[ddots-l] Re: getting more punch on drum tracks

  • From: "Mike Christer" <m-christer@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2010 13:58:51 -0000

In a 'live' setting the DX7 was great, ever heard of the solstres Sade, (pronounced, Sharday?).

Not to mention countless other soul/funk/pop acts circa your birth...

I guess, you gotta be there?


----- Original Message ----- From: "Blake Hardin" <blakehardin5487@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, January 23, 2010 11:22 PM
Subject: [ddots-l] Re: getting more punch on drum tracks

Ah yes the old DX7. Those were made about the year i was born lol.
They do have a very warm sound to the rhodes patch though but it does
suck in a live setting ahha. Didn't seem to stand out much.

On 1/23/10, Mike Christer <m-christer@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I hear what you're saying, but I think you're totally wrong about the DX7
sounding tinny, crap and noisy!

It was none of these things, and at the time was a great bit of kit...

I don't understand why peeps have to slag off the quote older unquote stuff, like it didn't have its place, was crappy, and couldn't compare to anything
available today!

For the time, it was great, and still sounds good, the A d/D A converters
being a perfect example of just why.
Obviously they aren't as quote good unquote as ones available today, , how
could they be, it was over 25 years ago!

But, therein lies the whole trip, stuff wasn't as sanitized as it is
nowadays, digitally sterile or lacking any character/personality!

This is why peeps love the old kit, because, no matter what anyone says, it
duzz sound different.
To some peeps it sounds better, and to others not, but like any of this
stuff, its purely subjective...

So, Steve, there is a lot of truth to what you say 'bout the older kit,
loads of dance and electronica producers totally hear where you're coming
from, and who's to argue?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bryan Smart" <bryansmart@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, January 22, 2010 10:08 PM
Subject: [ddots-l] Re: getting more punch on drum tracks

Steve, I'm not picking on you here really, but people that go on these
threads about older stuff sounding warmer, or somehow more legit, are, in
many cases, either hearing what they expect to hear, or else are forgetting
what else went in to what they used to hear.

You called out FM7, so, since you're familiar with that, I'll use it as an
example. If you have a Korg or Roland keyboard, and dial up an FM Rhodes
patch, the few velocity-switched samples, even when berried in effects,
aren't going to be exactly like the DX7 piano patches. I get that. In a lot of cases, that's ok, since the newer keyboard is supposed to be able to let you dial up fair representations quickly without knowing anything about what
you're doing. People trade off some quality for that advantage. Still, its
accepted that, in this case, accuracy isn't the top priority.

However, the FM7 is perfectly like a DX7. When modeling analog gear, people
frequently go off in to metaphysical territory that vaguely involves some
facts, like the imperfections in the analog circuits of the original gear
being discussed. Of course, they miss out on the idea that, since analog
circuits aren't perfect, there would be subtle differences between two
analog devices, even of the same model. Still, the DX7 isn't analog. It is
100% digital. The waveforms of the DX7 were generated mathematically by a
CPU, not from oscillators. The modulation of the operators took place
mathematically inside the DX7 before they ever became real sounds, and, when
they became real sounds, they were rendered using digital to analog
conversion circuits, just like the ones on your audio interface. The DX7 was
a very simple-purpose computer, with an attached MIDI control keyboard,
running an entirely  software-based synthesizer engine. The FM7 is an
emulator of the original DX7 CPU and software. Everything that happens
inside the plug in produces mathematically identical results to the
original. It even responds to the same MIDI CC and SysEx commands, and will
accept data dumps via SysEx. The only real difference between the DX7 and
FM7 are the D/A converters on the original DX7, and the D/A converters on
your audio interface, which are profoundly superior. Have you loaded the
factory presets bank on the FM7? The patches sound identical to an original
DX7, and by that, I mean they sound like thin plastic crap.

I don't doubt that you hear something, though. The thing is, I don't think
that you have correctly identified the cause. You can make your software
instruments sound much better, though, if you take time to think carefully
about what's involved in shaping the over-all sound.

