Music by Scott Martin

SM Blog

Virtual drum decisions

When it comes to recording songs, I prefer to set up a session with a real live drummer.  I’ve been very fortunate in the past to work with professionals like Jim Evans in Nashville, Coach Hanna in New York, and Charley Newcomer here in Cleveland to name a few.  And as I continue on my recording journey I also am finding that I really prefer the sound of real live instruments.

However, when working on demos or just doing some jamming or writing, it’s not always feasible to have a drum kit mic’ed up, and often there’s not a drummer in the room.  So at that point I have to rely on other tools.  I think that may have been a drummer joke, sorry.

In the past I’ve enjoyed using Acid Pro to lay down ultra-quick drum tracks.  I started using Acid when it first came out, and it’s intuitive to stripe down a series of loops.  It’s also pretty tweakable as far as manipulating the loops that I’m using – I can slice and dice things into completely different patterns if I want.  And I like the way I can add loops of other instruments to fill out a temporary arrangement.

The workflow with Acid has left a little to be desired.  Even though I think you can now ReWire Acid directly into Pro Tools, I haven’t gotten that far.  I stopped at exporting the soloed drum/percussion tracks and importing that audio into the PT session.  I had to make sure that sample rates and tempo of the Acid output matched the PT session, and if I wanted to make changes I had to pretty much go back to the drawing board.

So this year I’ve been tooling around with some virtual drum plug-ins.  So far I’ve used the demo version of BFD Lite and Addictive Drums.  I’m trying to find a demo version of Superior Drummer 2.0 too, but no luck so far.

There’s a lot to like about the virtual drums (beyond the fact that they stay in time): they are MIDI-based, so I can program from scratch or use any of the hundreds of patterns available in the plug-in library; the samples are solid; the plug-ins have integrated mixers and controls that let you mix the drums as if they were actual inputs to a mixing board.  And in some instances you can change other aspects of the drums (damping, bleed from mic to mic, attacks, decays, and so on).

Once again it’s almost a case of having too much flexibility.  I can imagine sitting here tweaking drums all night instead of finishing a track.  But, in the absence of having access to a great studio and a pro drummer, this may be the best option.

I’m still trying to figure out which one I like best.  When I figure it out and pull the trigger I’ll follow up on this post.  Until then, if anyone has experience with these plug-ins, I’d welcome your input.