list of items, and the reality is that we’ve just scratched the surface. There really is an entire world of details to consider and internalize with this stuff. But the reason we do it is so the song we’re working on has the same level of magic that we can achieve when we’re playing/recording with other musicians at the same time. But what’s interesting is that many of the successes in real-world or meatspace musical interaction are the result of a dedication to the same level of detail that you probably started picking up a long, long time ago such that it comes as second nature. So why should online collabs be any different? Don’t let the details discourage you – let it be a challenge, a chance to review all the lessons you’ve already learned and grow AGAIN from that insight.

    How do my drums really sound? This has been a real ear-opener for me over time. I’ve learned so much about what sound I’m really producing from my instrument because of the recording process. When you’re playing live, you don’t get the chance to review what you’re doing at the level of detail that recording offers. Even if you’re playing under someone else’s direction, you don’t get YOUR impression of what YOU did. So take that opportunity to LISTEN to the recording, especially the raw tracks. Most of all, don’t be quick to discount what you’re hearing as some problem with the mics or recording gear because even with a crappy setup, 90% of the information that is captured is dead-on accurate and useful as a diagnostic tool. It’s a sometimes painful process to admit that to yourself. But again, it’s an opportunity for growth.

    Clicks don’t kill a groove, bad musicians do. That’s right. I said it. I’m not saying that a click will make a bad musician play well, or that a song requires a click to be solid. But you HAVE to be able to play with OR without a click if you’re gonna exercise the option. It’s like the old “know the rules so you can break ‘em” addage. Have the chops to play precisely and musically with a click… have the chops to do without. Be willing to make an honest assessment of yourself in this regard.

    Hey! Listening to the other instruments helps me play better! We’ve touched on the idea of knowing where the song’s going, that we should understand the instrumentation, lyrics, maybe even the chord changes in order to be able to effectively steer the song from the drummer’s throne. That lesson absolutely applies in live music. Ignorance seldom serves your interest in music and that holds true for the rest of your life as well. If you’re a drummer who doesn’t play any other instrument, I suggest you pick up something. You don’t have to become a master, but it’ll broaden your understanding and ability to interpret what’s happening with all music you’re involved in. Learn to sing on a mic. Learn some guitar chords – maybe just so you can strum them and understand that feel. Drumming is an incredibly body-centric endeavor and if you can use that muscle memory from your efforts at other instruments, it’ll absolutely inform and broaden your drumming.

    A microscopic view of how others react to drums. Analyzing what you’re doing and what others are doing all the way down to the sample level can reveal some amazing info. That doesn’t mean you want to lose sight of the forest for the individual pine-needle. But having that knowledge in your back pocket will make you think differently about how you evaluate your performance, capabilities, etc. And it’ll do the same for your view of others and the interaction between you and them.

    In short, all the things that are different about drumming in CAPE are things you shoulda been thinking about in meatspace anyway! That’s the real take-away. Live music and CAPE are different animals, but there’s more common ground than there are differences. And the glorious thing is that you get to work with people that you’d have NEVER had the opportunity to work with before, all across the globe. How can you NOT learn from such an experience?

    I guess that’s as good a place to end the series as any.

    Thanks for your time and patience. Hopefully my blathering will help someone else learn in much the same way as I’ve been able to learn from my interaction over the years with alla yall.

    dik
  19. #39
    Martini Drinker Van Morrison's enunciation coach
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    (standing ovation)
    BRILLIANT STUFF.
  20. #40
    once played a seventh chord in a folk song Suspiciously good at decorating
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    Default Re: I was an Internet drummer...

    Nice work, Dik!

    This tutorial should be required reading for every Cape participant in any capacity and playing any instrument.

    It certainly crystallizes a few concepts for me from the perspective of the guy that actually sets the stage for all the tracking to follow!

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