Electronic music and drummers

Lunar Satellite Brian

Senior Member
Something I've been thinking about lately as I've been getting into more electronic music lately and actually hope to get some synth equipment soon to start making electronic music for myself.
what's your opinion on the drum machine/sequenced drumming in electronic music?

Would you prefer a "real" drummer to play?

or does it not bother you since the rest of the music is usually sequenced and looped as well?


Assuming this is only referring to recording, I know there are bands like Neon Indian and Ratatat that usually loop the drums in the studio but have a real drummer live for authentic sake. But do you think they should have real drummers in the studio for authenticity as well?
 

ohiodrummer1964

Senior Member
I don't think there are any "shoulds" or "should nots" in creating art, other than the artificial ones people apply due to their limited imaginations.

Anything that is considered "traditional" today was cutting edge at the time it was introduced, so anything that is new today has the potential to be considered traditional in the future if it catches on and sticks around. For example, in 1967 nobody had ever played guitar the way Jimi Hendrix did, but now his licks are a staple of rock playing.

Also, the drumset itself is less than 150 years old, and that's not a very long tradition compared to individual percussion instruments, which are as old as recorded history, so I'd say just do what you think is fun and like the sound of, because that's all that really matters.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Sometimes live drumming serves the song/genre, sometimes it doesn't. Would a live drummer make a dance song sound/feel better? Doubtful. Would a sequence work for jazz? Even more doubtful!

I have no resentment or preference when I hear sequences, it's part of making music, and part of making certain music work best.

I do wonder when I hear a sequence that is deliberately made to sound like a live player, if hiring a competent drummer wouldn't be simpler than all the careful programming. But, that's a choice that the artist or producer makes. Sometimes it's a monetary decision, and sometimes it's to afford complete control over parts. There are some excellent programmers out there, and whatever serves the song best is what I like to hear.

Bermuda
 

Garvin

Pioneer Member
Anyone who has a problem with electronic music production should try it themselves. I encourage acoustic musicians to find ways of implementing live sounds into their music. I don't think there are any "should's" either. The ubiquitous nature of computers almost demands that we become familiar with the many ways in which to implement them into our music either in production or performance.

The idea of a live drummer in electronic music is often either misunderstood, or ill-defined. A lot of great electronic music uses samples of live drummers. The further you get into electronic music production, regardless of your instrumental background, you may find yourself thinking of the DAW and sound design to be your main focus rather than one instrument. I think about this a lot. I'd love to see some other members input and samples/setups. It's a great avenue for drummers in particular to find their way into arranging music.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Anyone who has a problem with electronic music production should try it themselves. I encourage acoustic musicians to find ways of implementing live sounds into their music. I don't think there are any "should's" either. The ubiquitous nature of computers almost demands that we become familiar with the many ways in which to implement them into our music either in production or performance.

The idea of a live drummer in electronic music is often either misunderstood, or ill-defined. A lot of great electronic music uses samples of live drummers. The further you get into electronic music production, regardless of your instrumental background, you may find yourself thinking of the DAW and sound design to be your main focus rather than one instrument. I think about this a lot. I'd love to see some other members input and samples/setups. It's a great avenue for drummers in particular to find their way into arranging music.


Good points. I think it's the drummers/guitarists etc. that aren't involved in programming, who seem to have the most resentment towards it. Almost as if a sequence denies them work that they're somehow entitled to. What they don't understand is how much work actually goes into sound design, and that a strong musical background is just as crucial to making good electronic/dance music, as it has always been in the acoustic world.

It's easy to say "oh, that's just a 4-bar drum loop, what's so great about that?" Well, some tracks are that simple, just like in live playing. But there's a tremendous amount of imagination that goes into a lot of sequenced songs, and they're far from the boiler-plate or cut&paste tracks that some people accuse them of being.

