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-   -   Drums or no drums? (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=557642)

BoneDigger 09-12-2019 09:53 PM

Drums or no drums?
 
I have EZ Drummer and also Superior Drummer, but I'm wondering what the general feeling is on drums for acoustic folk and Americana songs at present? I listen to quite a lot of John Prine, plus Guy Clark and others. Some use drums, some don't. I often feel like preset drums kind of lock you into a drum machine sort of rhythm, which can be good or not.

I am currently getting set to record an acoustic track with just me and the guitar, or possibly with some bass guitar in the mix. Do you guys generally prefer a drum track with this sort of music, or do you prefer the free flow of just a guitar and vocals?

frankmcr 09-13-2019 01:16 AM

There's two options:

1) A real drummer playing drums

2) No drums

Silly Moustache 09-13-2019 03:48 AM

Electronic drums are for dance rhythms.

John Prine and Guy Clark are about lyrics.

I see no connection.

RedJoker 09-13-2019 03:55 AM

I see the value in both. I frequently record to a click track and then try it with or without drums and see what works. Try them both!

DCCougar 09-13-2019 06:07 AM

For the most part, I like to multitrack with a tasteful drum track, especially if there are variations and breaks in the drum track. I like the added drum track on this cut for example....

catdaddy 09-13-2019 06:23 AM

Depends on the track. Americana as a genre encompasses music as diverse as the strictly acoustic traditional old-time mountain music of The Reel Time Travelers to the drum laden, hard driving country-rock sound of Wilco.

I recently recorded a song which I considered to be a folk tune, and as such had never envisioned any percussion in the arrangement. Once I recorded guitar, voice and bass I started fooling around with some electronic percussion instruments and was pleasantly surprised to find it complemented the track very nicely. When doing any arranging it's always a good idea to keep your mind and your options open. You just never know what might sound right.

Kerbie 09-13-2019 06:45 AM

I've played percussion almost my entire life, but I have to admit... I'm not a fan of drum tracks. If I'm listening to a small number of guitarists, I don't think drums add much. Maybe if it's a muted "acoustic" set, hand drum, cajon, etc. But drum tracks don't do anything for me... sorry for my distaste. Can't help it. :D

MikeBmusic 09-13-2019 07:13 AM

It really does depend on the song!
These days I always track my songs to a drum track - I will pick a simple 4/4 beat for example, in EZ Drummer, rather than a click track. First time through, I will note if the chorus/bridge needs a tempo change, adjust the drum track accordingly, and then track the instruments. If its a pure acoustic track, EZ Drummer gets muted when I get to the mixing stage.
If its a song that I think will be good for drums, I will program the drums usually before recording anything past the initial guitar and vocal rough tracks.
'Canned' drums don't have to sound like dance loops these days. EZ Drummer 2 has great humanizing capabilities, and a little experience on how to vary drum patterns (via MIDI piano roll editing) goes a long way.

KevWind 09-13-2019 07:20 AM

BoneDigger not sure what exactly what you mean by "preset drums"

Do you mean pre recorded multi drum loops (of analog drums) that come as complete preset "audio file" that has all the different drum parts (kick, snare, toms , cymbals , etc. already recorded ?

Or do you mean pre recorded single individual drum hit instrument sounds (or "Samples") of different analog drums, i.e. kick, snare, toms, cymbals, etc. ) that you play in as single hits with a midi keyboard , or program in manually as midi notes to trigger single note presets of individual analog drums, with individual instruments being selectable ?

There is a fairly significant difference and feel to those two completely different "presets"

And Silly the term "Electronic drums" ( which is generalized term) in this context is far too ambiguous for this thread, not to mention the type of electronic drum sounds used in Dance or Trance music, is usually very different than what this thread is about . For one thing those drum sounds are intentionally "locked to the grid" and what BoneDigger is asking about has the option of intentionally not being locked to a grid. There is a big difference.

