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Trailer Mixing-Stacking drums and phase

Hi

I’m looking for some advice.

I’m programming a typical trailer type drum track and I’ve got some low edm stuff, 3 or 4 strike force patches, some HZ perc and a bit of other stuff. It’s all stacked up to create 1 big hit playing the same rhythm. I’ve eq’d a lot of the low end out of most of it and I’m using a sidechained multiband to remove the low-end on the big downbeats and let the big booms through. I’ve also made everything under 100hz mono.

My question are

1/Once you’ve layered a bunch of midi drums like this, do any of you then bounce them all down individually and try and align them to improve the phase relationship between them ?

With the amount of round robins going on ( particularly in strikeforce) is it worth it time wise to do something like this ?

2/Do you use any other kind of plug ins or techniques to try and accomplish a better phase relationship ?

I can’t seem to achieve that massive trailer whack any other way other than multiple layers.

I know there’s a lot of great trailer guys on the forum and I’d really appreciate any insight into any techniques used when dealing with stacking drums.

Thanks very much

Dan
 
Hi

I’m looking for some advice.

I’m programming a typical trailer type drum track and I’ve got some low edm stuff, 3 or 4 strike force patches, some HZ perc and a bit of other stuff. It’s all stacked up to create 1 big hit playing the same rhythm. I’ve eq’d a lot of the low end out of most of it and I’m using a sidechained multiband to remove the low-end on the big downbeats and let the big booms through. I’ve also made everything under 100hz mono.
I'm not going to try and tell you to change something that sounds good to your ears, but on paper that sounds like a lot of stuff going on, especially if they're all playing the exact same rhythm. There's definitely value in printing it all separately as audio so you can zoom in and find out what's going on visually with the phase. I'd also argue getting rid of the round-robins from many of the patches - each new sample will articulate slightly differently, and (if the sample maker wasn't very diligent with the edits) potentially have a different relative phase with all the rest. Try retaining one of the samples with full round robins as the 'ear candy' and one-shot the rest, particularly the ones bringing the big low end.
 
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DanPhaseMusic

Member
I'm not going to try and tell you to change something that sounds good to your ears, but on paper that sounds like a lot of stuff going on, especially if they're all playing the exact same rhythm. There's definitely value in printing it all separately as audio so you can zoom in and find out what's going on visually with the phase. I'd also argue getting rid of the round-robins from many of the patches - each new sample will articulate slightly differently, and (if the sample maker wasn't very diligent with the edits) potentially have a different relative phase with all the rest. Try retaining one of the samples with full round robins as the 'ear candy' and one-shot the rest, particularly the ones bringing the big low end.
Thanks for the reply mate. I was thinking it might be a bit much but each different element seems to add something different.

That’s a good idea with the round robins i’ll definitely give that a go.

Thanks again
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I'm not going to try and tell you to change something that sounds good to your ears, but on paper that sounds like a lot of stuff going on, especially if they're all playing the exact same rhythm. There's definitely value in printing it all separately as audio so you can zoom in and find out what's going on visually with the phase. I'd also argue getting rid of the round-robins from many of the patches - each new sample will articulate slightly differently, and (if the sample maker wasn't very diligent with the edits) potentially have a different relative phase with all the rest. Try retaining one of the samples with full round robins as the 'ear candy' and one-shot the rest, particularly the ones bringing the big low end.
Spoken like an engineer!

I've written a lot of trailer music and a fair amount of music that might as well be trailers, and not infrequently I find the engineering can drain some of the excitement and coolness out of the end result. This is true even when we have a large, live orchestra.

I know the current aesthetic is influenced by the Remote Control approach (on some scores, though not all) of heavily engineering the tracks -- recording separately the strings / brass / perc. etc.; even recording separately the subsections within strings and brass and so on. By contrast, I don't try to control the sound much at all, but let the chips fall where they may, even with midi. I definitely would not get rid of round robins, just to pick one point in the above.

My experience over some time is that many engineers focus on controlling the sound -- eliminating wash and rumble that they feel may not be intentional. But I never subscribed to that approach. When I listen to Jerry Goldsmith's scores, there's a lot of racket there; buzzing brass, rattling drums, rosin, and so on. A big orchestra, especially in an action / excitement mode, is full of out-of-control sounds, and that's one of the things I like about it.

So the last thing I would do is EQ everything or start hemming in the sounds before I've even finished composing.

