Author Topic: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer  (Read 453 times)

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Offline jtibbs97

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My goal is to become a one man band. For the longest time I've been losing my mind in the process of songwriting. I'd like to add more texture, but it's only been guitar and vocals.

I've been told before how drums are the first instrument in the recording process...which completely throws me off as I don't play the drums.

Instead I came up with an idea to craft my songs from start to finish- with various different layers...minus the drums. And one day find a drummer to help liven it up.

The first thing I did was pretend as if the metronome were my drummer. I'd take my song and try to play along to a click and it sucks because it always sounds stupidly out of time. Then to combat this, I'd revise my music to fit the metronome, but by then it's not even the same song. It sounds so stiff.

I'm not really sure what I'm asking here, but if somebody could please help get one step closer to solving this yearlong musical crisis I've been in, that would be much appreciated. ;D


Offline LievenDV

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2017, 12:13:36 pm »
you have several options
- learn how to sequence drums in your DAW. I find that very tedious.
- copy paste parts from backing tracks. also quite tedious and pretty sketchy
- go alternative. doesn't sound like a drummer but it is a lot more fun and creative. I once recorded a rhythm by using stuff I found on my desk. A shaker, by hitting my wallet with a screwdriver and a third thing I forgot. it went fast, it sounded creative and I actually had a bit of fun ^^
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Online KasperFauerby

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2017, 12:15:52 pm »
You need to be able to record along a click. That's a hard thing and will take practice, so don't feel bad about it.

If you play something out of time, and then try to automatically "fix" it by quantizing rigidly to a grid - then it will probably sound very stiff. But it should always be possible to play your music, floating nicely over a click.

Offline Fox Cunning

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2017, 12:59:50 pm »
Another alternative (the one I prefer myself) is to record a drum track using a MIDI interface.
I use a cheap and simple AKAI-LPD8, or a more versatile Roland HandSonic.
I do have access to a Roland V-Drums kit, but that takes so much time and effort to set up and take apart when finished that I hardly ever use it.

Since I am not a good drummer at all, I then have to adjust/quantise the track I recorded in my DAW.
I find that a lot less tedious than sequencing the whole track, in fact I quite like this process.

The downside is that even with decent samples it will never sound as good as a real drum kit. But since I am a really bad drummer, this is as good as I can have it ;D

In any case, drums don't necessarily need to be the first instrument to record if the whole band can play to a click.
As Kasper said you should be able to record along a click, or at least a sampled kick/snare loop -- which I personally find easier to follow than a simple click.

I can set up the metronome in Reaper to use custom samples, and I think you can do the same in most DAWs and standalone metronome apps.

Offline davidvac

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2017, 01:00:29 pm »
I totally share your frustration. The click track blues is a real struggle. I am also trying to develop the live performance approach so the search for a simple, realistic, live solution is a shared pursuit. 

If you have an iOS device, a drum app on the iPad can be helpful. I have tried a few but Drumjam is pretty good. Ipaktor is great for LeivenDV's suggestion of using creative materials as it simulates drums and percussion from what you tap out on the table. If you want more realistic sounding drums (and don't have a mate who can help) then Perfect Drummer is great but a chore to program - and I haven't cracked it yet. If you are an android user, I don't know what is available, but I'm sure there are equivalent apps.

The other approach that I am now working on and which seems to be more in line with your 'one-man-band' objective is to use a looper and lay down your own percussion loop to play over. Again, the iOS based solution might be LoopyHD but it really needs a midi pedal to get it to work when you are playing. My preference is to use a simple pedal (Boss RC-3) for now and see where it takes me.


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Offline davidvac

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2017, 01:16:46 pm »
You might find this handy as well:
https://www.musicrepo.com/program-first-drum-track/
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Offline Majik

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2017, 01:29:06 pm »
There's also a load of MIDI drum tracks available on the Interwebz (some free, some paid). You can download these and load into a track on your DAW as a starting point.

If you can't find anything suitable, you could download a full MIDI track which has a drum track you like from somewhere like Midiworld and it should be possible to strip out the drum track; for instance, some DAWs give you the ability to only import specific channels, or to import each channel on a different track, and then you can delete the tracks you don't want.