So that being said:

For me it is not a "which one" situation, I do and like both . It totally depends on the specific song and the feel I am going for. The real beauty of digital recording is you are not locked into either you record the Guitar and vocal and you can record some drums was well and simply mute them if you like the guitar and vocal better . It is a total win win

Mbroady 09-13-2019 07:26 AM

There is always the option of percussion rather then a full drum kit. These days you can get quality loops either in midi, Rex, acid etc. Many loop sets are complete with options for verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridges and fills for each, all played by professional players.
Once you find the right pocket you can replace hits/drums with alternate sounds such as bongos and/or timbales for snare hits, shakers for high hats and so on. I tend tend to keep a kick drum as is. You already have ezdrums and superior drummer so you already have all the tools needed as well as some sample loops.


It takes work but in the end you can come up with percussion tracks that are understated but fully support a grove. Im working on a project now we’re I'm doing just that. Hope to be down in about a month.

Stratcat77 09-13-2019 07:41 AM

For home recording, I do think quality drum loops can be a huge benefit. They've come a long way. Most good loops today area actual recordings of pros playing. So it's real. For home recording, you'd be hard pressed to get a recording of a real drummer in your basement that a) played as well as the pro and b) got you the sonic quality of the pro's recording. You just have to then have a good ear and technical skill to put it all together so it fits the song and has enough variety to it so it doesn't too repetitive.

I've played in live projects where drum loops were used. There are plusses and minuses, but I would rather have no drums than play with drum tracks live. It kills spontaneity…

But real live percussion adds a lot in my opinion. Depends on what kind of music you're playing I suppose. I do a lot of pop/rock, so it adds. I play with a singer who plays various percussion shakers, tambo, etc. Big plus. We also sometimes add a buddy on cajon. His set up include a little splash and a kick trigger. Sounds great to me and adds a lot.

BoneDigger 09-13-2019 08:45 AM

For the purposes of this discussion I am primarily talking about multi drum loops like found in EZ Drummer's browser library. These include all of the drum parts set to varying patterns. I am getting better at adding fills, etc., but I'm just trying to figure out if these types of drums really contribute significantly to an easy arrangement of singer and guitar, or if it's just not a positive addition in general for folk music?
Quote:

Originally Posted by KevWind (Post 6161407)
BoneDigger not sure what exactly what you mean by "preset drums"

Do you mean pre recorded multi drum loops (of analog drums) that come as complete preset "audio file" that has all the different drum parts (kick, snare, toms , cymbals , etc. already recorded ?

Or do you mean pre recorded single individual drum hit instrument sounds (or "Samples") of different analog drums, i.e. kick, snare, toms, cymbals, etc. ) that you play in as single hits with a midi keyboard , or program in manually as midi notes to trigger single note presets of individual analog drums, with individual instruments being selectable ?

There is a fairly significant difference and feel to those two completely different "presets"

And Silly the term "Electronic drums" ( which is generalized term) in this context is far too ambiguous for this thread, not to mention the type of electronic drum sounds used in Dance or Trance music, is usually very different than what this thread is about . For one thing those drum sounds are intentionally "locked to the grid" and what BoneDigger is asking about has the option of intentionally not being locked to a grid. There is a big difference.

So that being said:

For me it is not a "which one" situation, I do and like both . It totally depends on the specific song and the feel I am going for. The real beauty of digital recording is you are not locked into either you record the Guitar and vocal and you can record some drums was well and simply mute them if you like the guitar and vocal better . It is a total win win


Brent Hahn 09-13-2019 09:01 AM

Maybe it'll help to think of it in terms of rhythm and groove, rather than what you use to make it. Sometimes all a recording needs is some picking and strumming, sometimes it needs more. The more time you spend recording and experimenting, the closer you'll come to figuring out what works for you.