Part of what you hear is your audio interface. If you're using a low-end
interface, the quality of the analog signal that is produced by its digital
to analog converters might not have the character that you'd like for the
software instruments or samples that you're using. I'm sure you're aware of the endless discussions of better A/D converters on high-end interfaces for
getting a good take from an instrument or mic. The difference in those is
indisputable. People only argue about which character they prefer, but there
is practically no argument that the higher-end interfaces give a better
result. Going the other way, digital to analog converters aren't as
difficult to make, and so we get very good sound for very cheap equipment.
Still, there is better d/a conversion out there. You should check out nicer

Secondly, and I don't know how old you are, so please pardon me if I'm
telling you stuff that you already know, but one thing that I've noticed
with many people that are starting out on modern keyboard workstations and
DAWs, is that they know very little about legacy studio recording and mixing
processes and techniques. That isn't important if your main interest is
focused more on the music than the specific sound, but, for someone that
cares about the sound, that 1000 foot preset view won't satisfy them.
They're very used to dialing up a sound, like an FM piano preset on a
keyboard, and just having it sound fairly good. For someone like that, when they go back and listen to a recording from the 80's, made with a real DX7,
it sounds like what they have on their keyboard or software instrument, a
little bit, but not quite. Even if they have a modeled software instrument
,like FM7, it won't sound exactly like what they heard on that 80's song.
The reason isn't so much because the FM7 isn't the DX7, but its because, in
this case, they aren't recording and mixing like they're in a circa 1980's

The original DX7 sounded bad. It sounded thin. It almost never sounded like
a real instrument, except for some mallet and bell type sounds. People
didn't use the crap out of it because it was a supremely wonderful
instrument, the likes the world will never see again. They used it because
it was a new sound (people had heard enough Rhodes and Wurlitzer pianos to
last them for a while), it was inexpensive (about $1500, very cheap for a
polyphonic synth at the time), and, since it was digital, it didn't drift
out of tune like analog synths would. If you were in 1984, and you wanted an
FM7 on your record, there are a few ways that you'd go about it.

If you were in a hurry, such as using it for an overdub, you'd hook up the
DX7, and track its cheap and thin sound direct. It would continue to sound
cheap and thin until the time came to mix the multitrack. When you started
mixing, the first thing that you'd do is to really get to work with the EQ.
If you've never recorded a real DX7, you might not know how noisy its
wonderfully authentic post D/A amplifier is. You wouldn't believe how much
high frequency hiss you'll get. So, you need to roll that off with a high
shelving EQ, but, you can't be too steep with it, or else you'll take away
too much of the signature brightness in the tones that it produces. Next,
that FM piano preset is so wonderfully dynamic, which is really expressive, but that also means that it will be berried in the mix unless you really hit it with compression...a lot of compression. Now that you've got the dynamics
worked out, though, you notice that that horrible  hiss is back, since
compressing the DX7 also brought up the noise floor of not only the DX7, but
the tape, too. You EQ a little more, and maybe use an expander or gate to
hide the hiss on the track when the keyboard player wasn't actually playing.
It sounds cleaner, but it still has a crap thin tone. So, you need chorus.
Everyone used chorus on the DX7 pianos. The DX7 had no built-in effects, but
it should have, since almost no one ever used those sounds raw. If they
didn't use chorus, they used heavy gated reverb. Anyway, back to the mix.
Now, you have a mixed track of a simple FM piano performance. Of course, the
fact that you were tracking to tape adds a certain character, mostly the
weird EQ curve that is applied to it in association with the Dolby noise
reduction that you're trying to use to overcome its own hissy noise floor.
Once the mix is finished, someone will master the mix, and part of that will
involve a multiband compressor using tube amplifiers. The tubes will add
distortion to the tone of the whole thing, but some people actually like the fuzzy sound of the harmonics that are added by overdriving the signal just a bit, so a little of that might add an additional mark on the track's sound. If you ended up listening to the song on vinyl, since it was the 80's, there
would be additional post-mix EQ and drastic dynamic compression applied so
that the track would be louder than the popping and crackling noise floor of
the vinyl, and also so that there weren't any drastic peeks in the sound
that could cause the needle to jump out of the groove. This all colors the
track, and contributes to what someone might associate as the sound of the
DX7, even though the DX7 was just the seed in a long sequence of processing
that formed the finished sound.

Now, that is just for someone that wanted a simple FM piano. If you were a
serious keyboard player going in somewhere to track a song that featured FM
piano as a primary instrument, then you probably wouldn't be using a DX7.
Instead, you'd be using one of the Yamaha TX rack units. The TX816, for
example, combined 8 DX7 synth engines, complete with independent outputs.
What a lot of people would do is to hook up their controller, set all of the TX modules to the same patch, and slightly detune them from each other. Some
people would also make other tweaks, like slightly changing the velocity
response of each module. Then, you feed all of those to a mixer where you
create a sub-mix by panning the 8 TX modules around in the stereo field.
Then, instead of tracking the modules directly, you track the stereo output
of the sub-mix.  This is like recording a huge, stereo, thick-sounding DX7
ensemble. What you get on tape is a really thick and glossy sound that is
similar to using a stereo chorus on one DX7, but doesn't have so many of the
subtle harsh frequency beating artifacts of using a stereo chorus on a
single DX7, since each of the modules in the rack can be independently tuned
to a pleasant sounding offset. When you get to the mix, you still need to
clean up the track a bit, but there was less hiss on the TX modules than the
DX7s. Still, you have compression and EQ working. You still have the
mastering considerations, and any post-mastering processing that made it in
to the medium where you heard the recording, like Vinyl, radio, film, etc.

