One of the staples of our brand at Indiesonics is authenticity in the recording of our tracks and an issue that crops up fairly regularly is the predominance of sample- based drums on recordings used for production music. And why not, they can sound great, they’re certainly a lot quicker and easier than using a real kit, but….

My Favourite Toys

Roland TR909I should explain that this piece isn’t written from a luddite point of view, I have no issue with electronic drums, I mixed a Bomb The Bass album for heavens sake, I LOVE electronica and next to the wah-wah pedal that used to belong to Echo and the Bunnymen's Will Sergeant, my favourite possession is a Roland 909 drum machine!

I use the Native Instruments drum sample stuff, it’s really good but somehow there’s nothing quite as engaging as someone whacking a well tuned and nicely recorded kit.
Why is that?




I can almost hear the argument from some that it’s down to how a drum part is programmed and I get that, the amount of nuance possible in today’s software with multi-layered samples is quite staggering. A badly programmed part is as unforgiving as a badly played drum kit. Clyde Dempsey - DrumsI’ve spent enough time staring at a pro tools session fixing what we shall call a drummer’s “eccentric” timing to have been attracted to the idea of sample based drums and yet, even adding samples to reinforce a drum kit, I just don’t find the engagement of the live kit dispensable.

Where’s the Personality?

I have a friend and colleague, a very good drummer in fact, who has a theory. He reckons the fallibility of a human player is still key. Software developers have striven to include features to “humanize” a programmed part, parameters to include a random element of timing variance and also an element of inaccuracy in where the drum is struck. It is possible to turn a replication of a very good drummer into an accurate recreation of a shit drummer who’s been at the sherry….convincingly. But, for me, what software hasn’t managed to do is give a piece character. The personality in the performance of even a mediocre drummer is something uniquely human and the sound of a kit shifting some air too, is just…..somehow more engaging. There are some brilliant programmers out there but where we can, we’ll be keeping it real, The Terminator’s Skynet will never prevail over John Connor and Stephen Hawking is unlikely to challenge Sean Pertwee for the voice over work on Masterchef!

Russ – Junk Scientist Head of Production at Indiesonics