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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recording real drums can be hard. Getting the correct combination of room, mike placement, gear and drum kit can be near impossible, especially on a tight budget. Drum Replacing or Sample Triggering is a trick that pros have used for years to add impact to supplement weak drums or completely replace drum sounds from a kit with pre-recorded samples. So some of the reasons we like to replace drum sounds are to add additional oomph and power to an existing kit. So the snare or the kit might already sound great, but we just want to add a little extra smack to it.
Another reason could be that the original drum sound is just wrong for the arrangement. The worst thing is the drummer comes in and it's supposed to be a nice soft pop ballad and he brings in a popcorn snare, like a little piccolo snare, and it's just not going to fit with the tune. So sometimes sample replacing can really save the arrangement. Now generally what we're going to replace are kick, snare, and tom samples. Other things like cymbals get harder to sample in. A lot of times those will get dubbed in during the recording stage. They will do just a pass of cymbals, or just a pass of metal, or they'll sample cymbals from the end of the session, and then sort of spot paste them in.
So, what are some techniques for sampling our drums? There is a sampled out snare in Take Me Down and how I would approach that would depend on sort of what system I was working on and what resources were available. The Classic would be Sound Replacer and Sound Replacer is an Audio Suite plug-in. And generally how I like to use sound replacer is I'll take and I'll create a duplicate track of let's say the Snare Drum. And then I'll go ahead and I'll select that and I'll choose AudioSuite > SoundReplacer.
Now SoundReplacer doesn't come with Pro Tools stock, but it does come with the music production toolkit. So a lot of people have SoundReplacer. SoundReplacer has been around for a long time, as long as I can remember. And what it is, is really just three samples that you can load in by clicking on the disc. You choose the sample and those represent soft, medium, and hard hit. So they're basically triggering threshold or triggers zones. And what's going to happen is you're going to analyze your audio and essentially you're looking to trigger all your snare hits with a new sample, right.
So these are all been triggered by the red sample. I can raise that up. Now, that first one is a yellow sample, the next one are the red samples. I'll drag down the blue one here. But you don't to drag him down too far to pick up any of the bleeds. So sometimes it's necessary to pre- process or pre-gate your sounds before you sample replace them. Once this is done, I'm just going to go ahead and process this. I don't have any samples loaded in. I actually used a different method for this song. Now another option you can do is using something called TL Drum Rehab or Drumagog and I actually prefer these over SoundReplacer, because I can actually listen in context.
The problem with SoundReplacer is that I can't hear the drum sample playback with my kit until after I have processed it. That's kind of a problem when you're trying to choose something in context. So I'll just delete this track. Now TL Drum Rehab, again it's an add-on plug-in for Pro Tools. What it's going to do, it's going to be a real-time trigger. So, I would go and pick some Drum Samples here. Maybe I'll pick just this random one right here and we'll solo this up.
Then I have threshold zones that trigger the different samples. So if I go in here to my Sample View, I could see which sample is being triggered. So it looks like this is actually triggering some sort of hi-hat right now. So let me play this back. (Rat-a-tat-tat. Drum solo.) So you can see those light up as it triggers those samples. Now what I can do it here is I can actually blend between the original.
If I come back here, I can actually blend between the input and the sample. So if I drag the input all the way down, you're only going to hear the sample. (Ching ching. Cymbals crashing.) (Boom, boom, boom. Drum beating.) Now, this is cool because I can preview a few different sounds here.
And if had a bunch of different snare samples, I could just load them in into my Library and just sort of preview them running through them in the context of my kit. There is a lot of adjustments that you can do and here. And you can also do sort of a system where you can track in the triggers and then manipulate them. This does cause a little bit of latency, and there is a No Latency mode. However, I tend to choose MIDI sampling instead of using any real-time plug-in, and this is something I recently started doing because a new utility came out.
