Why Do Drummers Have LaptopsPosted by Mike Schuck
This article will discuss why do drummers have laptops in their bags.
The subject matter of this post will be very broad, but I think it's worth talking about.
It’s one of the few facets of music that hasn't been delved into in great detail, and I think that’s a shame.
Drummers as individuals
I have a great amount of respect for these professional, responsible musicians. I respect the work they do and am thankful for the sacrifices they make.
It's funny because many of these drummers seem to be pretty down-to-earth, family-oriented, and even funny. I guess I figured they would be more "woe is me" and more tied to a mean and ungrateful attitude than they are.
Maybe I didn’t talk to the right people, or see the right side of the street. I have a feeling that they're all different, and each has its own style.
Maybe I’m just not seeing them at their most perfect and peaceful.
However, as a young keyboardist/sound engineer/producer, I get to work with all of them regularly.
I recently took part in recording a bunch of "Big Band” tracks, and some of them were rather stressful.
There are a few topics that will be addressed in this post. My main goal is to enlighten other musicians who may feel the same way.
Why do drummers have laptops?
If you think about it, drummers are probably among the most technologically advanced human beings on the planet.
After all, they carry with them the most important and expensive instruments of the musician's world.
Understandably, drummers would use computers and technology.
The move towards technical drums over analog drum machines is clearly underway and is being done to amazing levels.
I doubt any of the major record labels will be buying an off-the-shelf, midi, drum machine setup any time soon.
I'd like to think they're too big and rich, to care. I’d also like to think that drummers are tech-savvy enough to deal with these complex drums.
I think the record labels, and the artist, are mostly concerned about getting the best-sounding tracks out of each computer.
This also gets a little trickier when we start talking about drumming techniques, like drawbars, technology for pads, and such.
These days, there are a ton of great software libraries for just about every drum technique you can think of.
I suppose I would be okay with using a computer for these processes, but there are other options.
There’s also the question of creativity. In the world of music, some musicians use laptops as primary musical instruments, and not in a work-focused way.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that these drummers have more creative freedom than most other musicians.
Drummers have the ability to start and stop the song at any given moment, without the burden of deadlines or other "choreography" issues.
Besides, when you think about it, there are things that laptops do a lot better than expensive analog drum machines.
I would expect that there are at least a few drummers who exclusively use laptops since they work perfectly fine and sound much better.
Now that we have an understanding of the modern electronic drum machine, I'd like to outline some potential bad habits that are brought on by the computer.
Don't leave the mouse behind:
An editor once told me, that the only real difference between analog drum machines and laptops is the quality of the track.
It's possible that the quality of a drum sound can be quantified, but the most obvious quality difference is the lack of latency.
Some drummers use a laptop because they need the keyboard, but a lack of latency isn't what is important.
Don't turn the lights off:
While some people might think that using a laptop in the dark is a good idea, and makes for a nicer look in a rehearsal studio, I don't think it's that good of an idea.
Maybe I'm paranoid, but I worry that the laptop could be less accurate than an analog drum machine.
The better microphones, and higher quality speakers, might help a little, but I also think the computer screen could make a laptop sound worse.
Don't just use a single drum count:
Let's assume that the individual on the laptop knows their own drum tracks and likes the sound of them. If you've got two identical drummers, and one is using a laptop, and one is using an analog drum machine, I'd say the laptop is likely to sound better.
Analog drum machines have one fewer possibility. If they know the sounds they have, then they can use one count.
Laptops, and similar computers, can only play one-count. Even if they have two kick drums, that's two different drum sounds, with a third possible count.
Don't overtrain your pedal points:
Analog drum machines have two buttons for every single button you can push. You can tell where the threshold is by listening to a drum.
When a drum hits this threshold, it stops and then is heard again, when the driver recharges.
We assume that the engineers, and the musicians, can tune their pedal points, to a degree. With a laptop, that's not always the case. Sometimes a signal doesn't hit this threshold, even when it should. It sounds wonky.
I've found that the way to fix this problem is to use two or three different buttons on the drum machine.
If the drummer is using a laptop, they can listen to the drum before pressing a button. With a drum machine, this is much harder.
They have to listen to the same drum, play the drum, and listen to the drum again, in sequence, before they can turn on the feature.
If they're not used to this, it can be very annoying, and even lead to mistakes.
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