Music Dorkery

ON DRUM TRIGGERING IN METAL

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DEPDDTTKWhenever people talk about modern metal production, the conversation inevitably turns to drum triggering. People always tell me that they think it’s bullshit and that they hate drum triggering, that they think it’s cheating. They’re wrong, and I’m going to tell you why.

If you argue that drum triggering is “cheating” because it isn’t the sound the drummer is making, you would also have to argue that using distorted electric guitars is cheating. There is nothing in an electric guitar signal that is the actual acoustic sound of the string vibrating — it’s an electric signal that’s converted using a magnet (the pickup) and run through a device where it’s amplified and then altered (the amplifier). In many cases it’s also run through a series of pedals on the way to the amp, a series of sound-modifying circuits inside the amp, and/or outboard gear in the mixing process. There is NOTHING organic about this process whatsoever. The same is true for keyboards; the guy is still there playing it but there’s no acoustic sound, just the input underneath the keyboard key that measures a) whether the key was played, and b) how hard it was played.

The same thing is happening when drums are triggered. The drummer is still there playing the part, but the signal is converted into a different sound. If you want to argue that the triggered sounds drummers/mixers are choosing suck and don’t sound real, that’s a whole different argument… but let me tell you folks, 99% of the metal record you hear have triggered drums even if you don’t notice. It IS possible — nay, easy — to choose triggered drum sounds that sound like real drums, and drummers do this all the time. When you hear drum sounds that don’t sound real, this is a conscious decision that’s been made for aesthetic reasons, i.e. they like the way it sounds, they like the power, or they feel it adds to the overall feeling of the music.

What got me thinking about this today was the below interview with Mike Portnoy in which he touches on this very subject. Portnoy’s a smart dude, and he knows when triggered drums have their place and when they do not.

So, in conclusion: stop bitching about triggered drums, you ninnies.

-VN

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