How Scary are DAW Drums?

ColdFusion

Active member
A few months before 2020 began I bought a gently used electronic drum kit. It was very good timing. I was able to pass the time during the lockdowns by remote collaborating with various players I found on craigslist.

I discovered quickly that guitarists and songwriters were using something called "mapped drums" instead of live drummers. I had never used a DAW before so at first it just seemed strange that all these indie guitarists were making such perfect sounding drum beats.

These laptop drum softwares were making beats that were crisp, clean, dynamic, hi-fidelity, and in perfect time..
All with just a mouse and a keyboard. I was both blown away and horrified at the same time.

In one panicked moment I thought "Did all the intermediate drummers in the world just become obsolete?!" 😕

Jokes aside, I am glad that home musicians can put cracking pro sounding beats on their original music.
In fact one of my favorite new studio games is "doing battle" with others people's daw drum tracks.

That is, take an indie song that already has a decent computer generated groove and try to write and play a more creative, more synergistic one. With V Drums you can compete sound quality-wise with a standard daw drum program.

I do get excited to see if I can smash already written DAW drum tracks with just the sounds on my stock TD-11 KV.😼

Don't let the kids talk you into buying a bunch of external drum sounds if you don't want them. You can make magic happen with just the handful of kit sounds on a stock TD-11 module.

I'm still not confident that someday we all won't be replaced by computers. Because really these drum programs sound so...freaking...good. It's got to be rough to have to compete with one of these things to get a spot on an indie recording collab.

We must evolve, or be destroyed...
 

electrodrummer

Senior Member
Evolve - indeed. Stop trying to re-create the sounds of 1958. We musically moved on from only acoustic drum sounds late 70s thru 80s and into the 90s, then Grunge and Britpop dragged many drummers back to the 60s. Then we have a split - those stuck the past and all other popular music. Chart music these days is 98% non-acoustic sounds - and if drummers don't want to make the sounds required by the song writer, then yes, a machine will be used. This is where your ekit comes into its own - any sound you like for any musical style.
 

Supergrobi

Technical Supervisor
Staff member
I don't worry because to me it's two different worlds: being in the need of just a beat (maybe being a one-man-studio-show) and wanting to play/record drums, maybe together with other musicians. Both are legit, and even though I'm a drummer sometimes I just need a beat without any hassle, firing up a drum tracker. Sitting in a studio clicking around is a totally different concept from having fun with other musicians in the same room imho. Same is true for consuming music - sitting in a car listening to spotify is all different from hanging out in a bar listening/dancing to a live band. One cannot replace the other.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I've been going crazy examining physics of drums-starting with strings and tuning forks, then how shell is activated and vibrates, head vibrates, and how sound waves interact. What a big dummy I am because I got way ahead with physics before I thought about the drum. I was examining how the reso head preactivated by stress before sound waves hit and will alter harmonics. You can hear beats within a tone from frequency interactions of interference. Problem it isn't a harmonic instrument with rational numbers of harmonics-it's inharmonic-it's really unpitched we just hear a fundamental and inharmonics of it our brain "perceives" as a pitch/tone we like-which should be rational number for a string but it's not a string it's irrational numbers. Drums can produce a fundamental and mix of overtones we "Perceive" as a pitch, and then pitch them in relation to each other-but that drum kit pitches has no basis to harmonic instruments in orchestra pitch (a tympani is different-you can tune it). But a drum kits has always been a jagged edge to add to musical context-same for cymbals that don't produce finite pitch.

The beauty of drums is all the noise-how we trick our brain into perception of tone-because we don't hear all pitches with same sensitivities the sound we hear is filtered in our brain. It's a miracle any drummer can make drums sound good and miracle the sounds are not just white noise. Well anyways now we have electric kits that produce real drum sounds-now because it's an electric you can make it any sound, harmonic sounds, perfect sounds, and eliminate it's natural imperfections. I'm playing an inexpensive eKit at church-it's fine for making beats. But it's not a musical instrument like my acoustic kit and cymbals-that I alter the sounds of cymbals and drum in how I play them-the fullness and richness in my hands. It takes skill to play both but it's different skill sets-so it took me a bit to adapt to an e-kit. A cymbal or snare isn't a one trick pony but I can instantly change the sound where and how I hit it. I can change the sound in program too-but that takes a bit of time. A machine is too perfect to replace the imperfections of humans and the drums we play LOL. I can see e-kit technology being useful for percussion for any drummer but , personally, I hope they don't replace acoustic drums.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
What happens when all work is done by automation, no work is done by humans? This could be 50 or 10 years from now.
 
