Artists as diverse as N.E.R.D. to Portishead typically combine live drums with programmed Akai MPC (or equivalent) loops, seeking the ultimate fat beat or impossible-toperform- live effect. With all of Genji’s live/programmed, acoustic/electric information on his plate, who better to ask about mixing live and programmed drums for production satisfaction?
“You have to decide whether you’re going to use live or programmed sounding drums—a ‘live’ drummer or a ‘super’ drummer. Even something as simple as altering the snare sound with a sample overlay changes everything; sometimes I’ll take a live loop and mix in a sample underneath, because the live snare sound will change as you hit it in different spots. Adding the sample will make it more consistent, without losing the element of having variations among hits.
“Dance or electronic music is built on the idea that the sound will hit the same way, every time. It’s frustrating to make a sampler sound like a live drummer—but trying to play acoustic drums to sound like a drum machine is equally frustrating, which is why I like Alternate Mode DrumKAT. Drumagog [drum replacement software] is very useful too.”
“Drum sound software like XLN Audio Addictive Drums is good . . . or FXpansion BFD, the live drum emulator. It makes it easy to add a programmed snare part with the live one. Addictive Drums lets you keep the nuances and is designed to introduce certain amounts of variation, so even if you hit the MIDI note at the same level, it will add some [sonic] variations. Addictive Drums has a very natural feel—it’s a good augmentation for live dates.”
“If you know you’ll be using replacement software with live audio, then you want as much isolation between each drum as possible. But don’t forget about the room mics—the one trash mic in the room might be the sound that you want. The distance you move the mic back will create a more delayed sound; the sound will spread, and the drum decay will last longer. A smaller room reduces everything, as there are more early reflections, standing waves, and unpleasant artifacts.
“That ambient room mic is the one thing you will not get from the sequenced sound. You can always emulate the sound of a tightly miked drum with a sequencer, but it’s harder to emulate the way the drum reacts with the room.”
“Even a [Shure] SM58 will work if you’re not whacking the drum. I don’t like the mic right on the head; pulling it back even an inch or two changes the tonal quality a lot, depending on where you’re pointing the mic on the drum. It’s that lost art of adjusting the mic to get what you want.”
“The playing and the part is important, but the head and the tuning—and the room in which you’re recording the drum—is more important than the drum itself, or something like the shell material.”
“If you compress the room mic, the characte...