The Importance Of Good Drums
Written by Makke
To give that little extra something to your song, it's really important to treat the drums in a track right. Many underestimate the power of the drums in a song. This goes especially for many in the metal-scene, and in metal the drums are extremely important to mark the power of the guitars. Just small variations in the b-drum line can make stunning difference in your songs. To just make a simple B-DRUM-SNARE-B-DRUM-SNARE beat in a song can practically kill the song. So to get your songs out of the monotones drum-beats and give them more power and flexibility, here's a few things you can think of.
Let's start off with the hi-hat. The hi-hat might be the "least thought of" part on the drums. Most people just use it to mark the beat in the song, and thus use it with the same volume and the same h-h-sound through the whole song. Well, forget this. It's ignorant to do this. It kills the "realistic" sound of your song. No drummer in the world hits his hi-hat at the exact same rate of power, at the exact same place every song. Just to give a few strikes a little extra power, or decrease the volume on some does marvellous things to the drum-line.
And adding a well fitting open-hi-hat in the right places is really effective. An open hi-hat can even replace crashes in some situations, and be just as effective, if not more.
Also "hi-hat-rolls" can be really effective as a presentation to a brake. Just let the "drummer" hit the hi-hat twice as much (not volume-wise, but actual hits) and this will give an extra boost to the break.
Very important drum indeed, as this drum is the one that is heard the most. But try not to make this drum stick out too much, both volume-wise and amount of hits. In other words DO NOT OVERDO IT!
Finding the ultimate volume for the snare is also important. Too high a volume is very disturbing. Too low a volume makes the drums "fade away", no matter how high the volume of your b-drum is at, or your hi-hats or crash. If you can't hear the snare, clearly the drums suck.
Snares are also great for small breaks. A snare roll or a few extra hits just before the chorus is quite effective, and are often better used in these occasions than toms.
How you treat the b-drum is probably the most important thing with your drum-line. Especially in rock/metal. The b-drum is good to mark the guitars with, as well as the bass, depending on which you want to bring out.
A good example is Fear Factory. Check the b-drum out in their songs. Not only is it amazingly played, it also serves a purpose, which is to add extra strength to the guitars. By marking every "hit" on the guitar with a b-drum you get that really headbang friendly sound. The same thing goes for many Pantera songs, where the b-drum marks the guitar. Maybe not on every hit, but at the important "powerful" hits that gives the song its character.
It's also really cool to complement the toms in a break with additional b-drum strikes. This both adds extra power and bass to the break, but can also mark the beat so that the listener still feels that a constant beat is kept.
4. Crash and ride cymbals
Many trackers use really bad quality crashes. A crash that is downsampled is often just irritating to listen to. Using a 8 bit crash instead of a 16 bit one doesn't make that much difference, but using a crash which you've cut frequencies in is just insane. I mean, why do think the crashes are the most expensive part of a drum-lit? Because the sound is really important, that's why! No drummer in the world would like to have a bad-sounding crash. No, not even a punk-drummer.
Also, why do you think crashes, next to toms, are the thing you have most of on a drum-kit? Correct, you want to have some variation on the crashes. Have you ever heard a professional musician only using one crash the whole song? Well, perhaps, but he/she can at least hit the cymbal in different ways to get it to sound different. However, in a tracker you're stuck with the sound you have. That's why you have to use it wisely. If you don't want to add a new crash sample, you could at least play it at different pitches. This will make it sound like you have more than one crash, and that adds so much feeling to the track.
Ok, now the ride-cymbal. The ride-cymbal is the cymbal that can be used instead of the hi-hat to get a sharper sound. This is often used in the chorus of rock and pop songs to mark that "THIS IS THE CHORUS" or in solos to also mark more that this part is different. You often don't have more than one ride on a drum-kit. That's because you don't need/want to vary the ride. That's confusing. You don't have more than one hi-hat on a drum-kit, right? So why have to rides? (Former AC/DC drummer Chris Slade had two hi-hats, but he was crazy. Seriously, both his hi-hats sounded the same. He only had two because he could play the hi-hat with both hands, and it gave him more freedom to use the toms and crashes if he could place his hand almost everywhere at the same time.)
Toms are used mainly in breaks to give the break an extra boost. It's also good to use to mark the guitars in extreme heavy hits. The toms shouldn't be over-used. Both drummers who have been in Slayer are extremely tom-tom-horny. This only adds characteristic sound to Slayer's songs. But we don't want to copy that, now do we? Toms can be used for fills here and there, but as I said. Don't overdo it. In fact don't overdo the drums at all.
The drums are there to complement and bring forth the instrument you want to. Okay, so it's there for the beat as well, but saying that the drums are there for the beat alone is ridiculous.