A while back, I wrote about trying to break away from my old habit of writing the drum parts first and building up from there, layer on layer. Well, that’s turned out to be quite a bit harder than I anticipated, but one of the things that’s helping me is that, despite a reasonable library of MIDI drum patterns from EZDrummer, Studio Drummer and Media Bay, I’m still not finding the right patterns for the feel I want to convey. It doesn’t help that I have a tendency to wander off the beaten track when writing songs and a fair few of the songs I’m recording have the occasional bar of 2/4 or 6/4, (as do “Flames In The Fire” and “Gold Dust” from my “Changes” set that you can hear on Soundcloud).
Another issue is that some of my transition chord sequences from riffs into more chordal sections don’t fit into the rhythmic structures presupposed by the drummers who played the performances underlying those libraries. For these sections, I will have to either modify the library grooves or just program the parts from scratch.
I’ve come to realise that there’s a potentially beneficial side-effect to programming some of my drum patterns. Using library patterns leads you to use only half the toolkit – one thing I’ve realised is that these MIDI libraries are optimised for a GM [General MIDI] style kit and don’t make use of the articulations and voicings unique to a particular kit, even the one that they come with. If you’ve watched my video on drum maps in Cubase, you’ll know I use a basic drum map for programming, but expand this to use all of the articulations of the chosen kit for “polishing” the patterns before finalising them. It seems that all of the library grooves fall into the “lite” voicings
This is falling over into the songs themselves. For so long I’ve been playing them on just piano or guitar, I now find it difficult to hear them otherwise. I’m trying to find their voice, that full-band arrangement that will allow them to sound like they were recorded in the 21st century, not as retro 80’s pieces. And it’s turning out to be difficult. In an effort to find that voice, I programmed all the chords into the Chord Track in Cubase and used a timbre that is sympathetic to the song, but I’m not convinced that it has helped. Rather, it’s provided an almost muzak like feel to the songs. As a result, I’m going to record the original solo guitar or piano performance and mute the Chord Track voice
That’s not to say that the chord track is without its use, as I intend to explore its ability to generate harmonies to vocals, (amongst other things), once I get to the stage of recording some vocals. But for now, I’m focused on building up the arrangement and finding the song’s voice – recording my own can wait.