Admittedly, some stuff can get wooly, so do whatever you think you need to after you've written the piece, but use your ears first. Don't assume that you should "clean up" the sound before you conclude, independently as an artist, that you don't like what you're hearing.

I'm not attacking @Scoremixer personally, as I realise he subscribes to a widely-shared point of view. Possibly, it's the vast majority point of view.
 
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Jerry Growl

Composing Music in the Plastic Dark Ages
I would seperate the sub from the clabang. I guess most engineers would do the same. Decide on one source for the subs. Less is more, especially in sub region.

Clean out the rest and make contrast front to back. Find the right ambience/ER/reverb.

Like an artist painter you must decide how to fill your painting. You can go for painting one after the other and add more and more on top of the first things and think you are painting a crowd, but then you end up with just a large horrible unclear mess. Mixing sound/music is in a way also a kind of 'composition'.
 
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Alex Fraser

Senior Member
By contrast, I don't try to control the sound much at all, but let the chips fall where they may, even with midi.
Hmmn, sounds like my approach to the entire music production thing..

I'm kinda with John on this. As we have access to the technology, the temptation is always to micro-manage these things and place an emphasis on the mix/tricks instead of the musical arrangement.
For me, nothing kills the create process faster than getting involved in the tech too early. That said, I appreciate that trailer work places a big emphasis on the sound.

My only tip to the OP would be (with all the work you're doing) if you find a solution, sample it as a separate audio file and use it again!
 
Spoken like an engineer!

I've written a lot of trailer music and a fair amount of music that might as well be trailers, and not infrequently I find the engineering can drain some of the excitement and coolness out of the end result. This is true even when we have a large, live orchestra.

I know the current aesthetic is influenced by the Remote Control approach (on some scores, though not all) of heavily engineering the tracks -- recording separately the strings / brass / perc. etc.; even recording separately the subsections within strings and brass and so on). By contrast, I don't try to control the sound much at all, but let the chips fall where they may, even with midi. I definitely would not get rid of round robins, just to pick one point in the above.

My experience over some time is that many engineers focus on controlling the sound -- eliminating wash and rumble that they feel may not be intentional. But I never subscribed to that approach. When I listen to Jerry Goldsmith's scores, there's a lot of racket there; buzzing brass, rattling drums, rosin, and so on. A big orchestra, especially in an action / excitement mode, is full of out-of-control sounds, and that's one of the things I like about it.

So the last think I would do is EQ everything or start hemming in the sounds before I've even finished composing.

Admittedly, some stuff can get wooly, so do whatever you think you need to after you've written the piece, but use your ears first. Don't assume that you should "clean up" the sound before you conclude, independently as an artist, that you don't like what you're hearing.

I'm not attacking @Scoremixer personally, as I realise he subscribes to a widely-shared point of view. Possibly, it's the vast majority point of view.
Absolutely, there's a great deal of excitement to be found in the chaos of a tutti orchestra going at it, and a lot of value in not rounding off all the edges of everything. But if you're going to pick a production aesthetic you need to commit to it, and the multi-layered, entirely programmed epic trailer (my assumption, in this case) is one that makes some heavy engineering and production demands in order to work successfully. I certainly wouldn't suggest eliminating round robins and microscopically lining up the waveforms of each drum hit as a default course of action with no wider context.
 
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DanPhaseMusic

Member
It is indeed entirely programmed sound design based trailer music. I’ll upload a snippet of the drum tomorrow if you’d be kind enough to give them a listen....

Thanks for all the reply’s

Dan
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
Are you sure you need to worry about "phase aligning" the drums at all? If your hearing phasing because of layering drums, it could be that they are too perfectly aligned.

I feel unclear what would you be aligning, apologies to mince words for a moment - because of how drums kind of sweep down through different frequencies, and each drum will do that differently, it would be hard to phase align them. Aligning phase of one part of two drum sounds would just make another part misaligned again. Or if you mean aligning the attacks/initial transients of the drums (not phase?) That make more sense to me, but then beware you'll end up with huge peaks compared to the rest of the audio signal, and it might become hard to compress that without problems later on. Also, depending on what you want artistically, aligning them so perfectly would probably reduce the perception of it being a huge ensemble.

There are other techniques to consider for getting the whack impact. What I think might be more important for impact is the "air" that lingers from each drum hit. I don't mean "air" like the typical 5-20 kHz in mixing, but I mean that bit of snap or pop that lasts longer than the transient part of the drum hit. Reverb or compression can bring out that lingering air in different ways, and layering and EQ can help sculpt the frequency ranges that have that lingering decay, with those options alone you might be able to get the whack you want.
 