What happens when all work is done by automation, no work is done by humans? This could be 50 or 10 years from now.
Either that or there will be an increased appreciation for live music made by actual humans and how they express themselves / how they put on a show. I just hope that there will always be a market for live bands, orchestras and singer-songwriters (OK, personally I could do without lots of them :p). It will probably become more competitive, though.
It's not only drums that can be generated more and more convincingly, so I can understand that producers let the computer do everything. No more dealing with temperamental artists, only one person who gets paid to do the programming, no technical limitations of the "musicians" (vocal range etc.), 24 hours availability and so on.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
That's right Swiss a damn organ can replace the whole orchestra. Been that way for years-but that electronic music just doesn't have the depth of flavor-it's too damn perfect. It's all the imperfections of our instrument and humanity itself that produces sounds that aren't just pure shit from such a silly and stupid idea for a musical instrument-it isn't musical at all. Just we learn to make it sound musical-that is a damn hard job. Just think how much e-kits have evolved in emulating real drum sounds-because the pure tones aren't a drum. Like I can whistle like a bird but I ain't no bird.
I need to move my interrupting posit to a new thread cause I like it-though having nothing to do with this thread it helped me focus on another problem. So thanks for the boost.
 

calan

Silver Member
A few months before 2020 began I bought a gently used electronic drum kit. It was very good timing. I was able to pass the time during the lockdowns by remote collaborating with various players I found on craigslist.

I discovered quickly that guitarists and songwriters were using something called "mapped drums" instead of live drummers. I had never used a DAW before so at first it just seemed strange that all these indie guitarists were making such perfect sounding drum beats.

These laptop drum softwares were making beats that were crisp, clean, dynamic, hi-fidelity, and in perfect time..
All with just a mouse and a keyboard. I was both blown away and horrified at the same time.

In one panicked moment I thought "Did all the intermediate drummers in the world just become obsolete?!" 😕

Jokes aside, I am glad that home musicians can put cracking pro sounding beats on their original music.
In fact one of my favorite new studio games is "doing battle" with others people's daw drum tracks.

That is, take an indie song that already has a decent computer generated groove and try to write and play a more creative, more synergistic one. With V Drums you can compete sound quality-wise with a standard daw drum program.

I do get excited to see if I can smash already written DAW drum tracks with just the sounds on my stock TD-11 KV.😼

Don't let the kids talk you into buying a bunch of external drum sounds if you don't want them. You can make magic happen with just the handful of kit sounds on a stock TD-11 module.

I'm still not confident that someday we all won't be replaced by computers. Because really these drum programs sound so...freaking...good. It's got to be rough to have to compete with one of these things to get a spot on an indie recording collab.

We must evolve, or be destroyed...
You've missed some nuance here.

"DAW drums" doesn't necessarily mean computer generated. They could be programmed by mouse and keyboard. They could be done via preset loops available in VSTs or standalones. They could be from a human playing an e kit. It could also be (and is likely is) a combination of some or all of these things.

I prefer the VST option because it still flat out sounds better than most modules barring some extreme outliers. I think we'll get there in 5 to 10 years. I also like being able to to adjust my sounds in the box and just sending out a new render, as well as being able to use the same sounds whether via a typical midi controller or the e kit, or even just mouse and keyboard if I don't have ready access to any of those things.

The timing can be as human as the human plays, or as precise as quantization or manual grid alignment makes it.

Taking the same loop and changing instrument sounds allows me to radically alter the feel. Going from a wide open Bonham sound, to 70s LA studio, modern metal, etc with just a couple of mouse drags is great, and really highlights in real time how these elements shape a song.

A good drum VST is not terribly expensive, and certainly not in relation to a good electronic or acoustic kit. A good VST can also be used with objectively bad e kits to get great sounds on the cheap.

The utility of the VST for composition and communicating ideas alone make it a worthwhile product to me.

It's not the kids telling me I need a VST. That decision was informed by what I was hearing.
 
Been that way for years-but that electronic music just doesn't have the depth of flavor-it's too damn perfect. It's all the imperfections of our instrument and humanity itself that produces sounds that aren't just pure shit from such a silly and stupid idea for a musical instrument-it isn't musical at all. Just we learn to make it sound musical-that is a damn hard job.
Not yet at least. I guess that AI will soon be capable of mimicking lots of human elements - just set your quantization to Earl Palmer and your behind-the-beat-factor to Charlie Watts. Software will be capable of adding the right amount of variation in tempo, dynamics and so on to make it harder to distinguish programmed beats from real playing. VST drums now also offer the option to include snare wire buzzing to make the overall sound more realistic.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I know you are correct Swiss-dagnabit. Just like organ sounds are much better than my Mom's in 60s.
 

calan

Silver Member
Not yet at least. I guess that AI will soon be capable of mimicking lots of human elements - just set your quantization to Earl Palmer and your behind-the-beat-factor to Charlie Watts. Software will be capable of adding the right amount of variation in tempo, dynamics and so on to make it harder to distinguish programmed beats from real playing. VST drums now also offer the option to include snare wire buzzing to make the overall sound more realistic.
Some of these things can be done now, although maybe not quite as easily.

