A Great Debate: Real Drums Vs Programmed Drums

Posted on Posted in internet, programming

This is a great hot-button issue that has become more and more prevalent in recent years with the introduction of professional-sounding drum programming software. But are programmed drums better than a real flesh-and-blood drummer?

I came across a really interesting article while going about my daily internet surfing. It really is a very good article providing unbiased looks at this issue from both sides. It comes to us from a man named Joe Gilder, who manages an excellent little musical blog called "Home Studio Corner." HSC is an excellent down-to-earth resource for anyone who owns a home studio. Look it up and check out his stuff. I bet you'll like what you find.

As for this issue, personally I will always advocate for a real flesh-and-blood drummer. There are just just some things that a human drummer can do that a program simply can not replicate. I'm not just speaking on an aesthetic level either (things like skill level, sound quality, etc.) but rather I'm speaking more to the deeper human element of a recording. For example, the chemistry that exists between band members when they're really locked in to what they're doing is something that can not exist and can not be replicated by a program. Not that programmed drums (such as work done with Superior Drummer) doesnt sound excellent when there's an engineer who really knows what they're doing behind the helm … but there is simply nothing like a real human drummer. Records are not supposedly to sound like robots played the instruments (except maybe EDM, I suppose.) They're likely to sound human.

Once again I'd like to make it clear I'm not bashing programmed drums. I think they have the ability to sound incredible. I just prefer a real human being behind the drum set. Call me old fashioned, but that's how you're supposed to record a record. I've also seen it many times (not all times, by any means) where a band goes into the studio and programs their drums and their record comes out sounding like a million bucks, but then you go see them live and you're just sitting there scratching your head because it's nowhere near the same, especially with the drums. I've seen it get to the point where it's like it's not even the same guys playing the music in front of me that played it in the studio. Just not even close to the record. I like to call these types of groups "internet bands," because that's exactly what they are. A live performance from a band is supposed to be nothing short of mind-blowing. Something that can not be captured on a CD, which is one of the reasons people are going to see it live, coupled liking the music.