Alternative to drum machine cymbals

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Brett Siler
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Alternative to drum machine cymbals

Post by Brett Siler » Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:33 pm

I like drum machine drum sounds. One thing I really don't like about most drum machines are the cymbal sounds. Most of them try to sound like real cymbals (or are a sample) but they just sound really thin and bad. What are some alternatives one could use beside drum machine cymbals in conjunction with the drum machine drum sounds? The most obvious would be overdub real cymbals, but lets get creative and wild! What are some ideas?!

This is a free for all with style of music and drum sound! Lets include em all!

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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:33 pm

Well, not very creative, but there's a whole host of miscellaneous percussion instruments that fill the role of hihats, at least, in other "traditional" rhythmic traditions.

shakers, shekere, guiro, cascara, castanets, tamborine, bells, etc.

I was thinking of bringing up a topic like this a while ago, but it was after listening to Bow Wow Wow and realizing the the drummer didn't use ride cymbal or hi-hats, at all, but not noticing that for over two decades. There's also a dixie chicks record that has zero percussion on it. It took me (well, my wife and kids) listening to it about 50 times before I noticed. Because the fucking thing had so much rhythm. The Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabete record has the same effect. I think there's one song on there with percussion (and it's balophone, which is melodic), but I didn't notice for a long time because those two are both 12/8 masters on their strings.

I think through genius arrangements and playing you could make almost any instrument fill the role of crashes, splashes, wuhans or rides. Like a guitar chord or note or a horn section hit "where" you'd "normally" have a crash might just read like one. Do you know what I'm saying? Listen to music from brassless traditions and you'll start to figure it out. There's a "need" for that emphasis effect (crashes) and metronome (hi-hats, rides) in almost any music that has a beat. Make us not even notice there's no cymbals. I guess if you deviated from the kick, snare and toms "four on the floor" paradigm it would go a long way towards not feeling the absence of crashes and rides.

White noise/bursts of static?

A vocal exclamation?

edit: What about gated off silence where you'd normally have a cymbal crash. That would be just as dramatic. You can get quiet for emphasis as well as loud.
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Post by The Scum » Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:57 pm

If you're open to electronic stuff, then there are a lot possibilities in purely synthetic sounds, and in manipulation.

Try bursts of pink/blue/white noise for a start. Swept filters can add some nice movement.

Somewhere on the web is an analysis of the TR808 cymbal circuits, that might lend some ideas for purely synthetic cymbals.

Heck, even a pulse train can be useful for a rhythmic click kinda sound. A pulse train into a very short slapback delay can lead you into handclap territory.

Distortion and gating can make things more cutting, if that's needed.

You could also try various regular percussion sounds, and then further process them...try a toy cymbal, pitched up or down.

Little bursts of things through a ring modulator can take on a more cymbal-like presence. Ringmod tambourine can be interesting.

Take little bursts of things, then use absurd reverb to give them some sustain. Or use a burst of something into a delay to make it more rhythmic.

Or borrow a little from Max Roach, and play the stands and rims, rather then the instruments themselves.

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Post by vvv » Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:17 am

Perhaps obvious, put pasting samples crashes, or even entire ride or HH patterns, over or in parallel to the drum tracks can work.

Somebody who is really good, BTW, at alt.perc is Reznor - any NIN record has tons of weird shite that serves well.
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Post by Dan Rosato » Sun Jun 19, 2011 12:19 pm

Is there a specific drum machine that you're using? Have you tried running it through some effects processors? Lots of guitar pedals work really well for fattening up drum machines, like the ProCo Rat, Hot Tubes, Tube Screamer and other distortion boxes, but even a cool analog delay with a very short delay and no feedback can smooth out the high end and warm up the sound a bit. Obviously you can go even further with this and use any type of effect (I love the boss Octave pedals for drum machines) to get all kinds of wild sounds.

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Post by lefthanddoes » Sun Jun 19, 2011 12:43 pm

There's also some stuff you can do to make the "realistic" drum machine cymbal sounds actually sound a little more realistic. Getting a drummer to help you with the programming, to get it to sound like both the type of part that a drummer would play, and that a drum machine would play, an example of that I think is that dumbass Collective Soul song, "Shine." I thought that was real drums for a long time. (i actually do like the song.)
Also, you could do things like compress all the cymbals together, independently of the drums, which will have an effect of overheads. I often finding myself putting effects like heavy flange or phaser on just the cymbals when I'm using electronic drums and the cymbals are "realistic" samples.