I think this is interesting -- it's a live recording done for a radio show, with a couple singers, a quiet fingerpicked guitar, a pedal steel... and a percussionist just barely grazing a snare drum with his fingertips.


Silly Moustache 09-13-2019 09:58 AM

Nah, electric drums etc., no good - they always slow down!

FrankHudson 09-13-2019 10:43 AM

As to what I read as your main question, about if it's appropriate to use drums with acoustic guitar music: you've absorbed an important principle involved here when you noticed "Some use drums, some don't."

Some drums in some arrangements work great. Some drums in some other arrangements don't. Some genres have a tradition of no drums (bluegrass, gypsy jazz)--other styles almost expect them.

You're the arranger it seems. You decide, and your decision may vary from song to song. Some will disagree with you, no matter which option you select.

There's now a side discussion of the various methods to include drums which don't involve recording a real drummer playing acoustic drums, which brings in other opinions on other issues.

My opinion, my practice, is that some arrangements nearly require drums though I rarely have had access to a full drum set player for decades now. For some things (note, I'm not saying all things, and for some people's music it this doesn't come up at all) I'd rather have the flakiest fixed drum loop than no drums. I say this even as a lover of good drumming, of the music and timbre of acoustic drums.

Luckily these days there are a great many things that one can do without mic'ing a real acoustic drum set. That's a huge subject. Just a few:

You can play your EZ/Superior Drummer drums with anything from one of those rack mounted "electronic drum sets" to your fingers or keys or finger pads. You can add your own hits over a pattern and alter a pattern before or after you've recorded it. You can add your own "real" mic'ed percussion to a track, even something as small as shakers, tambourine, or the like. You can gate/duck your drums with another instrument. Volume and tempo automation functions in DAWs can add variation and follow the rest of the arrangement.

Like I said, the "how to" is a big subject. But as to the OP's original question: for some things drums (even if they aren't "real" drums) are a plus, for other things they aren't. You have to decide for yourself.

runamuck 09-13-2019 11:14 AM

Another option is to use samples but play the parts in yourself instead of using a MIDI loop. That's what I do.

jim1960 09-13-2019 07:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BoneDigger (Post 6161226)
I have EZ Drummer and also Superior Drummer, but I'm wondering what the general feeling is on drums for acoustic folk and Americana songs at present? I listen to quite a lot of John Prine, plus Guy Clark and others. Some use drums, some don't. I often feel like preset drums kind of lock you into a drum machine sort of rhythm, which can be good or not.

I am currently getting set to record an acoustic track with just me and the guitar, or possibly with some bass guitar in the mix. Do you guys generally prefer a drum track with this sort of music, or do you prefer the free flow of just a guitar and vocals?

There's really no single answer to what you're asking. It's almost always going to come down to some combination of what the song calls for and what kind of production you're after. Some songs really can be done either way and sound equally wonderful.

Here's an example:
John Waite's hit record, Missing You, has drums throughout. Because of the arrangement of the other instruments, the drums were necessary to this production.

David Wilcox did a version of the same song but for the first half of it there are no drums. The guitar arrangement probably could have carried the song with no drums throughout, but I understand why he'd choose to use them to ramp up the energy.


As for Superior Drummer, it's an excellent program but you have to work at it. It's unlikely that just popping the blocks together is going to produce anything inspiring. When I use it, it takes hours of auditioning blocks and figuring out what part of each block to use ...and that goes for the fills as well. In the end it turns out to be a lot of cutting and pasting to make a track but you can make some very good sounding drum tracks if you're patient and have a good sense of what the song wants.

Glennwillow 09-13-2019 10:20 PM

I always try to record a song with just voice and guitar first and see if it works. Most of the time it does. But sometimes the song just needs more.

For example, last week I recorded Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." I tried the voice and guitar thing, and it just didn't sound right to me at all. The song needed those drums and that lead guitar, in particular. Maybe it's the sea chanty feel of this song that requires something else beyond the guitar and voice.

