Writing drums, aka heretic guitarist tries to write his drum tracks

#1
Hey everyone, I hope you are all having a nice day
I happen to be a guitarist who's starting a kind of "online" project with his roomate (also a guitar player). We had a band for a couple of years during high school but due to university and troubles finiding a stable drummer in the area we stopped that some months ago.

But I'm not here to tell you the story of my life; since I've always been a big drums enthusiast even without playing the instrument I got in charge of the drum programming for our upcoming recordings, while my roommate will learn how to mix all tracks together and other recordings in general.

Now, I have a song ready, but I have no idea on how to properly write drum parts. If you are so kind to be willing to help me out I'll report what I think are my main issues down here:

- How should I deal with polymethric parts? for example I have a 3/4 and 4/4 kind of alternance, how should I approach that without writing something that would actually result just confusing?

- How should I use the snare and kick hits; I know that a common practice is to make the kick follow the guitar rhythms, but where should I put the snare then? Do you play cymbals and snare together? Last but not least I have no idea on how tom fills are structured, like, no idea at all

I am actually overly exaggerating on some points since I actually know a little bit about drum playing, but since I'm already asking and bugging you people I just wanna be sure not to write stuff wrong.
Last edited by ale.mezza95 at Apr 7, 2017,
#2
It's a difficult thing to explain without hearing the material, but the starting point should really always be the snare. Cycle the guitar parts and figure out where the snare should hit. Once you have the snare down, start to add some kicks. Depending on the genre it may not be the best idea to just litter the track with double kicks. Less is usually more. Listen to the guitars, and play around with kick patterns in relation to the snare. Once you have the kick and snare down, the song should start to actually sound like a song. At this point you can add toms and cymbals and fills etc to the track. There aren't really any rules with any of this though, I am just trying to give a starting point. The process for polyrhythmic parts in theory is the same. Find the groove by placing the snare in the correct way, and then build the kicks around this.

Another piece of general advice is to listen to drummers from bands that play similar music to your track. You will find different drummers have different quirks that you can utilise yourself once you figure out what they are doing.

A few things I can give specific advice on, assuming you are trying to make your programmed drums sound like an actual recorded drum performance.

1. Do not program things that are impossible to play. For example, don't have three cymbals being hit at once. Also remember that even the fastest drummers still have physical limitations.

2. Vary the velocities of EVERY drum. Nothing screams "PROGRAMMED DRUMS" like having every drum hit at the same volume. How much you vary them is dependent on both the library you are using (as different sample libraries will have a different number of velocity samples) and also how robotic you want the drums to sound. For a lot of modern metal it might make sense to leave the kicks at 127, regardless of how fast they are being played. I personally hate this, and I adjust velocities depending on how I would actually play it if I were behind the kit (and if I could play drums...)

3. Vary the timing of each hit. This one is harder because if you vary it too much you risk making the performance too loose. The question you need to ask is how natural do you want it to sound? Even if you want all the kicks and snares 100% gridded it might still be worth randomising the timing for drum fills, especially if they are fast ones.

Hopefully some of this helps.
Last edited by Random3 at Apr 7, 2017,
#3
Random3 this was really huge, I'm really thankful for your time

Yeah these days I'm noodling around with Hydrogen since I don't really wanna steal software, if this get serious I'll buy either SuperiorDrummer or EzDrummer, and I completely agree on the velocity part.

Also, the style is of this particular song is kind of a mix between Keith Merrow (I've been listening to him a lot recently, so I guess I got some vibes there) and a quite less technical version of Fallujah/Persefone. Just imagine a kind of melodic death metal with some progressive elements more focused on rhythmical variety/atmospheric parts rather than just shred. I know it might not be the best genre to start out but I guess that I'll just take it slowly

Thanks again for your kind explaination!
#4
I have no experience with Hydrogen but I have used Superior for years, and if you program it right it can absolutely sound like a real performance. Try to view it less as a drum machine and more as a simulated drum performance. Once you have your simulated drum performance down, you can then export it and mix the stems as if you just recorded a live drummer.
#5
That is what I aim for, also as I said I enjoy seeing and listening to good drummers solo play so once I'm done writing I will happily spend a lot of time into working on the performance to make it sound realistic

One last question: would it be better for me to do a single wav file with the whole programmed drum track or a single file for every drum part (ex: programmed kicks, programmed snare, programmed crash etc...)? I wonder if option one is gonna be harder to mix with other instruments+vocals in the very end, thus requiring alternative two.
Last edited by ale.mezza95 at Apr 8, 2017,
#6
Again, I don't know how it works in Hydrogen but generally speaking if you have the option of exporting individual stems for each drum then absolutely do that every time. With Superior for example you can mix the drums entirely within the plugin because it has built-in EQs and compressors etc. I never understood the point because if you export the stems you can use any plugins you have in your DAW on the drum tracks. If you export the drums as a single stereo file then you will not be able to, for example, scoop out unwanted frequencies in the kick drum without affecting every other drum. I mean theoretically if you get your drums sounding 100% how you want them to by just using Hydrogen then you can export them as a single stereo file, but in practice that is never going to happen.

If you have the option in Hydrogen I would export at least one kick track (in and out if you have the option), at least one snare track (top and bottom if you have the option), one for each tom track, a stereo overhead track for the cymbals and if you can also a room track. I have no idea how much of that is possible with Hydrogen but ideally you want a minimum of a single track per drum, and then a stereo overhead track.
#7
I'll see what I can do, I'm still learning the program myself, but if I got things right until now it should be possible just to make single audio files for each part of the drum. I'll try programming it all right with the velocity stuff and other adjustments, and once it's done I'll save the project for future modification; then I'll export a single audio track, and last but not least I'll erase all but the kicks and save a kick only track, then all but the snare and get my snare only track, etc.

I hope in the end it comes out well, since you helped me out so much I feel like I owe you ahahah