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On Editing Drum Flams
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January 28, 2009

On Editing Drum Flams

I was editing some drum parts yesterday that my friend Seth Rouch played (for an as-yet metaphysical, theoretical upcoming "album" of mine), and I came upon an interesting problem that I thought I would share with teh interwebs.

Drum flams: where's the beat? You all may call me crazy, but IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE, I swear.

For those of you that may not know what a drum flam is, you probably won't be interested in the rest of this post, actually, but I'll explain it anyway (and try to keep things interesting). Normally, a drummer only hits a drum once with one stick. (Okay, sometimes, the stick will bounce on the head, and sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it's sloppy. But that's not the point.) A flam occurs when the drummer hits the head of the drum with both sticks at nearly the same time, but not quite. It's a sort of accent. You'll hear it in the clips below, so don't worry.

So there's two hits in a flam. Which of the two falls directly on the beat? And which is a little before or after? (Or do you split the difference? I can't imagine this would sound good, so I didn't test it, but I suppose it's a possibility...) Well my friends, here's a quick rundown of how I tried to edit Seth's tom & snare flams in my song.

I need to first give you the setup for these sessions. We had VERY little time. I moved all of my recording gear (computer, rack, mics, and all) into his house while his roommate was out of town for a couple days. We ended up tracking like 5 songs or something in several hours. He also hadn't heard the songs much before hand. So, let's just say that any slight timing issues are not Seth's fault. Here's Seth's playing in this section, without any editing. Flams are on the toms and also some on the snare.

(All mp3s in this post are encoded at 160kbps.)

The second hit of each flam is louder. I figured this would mean that the first is like a "pickup" to the second and that the 2nd should fall directly on the beat, with the first hit just a teeny-tiny bit before. After several people seemed to agree with this when asked on Twitter and Facebook, I gave it a go. So I edited it all together that way, and came up with this:

[2nd hit on beat]

As I was listening back, I found that I was subconsciously holding my breath. Not a good sign. It sounds to me like the Tom hits are early, kindof like the drums are rushing. This is not good. Not at all. So I said what the heck and tried it so that the first hit of each flam fell directly on the beat, and the 2nd was ever so slightly late:

[1st hit on beat]

Ah-hah! Much better! There may still be some issues with it, but I was breathing normally, things grooved better, and I was much happier. Mmmkay... bit did the snare hits sound a little late now? I made another edit in which the 1st hit of the toms was on the beat, but the 2nd hit of the snares was on the beat. Here's that one:

[1st hit toms, 2nd hit drums]

Eh... hard to tell. I don't think I like it. I think I'm getting a little overzealous there. So What I think I will do is make minor edits to the "1st hit" drums. Just to make sure the feel is spot-on.

So... That's what I came up with. What do you think? Is there a rule here? Is there really a "right" way of doing it, or is it dependent on the music? Is it part of a drummer's style or groove? Do you like it the other way better? Am I some kind of recording mad scientist, bent on the destruction of all worlds through obsessively-edited drum tracks? Well, yes, but that is beside the point. I would really love to hear your comments, if only to hear that somebody else is just as crazy/obsessed as I am.

Posted by pedalboy at 9:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack