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Can a drum machine replace a drummer ?


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Probably not , with my own limited experience of drum machines .

Our band has been without a regular drummer for about 2 years now , we rely on a “professional “ drummer who will cover our gigs , and will occasionally do one rehearsal before said gig , but otherwise rehearsals are generally drummer-free. I would not consider the band to be bad  , we all have 30 plus years of playing /gigging experience ( each member ) and our gigs are well received by audience and landlords , but we just cannot seem to find a drummer . ( I live on an Island , so we cannot cast our net very wide ) 

We are just fed up of not having a sticks man when working out new material , or just cranking up the volume for a blow-out rehearsal . 
Anyone using a drum machine ? 
What are you using ? 
Anyone using a percussionist ? 
Many thanks in Advance 

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Some genres work well or even  better with a drum machine.

Apart from that a drum machine is a poor substitute for a real drummer in my experience.

However  I believe Beatbuddy is based on recordings of a real drummer and gets good comments on BC.

Edited by Nail Soup
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What's your monitoring like for rehearsing?  We've done it at times when we've been drummer-free, and it was OK, but no substitute for the kinda stuff we play. Being able to hear a drum machine well whilst rehearsing was half the battle for us.

Edited by Mokl
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Speaking as someone who's primarily a drummer I'd actually say 'yes' for stuff that's made for the dance floor, which doesn't need nuances but which can maintain a pounding 130-50 bpm for up to 10 minutes. Probably not for most rock and deffo not for jazz!

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15 minutes ago, MacDaddy said:

They ended up with a drummer.

Yeah, they were stoppable after all.

 

Despite everything they bring with them, I would always prefer to have a real drummer. Drum machines are ok in certain circumstances and certain genres but, really, live music is best served totally live. A lot of programmed are either too basic (i.e. programmed by someone who doesn't play drums and feels less is more and programs too little just because they don't really understand what good drumming brings to music) or too complicated (i.e. programmed by someone who doesn't play drums and feels more is more and programs too much just because they don't really understand what good drumming brings to music and because they can). Even getting the drummer in a studio to record their tracks so you can rehearse them would put you in a better position than you are now.

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You only need to punch the information into a drum machine once...

 

 

 

...I'll get me coat.

 

I prefer the experience of playing with a live drummer, and will always try to record with a live drummer whenever possible, however an awful lot of modern production is done with programmed drums (not necessarily a drum machine per se) and it's often difficult to tell if you have someone who can programme in BFD or Slate Drums. Entirely contextual I think.

Edited by WinterMute
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13 minutes ago, Mokl said:

What's your monitoring like for rehearsing?  We've done it at times when we've been drummer-free, and it was OK, but no substitute for the kinda stuff we play. Being able to hear a drum machine well whilst rehearsing was half the battle for us.

Monitoring is pretty good ,we have a well equipped /sound proofed rehearsal shed at the bottom of the singers garden .

 

13 minutes ago, Barking Spiders said:

Speaking as someone who's primarily a drummer I'd actually say 'yes' for stuff that's made for the dance floor, which doesn't need nuances but which can maintain a pounding 130-50 bpm for up to 10 minutes. Probably not for most rock and deffo not for jazz!

We tend not to do dance floor /disco music , our set list is mainly 70’s eclectic /oddities that people know , but have not heard for a while .

As previously mentioned ,a live drummer is massively preferable , but they are in short supply .

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I can understand why drummers will want just one rehearsal before a gig. Too often they're brought in too early in the rehearsal process and end up working as a 'machine' while singers, guitarists, keyboard players work out their own parts. I think that drummers are seldom treated as equal contributors, musically. Only bass players really appreciate them!

 

Of course, playing to a drum machine is as inspiring as bedroom practice to a backing track, and I prefer to rehearse without drums. It might even encourage players to count.

I've been a member of quite a few outfits that gigged without a drummer, and the advice 'No drummer is better than the wrong drummer' should often be followed.

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I’m totally into bass guitars working with drum machines. Gorillaz are a pretty good example of what’s possible. I have loads of drum machines …but for the op requirements I would definitely go with the beat buddy, and get the foot switch. 