I make a living backwards-engineering songs, and have dissected more than a few sequenced songs. Some of the drum/percussion parts are deliciously inventive, and sometimes far beyond what most live drummers could bring to the track. But, someone who dimisses those kinds of recordings and doesn't really listen to them, can't possibly appreciate the work that goes into them. Further, they think that if they could only play live drums on the track, it would instantly be an improvement. Again, they just don't understand, because they haven't really done it as pro players. I've seen a ton of it as YouTube drum covers, and it just wouldn't fly in the real world.

It's hard to imagine that, with virtually everyone having a computer, more musicians haven't explored programming, production, and sound design. Even basic programs like Garage Band or Acid are a good starting point to constructing music. It's not just a hodgepodge of samples, imagination and writing skills are important, just as they are for those musicians who insist on playing it live.

Bermuda
 

Lunar Satellite Brian

Senior Member
I do wonder when I hear a sequence that is deliberately made to sound like a live player, if hiring a competent drummer wouldn't be simpler than all the careful programming. But, that's a choice that the artist or producer makes. Sometimes it's a monetary decision, and sometimes it's to afford complete control over parts. There are some excellent programmers out there, and whatever serves the song best is what I like to hear.
And sometimes you have a great drummer who can also program like Pat Mastelotto

So far the responses are pretty close to my own, I was just curious because there is obviously a bit of resentment with drum machines for contributing to the manufactured radio pop music, just curious if other drummers carried some of that resentment towards sequenced drums in more, ehh, original music.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I don't really resent any music, or the predominant application of electronics/studio-magic to certain genres. And true, drummers who are more all-around musicians embraced programming back in the '80s, and continued on from there. Not to compare myself to Pat, but I started my electronics journey in 1984. I realized then that if music included electronic drum sounds and sequencing, I wanted to be on board with it.

My continued value as a player depends on the fact that I am as comfortable behind a kit, as behind a computer screen. I'm fine playing live, or creating sounds, loops and sequences, or combining them if it's what serves the song. If I've created a drum track from samples and sequences, I'm no less of a drummer or musician than if I'd attempted to play the parts live, assuming it's even an option. Some things can only be sequenced, and some can only be played live, for the best result. The pros know which is which, and accept it. Come to think of it, I've never heard a pro whine "I didn't get to play on a track, the producer sequenced it!"

In my case, I play and I sequence, and I'm the drummer either way.

Bermuda
 
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Anon La Ply

Renegade
Anyone who has a problem with electronic music production should try it themselves. I encourage acoustic musicians to find ways of implementing live sounds into their music.
Agree - it's enjoyable and interesting and, as Bermuda said, it allows for total control (within the limitations of the technology and one's tech skills).

Even back in the 70s I had a make-it-yourself cheap electronic trigger that clipped to the rim of my mounted tom and I used in a couple of songs. It was primitive and it was a hair's breadth between triggering properly or being triggered by all the surrounding vibrations.

I had a Simmons for a couple of years or so but it was waaay inferior to a-drums. I tried again a couple of years ago and bought a cheap e-kit, which was a terrible decision. The triggers were very dicey unless you hit very hard, and I don't do that any more. To anyone going the e-kit route, don't scrimp - buy a quality kit like a Yammie or Roland - otherwise it's a waste of money.

In the late 80s I did some writing and home recording with a sequencer and drum machine. This year I did a home recording batch using treated and discombobulated acoustic instruments, with some looping.

Lots of enjoyable things you can do with electronics.
 

Lunar Satellite Brian

Senior Member
In my case, I play and I sequence, and I'm the drummer either way.

Bermuda
That's almost exactly how I feel, it sort of come down to the question "Does the instrument I play determine what kind of musician I am, or does the music I create determine what kind of musician I am?"

or essentially, am I still a drummer if I create drum parts outside of a drum kit? Yes, of course you are.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I don't think there are any "shoulds" or "should nots" in creating art, other than the artificial ones people apply due to their limited imaginations.

Anything that is considered "traditional" today was cutting edge at the time it was introduced, so anything that is new today has the potential to be considered traditional in the future if it catches on and sticks around. For example, in 1967 nobody had ever played guitar the way Jimi Hendrix did, but now his licks are a staple of rock playing.

