The morals of using drum samples

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gavintheaudioengineer
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The morals of using drum samples

Post by gavintheaudioengineer » Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:41 am

So a possible client pays us a visit the other day to see if he'd like to record with us.

Seems happy with our range of amps/mics/workflow/examples.

Then asks if we would be replacing the drum sounds with samples.

Now, I went ahead and asked him why he would want to do this and his reply was that 'he'd heard at college that it was a really neat trick and all his favourite bands do it.'

I explained that we would be accomodating to whatever he wanted, but that we were confident that we could get as close to the sound he wanted from 'traditional' means i.e. recording the sound of his actual drum kit.

All was good, and they seem happy to come and work with us, but the whole time I was biting my tongue to tell him 'to stay at home and use a sequencer with a sampler, a copy of guitar rig and a copy of melodyne for the sound you're looking to acheive'.

And then I thought that I might have been a little too elitist about the whole thing.

I'd prefer to be in the business of making people sound at their best, not making them sound like something they're not.

Any thoughts?

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Post by chris harris » Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:44 am

If you have those "morals" and subscribe to that "dogma", then I feel that you owe it to your clients to be upfront about it. You'll avoid potential contentious situations later. No big deal. If you feel that way, you will find that you're just not the right engineer for every project.

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Post by Scott Greenberg » Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:53 am

I have the same moral dilemma everytime i use Autotune.

I would obviously prefer that whatever sound you hear on the record is real...but sometimes you have to just give the client what they want(assuming they ever know what they want).

So instead of that

Just make their drums sound awesome and either
A) they won't want to replace them

or

B) Tell them you already did replace them("wow, they sound great!")
:o
I'd like to change your mind by hitting it with a rock.

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Post by Gregg Juke » Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:58 am

...Assuming he (or the) drummer can play, let him hear live drums A/B'd with sampled. Also assuming a level of musical maturity (and well-recorded drums), he will most likely pick the well-recorded live drums.

GJ

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Post by thethingwiththestuff » Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:33 am

what does Morality have to do with recording? don't work on white power audiobooks.. everything else is probably fair game.

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Post by kbaudour » Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:48 am

Wouldn't it be another tool to have at your disposal? The Smiths and My Bloody Valentine sampled drums.
Sampling your own drums is always another option to get the sampled feeling but the good sound.

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Post by kslight » Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:00 am

I would only use sampled drums in a normal context if the drummer sucked or the drum recording was bad..both of which should be apparent and rectified early on if I'm putting my name on the recording.

There are certain scenarios where it is a style such as extreme metal...where you could fast drummers that aren't steady and aren't hitting the drums hard enough, so triggers are used and quantized rather than trying to gate and cut manually.

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Post by ott0bot » Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:07 am

kbaudour wrote:Wouldn't it be another tool to have at your disposal? The Smiths and My Bloody Valentine sampled drums.
Sampling your own drums is always another option to get the sampled feeling but the good sound.
have you heard the Smiths outtakes bootlegs, where the drums aren't all gated and/or sampled. They sound great. Darn you 80's production techniques.

but yeah....it's not really a moral issue. I'd give a word of precaution like you did, but if they still want it when you are done, the you should probably accomodate.

Now, If you are producing....then you do have more of a say. And you can get on your soapbox all you want. :wink:

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Post by dsw » Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:33 am

Don't be narrow-minded and make good music. Use rocks and logs or use an iPad, who cares?
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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 10, 2011 11:26 am

I wouldn't use the word morals; I might use the word ethics. Whether it is ethical, then, depends on what you're trying to represent. If the name of the album is "look how well Jimmy can record drums live to tape," then you're in an ethical grey area.
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Post by ott0bot » Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:01 pm

I do think that metal records should state if they did not use drum replacement. That way you know the drummer is great player, because they deserve props for that level of skill.

I remeber there was a Chariot album that was recorded live to 16 track tape, and even though i'm not really a fan....that takes some serious skill.

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gavintheaudioengineer
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Post by gavintheaudioengineer » Thu Feb 10, 2011 2:48 pm

what does Morality have to do with recording? don't work on white power audiobooks.. everything else is probably fair game.
OK so maybe I should have got my dictionary out before using the word morals. But being Scottish, English isn't my first language...:)

The thing for me is that I worry where it will all end up- a vocalist doesn't need to be in tune, a drummer doesn't need to be able to play in time or well or with decent drums, a guitarist can use guitar rig for all the tones he needs- and more and more it's what some clients expect.

So where do i fit in? I'd hate to turn up at work to find that there isn't actually anything to record!

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Post by brinnbacka » Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:48 pm

gavintheaudioengineer wrote:

The thing for me is that I worry where it will all end up- a vocalist doesn't need to be in tune, a drummer doesn't need to be able to play in time or well or with decent drums, a guitarist can use guitar rig for all the tones he needs- and more and more it's what some clients expect.
It has already ended up right there on the day the first session musician subbed for a band member that couldn't play. The only thing that has changed is the way things are fixed.

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Post by Anthony Caruso » Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:58 pm

As an engineer, if that is indeed your specific role here, the job is to make stuff sound awesome. The artist (assuming there's no producer) is making all "ethical" decisions in that situation. If they just want their shit to sound awesome by any means necessary, make it sound awesome! If they wanna hear sample enhancement, don't just use Soundreplacer with one lame kick sample, that's amateur-hour-hoo-ha that gives all this stuff a bad name. Spend some time with Drumagog or use Melodyne to generate a MIDI file of the kick and map it to a sampler, assign different samples to different velocities, spend time finding appropriate sounds, sample your own sounds, edit volume automation, mix it right so that the sample enhances but doesn't take over, whatever you gotta do. But whatever you do, make sure the result will blow their freaking mind (and maybe surprise yourself?)!

As far as "Where will all this deception lead, WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?!?"

The client may not have a lot of skill or talent, but YOU do, right? Engineering is your performance, just as drumming is theirs. It takes time and skill and patience and practice and an ear to do all these modern recording thingies, and do them well and artistically, and it is 2011, it is fully within the realm of possibility that you could be asked to do these things...unless like subatomic said, you consciously make a decision to be more niche, which is totally fine and up to you.

And where do we draw the line? Are we going to not comp vocals to find the good parts? Not use compression on an uneven bass performance? Not EQ an inappropriate guitar tone? What about when engineers would literally cut up a drum performance on tape and splice it back together in time?

Is "fixing" in one way OK but not in another?

Convince that client that you are a mother-fudging god of audio and that you can do anything!
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gavintheaudioengineer
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Post by gavintheaudioengineer » Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:34 am

Perhaps my real problem is that I've made a judgement on the whole sound replacement thing based on the bad examples that I've heard. It never occured to me that it could be used tastefully..

Can anyone throw me some suggested listening on good examples?

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