Jerry Growl

Composing Music in the Plastic Dark Ages
I would phase align a drum recording, so that drummic A blends with drummic B because the microphones (usually) didn't move during the recording. So you can get a predictable result by phase aligning tracks of the same recording.

With samples it seems an awful lot of work to begin with. You would need to get rid of round robins, but you can't predict how every sample in library A is going to stand vs a sample in library B, because of the many differences already per sample per library, surely in comparison with samples of other libraries. It will be hard to get a predictable result everytime. You might want to phase align EVERY individual sample with the others though.. but the result wouldn't sound natural compared to banging lots of different drums in the same room recorded together at once (where you have phase issues too)...

If anyone else has ideas?
 
Are you sure you need to worry about "phase aligning" the drums at all? If your hearing phasing because of layering drums, it could be that they are too perfectly aligned.

I feel unclear what would you be aligning, apologies to mince words for a moment - because of how drums kind of sweep down through different frequencies, and each drum will do that differently, it would be hard to phase align them. Aligning phase of one part of two drum sounds would just make another part misaligned again. Or if you mean aligning the attacks/initial transients of the drums (not phase?) That make more sense to me, but then beware you'll end up with huge peaks compared to the rest of the audio signal, and it might become hard to compress that without problems later on. Also, depending on what you want artistically, aligning them so perfectly would probably reduce the perception of it being a huge ensemble.
If you've got two drums, one with a low fundamental of 45Hz and one @ 50Hz, then that low end has the potential to interact destructively for the first few cycles of the sound. Of course as you say there's a whole lot of other sound present above the first couple of octaves that is completely phase independent of each other, the pitch of a drum isn't usually 100% stable, and the whole lot decays away pretty quickly in most cases. However, making sure the first few cycles of your low end play nicely together is one way of getting low end to punch through a very dense texture. Then layer other less precise stuff on top to get the perception of ensemble and size. It's pop production translated to a psuedo-orchestral environment, which in many ways is what modern trailer production is all about.
 

John Busby

Musician/Composer
If you've got two drums, one with a low fundamental of 45Hz and one @ 50Hz, then that low end has the potential to interact destructively for the first few cycles of the sound. Of course as you say there's a whole lot of other sound present above the first couple of octaves that is completely phase independent of each other, the pitch of a drum isn't usually 100% stable, and the whole lot decays away pretty quickly in most cases. However, making sure the first few cycles of your low end play nicely together is one way of getting low end to punch through a very dense texture. Then layer other less precise stuff on top to get the perception of ensemble and size. It's pop production translated to a psuedo-orchestral environment, which in many ways is what modern trailer production is all about.
beautifully worded man!

HZ pretty much said the same thing in this forum somewhere that if you have the one "BIG" drum make sure nothing else will cloud it's frequency spectrum.
and the "BIGness" to me is in the sub lows
 

JohnG

Senior Member
If you've got two drums, one with a low fundamental of 45Hz and one @ 50Hz, then that low end has the potential to interact destructively for the first few cycles of the sound. Of course as you say there's a whole lot of other sound present above the first couple of octaves that is completely phase independent of each other, the pitch of a drum isn't usually 100% stable, and the whole lot decays away pretty quickly in most cases. However, making sure the first few cycles of your low end play nicely together is one way of getting low end to punch through a very dense texture. Then layer other less precise stuff on top to get the perception of ensemble and size. It's pop production translated to a psuedo-orchestral environment, which in many ways is what modern trailer production is all about.
Well, I agree. It's just that this kind of information clearly infects a lot of engineers who may not know everything you know. In those cases (not yours -- I don't know you so not casting a stone at you), they start over-tweaking the sound until it sounds artificial and non-musical.

What You're "Supposed" to Do

Put another way, I think many journeyman composers and engineers feel that there is almost a requirement that you tweak every single track, even individual notes, following recording. When sampled content is being incorporated, these people invariably want the driest samples possible. Why?

Because they assume that a lot of modern scoring's sound only happens properly when an engineer goes over it with a fine-toothed comb.

Having been on the receiving end of this, when I'm not the producer, I usually detest the final result. Of course we all have our own favourites ("my engineer does this so well...") but on the whole, I think a lot of people overdo this, generating a final mix that sounds sterile, artificial, and "tweaked."

