Cut back to the late 90’s. Not so long in the geological timescale, but an
ETERNITY for PC development. I was leaving the big superpro studio of my
formative years, for a much more modest hell of my own making. Goodbye SSL,
hello Soundcraft Ghost. Goodbye Studer A-827, hello TASCAM DA-88’s. Goodbye
George Augsperger acoustics, hello Home Depot acoustics. I knew I’d be relying
more than ever before on “enhancing” recorded drums with triggered samples.
I was already a veteran at these tricks, from Wendl to FORAT to D-Drum to DM5. I
had tricks everywhich way to sunday when it came to triggering from tape. But
in the good ol’ days, I could easily keep the acoustic drum tracks loud enough to
hide any hokey-ness the samples could do, and with my new rooms, that really
wasn’t always going to be possible. Besides, even under the BEST of conditions,
triggering was still a nightmare! Lets look at the concept, and its pitfalls in a
little more depth.
In this case, when I talk about triggering, Im refereing to the process of having a
sample player, play a sample according to a trigger signal on tape. Lets say you
have a kick drum. It isnt always hit very hard, but the drummer wants it to sound
consistent. Maybe its tone is a little iffy, or he brought you a 12″ kiddy kick
when he wants to sound like 22″ DW’s. The process goes:
1. After recording, split the kick track’s tape return, through a mult, or half
normalled patchbay, or however your setup works. Allow one end to go through
the normal kick channel path where it went before the split. Have the other end
go into “the trigger chain”
2. Set up the trigger chain as follows: EQ – Noise gate – EQ – Compressor – maybe
another EQ (!) Triggering device, lets say Alesis DM5 for this example, then back
to another channel on the console
3. Mess with the noise gate, compressor and eq’s to completely isolate the kick
drum signal as much as possible. The sound here is not the goal, but a CLEAN
trigger signal that ONLY contains the timing of the drum to be triggered and
nothing else. Good luck
4. Set the DM5 to play a kick sound of your choice, and set it ONLY to play when
the real kick drum fires.
5. Mix the new sample track in with the original or replace it completely, and you
have a nice, consistent kick drum through the whole song
And then wake up
In the real world, things never go this easy. We have a boatload of demons to
contend with here.
1. SOMETHING in that drumset is going to try and open that noise gate at the
wrong time, and it won’t be your kick drum. Could be an extra loud snare hit,
hard tom, who knows, but it WILL happen. Raise the threshold on the gate to
knock those false triggers out and all of a sudden you MISS triggering on the
softer kicks! Realizing you don’t have any tracks left to make copies, you do the
only thing you CAN do. Clutch your religious symbols, worry beads, or what have
you and start punching in to erase those pesky misfires! Oh the fear! Murphy’s
Law is hanging on your head like the Sword of Damoclese. Good luck!
2. If you get past stage 1, you notice something odd. Especially when you are
triggering snare or tom tracks, you hear a typewriter, fake, hokey drum machine
effect. That’s the sound of the EXACT same sample being fired over and over. Oh
yes, some of these devices will give you velocity following, to vary the volumes a
little bit, but it still sounds like Dr. Rhythm. Good luck…Don’t even get me
started on flams.
3. If you somehow manage to dodge the first two bullets, THIS one will get you.
It takes time for that trigger to fire. That’s right, could be 5 miliseconds, could
be 15, from the quick phase cancelation/addition of low frequencies against the
original, to the TOTALLY goofy flam sound heard on so many records, that trigger
delay is going to be a BIG problem. With an analog tape recorder, you did have
one chance. You could set the tape machine to read from the track in question
from the Sync head instead of the Repro head. This would give you the ability to
travel ahead in time, and with the help of a delay between your gate and your
DM5, you could line up the sample and the original reasonably well. Of course,
now you couldn’t use the original at ALL, since it was also ahead in time, or you
could delay it as well, but best bet was to toss it, and just rely on the overheads
plus your sample to describe the kick. What a pain!
And NOW I didn’t even have an analog machine any more.
Drumagog Review Page 2
Luckily, I had been messing with PC’s for a few years for some basic 2-track editing
functions, and keeping an eye on this newfangled “Direct-X plugins” thing that was
taking off. Lo and behold, Wavemachine Labs introduces the Drumagog plugin!
More than anything else, this plug sealed my fate then and there to put me on a
path of tapeless, In the Box mixing. At first I thought Id upload tape tracks to the
PC, drumagog ’em and then send ’em back to tape to mix, but along came Sonic
Foundry and Vegas to keep me hard-disked the whole time.
Drumagog was a sample playing device, like a DM5 or D-Drum, but with a few
twists. Chief among these being Drumagog’s ability to play more than one sample.
In Drumagog version 1, you could matrix your drums as eight separate samples of
different velocities and each of those could have two alternates! We are talking
about TWENTY FOUR samples per track! That fake, hoke-y, typewriter single-sample
sound went out the window! Forget it, no longer an issue.
But wait, there’s more! Remember trigger delay? Render your Drumagog track out
to a new track on your DAW, drag the new event so that the peaks of the sample
track to match the original peaks and forget it! Problem solved!
It gets better still. False triggers? Erase em in your (nondestructive) DAW before
they even reach Drumagog’s brain. Its safe to say I was hooked. My biggest
problems of the past were history with this thing.
And of course, you could make your own samples! Anytime a drummer would show
up with an exceptional kit I would record the customary 24 hits (8 velocity X 3
random) and stash them on my hard drive. Maybe you remember the ” AES_24_96
Drumagog Ready Drum Samples ” that I made way back when. They’re still floating
around on the net. These were created from a pristine heavy metal style kit that
showed up at the studio one fine day.
Just in case, when you are getting ready to hit record on a new band, always get a
few samples from each drum, just in case! And hey, share them with the other
Drumagog users if you feel so inclined. They’ve actually got a download page set up
for this already.
Drumagog Version 4 brings some new tricks to the table. One feature everyone
seems to have been waiting for is the signal generator. Now you can do the old mix
in a 50hz sine wave with the kick drum trick. But it actually goes a lot deeper than
that! The generator can go between Sine, Square, Sawtooth, Triangle, White noise
(AWESOME for snare traps!), Pink Noise and Filtered Noise. Add the mix,
frequency, attack and decay controls and you are all set.
Also new to this release is the Auto-Align function. An attempt to alleviate us from
even needing to slide our events around in the DAW, as Drumagog now tries to line
up the peaks itself!
Any sore spots? Well, auto-align doesn’t always work 100%, but I’m just as happy to
move it myself, the way I always have. Also the attack and release of the signal
generator seem to me to follow the original drum, and that isn’t always what you’d
like. A switch to have it stick to the numbers you gave it would be nice.
Only real problem was when I tested Drumagog 4 in Vegas 6. Drumagog wouldn’t
remember its settings if you closed and reopened Vegas. Also Drumagog wouldn’t
remember its settings on render. Luckily running it inside of SpinAudio’s VST DX
Wrapper Lite allowed it to function properly. Hopefully this issue will be worked
Updated Review for Drumagog 4.10 Platinum!
Drumagog can now play BFD samples! As long as your project has an instance of BFD
running in it, simply click
controlling your BFD set.
You’ll likely want to set your dynamics tracking parameter in the advanced tab a
little lower than normal, say 50% or even less for metal and hard rock. Otherwise
you’ll be spending too much time in the mellow end of each BFD sample.!