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Post by apropos of nothing » Sun Jun 19, 2011 12:50 pm

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Post by Brett Siler » Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:07 pm

So many awesome responses! Thanks guys! I'm pretty excited about the blasts of white/pink/brown noise idea. Putting a large dose of reverb then compression on that would probably sound really cool. Same with the more tradition percussion instruments by effecting them and morphing them.

Drum machines I've been using are the Zoom RT-123 and Garageband. I really like the drum sounds ("realistic" and electronic) on the Zoom. It has lots of really cool, thick sounds. I like the D/A on it too, it just sounds a litte more "3-d" than alot of Garageband sounds. The biggest down fall on the Zoom you can't really control the cymbal volume well at all. They are almost always too loud when you try to program them in with the beat.
I have all the Jampacks for Garageband which has some good sounds on it, but both the Zoom and Garageband drum kit cymbals leave a bit to be desired.

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Post by eeldip » Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:13 pm

have you tried running the cymbals to their own output, and throwing on some short modulated reverb/pitch delay type stuff?

i would be inclined to say, run this:
http://www.audiopluginsforfree.com/plugin/66/

and follow it with a reverb to smoove it out.

that would def add a lot of interest to they cymbals.

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Post by jgimbel » Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:25 pm

lefthanddoes wrote:Getting a drummer to help you with the programming, to get it to sound like both the type of part that a drummer would play, and that a drum machine would play, an example of that I think is that dumbass Collective Soul song, "Shine." I thought that was real drums for a long time. (i actually do like the song.)
I haven't heard that song in quite a while, and when I do it's on the radio, and I never noticed that it was canned drums, but the part itself has always bothered me. I think it's mostly the ride part in the choruses that bother me, but I've always thought "what a strange, but not necessarily in a good way, part for a drummer to play. Interesting.
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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:35 pm

1) Are you sure there's no way to turn down the cymbals on the Zoom? Hit the pads lighter? I've got the HR16 or whatever it is, so I don't know the Zoom unit, but I find that hard to believe in this day and age.

2) WTF does compressed white noise sound like? Seriously.

I got the blast of static idea from Bjork. Have you ever listened to some of her "drum sounds?" I wonder what blasts of static/white noise would sound like under the actual cymbal sounds. I bet you could do anything (depending on level) from adding interest to the static to adding interest to the cymbal sound.
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Post by Brett Siler » Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:46 pm

Snarl 12/8 wrote:1) Are you sure there's no way to turn down the cymbals on the Zoom? Hit the pads lighter? I've got the HR16 or whatever it is, so I don't know the Zoom unit, but I find that hard to believe in this day and age.
I was lazy in the post but yea you can with the velocity setting and how you hit the pads, but they are very sensitive and very very easy to be loud or inconsistant. Either way they don't sound that cool, loud or soft.

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Post by Brett Siler » Sun Jun 19, 2011 3:50 pm

eeldip wrote:have you tried running the cymbals to their own output, and throwing on some short modulated reverb/pitch delay type stuff?

i would be inclined to say, run this:
http://www.audiopluginsforfree.com/plugin/66/

and follow it with a reverb to smoove it out.

that would def add a lot of interest to they cymbals.
That plug looks very cool, but I am using PT 6.4 and Mac 10.3.9 I doubt I can use it. I guess I could download it and try to see if it works.

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Post by Brett Siler » Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:39 pm

Snarl 12/8 wrote:2) WTF does compressed white noise sound like? Seriously.
Well I was just thinking about how when you compress reverb it brings the reverb trail out more and makes the decay longer or the sound sources sound bigger. Just compressing dry white noise on its own.. I have no idea but it could be cool.

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Post by Snarl 12/8 » Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:04 pm

Brett Siler wrote:
Snarl 12/8 wrote:2) WTF does compressed white noise sound like? Seriously.
Well I was just thinking about how when you compress reverb it brings the reverb trail out more and makes the decay longer or the sound sources sound bigger. Just compressing dry white noise on its own.. I have no idea but it could be cool.

I wonder if it would sound at all different from just turning the volume down, since there are no transients or other envelope characteristics to alter. Might really depend on the comp.
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