June 30, 2022
A great drum performance isn’t always easy to come by. Neither is a great drum recording. In the best of circumstances, the two come together to form the perfect drum track, which results in a great drum mix. Many times, though, a great performance is recorded well enough, but not quite perfectly. Often this is discovered in the mix, when you just can’t get one (or many) of the drums to fit right.
Enter drum replacement. It’s not that new. Before DAWs and plugins were common, hardware drum machines were often equipped with trigger inputs. Split the drum track and send it to a trigger and the drum machine would play a sample back in time with the drummer’s performance, allowing layering or full-on replacement of the drum sound, while maintaining the performance.
That’s drum replacement in a nutshell. Now it’s usually done with plugins, but the concept is the same.
Many manufacturers make drum replacement plugins. Using a plugin to fully replace a drum sound can be as simple as inserting into the plugin chain on a track (snare, for example) and picking the snare sound you’d like to use.
Layering is a matter of mixing the original signal in. Some plugins allow this, but if not, the solution is easy. Instead of inserting the plugin into the track itself, create a buss and insert the plugin there. Then use a send to send the signal to the buss.
Modern plugins offer many more features, obviously. Some features to look for include:
The obvious use for a drum replacer is to fix a problem, but that’s not the only time they’re useful. Here are some potential creative and utilitarian uses for drum replacement:
When it comes to creative usage, the sky is truly the limit – as it is with any plugin or audio tool. When it comes to the overall use of drum replacement, it’s surprisingly commonplace.
In many hard rock and metal performances which feature rapid kick drums, for example, replacement is crucial for achieving an even, solid floor. Many bands opt to use triggers on stage to replace all drum hits, sometimes even opting to only mic up the cymbals.
In the studio, drums like snare are sometimes damped and only a trigger signal is recorded, eliminating bleed from the snare into other mics. Other times, samples from the session are captured for later replacement or triggering.In other words, drum replacement is a common tool, used by producers and live musicians alike. It can be the key to fixing a great performance with a recording problem, and it can be a unique creative tool which opens up a whole new sonic palette.
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