MIDI and samplers can seem like the ideal way to get down parts when you don’t have the real instruments and players to hand, but here are 5 common mistakes made when doing it.
1. Impossible Playing Techniques
Take a look at the end of your arms now, you should (if you are lucky) have two hands, so why do so many programmers insist on having drum parts play 3,4,5 or more hits at the same time. Yes the bass drum can kick as you hit the cymbal and snare, or the drummer may have some clever contraption, but these are the exception, not the rule. The same is said for many other instruments, for example the bass guitar, not many bass player can play a low G and one at the twelfth fret at the same time without the need for an operation - you get the idea? If you want them to sound real then make sure they sound like a real human is playing them.
2. Incorrect Range
A top tip, go to a site like this one and understand what range an instrument can play in, otherwise you’ll have violins playing part that not even a cello can do and trumpets sounding like the horn on the Titanic. The same is the case for drums, don’t try and repitch a snare so high the skin would pop - it may sound cool as an effect, but not for real.
3. Timing Tighter Than A Computer’s Bank Manager
In the world of quantise and step input there is a time and place for using spot on timing, however real players seldom play like that - even the best session players. They often push and pull the beat as the song plays. Drummers will often speed up into fills, not because they can’t keep time, but just to add extra energy. If your track sounds like an atomic clock, then that’s a dead giveaway that no human was ever near it.
4. Can You Feel It?
A good band will play to each other, you know the nod on stage as the bass player and drummer drop into the pocket and push and pull with each other, or the guitarist syncopating with the keyboard player. I find it odd how 5 people can seem to get into a groove, yet one person on a computer can’t do the same thing, you would think it would be easier? Feel is not the same as timing, timing is about when you hit the beat, feel is about how hard you hit the beat and both matter.
5. Bad Sounds
There’s no excuse for using bad sounds anymore. There are amazing libraries from people like Spectrasonics, Synthogy and UVI as well as some smaller developers that are on our Audio Market like DrumForge, Bad Cat Samples and Sample Diggers. So make sure you choose your sounds carefully when coming to lay down a part, also make sure they are sounds that would co-exist together in a normal setting. If you want to be creative then of course, go ahead and put a Fender Strat with a Harpsichord and early Mongolian flute. However, if you are going for realism then choose wisely.
There really is no excuse for bad arrangements either, we have the tools at hand, a little more thought and care can take them from fakes to fabulous additions to a track.
What are your hot tips?