Also, the drumset itself is less than 150 years old, and that's not a very long tradition compared to individual percussion instruments, which are as old as recorded history, so I'd say just do what you think is fun and like the sound of, because that's all that really matters.
^ This is my conclusion as well.

When I was younger, I had this thought that I won't listen to music made with a drum machine. But then I had to make an exception for a brilliant album, then another, and years later I realized I had missed out on a lot of good music over the years with such a dumb rule.

As the 90's came to close, I got into programming and mixing live drums with sequenced parts, as seemed to be all the rage at the time. But I had always been sure there was majority of live playing.

A few years ago I took a break from playing drums in bands to concentrate on songwriting. Originally the idea was to write interesting things to drum to, but soon, the songs became more important than the drums. Then I got hired to write music for a movie that required no drums, which was interesting because here I was doing to violinists, cellists, horn players, pianists, and such what I used to never want to have happen to drums: programing them rather than using real people.

So now I have come to realize that what ever it takes is what it takes.

Or as I said in another thread, if The Beatles or Beach Boys (60's era) had access to modern day programming, do you think they really wouldn't try using it?
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
When "drum machines" first appeared into the mainstream, I was a young wannabe drummer and I instantly said "Eff that!".

Then I read an interview with Phil Collins, who was always a favorite of mine, and he said he used them. I softened my stance but still carried some distain.

Decades later when someone first suggested an E kit for volume controlled play I said "Blasphemy!" Then I began to experiment and have since seen the usefulness of al kinds of electronic gear.

Now, with a more open mind, I dig all kinds of music, from a raw 1, 2 or 3 piece to a full on live production with orchestral backing.

I don't care where the music comes from, I just want it to move me in some fashion.


I make a living backwards-engineering songs, .....
That's my hobby :)


It's hard to imagine that, with virtually everyone having a computer, more musicians haven't explored programming, production, and sound design.
I don't understand it either. A simple tool like Garage Band opened the floodgates for me a few years ago and I've learned more about music that I had in all my previous decades.

Maybe it's a West Plaza thing :)
 

Icetech

Gold Member
I am not a fan of electronic music.. BUT drums defiantly have a place.. if you want to see what can be done with a drummer in electronic music look up Michael Schack.. he's amazing and plays triggered systems and stuff.. some of it is just awesome...
 

tcspears

Gold Member
As others have said, it will depend on the song/parts. Is a drummer going to add value? Then bring one in, but if you really don't need one than why bother? I understand that live there is a visual aspect, but if you're in the studio, and working with dance beats, then you certainly don't have to worry about a drummer.

It's interesting that you bring this up, but I've noticed several drummer colleagues of mine are getting electronic gigs lately. A percussionist that I work with in a Latin jazz group, has been getting gigs backing up DJs lately and they pay 2-4 times what a regular band gig would pay! He just sets up and plays along with the DJ, comping and adding fills. He's shown me some videos and it's pretty cool! I've also heard of some drumset drummers doing similar things around town; I don't think it would be in my wheelhouse, but I'd love to see it sometime.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
Or as I said in another thread, if The Beatles or Beach Boys (60's era) had access to modern day programming, do you think they really wouldn't try using it?
That's a great point. I played a wedding with a rockabilly band not to long ago, and the leader wanted to play "Don't Worry Baby" by the Beach Boys, but didn't want to write out a chart. I went on YouTube to learn it, and I can see why he didn't want to write out a chart, the drum beat was very easy and never once deviated. Which is fine for the song, I'm not knocking it, but it got me thinking that in today's world you'd just have the producer program that drum beat, rather than pay someone $100/hour to keep time...
 

boomstick

Silver Member
I've been into electronic music for a while now, and I appreciate it with drum machines, live drums, or a mix of both. I'm for whatever works best. As an example, I've seen Groove Armada perform twice, once as a DJ set and once as a live band. I enjoyed the music in both cases, but it's a lot more interesting visually to watch the live band than to watch two guys spinning.
 
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