Edited by Musicman666
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In my view, a drum machine can not replace a drummer. At best, a drum machine can be used as a metronome in the absence of a drummer.

 

That being said, in my band (www.vi.be/bandwerk ) we use a Beatbuddy drum machine as our drummer, also live. This works fine because our songs are written -from the start- with the Beatbuddy as drummer.

We are a rock band but because of the nature of the Beatbuddy, we also sound a bit like a new wave band (which is fine for us).

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We played as a two piece for many years in the 90's and it was great. We used an Alesis SR16 and it was superb. Real drum sounds. We never had any hassles and could play really small venues as well as larger places. We eventually went back to a drummer to get that truly live feel. If you make a mistake right enough with a programmed drum track you are fecked, whereas a drummer can turn his beat to fit you. Apart form that it was a great little tool.

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Funnily enough, in my 1st band back in the ATs our "drummer" programmed a basic beat into a Roland 606 (or whatever it was) which was strapped to a stringless guitar body. He jumped about with it live, and played stuff over the top. Worked surprisingly well!

And last year, after our "real" drummer left, I programmed drum parts from all our songs into Ableton using EZ Drummer, then outputted onto my phone which we plugged into the PA to do a number of live-streamed gigs... And that also worked very well indeed. 

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It really depends on the band, the type of music, the device being used to "play" the drums and skill of the person programming it.

 

Most bands will play the songs the same way every time they perform (or at least try to), so if your band is properly rehearsed the fact that the drum parts are fixed shouldn't matter. Besides modern playback devices will allow you to loop and unloop sections manually. Have a look at the features offered by the performance section of the Studio One DAW.

 

The drummer from one of my bands quite just before Covid last year. Having spent most of the past 18 months deciding whether or not to replace him, I used the studio recording to replicate what he played using the Drum Kit and Drum Machine plug-ins in Logic. I used Recyle! to extract a two bar timing template for each major section of each song from his performances and then spent a day or so on each song programming the drum parts. IME the most important thing to get right is the dynamics, rather than the timing nuances. I had to rein-in some of the micro-timing as it just sounded wrong on some songs. In fact once I'd got the dynamics right to drum parts sounded 90% right. The other advantage was that I could "correct" some of the mistakes from the original parts, where IMO the drums didn't quite gel with the rest of the arrangement.

 

We've done one gig with this set up which went down very well and got us a couple of excellent reviews, although the genre (post-punk/goth) does lend itself more readily to programmed drum parts.

 

Having said all that I have been working off and on with programmed drums since I first got hold of an original Boss Doctor Rhythm back in 1981, so I have plenty of experience of programming drums, know how to think like a drummer, and also know when thinking like a drummer isn't appropriate to get the rhythm part that I want.

 

 

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Thing is, up this way in the early to mid 90's live music was struggling as disco had taken over. A two piece with drum machine was quite common round here. Gradually live music started to re assert itself and bands started playing with drummers again. We were forced into the drum machine world because our band had gone their separate ways and we had to adapt. My mate, the guitarist suggested trying this drum machine and just doing it on our own. It was great for years and we made a small fortune in gigs at that time. We used to play places you couldn't swing a cat in but they paid the same money as the larger venues as the band brought in people.

It was definitely a good part of my life. I do prefer a full band situation but necessity sometimes forces things.

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About three years ago I did a studio project thing and we tried out a couple of newish (to us) drummers in an effort to see whether we could take it out live.  Abject failure.  When we were recording we'd utilised Beta Monkey live loops for the drums; we did experiment with muting the bass, guitars and lead vocals and tried a live play along with just the drum tracks, various samples and BVs.  As a first attempt, it was OK but we decided not to take things forward. It could have been interesting.

 

The big thing here is that if we'd chosen to go out live with a laptop, we'd have had to have been 100% on it, no room for errors or looking around to try and get back into a song if things went wrong.  I did quite like the idea of just the two of us with headphones on playing along to backing tracks.

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