The way I approached this session is I actually have a track hidden down here just called Snare Sample. If I show that and I'll make it that active, just right-click and say Make Active. What it is, is I just have Xpand, the Xpand2 instrument loaded up and this could be any sampler. It could be battery, it could be contact, it could be structure, whatever you want. I just use Xpand because I know it's on everybody system. Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to use the utility to turn the triggers from the snare into MIDI notes that I can then feed into a sampler.
So I'm going to drag this up next of the snare drum. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to select the snare, and I'm going to bring up the AudioSuite, the Massey DTM. It's drum to MIDI. I can actually analyze and then drag and drop a MIDI track out. So I can control my sensitivity here more or less and then drag and drop a MIDI file right to an instrument track. So the idea is that I'm actually exchanging the trigger hits here for MIDI notes.
Now here I've already done this and I've already added these MIDI notes. The cool thing about doing it this way is that a lot of times what you get are flams, when drummer kind of hits it with both sticks simultaneously, and that could sound kind of bad. So here on the snare drum, he has kind of this flam at the end. (Rat-tat-tat. Drums beating.) So, normally what would happy with the Drum Sample Replacement software on something like that flam is that you would get two notes stacked together and the cool thing about having MIDI triggers here is I can actually go and delete the ones that I don't need, or I can actually switch them to a sample of a flam.
That will be really hard if you were doing this in those other programs, real-time sampling programs. You would have sort of automate the switch out of a sample, or you'd have to print something and then kind of go back and work against other stuff. Whereas this I can just drag this up or down. (Rat-tat-tat. Drums beating.) And change the sound. And this works really well on tom hits or really complex sections where I need to really go through and edit note for note to get the articulation just perfect.
That's really hard with those real- time sample replacement programs. Now I can even go change the whole sound of the snare really easily, just by dragging all of our notes up or down to different pitches. Because I'm using Xpand here, I'm using the Snares, sort of Snares menu, and that's just got a bunch of different snare sounds. What I can do is just select all of these notes by clicking right here on the Matrix keyboard. I'm going to just drag up and down as the session is playing back. So let me just solo the drums up and I'm going to mute my current Snare sample.
(Rat-tat-tat. Drum solo.) Then I can go and I can further process the sample.
The cool thing about processing the sample is it's super clean. There is no bleed in between that so I can compress that as much as I want, and not have to worry about bringing up all the other drums coming up in that snare mike. So it's almost even effective just to get that nice spike out of your snare drum without having to compress it or gate it so aggressively. So just some general tips for sampling out drums. You definitely want to choose an appropriate sample for this song.
I find a lot of times a really bad sample replacement job can sound even worse and so obvious, than just leaving the original drums. Sometimes the character of kind of garage recorded kit is kind of cool. So you kind of think about the tune and where you're going with it. Think about the key of the song and especially when you're working with kick drums. Kick drums can often be tuned to kind of match the feel of the tune a little bit better. Complement the original drum.
Listen to the original sound, listen to how the sample's going to complement that, but at the same time don't be afraid to go completely crazy, especially if you're looking for that overtly sampled out sound, double the snare with the clap, or use electronic sounds to kind of fill things in. Sometimes, I'll even just use the sample to excite a reverb, right. I won't hear the dry sound of the sample. I'll just hear the tail of it as it passes through as reverb. Because some snares, especially like little piccolo snare, doesn't have enough of that broadband frequency squash that's really going to excite a reverb.
So just throw the sample under the reverb, and then leave the original drum alone. Sometimes what I'll do is I'll actually sample from the kit, so during a recording session or how the drummer displays single hits on the snares, the toms, and then I when I can do is have a clean samples to sample out the dry mikes with. This can kind of be an alternative to heavily gating your snare. You're still using the actual snare drum in the space, but you're not having to do so much gating. Now be creative and again be tasteful. Subtle generally works better than overt in this situation.
And again poorly triggered drum sounds sound worse than just mixing with a poorly recorded kit.
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