In general, most composers would be far better served to focus on listening and putting the right notes down rather than this kind of thing.
 
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DanPhaseMusic

Member
Here's a snippet of the drum track i was originally asking about. I appreciate it's not the most thoughtful and delicate percussion programming one's likely to hear but the client get's what the client wants.....

I haven't actually managed to try out any of the tips offered so far in the thread but I'll definitely get round to it. Thanks again for all the replies.

Dan

[AUDIOPLUS=https://vi-control.net/community/attachments/drums-mp3.20289/][/AUDIOPLUS]
 

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Put another way, I think many journeyman composers and engineers feel that there is almost a requirement that you tweak every single track, even individual notes, following recording. When sampled content is being incorporated, these people invariably want the driest samples possible. Why?

In general, most composers would be far better served to focus on listening and putting the right notes down rather than this kind of thing.
I totally agree. I despair of the rumour mill that ends in someone on a forum claiming "the secret to Alan Meyerson's sound is sidechain multiband compression"... Still, this advice is in response to a very specific question, and all the usual caveats, YMMV etc ad infinitum applies. Hopefully it'll be helpful to someone, somewhere down the line, who has good taste... or even better, a total lack thereof.
 
Here's a snippet of the drum track i was originally asking about. I appreciate it's not the most thoughtful and delicate percussion programming one's likely to hear but the client get's what the client wants.....

I haven't actually managed to try out any of the tips offered so far in the thread but I'll definitely get round to it. Thanks again for all the replies.

Dan

[AUDIOPLUS=https://vi-control.net/community/attachments/drums-mp3.20289/][/AUDIOPLUS]
Thanks for coming through with a sample! Some very subjective thoughts:

1) It sounds pretty decent
2) The amount of low end coming through isn't what I'd attribute to several huge samples stacked on top of each other, ie possibly the number of parts is diminishing the returns
3) The articulated low end is quite pitched and sustainy - perhaps this is a result of the summation of all the samples or perhaps it's one sample speaking in particular, but if it were me I'd shoot for a low end that gets out of the way quicker and focuses the perceived energy an octave lower.
4) Consider reprogramming so the downbeat of each bar has the biggest, boomiest 808 low end, and the other beats have a subtly different makeup and less low end - I think you may have some of this going on already but I'd accentuate the effect.
5) There's some energy missing in the 1-5k region that you'd associate with sticks on the skin of a real drum... that may or may not be important to you in the context of this track, but in isolation it sounds a little overly smiley face.
 
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DanPhaseMusic

Member
Thanks very much for listening. I think your right about the sub hits being an octave lower. I’ve chosen the wrong sample....i’ll have a look today and post it again if you’d be so kind as to listen again.
 
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DanPhaseMusic

Member
Thanks for coming through with a sample! Some very subjective thoughts:

1) It sounds pretty decent
2) The amount of low end coming through isn't what I'd attribute to several huge samples stacked on top of each other, ie possibly the number of parts is diminishing the returns
3) The articulated low end is quite pitched and sustainy - perhaps this is a result of the summation of all the samples or perhaps it's one sample speaking in particular, but if it were me I'd shoot for a low end that gets out of the way quicker and focuses the perceived energy an octave lower.
4) Consider reprogramming so the downbeat of each bar has the biggest, boomiest 808 low end, and the other beats have a subtly different makeup and less low end - I think you may have some of this going on already but I'd accentuate the effect.
5) There's some energy missing in the 1-5k region that you'd associate with sticks on the skin of a real drum... that may or may not be important to you in the context of this track, but in isolation it sounds a little overly smiley face.
Based on what you said I've had a little tweak. I'd love to get your feedback on it if you've got the time.

Thanks again.

[AUDIOPLUS=https://vi-control.net/community/attachments/drums-2-mp3.20299/][/AUDIOPLUS]
 

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AllanH

Senior Member
From my limited experience, I've found the focusing on the very low end can be counterproductive. Imo, much of the impact comes from 100 to 400 Hz range and not the sub-100 frequencies. Unless I'm listening on a system with a very large sub, the lower frequencies simply muddy things up if I have too much going on down there.

A simple idea would be to add a rim-shot, possibly tuned down. To me, that does more for impact than a loud 808. Another is to add a metal hit on the 1.

Specifically, as feedback: I think the long cymbal crash takes some energy out of the drum track and probably refocuses any compressor in the signal chain.

PS: I'm with John - a bit of chaos is a good thing.
 
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