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Offline TB-AV

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2017, 08:23:25 pm »
I've been told before how drums are the first instrument in the recording process...which completely throws me off as I don't play the drums.

That's just absolute BS.

If you are writing the song, you are the time keeper. You are the time inventor. To do it the way you have been told would be to make them the arranger before you even get started.

It quite often happens , especially now days with the structure of music being more flexible, that you might write song in an odd or complex time signature. AND/OR you are swinging it to the point that simple metronomes or drum beats just don't work.

It's not unusual for a song writer to write something that they don;t understand time wise. It's --THEN-- up to the drummer and/or producer to tell you what you have done and get everyone playing to that. Not the other way round. As you have found it just kills the mojo.

You kinda have two alternatives. First play your song.

1. Now in a drum machine or whatever. tap out the rhythm with say a ride and bass drum. Then analyze that framework and try to figure what the time signature is and continue to add drums or fit preexixting drum grooves if they are the same time and feel.

2. Hire a pro drummer to make you a couple tracks of a couple of your songs and explain to you what you have done. IOW, you are going to be paying them for the track which they can probably do easily AND for the education which hopefully will allow you to be better at item 1 above.

Now it's possible that either process may involve adjusting your song a bit and it actually comes out better for it. But if your song is good, the way you want it, the last thing you want to do is try to play to canned drum beats or program strict time based midi. Again it's very likely your time varies a bit and you may be playing complex times or have incorporated a complex inner beat or groove to the song that would guide a drummer. They would then pick right up on that groove and run with it.

Again, if you like your songs and they are good. Then you are the drummer and the beat is inherit in your song already. Highly unlikely you will start with "drums first" and come up with that natural timing, feel, groove, emotion.

All your findings thus far are normal. The only part you are missing is applying your internal groove to the song with the drum instrument. That's basically because you can't play drums and don't know how to program them... not many people do.

Now this is not to say, you can't make a drum beat and then write a song to it. That works just fine too. But if your songs are done the "drums first" could destroy everything you did, as you have found. Same with record drums then add bass... that's just nuts. If you have a song and can write a song and you like the song. That's the song. that's the boss. That's the time keeper. You add things in such a way so as to not compromise it and hopefully to make it even more interesting. NEVER because you think there is some list or order. The song is the boss.

If you think your songs are good. I would seriously find a real drummer. Pay them to help you. That's what they do. They are drummers. They get paid to know about drumming. They get paid to understand whats going on if you write some cool song no matter what the format. They get paid to make a beat that fits what you did AND if you don't know, help you understand what you did. So it's worth the education because next time you might say... oh, I wrote a verse in 7/8 and you would then know how to program a drum machine or what have you. You might learn that you stuck a bar of 2/4 in a 4/4 song.

A good drummer will also alert you to timing issues you may or may not have, Tempo changes, time sig changes, etc..If you are doing that type stuff you would need to work on your timing and learn how to do tempo mapping in your DAW. Tempo mapping accounts for nuances of tempo change like a song speeding up a bit in the chorus or such.
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Offline Matt125

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2017, 06:19:24 am »
I totally share your frustration. The click track blues is a real struggle. I am also trying to develop the live performance approach so the search for a simple, realistic, live solution is a shared pursuit. 

Have you had a look at the digitech TRIO+ ?

You "teach" it the chord progression, select the music style that you want, and it builds a bass line and drum track based on your input.  You could use it live if you wanted. You build a song in parts and sequence it  (e.g. intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/chorus/outro) prior to the performance. You can output the drum and bass to a PA or send it through your guitar amp. It also has a built in looper.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKwqg0U7ZLU
« Last Edit: August 25, 2017, 06:42:24 am by Matt125 »

Offline LievenDV

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2017, 09:02:11 pm »
Have you had a look at the digitech TRIO+ ?

OR
The SDRUM:


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Offline Curtis Suter

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Re: Layering and recording original songs in time without a drummer
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2017, 10:05:19 pm »
This is light years ahead of my knowledge.  However I messed around with this Drumkit and perhaps it would help.

http://www.powerdrumkit.com

 

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