So I redid the whole thing from scratch, this time with drums, bass guitar, lead electric guitar along with the voice and 12-string guitar. I thought it came out better, so I put it up on YouTube. I used Easy Drummer.

When I use Easy Drummer, I always use pre-recorded tracks played by real drummers so that they have the feel of a real drummer. I understand the distaste that real drummers like Silly Moustache and Kerbie have for drum tracks, but programs like Easy Drummer are quite sophisticated.

I'm not sure why drums and other instruments might be necessary, but it seems that some songs are complete with just a guitar and voice. Some songs need more.

I do think many people want to hear what a person can do with just a voice and guitar, so if you can pull this off, I think it can be more powerful.

When I did Paul Simon's "Sound of Silence" I could have left it as just an acoustic song, though I did feel that the 2nd harmony voice was necessary. As it was, I added drums, bass and electric guitar once I got into the song as kind of an illustration of what Columbia did with Simon & Garfunkel's original acoustic recording but later overlaying drums, bass and electric guitar.



- Glenn

Mr. Jelly 09-14-2019 09:01 AM

If the songs are of good enough quality then drums are not needed. If the songs are not good enough why play them?

runamuck 09-14-2019 10:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr. Jelly (Post 6162224)
If the songs are of good enough quality then drums are not needed. If the songs are not good enough why play them?

I don't think that's necessarily true. Imagine the best songs of Led Zeppelin without drums, as just one example of thousands.

Mbroady 09-14-2019 10:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by runamuck (Post 6162261)
I don't think that's necessarily true. Imagine the best songs of Led Zeppelin without drums, as just one example of thousands.

I think any Zep song could have been played with out drums, but then it would have to be a different arrangement and this would not have been what Zep was all about. So I’m with you on this.

So it all comes down to are you willing to, if needed, rework a song so it works with out drums

Glennwillow 09-14-2019 11:27 AM

I've heard the comment over the years, "The only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper."

Most people get used to a song as it sounded when it was a hit on the radio. When a cover of that song is done, most people don't expect it to be a complete reproduction or clone of the original, or why bother listening to anything but the original? At the same time, they expect to be able to instantly recognize the song. There is a signature to the song as they remember it. Sometimes, part of that signature is the drums, a lead guitar pattern, a bass pattern, whatever.

Good players can always rework a song, but there is a risk to that, in that some people are going to hate the changes you've made. (Some people loved Eric Clapton's acoustic version of "Layla" and some people hated it.) Sometimes the risk is worth it if you can come up with a rearrangement that is really original and really appealing. In my experience -- because I have done a lot of this -- is that about one rearrangement in ten actually is acceptable to most listeners. If you are doing music in your living room or bedroom for yourself or your dog, where nobody else ever hears what you do, then there are no limits. But if you are playing for the enjoyment of others, it matters how your audience reacts.

Most people like what they know and don't like change. In my opinion, that's why drums in some -- not all -- songs are needed.

Regarding real vs sampled drums, I have spent a lot of time recording real acoustic drums when I worked with my son's prog-rock back in 1999 to record a couple of CD albums. It's hard, tedious work that not only requires a lot of time but requires a lot of good, expensive equipment to do it right. High quality sampled drums have already been recorded by good engineers using good equipment, and it can be a challenge to get real, acoustic recorded drum sounds to sound as good as the high quality sampled drums out there today. For most of us who are just trying to have fun with music, using sampled drum sounds allow us to get there quickly and with good overall sound. In fact, some of the drummers I have worked with had no problem, on occasion, using not only real but also sampled drums and percussion in their recordings. Their attitude tended to be, why reinvent the wheel if I've already got the sound I want right here? One drummer I worked with asked me to mix in a sampled snare drum with his own snare drum to get the overall sound he wanted for a particular song.

- Glenn

Nama Ensou 09-14-2019 11:47 AM

FrankHudson made one of my favorite posts in the thread and is spot on. It's your music and you're the one that has to be satisfied with the results.

