Drum replacement – or at least drum augmentation – has been part of recorded music since as early as the 1960s, when Phil Spector took to layering live percussion instruments to help create his “Wall of Sound.” It’s a basic technique that only become more prevalent and sophisticated as specialized tools become cheaper, faster and easier to use.
In 1979, drum replacement and augmentation took a giant leap forward with two inventions: Roger Nichols’ “Wendel” drum sampler, first used on Steely Dan’s Gaucho, and Roger Linn’s LM-1 Drum Computer, made famous by Prince, Michael Jackson and Gary Numan.
The 12-bit digital technology in these devices allowed something that was never really possible with early synthesis-based analog drum machines: the ability to trigger actual recorded samples of authentic drum hits, which could then be used alone or layered underneath a performance.
With the advent of MIDI control in the early 1980s and DAWs in the 1990s, drum replacement and augmentation became increasingly practical in genres of music that rely on live performance.
From Def Leppard’s schlocky Hysteria to Nirvana’s culture-shifting Nevermind, drum triggers have worked their way deep into our industry to become an indelible part of the sound of recorded music, and their affects can be heard in the biggest hits by Metallica and The Smiths alike.
Although many styles of music may still benefit from an unhyped and au naturel approach, drum replacement or augmentation has become a cornerstone of entire genres of modern rock, metal and pop – not to mention dance and electronic music. If you work on those kinds of projects from time to time, a reliable method for tracking and triggering hits is a must.
Whether the goal is a natural sound with a little extra impact and texture, or a synthetic and over-the-top concoction, good drum replacement software needs to be three things: Accurate, flexible and fast – in that order.
Massey DRT v2.0 ($99)
One of the newest additions to the current crop of drum replacers is version 2.0 of Massey’s Drum Replacement Tool. It may be one of the simplest and most effective tools of its type.
Visually and in use, DRT owes much of its heritage to the first major DAW-based drum replacement tool: Avid’s now-venerable Sound Replacer…