DIY Recording Technology

DIY Tools for Pro-Sounding Recordings (Part 2)

To read part 1, click here.

Laying a Foundation

We have witnessed a revolutionary change in modern recording in the last decade: the ability for anyone to have access to affordable means to record a song from the convenience of their own home. Despite that, one big challenge that remains is achieving a commercial, studio-quality sound in such an small, DIY environment. A professional recording studio can offer things like an insulated environment, gear, engineer — access to equipment and expertise that’s out of reach for the home studio enthusiast. I do recommend utilizing a recording studio if you’re just starting out. You can gain a vast amount of knowledge and hands on experience from Engineers and Producers and can develop a sense of the do’s and don’ts.

Drums are the essential backbone to a recording. Bands spend big money on studio time for full range of studio room environment, microphones, etc. Many factors are involved in tracking drums from microphone placement techniques to mixing. For a tracking drummer, they know all too well how time consuming this can be to achieve perfection. Therefore, If you are looking to add drums to your song or can’t afford a budget in a studio environment, there are tools available.

First, you’ll need a computer and digital audio workstation (DAW). For the sake of this article, I will refer to using an Apple computer with at least 1GB of RAM and Garageband, a free preloaded DAW included in MAC OS X. A company to emerge at the forefront of drum software samplers is Toontrack. They offer a program called, EZ Drummer ($179.99 MSRP), a scaled down version of their flagship, Superior Drummer 2.0. It is essential a DAW within a DAW with access to its own plug-ins like compressors, etc. You can typically find a copy of EZD for about $79.99 on sale; however, there are no trial or academic versions available at this time. Expansion packs are available to provide specific drum kits for various types of music such as Drum Kit From Hell designed specifically for Hard Rock and Metal. This revolutionary software offers a wide variety of multi-sampled (16-bit, 44.1kHz) drums recorded at the Avatar Studios in New York, using vintage and modern equipment. Keep in mind these “samples” are from LIVE professional, studio drummers in a REAL studio environment and are NOT synthesized.  It works with Garageband 3 or above. (However, Garageband’s own restrictions limits its ability to take advantage of multi-channel routing and MIDI channel filtering.)

EZD gives you access to kit constructions tools: e.g. microphone bleeds, internal individual drum mixing capabilities, plug-ins, and ability to create and tailor your own drum kit, among many other things. Furthermore, EZD gives you access to fully editable MIDI files of beats that you can drag and drop to construct patterns. This is great for guitarist seeking to work out riff phrasing for song construction. How can EZD help a drummer? He/She has the option to hook drum triggers to a MIDI controlling device to the computer and use EZD as a “brain” and multi-track recorder providing amazing clarity and perfect room environment every-time. The Swedish Metal group, Meshuggah, used Toontrack to record the drums for their ObZen masterpiece, “Bleed.” It would not surprise this writer if they used Toontrack for the entire drum tracking. 😉 Chris Adler from Lamb of God also uses Toontrack, “I’ve struggled for years programming drums in my studio for writing purposes. There is nothing worse than waiting to program a simple beat to begin auditioning ideas. These products not only make it easy, the quality is unreal.” (Source: Toontrack)

Conclusively, you can achieve professional studio quality drums for your recording for around $80. EZD can provide you with the tools and resources for achieving your goals in releasing a professional sounding product.


— Dana Presson II, Only The Dust Remains