If you feel the tracking process isdone once the drums, bass, guitars,keyboards, and vocals are down, then you may be missing out on a lot of fun. Percussion tracks can be ahuge—and hugely entertaining—partof the “sweetening” phase of yourrecordings, and, no, I’m not talkingabout simply adding a tambourine toevery snare hit (that is, unless you’replanning to overdub a platoon oftambourines to rival anything PhilSpector did during his pre-jailbirddays as the creator of the Wall ofSound). After all, even basic samplelibraries offer a fair amount of exotic percussion instruments, and youshouldn’t just leave these fabuloussounds to waste away due to neglect.Furthermore, you can score non-virtual percussion instruments relativelyinexpensively by raiding toy stores, orgo the distance by purchasing professional percussion tools from yourlocal music store (or online). Whetheryou sequence or trigger samples, oractually put hand or stick to wood,metal, or drum skin, exploring the sonic and rhythmic attributes of percussioncan add new layers of excitementto a track you thought wastotally cooked. Here are three percussionoptions from a recent acoustic production of mine.
Okay, there’s not much “new” intoday’s music world, but that doesn’tmean you can’t borrow a cool ideafrom a different discipline and makeit part of your own thing. For example,Cheryl Munoz, background singerand percussionist for the Ol’ CheekyBastards, also studies flamenco dancing. When she saw and heard a cajonbeing played at a flamenco danceconcert, she decided to purchase one and incorporate it into the Bastardsmix of folky, punky, Celtic music. Thecajon’s unique hand-slapped snare,tom, kick drum, and wood blocksounds now appear as the main percussiontreats on OCB’s WorkingClass Heroes and Truths [RottenEggs]. We attached an Audix F-90clip-on mic to the side of the port onthe back of the cajon, which allowedus to record the cajon performanceswith Munoz sitting in the controlroom, and listening via the monitorspeakers, rather than headphones.This situation meant she could playas if she were performing live—a“comfort” plus as she was still a newbiecajon player—and there was virtuallyno signal bleed from song track sinto the microphone.
Hi-hat cymbals are supposed to beaggressive and bright, and they do amarvelous job driving everythingfrom funk to metal. But what if you’redealing with some gently strummedacoustic guitars and the hi-hits arejust obliterating them? This was kind of a big problem, because I had programmed a hi-hat groove and allthe instruments were tracked tothe offending cymbal sear.
Ultimately, I decided to replace the hihatswith a shaker egg that exhibiteda sweeter, less-sizzling sound, andthe mild sh-sh-sh-sh fit in beautifully with the acoustics, kicking the groovewhile simultaneously not pilfering allthe tonal attention. I dug the effectso much that I doubled the shakertrack—one with a red egg and onewith a black egg (somehow, I fooledmyself...