I just recorded a 12 song CD and have programmed drum tracks for all except one, and no one has even seemed to notice that there are no drums on the all instrumental song, which except for the lead solo at the end is all acoustic guitar, including the bass part.

jim1960 09-14-2019 05:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr. Jelly (Post 6162224)
If the songs are of good enough quality then drums are not needed. If the songs are not good enough why play them?

That's not true at all.

jim1960 09-14-2019 05:46 PM

Drums can also play a non-rhythmic role. The drums on this song are synth drums. I don't remember exactly what we used because this song of mine was recorded almost 20 years ago. There weren't a lot of tracks in this song... just vocals, acoustic rhythm, acoustic lead, and bass. I remember that it didn't quite sit right with me. I thought it needed a drum track and the person who was doing the tracking borrowed a studio with a kit and we spent a few hours there trying out various things, none of which felt right for the song. I liked the song but I thought it might get chucked in the bin because it was falling a little flat. Then I got the idea to use a drum track differently. Rather than have it keep some kind of rhythm, I'd use it more as a lead instrument. In this non-traditional role, I think the drums really give this song dimension.


BoneDigger 09-14-2019 07:41 PM

I was listening to this song by John Prine. The first verse and chorus have no percussion, then the rest does. I think the whole song could have been done without drums, but the percussion does add a little and make it more rhythmic.

https://youtu.be/QYxlxYSCvFg

catdaddy 09-14-2019 08:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BoneDigger (Post 6162638)
I was listening to this song by John Prine. The first verse and chorus have no percussion, then the rest does. I think the whole song could have been done without drums, but the percussion does add a little and make it more rhythmic.

https://youtu.be/QYxlxYSCvFg

While I agree that the whole song could have been done without drums, the drums add some instrumental variety which makes the arrangement more interesting. I also appreciate that the drums remained unobtrusive, not changing the essential character of the song. BTW- towards the end of the song the drums drop out for 4 measures leaving a break with just guitar, bass and penny whistle, and then return, which is a clever way to keep the arrangement fresh for the listener.

Nama Ensou 09-14-2019 09:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr. Jelly (Post 6162224)
If the songs are of good enough quality then drums are not needed.

I'll go ahead and complete this thought. If a song is good enough it doesn't need anything outside of the core structure and melody, but adding things like lyrics, drums, bass and other instrumentation can take the same good song and make it great.

It's not the quality of the song that determines whether it will benefit from drums or not, but rather the vision of the artist themselves.

Quote:

If the songs are not good enough why play them?
Good point, but the key is, who gets to decide if they're good enough? That is up to the individual who wrote it and many "not good enough" songs are very good, just lacking enough conviction on the part of the writer or their friends.

Most songs that are not good enough just require the attention to detail and to remove or rebuild the deficient areas.

jim1960 09-14-2019 10:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BoneDigger (Post 6162638)
I was listening to this song by John Prine. The first verse and chorus have no percussion, then the rest does. I think the whole song could have been done without drums, but the percussion does add a little and make it more rhythmic.

It's a way to build energy in a song and there was more than just drums going on there. A second guitar comes in on the back half of the 1st verse, a bass came in at the same time as the drums, background oohs came in on the 2nd verse, then switched to background vocals on the chorus. A whistle gets added on the bridge, and then the energy drops a bit only to start building again.

It's a common technique. You can hear the same kind of thing going on in this Richard Shindell song. It's just him and his guitar in the beginning. By the time we hit the second verse a piano has come in, and the song continues to add parts until the music break. Then it drops back down and starts to build up again.

This is why great producers get big money.


Glennwillow 09-14-2019 11:43 PM

Hi Jim,

I have always thought that Richard Shindell's "Wisteria" was such a touching song. I appreciate being reminded of it once more. That violin solo in the middle always gets to me...

- Glenn


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