Drum Programming From A Drummer’s Perspective

Rupert Brown, from The DSP Project, talks to Alvaro Lopez about drum programming from a drummer’s perspective:

Alvaro Lopez is an amazing drummer so I asked if he would be kind enough to talk to us about drum sequencing from a drummers perspective. He is working in Logic with Ultrabeat but the information can be applied to programming drums in any DAW or hardware drum machine.

8 thoughts on “Drum Programming From A Drummer’s Perspective

  1. And here I was reading "DSP project" and thinking "Cool! Max/DSP does it again!" 🙂

    Seriously; I sorta enjoyed this but considered it a bit boring. It is refreshing though to being able to hear the opinion on programming drums from a drummer. The problem for me is that IMO the whole thing usually boils down to: "use your ears".

    And I think its silly to hear him talk about a beat which "keeps coming back" (so it must be good?) and then later call another beat "clumsy sounding" because he thinks that which he considers the "back end beat" is being put into the front due to more volume.


    I just don't get that. Removing one beat to create a small pause (now, how difficult is it to come up with THAT idea?) is "interesting" because "the idea seems to keep coming back". And pushing sounds forward which the incrowd (assumption on my part) seems to consider "back end" is clumsy sounding ?

    Yeah right… Then I guess I'm a sucker for clumsy sounding stuff, because quite frankly I can see some potential and options in there. When dealing with vague and abstract stuff like music (where personal taste plays a very big role) I think its very hypocrite to describe one very simply construction "interesting, it keeps coming back" only to be followed by calling another "clumsy" because it apparently doesn't follow "certain rules" (at least that's what I made of it).

    Now, don't get me wrong here.. I disagree with the guy, but that doesn't mean I don't value his opinion or dislike the video. But I cannot help wonder if he isn't fully "grown" into a specific way of doing stuff and thus lost interest or notice of "easier work".

    I mean; its all too easy to diss "clumsy sounding stuff", and just before you know it the big crowd loves it so much it becomes a hit; take the chicken dance for example. Many of the "professionals" hated it because "its rubbish". Of course it did manage to turn into a widely accepted piece which also made many of such "professionals" twist and turn their opinion before you could say "dum dum dum dum".

    Of course, the /real/ pro's back then said "I don't think its all that great" and at a later time backed up with "I still don't think its great. It cashed in quite a lot so it is a successful piece, yet I still think its not that great". Such opinions I can only greatly respect.

    Oh well, just my 2 cents on the matter 🙂

  2. Wow. So not impressed. I was hoping a "real" drummer who was into programming would have something interesting, creative, or enlightening to say on the subject. I was really looking forward to someone with a primarily rhythmic mindset expanding on the benefits of sequenced drums and a few tips on how to take a programmed drum part above and beyond. But no. All we get is the very basic rock rhythm and a little very elementary syncopation. Gotta love his vocabulary too…"skippy beats?" Really? Does anybody know who this guy is? who he's played with? what he's recorded or produced? Why does he get a synthtopia feature video that is less informative or entertaining than a begginer's DAW help file? Okay, I have to apologize for coming off so bitter and cranky. This site offers great links to so many wonderful videos and such. So let's not look at this comment as a sour complaint but rather a plea for the good folks at Synthtopia to track down a vid on ADVANCED drum programing techniques for those of us who are looking to add a little more spice to our digital rhythm section.

  3. not the best video for experienced programmers… but prob. excellent for guys just getting started. I wish he would have used a more musical vocab tho… improper use of the work beat, other terms might confuse new musicians.

  4. Sorry, but I have to chime in with the others and agree: this was a waste of time. Maybe it's worthwhile if you're a high-school kid who's never spent 20 minutes with a drum machine before?

  5. I'm gonna be the lone voice here I guess but I think it's a good video for basics… So often, with the power to layer so many different drums in such a wide variety of patterns that evolve over time tends to make programmers IMO sloppy with drum parts… the fact is, in percussion, to the layman, basically Anything that repeats itsself eventually – works… and I know of several different genres that almost specialize in weird quirky mixed up beats that are made sooo elaborate as to hide the basic lack of organisation and forethought of their creation on a basic and fundamental level.
    Moreover, programmers often forget that the most powerful drum parts usually are made so by their absolutely basic composition… I mean some of my most powerful breakdowns come from taking a pretty full drum part and cutting it down suddenly to a tiny number of parts… each playing as little as possible.

  6. I'm not saying I heard too terribly much there that I hadn't managed to figure out by now anyway, I thought his point about snare 'fluff' sounding more organised by cutting down it's volume helpful… not because there's never a time that the choppy sounds of the snare turned up are useful but because of the number of times I've been listening to a somewhat complicated part that still seems a bit erratic… I'd imagine in those situations, that little trick would be very much helpful in making the sounds more cohesive… and I think that's what he was basically getting at…
    I mean a tutorial for making super complicated drum parts would be almost redundant… just make a pattern and keep piling stuff on… trying to be generally symetrical perhaps – but the inherent repetative quality of drum parts means that a lot of the time it doesn't really matter speciffically what you put where if it's all gonna repeat itsself 4 or 8 beats later…

  7. No, I think the point here was to show the beginner, perhaps comming from a completely non percussive background the simple basics of doing 'enough' with just the basics…
    I remember a time many years ago where just being told the bass note goes on the 1 and the 3 and the snare goes on the 2 and the 4 would have been a massive breakthrough…
    and everpresent as the examples of people doing far more with far more complex parts is, often finding someone who simply shows you some beginning stuff becomes one of the hardest things to do…
    Perfection in design is, after all, finding yourself with nothing else that can be Removed… not added in on top…

  8. I could not imagine him as an "amazing" drummer having to give a vid like this! I agree with most as this being waste of time! I mean 14 year olds are producing and KNOW the basics of 'tension' and 'release.' When I heard him say that it reminded me of the article I read about working your PC muscles before ejaculating! But hey! I guess I'll have to keep this in mind when I program drums the next time? Hmmm…

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