The point of all of this is that the older stuff didn't sound better to you because it was better than what you have now. The older stuff sounded better in many cases because it went through many layers of strategic processing by
people that, in most cases, knew how to mix and process the material that
they were given in order to maximize the good and minimize the bad. You can
select an FM7 preset, and can play that through your monitors, but most
presets aren't going to factor in everything that an experience mix or
mastering engineer would do to make it fit the situation. Plus, in the case of the second example above, you'd need 8 instances of FM7 running to mimic
what you heard on that 80's song.

If you really want to make that classic FM piano sound in Sonar, and do it
totally authentic, then try this. Load the factory presets bank in an
instance of FM7, and call up the piano1 patch. Create a new bus, and call it keyboard sub-mix. Set the output of your FM7 track to the keyboard sub-mix.
Now, clone the FM7 track 7 additional times, so to simulate the 8 DX7
engines available in your simulated TX816 rack. Go to FM7 instances 2
through 8, and use the fine detune parameter to detune them from instance 1,
which will be the fundamental pitch of the ensemble. Detune will shift the
tuning in semitones. I suggest detuning them like this: +4, -4, +8, -8,
+12, -12, and use your imagination with instance 8. Now, pan each instance
to a different stereo position. I suggest going like this: left 20, right
20, left 40, right 40, left 60, right 60, left 80, right 80. Finally, so
that you can play them all at once, manually arm and turn on input echo for
all of the tracks. If you don't do this, you'll only be able to play one
instance at a time with your MIDI controller. Now, you have a simulated
TX816 rack, and the keyboard sub-mix bus simulates the stereo signal coming
in from your TX816 sub-mixer. Next, put the Cakewalk tape sim on the
keyboard sub-mix bus as an insert effect, to simulate the FM7s being played back from tape. Set the keyboard sub-mix bus's EQ to post-effects, and tweak it to taste. I suggest that you, at minimum, roll off the frequencies below 150Hz a bit. Thankfully, the FM7 doesn't produce any hiss (wonder if NI ever got a request to simulate that), so no need to attenuate the highs. Add the LP64 multiband compressor to the keyboard sub-mix's effects chain, since it
models tube distortion when amplifying. Use the global controls on the
compressor to squish the dynamics of the keyboard sub-mix a lot. Add a new
send to the keyboard sub-mix bus, selecting to create a new stereo bus. This will be your aux send for the chorus effect. On the new chorus bus, add the
Sonitus modulator to the bus, and configure it as a stereo chorus. The
default modulation rate is too high, so slow it down to almost 0. Change the chorus send level on the keyboard sub-mix until you have the balance right.
You won't need very much, since the 8 simulated modules in your simulated
TX816 will be detuned and chorusing a fair amount on their own. That should
get you most of the way there. After you've recorded the other parts, and
when you wrap up the mix, use the LP64 multiband compressor on the master
bus, and overdrive it a little. If you're really after the 80's, then
remember to use very little enforcement to lower frequencies, so maybe
select the heavy mastering preset, and turn bands 2 through 4 up another 2
DB. To go for that fairly well recorded 4-track home demo sound, substitute
the tape sim on the master bus in place of the LP64 multiband compressor,
and turn up the master bus's output level until just before you can start to
hear distortion. That's your simulated tape saturation. If you try this, I
hope that you have fun. Also, I hope that you save your setup as a track
template, because a setup like this takes a while to assemble. Hey, nothing
like picking a preset, right? Except it just isn't as authentic sounding.
*smile* This level of detail is just too much for what most people need, so
most people don't bother anymore.

It isn't just the DX7. You mentioned the warmth of the Fairlight CMI. The
Fairlight was a revolutionary machine for its time. Still, thankfully, those
days are gone, and we have better machines. If you think cleaning up a DX7
sounds hard, you might not want to dream too much about the Fairlight.
Again, the mix engineer saves the day. Its 8-bit digital to analog
converters produce horrible buzzing aliasing artifacts. You can try to EQ
that out, but, since most of the samples are recorded around 12Khz, there
won't typically be any strong natural harmonics above 6-8Khz. So, by
equalizing away the aliasing, you make its very muffled sounds seem even
more muffled. So you might try to make the weak sounds larger with chorus,
or lots and lots of reverb to get over the fact that they have almost no
high frequency content. I think that the cheap keyboard gear was mostly what
brought on the massive reverb and super effects-washes of most music from
the 80's. Lots of effects make crap sounds better. Ugh. Who wants a
Fairlight. Google around and read about how long it took to boot, or how
slow it was loading samples from those huge 8 inch floppy disks.

