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Drum Tracks on a Live Setting

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by IncX, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    my originals band is currently having problems with a drummer, its the age old story of nobody is as commited as the rest of us ... and since i am in a small town, i probably have tried all the potential candidates and its just not working.

    the only solution i can think of is pay a pro drummer to record drums for our set list, which we would then run on tape when we play live.

    the usual venue we gig are small bars ... what equipment would i need to have a convincing drum sound for the audience?

    i was thinking of K8 QSC's since it is light, would one be enough? ... 2nd and cheaper solution is -run the track in my ampeg pf500 head and cab.

    any suggestions would be helpful
  2. Rob Lewis

    Rob Lewis

    Feb 23, 2006
    I would say that without IEMs and a metronome track synching to a drum track will be nigh on impossible. Why not use a drum machine? If you're a purist then by using a backing track you've already committed sacrilege....
  3. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    I guess you could do it your way. Just run the drum track through the PA and monitors. You may need a click track that only the band would hear (IEM?).

    I've played lots of duo (guitar/bass) gigs using a drum machine. Most of our music was cover material and didn't require much programming or arranging. For tight arrangements on original material you'll need to spend some quality time with the machine. For my casual duo stuff we didn't use click track or fancy gear. We just ran the drum machine through the PA and used a 4 or 8 click count-off.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

    Groove Doctor likes this.
  4. I did this for a little over a year in a covers band, certainly has it's advantages and disadvantages.

    Regarding amplifying it, we always just ran it through FOH, what are you using for a PA? I don't think playing it through a bass amp is a good idea, both from a volume and tone perspective. Nothing will weaken your performance more than the instruments overpowering your track. We used a HK system with 12" and horn tops and 18" subs. You don't need something quite that big, but I'd be concerned about doing it without subs of any kind.

    I also think that you'd be better served learning how to program in midi drums, rather than using a session drummer. This nothing against session drummers, that would be the best way to get a good sound with a good live feel, especially if none of you are experienced at writing percussion, but my concern with regards to originals music is that it could be very limiting. It's a big commitment to the song basically never changing ever again, unless you want to pay to have it re-recorded. Maybe there's only little hit out of place, or a fill that doesnt sit quite right, and you don't notice at the time, until one day you can never stop noticing it. Plus this way, you can add any other VST intrument you can think of. I guess it depends whether this is a stop-gap until you get a drummer (in which case get a session recording), or how you plan to be doing this ongoing (in which case, to me, it's not even a question, VST all the way). That you're looking at buying gear for it suggests the latter.

    I write the tracks in Guitar Pro 5 (6 can go to hell), I import the midi into Ableton Live, and I use Superior Drummer 2.0 as my drum VST and iZotope Ozone to master it. I've been using guitar pro since before I was playing bass, so maybe it's more of a learning curve than I realise, but to me it's the best solution. You could always just write midi straight into a DAW (digital audio workstation, Ableton is one of these), but I prefer writing tab, it's just a preference thing.

    Here's a really crappy recording someone made with their phone of us playing a gig to tracks. The keyboard solo is also a good example of the other things you could incorporate using this method (I know it's a bit lame to have a solo with no one playing, that's not actually what I'm suggesting you do). We never really had any problems keeping together, and we didn't use a click; like, it's a drum track, it *is* the click. Guitarist had to have his fold pretty loud, but that's about it.

    We don't play to tracks anymore, and I wouldn't go back to doing it, but that's only in a covers context. If I ever actually get enough market-friendly original music together to perform it, this is probably how I'll do it.

  5. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Use backing tracks. The same thing you can do for drums you can do for other instruments.

    You need A good DAW, Ableton live is one
    Some tricks for doing stuff like playing another round, or go back to the chorus, like a live band can do. Some tricks with tracking and changing tempos. Good drum software like Jamstix - i.e. a single knob to change the intensity.

    Here's a good trick for mapping midi buttons to control tempo in Live.


    The band doesn't really need to hear "click" tracks if the backing tracks are playing along.

    Adding tracks is a good way to make the performance that much more enjoyable for your audience. You or another member of the band may play multiple instruments and adding a track of playing a different instrument adds versatility.
  6. Back in the older days before the (all in one) workstations, it took midi and separate devices. For example, a sequencer, drum machine, and keyboards. Secondhand keyboard workstations (IE: Korg TR6's) are cheap and sound/work great for providing drums and other backing tracks for live performances.
  7. I'm seeing a lot of support for drum machine type things, which could be a solution. My take on it is that the three approaches are on a scale of fidelity vs flexibility:

    1. Session drummer - Greatest fidelity (gear/drummer dependent, of course), and easiest, insofar as it's the drummer doing the playing rather than you doing the programming, but it has no flexibility live, and no ability to alter it in any significant way beyond how you master it.

    2. VST drums - Not going to replace a human drummer, but given the right time and effort can get close enough to fool more people than would probably like to admit it, not to mention sound good. Depending on exactly how you do it, not a whole lot of flexibility live, but infinite tweakability pre-show.

    3. Drum machine/loops - Lowest fidelity (in my opinion, I know others will disagree), and low degree to which you can 'write' with it (again, my opinion), but high degree of tweakability live, adding extra choruses and altering tempo and such (as described by seamonkey)

    But those options aside, it sounds like what we're all saying is that it's not going to be cheap. Getting good results that you'll feel proud standing behind rarely is. You could use something like Reaper (freeware with a 'pro' upgrade option) or Audacity (freeware, I think you can mod it take VSTs?) as a DAW. Guitar Pro 6 is relatively cheap (I hate it, but I own a license for it for reasons I'll let you fill in the blanks for). Drums VSTs are probably going to run you about $200, Superior Drummer and BFD being two of the standards, if I remember correctly. But the sound-reinforcement side of it is going to cost you, no way around it, unless you guys have access to a good house PA, or want to hire a sound guy w/ PA.

    The bottom line is that any iteration of this is going to be a project, and projects grow in size seemingly whether you want them to or not, and always cost more than you think they will. Unless you guys want to commit to a slow build, holding out for a drummer might still be a better option.
  8. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    I'm in your position ... small country town, no drummers who are sober enough to play jazz ... etc. We play backing loops for about half to 2/3 of our sets through the PA. It gets the job done. But frankly, it's like karaoke. It limits freedom to solo and can be pretty boring when you're locked into exactly the same form over and over and over and over .......

    It's a big reason why we're gradually increasing the number of songs w/o a backing track.
  9. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    thanks for the suggestions guys.

    it is a lot harder and more expensive than i ever imagined! somehow, the prospect of looking for a drummer is a lot more inviting now, since i am busy. i might even have to put playing live off for awhile.

    but, i will be referencing this thread once i get the itch back to play live, and still could not find a human drummer.
  10. Don't let playing to a backing track scare you - I do all of my composing to drum tracks and I'm learning plenty about how drum patterns and such can really influence how a song feels. Get yourself a copy of Reaper, EZDrummer, and a midi controller of your choice and get to learning.

  11. F-Clef-Jef


    Nov 13, 2006
    Neenah, WI
    This is what I use at home also. Great little set-up.
  12. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    get a foot triggered kick - google beat box and skip the drum tracks...

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