There are usually some settings to add some slop with adjustable parameters, it's it really easy to select individual instruments and drag the line forward or behind by a hair.

Editing tempo can automated easily enough too. I've programmed tempo tracks for my own bands that choruses and verses at slightly different bpm, having an entire track that creeps up 5-10 bpm over the duration is simple enough as well.
 

Doraemon

Well-known member
You've missed some nuance here.

"DAW drums" doesn't necessarily mean computer generated. They could be programmed by mouse and keyboard. They could be done via preset loops available in VSTs or standalones. They could be from a human playing an e kit. It could also be (and is likely is) a combination of some or all of these things.

I prefer the VST option because it still flat out sounds better than most modules barring some extreme outliers. I think we'll get there in 5 to 10 years. I also like being able to to adjust my sounds in the box and just sending out a new render, as well as being able to use the same sounds whether via a typical midi controller or the e kit, or even just mouse and keyboard if I don't have ready access to any of those things.

The timing can be as human as the human plays, or as precise as quantization or manual grid alignment makes it.

Taking the same loop and changing instrument sounds allows me to radically alter the feel. Going from a wide open Bonham sound, to 70s LA studio, modern metal, etc with just a couple of mouse drags is great, and really highlights in real time how these elements shape a song.

A good drum VST is not terribly expensive, and certainly not in relation to a good electronic or acoustic kit. A good VST can also be used with objectively bad e kits to get great sounds on the cheap.

The utility of the VST for composition and communicating ideas alone make it a worthwhile product to me.

It's not the kids telling me I need a VST. That decision was informed by what I was hearing.
This. I also feel the title is a bit off. If you record an acoustic kit with mics, it will still end up in a DAW. Some VSTs can have incredible sound, which just gives one the option to spend 10x less without building or visiting a studio. Many “real” drummers also use vst drums parallel to recordings to have a clearer sound. It will only sound too perfect if it was manually entered or quantized (badly). Timing can be fixed on both midi and audio tracks anyway. If someone records from an ekit, they can play just as humanly bad as anyone else.
 
Some of these things can be done now, although maybe not quite as easily.

There are usually some settings to add some slop with adjustable parameters, it's it really easy to select individual instruments and drag the line forward or behind by a hair.

Editing tempo can automated easily enough too. I've programmed tempo tracks for my own bands that choruses and verses at slightly different bpm, having an entire track that creeps up 5-10 bpm over the duration is simple enough as well.
Yes, but for now you still need to do a lot of that stuff by hand. I guess, some of the details that make a certain musician unique aren't understood by humans, so it's impossible or way too time-consuming to edit every single backbeat. About 20 years ago, George Lucas was asked when to use special effects/CGI and he said that it mostly depends on what is cheaper. He said that if he just wants a scene of somebody getting out of a car, he will pay an actor to do that, but for a giant explosion, CGI is easier and cheaper. AI doesn't require human knowledge to do its thing. Train an AI with a few drum grooves by John Robinson and it will be capable of replicating lots of the elements that make him unique. It's ridiculous how advanced that technology is nowadays!
I think this is the big revolution that is going on right now. I guess we'll get to hear all kinds of fantasy bands in the future like Amy Winehouse singing a duet with JFK or whatever people will pay money for.
 

Erberderber

Senior Member
It's not so much a case of "us becoming obselete". It's a case of us adopting and using the technology as being another string to our bow. Some drummers in the '80s decided to sulk and whinge when drum machines came along but others such as Roger Taylor and Stephen Morris chose to embrace it. Live drummers will always be needed as they play an integral part of stage dynamics and audiences like to watch them. My advice is to learn how to make great beats on a DAW and also incorporate electronics into your set up, even if it's minimal. Remember you are serving the song and if it means incorporating synthetic sounds, then go for it!
 

someguy01

Well-known member
I guess that AI will soon be capable of mimicking lots of human elements
This is what everyone should really fear. There is a reason very, very smart people like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have warned against AI.
 
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