If you're wanting to improve your sound, then read some books on mixing. It will help a lot! Even old stuff is great. The ideas are absolutely the same.
We track to digital instead of tape, and the effects are in the computer
instead of in a rack next to the console. The processes work almost
identically, though.

Have you heard some of the multitracks of pop songs that have been floating around the Internet recently? Go listen to some of those raw. It will really open your ears as to what the right sort of strategic processing can do for
normally uninspiring sounds.

Regarding the drums, you know, the original topic of the thread, I can't
believe that no one has brought up the PX7 percussion plug in Sonar 8.5.
That combines lots of effects that are commonly used for processing drum
mixes in to one plug. They also have lots of ready to go presets. And so
much about the over-all sound of drums is about processing! Most of the drum
softsynths don't have a lot in the way of built-in effects. Even when they
do, you usually only get the complete processing if you use their main
stereo output. You have a lot more control if you let the synth use the
individual outputs, which usually correspond to each of the mics that would be used when tracking a physical drum kit in a physical studio. Then, it is
just like you have a multitrack recording of a drum session, and you can
bring all of your mixing tools to bare in order to get the sound that you


-----Original Message-----
From: ddots-l-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ddots-l-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On
Behalf Of Steve Wicketts
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 6:00 PM
To: ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [ddots-l] Re: getting more punch on drum tracks

Hi Mike,

The reason I've been discussing the issue of softsynth soft sound is I don't
under stand why my new tracks for my live Shows is taking so long to have
the presence that I get when using the Motif.

I'd never consider myself a producer, I'm a musician who can't yet afford a
producer, and may sometimes ask obvious questions.

I can't speak the science of sound like you and the other guys do, I just
know what sounds good.

An example is, The FM7 does not sound like the DX7 even though they are both
digital processors.
There is a difference and that difference is the warmth and depth of the
sound. The DX7 sounds better.

The TR909 and TR808 still are hot property, once again there's a warmth to
the sound.

I can only explain myself in simple terms,, If I was buying a sports car, I wouldn't expect to only be able to do 10 mile per hour unless I add extra
boosters and a turbo.
I want a sports car that gives me 150 miles per hour.
I don't have any desire to know what's going on under the bonnet, I just
want 150 miles per hour.
If you know the car can do 150 miles per hour, then you also know that 10 is
going to be a breeze.

The Roland R8 from the 1980's gave you a snare which was the equivalent to a
pretty good sports car.
25 years on I'm hearing software drums that are the equivalent to a bicycle.

I am getting close to the sound I want to hear, It's not an over produced
sound I'm after, it's a live feel sound for my backing tracks.

I want the crowd at my Shows stomping their feet not tapping their glasses.

It's reassuring to hear that others on the list have been experiencing the
similar issues, it's also reassuring that their are experts like yourself
who can explain the process.

Sorry if my questions have been bugging you.

Steve W

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Mike Christer <mailto:m-christer@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
        To: ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
        Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 12:50 PM
        Subject: [ddots-l] Re: getting more punch on drum tracks

        Hey guys!

I was wondering about this anti-software snare drum thread, and came
to the inevitable conclusion...

        Surely this discussion is quite redundant?
        Not everyone wants or needs a kick ass snare, and there are
literally hundreds of plug-ins out there that'll give you the appropriate

        Isn't it simply a question of processing?

                ----- Original Message -----
                From: Steve Wicketts
                To: ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
                Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 11:40 PM
                Subject: [ddots-l] Re: getting more punch on drum tracks

                Hi Phil,

                Will be upgrading to Sonar 8.5 in the next few Months.

Phil, my remarks about the quality of software snares, is me
having a gripe about Superior and the other software companies.
I apologise if it sounds like I'm aiming my gripe at you as
that's not my intention at all.
The HSC set you created for Superior is brilliant and if we
are talking accessible drum software, there's nothing to touch Superior.
                Superior gives more overall control to a producer than if
there was a real drummer in the drum room.

