Motivated by How to determine fast if song has constant tempo

I don't have physical drums. I'm producing the drums electronically via a software called FL Studio. That means that the tempo needs to be perfectly aligned, or people will be able to hear the difference.

What are the advantages of recording drum accompaniment using software instead of a regular drumset or an electronic drumset?

  • If you don't know how to play drums, that's one huge advantage. Or, as in the comment in the linked question answers, maybe you don't have a regular drum set or an electronic set. Software might cost $50. Acoustic drums maybe $600. Electronic drums at least $1300. Oct 23 '15 at 4:59
  • I'm trying to imagine not wanting or being able to find a drummer for a small project. Oct 23 '15 at 5:01
  • I guess you don't live in a place where it's super hard to find a decent drummer? Is there even such a place in the world? Good drummers are rare, maybe only second to great singers in rarity. Suppose you know a good drummer, where are you going to go to mic up 12 - 16 channels with mic and preamps and an interface? Recording drums is the hardest part of production!!! Oct 23 '15 at 5:02
  • @ToddWilcox - Sounds like you've got material for an Answer! Oct 23 '15 at 5:03

My band, a three piece rock/techno/metal band, only uses drums from a machine. We did initially use live recorded drums, but for the type of music we play, we needed the rhythm section to have exact precision, to tie in with stage effects or video, for some events.

So the entire rhythm section is generated within a DAW, using various tools, and synths and backing is added at this stage.

Then for our live shows, the guy who does drums and synth turns into our singer/rhythm guitarist.

This makes gigs, especially festival gigs which have a stage backline provided, very easy - we each turn up with a guitar and a rucksack - and that's it.

For some gigs we do add live drums, and we all use live drums in our other bands as we all agree they sound better in many situations, but it needs to be a specific reason for this band.

tl;dr - precision, matching video or visual effects, no desire to find drummers, ease of touring


There are many reasons.

Some genres (electronic, hip hop etc.) pretty much require an unrealistic, machine like drum sound and performance.

For some other genres (rock, pop, metal etc.), using a well programmed sequencer provides 95% realism for a fraction of the cost. By 95%, I mean that 95% (maybe more) of your audience won't be able to tell the difference. Using a sequencer is cheaper because real drums (acoustic or electronic) are expensive, good drummers are hard to find, and drums are the hardest and most expensive to record and mix in a typical rock setting.

In my home "studio", for instance, I can record acoustic guitars and vocals using a couple of not-so-expensive mics, a not-so-expensive audio interface, and some not-so-expensive software. Recording electric guitars and bass is even easier if I opt to use software amp simulators. And I can do it without annoying my neighbors too much. For real drums, I would need many more mics, many more inputs on my audio interface, an acoustically treated and sound proof room, or very patient neighbors.

I am in a few bands but I like recording on my own too. I played some drums back in high school and I know the "theory" pretty well. So I can write good, pretty realistic drum parts using software. But I'm not able to physically play them anymore; I'm not a drummer, certainly not a good one. That's one more reason for not using real drums: It's the only way for me to record on my own.

  • If you weren't held back by the chops aspect, would an electronic drumset solve the other problems you mentioned about the multiple mics, inputs on audio interface, and neighbors? Oct 24 '15 at 12:51
  • How do you solve the synchronization problem? Do you record the drums layer first, and then listen to that with earbuds while you record each other instrument? Or do you use a click track for each one? Or some other approach? Oct 24 '15 at 12:53
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    @aparente001 Electronic drums are expensive, take more space, and I can't play them. I write the drum part first and then record everything else with headphones. Actually I start with a quick sketch of the drum parts and I refine them later on most of the time. To me, drum tracks are easier than click tracks to play along with.
    – cyco130
    Oct 24 '15 at 13:46

Music will vary slightly in tempo when played live, it's one of the facets that makes it what it is. Not untoward, but, well, human.That means that on a track, all subsequent parts need to be in time with the drums. Not so easy as following a click track, which dictates tempo exactly. Also, for editing, using bars to count rather than seconds/milliseconds is more intuitive to us. Simpler with software.

As Todd says, finding a good drummer, a room and micing up is all hassle and expense, avoided by software.

Personally, I prefer live drummers - software is so unforgiving!- but to an extent it's what one gets used to, or prefers. There's always the opportunity to scrub the software track when needed, and put a live drummer in instead, who can then do the fills,etc., in a better way than the software.


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