My problem isn't just with superior, it's with most software
companies that create drums.
                Most software drums don't seem to have the snares beefy
enough for me and they don't have enough attack.
                It's like they sample a snare then whilst editing they
decide to cut off the sound of the stick striking the snare.
                Maybe they don't want the time delay between the stick
hitting and the snare responding, well, that time delay applies to a real
                the Thing I don't understand about Superior, they did an
excellent job with the toms and the kick drums, as both toms and kicks sound
really beefy and show a lot of attitude.
                You can get the snares to show a little attitude but it
shouldn't have to takes several effects to make this happen.

                Moan over, the first one of 2010.
                Steve W

                        ----- Original Message -----
                        From: Phil Muir
                        To: ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
                        Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 6:55 PM
                        Subject: [ddots-l] Re: getting more punch on drum

Also, if you have a newer version of Sonar such as 8
or, 8.5 then, you can always add a bit of tube saturation to your drums.
The Tube warmer is to me at least, a good enough reason to upgrade to a
newer version of Sonar.

                        Regards, Phil Muir
                        Accessibility Training
                        Telephone: US (615) 713-2021
                        Mobile: UK +44-7968-136-246

                                -----Original Message-----
                                From: ddots-l-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:ddots-l-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]On Behalf Of Steve Wicketts
                                Sent: 18 January 2010 09:27
                                To: ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [ddots-l] Re: getting more punch on
drum tracks

                                Hi Len,

The thing I've found about software drums is
they're not usually as punchy as top spec hardware.
Drumcure (not accessible) is the only Drums
software I've come across that really does kick hard.

                                Regarding Sonic Reality Oceanway Drums, I
don't believe the Sonic Reality snares are any better than Superior.

                                To give the Superior snare more attack:
                                1: make sure you are using all the audio
tracks across all the Drums.
                                2: I believe three of the microphones are
purely for the snare, these all need to be assign to one bus.
                                4: on the Snare Bus Channel, go to the
effects column, add either Sonitus Compression (Drum Destroyer) or Sonitus
Compressor (Vintage DBX).
                                5: Still on the Snare Bus Channel, put the
cursor 1 right of the effect column so you are on the Compressor and then
press your application key (this will ensure that this next effect that we
are about to add is in front of the compressor.
                                6: Add sonitus Gate, select (Zero One
Default Gate)
                                This should not only give the snare some
body, it should add a little punch.

                                Superior Bass drums will not need any
                                Using HSC, go to Mixer presets.
arrow down to Kick sub menu, now arrow down
to muscle and press enter and this will blow your speakers off the wall.

The guys at Toontrack may have only spent 5
minutes on sampling the Snares but they spent Days on the Bass Drums.
                                Hope this helps.

                                Steve W

                                        ----- Original Message -----
                                        From: Len Viljoen
                                        To: ddots-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2010 6:49
                                        Subject: [ddots-l] getting more
punch on drum tracks

                                        Hi guys. I use superior drummer on
my tracks. I need to get more punch or power or thickness or whatever it's
called on my drum tracks. Especially my snare drum sounds a bit thin. Any
ideas on wich plugins I could use or what form of eq could remedy the
problem? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

                                        Kind regards

                                        Len viljoen

                                        __________ Information from ESET
NOD32 Antivirus, version of virus signature database 4781 (20100118)

                                        The message was checked by ESET
NOD32 Antivirus.


                        __________ Information from ESET NOD32 Antivirus,
version of virus signature database 4787 (20100119) __________

                        The message was checked by ESET NOD32 Antivirus.


        __________ Information from ESET NOD32 Antivirus, version of virus
signature database 4791 (20100120) __________

        The message was checked by ESET NOD32 Antivirus.


To leave the list, click on the immediately following link:
If this link doesn't work then send a message to:
and in the Subject line type
For other list commands such as vacation mode,
click on the immediately following link:
ddots-l-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx?subjectúq or
send a message, to
and in the Subject line type

To leave the list, click on the immediately following link:
If this link doesn't work then send a message to:
and in the Subject line type
For other list commands such as vacation mode,
click on the immediately following link:
ddots-l-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx?subject=faq or
send a message, to
and in the Subject line type

Interested in guitar lessons? Im me at Blindboyblake1.
To leave the list, click on the immediately following link:
If this link doesn't work then send a message to:
and in the Subject line type
For other list commands such as vacation mode,
click on the immediately following link:
ddots-l-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx?subjectúq or
send a message, to
and in the Subject line type

To leave the list, click on the immediately following link:
If this link doesn't work then send a message to:
and in the Subject line type
For other list commands such as vacation mode, click on the immediately following link:
ddots-l-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx?subject=faq or
send a message, to ddots-l-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
and in the Subject line type

Other related posts: