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Bob Elliott
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Bob Elliott

4/27/2009 12:05:24 AM

The Stones
Sly and Rolling

I think I said it wrong the other day about the drum machines. It's not about those only or even necessarily. It's about unpredictability in the sound.

There's a Riot Goin' On

a beautiful unquantified mess..."You Caught Me Smiling," "Running Away," "Family Affair"... this is purposefully sloppy and always in pocket, and no tone is ever the same...

"Beggar's Banquet" "Sticky Fingers" "Exile on Main Street"

I can't realy get through it without a high human content like these...

I need that expert sloppiness....

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4/27/2009 4:04:22 AM

New York Dolls --- The undisputed kings of sloppiness..

Small Faces, Beatles, Bob Dylan, the list is long.

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Bob Elliott

4/27/2009 4:07:23 AM

...and beautiful.

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Conversation Suicide

4/27/2009 4:35:14 AM

One of my favorite drummers I worked with so far, was SLOPPY as hell -- it worked GREAT for the punk sound we were going for. Check out DUI GUY, it'll take less than TWO minutes of your time....

Anyhoo, I definitely thing there's a place for sequencers/canned beats/drum machines/and the like. A band like Nine Inch Nails requires them for many of their songs....

BUT analog drummers provide that REAL human feeling that MUCH of the bluesy-er music out there needs. THE STONEs are TRUE Rock & Roll / BLUES from back in the day. I LOVE that they were instrumental in bringin' GREAT American Blues KINGS like Howlin' Wolf forward, into the LIGHT.

Took some BRITS who worshipped American Blues music, and some of their ROCK & ROLL flavorings on top of timeless CLASSIC riffs from that genre, to BREAK The BLUES to the mainstream..... Of course, racism/classism was a factor in the speed with which GREATS like Howlin' Wolf were recognized by Society as a hole.....

I just wish The STONES could re-capture that feel their EARLY stuff had!

Kinda scares ya, if even powerful musicians like THAT can lose some steam with the years, how much longer do unknown/indies like ourselves have, before the AGE takes over..... They can get away with it because they were successful when YOUNG....it's NOT the case for those of us who are still waiting for a larger audience before we die....

BUT YES --- Analog drummers...THE BEST way to go! Even though they can be real flakes....

-Blabba Mouth

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Bob Elliott

4/27/2009 4:55:24 AM

That drummer's a blast, Man.

Whole thing sounds fun...

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Hop On Pop

4/27/2009 6:57:46 PM ---- Updated 4/27/2009 6:58:26 PM

That Deee-Lite album was pretty great, though.
(seriously. there's more there than "Groove is in the Heart")

In general, I prefer real drummers, but there are songs that DEMAND a machine. As noted: NIN, Ministry, Einstruide Neubatten, etc...

Of course, if you don't like that kind of music, then the argument holds no relevance.

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Sly Witt

4/27/2009 7:43:42 PM

oh, that sly....

I really miss having a 'live' drummer around especially when I'm playing piano as a rhythm instrument. There's a back and forth that I feel with a live drummer that adds something but I'm rarely able to hook up with a live drummer these days. It's the weakest part of my songs, I think, because I'm just not that good of a drum 'programmer'.

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Bob Elliott

4/27/2009 11:19:44 PM

Well, Todd, like I was saying, it's not the drums, it's the recording as a whole. Is there enough unpredictable unquantized tone and pulse to make it complex enough for a human brain to not be able to pin it down easily.

That can be done with some machines, but you have to have those unharnessed elements or it will end up being way too quickly digested.

And so I like that Sly and the Family Stone "Riots Goin' On" sloppiness, STones sloppiness, and I don't know if you can make long lasting recordings without some of the complexity that comes from much of it being unquantized.

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4/28/2009 1:46:43 PM

Long live, living drummers. machines are fun for practicing or demos, and have their place in some recorded music, but ...... it sounds better, feels better, and lives better with a real person. (for me anyway)

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Sly Witt

4/28/2009 2:38:57 PM

There was a recent thread where folks were talking about production. I had commented that 'some of my favorites' on IAC had less than perfect production but were great songwriters AND that it would take a GREAT producer to keep their 'freshness' while improving the 'production quality'. I was specifically thinking of Bob and Steve Ison. The looseness is a part of the charm of the music.

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Bob Elliott

4/29/2009 5:02:42 AM ---- Updated 4/29/2009 5:03:12 AM

You know, for my music, it's all about what I can sing best to. That sort of shapes everything. Singing is tricky for me to sound any good, and years have taught me not to do a lot of things others can probably do.

For instance, I have a hard time sounding any good against a too tight track...

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The Man With No Band

4/29/2009 7:21:32 AM ---- Updated 4/29/2009 7:27:33 AM

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4/29/2009 7:46:23 AM

I don't know, it looks like I'm the only guy who feels this way but I find the whole drum machine vs real drums question to be totally overrated. I played in several live bands in the 90s that had about a dozen different drummers during the course, that was always the big problem, finding one who didn't bring the band down cause he couldn't keep the beat or just didn't absorb the arrangements.

I love the reliability of drum machines and also feel that anybody who learns how to use them properly (writing their own sequences and such) can usually use the swing function or other tools available to add a human feel.

My music often got criticized for having drum machines, then when I did a project with a band with live drums called Ogopogo http://iacmusic.com/ogopogo , the songs were good all the same cause I helped write them and I'm proud of what we did, but there was nobody saying wow Scott, live drums. So I tend to write off the criticism about drum machines that I got in the past to just artists being bitchy with other outspoken artists as they tend to be.

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Jeff Allen Myers

4/29/2009 8:17:53 AM ---- Updated 4/29/2009 8:21:53 AM

A clue that the Drums sound good is nobody mentions them..... Real drums will always be better...unless of course the music is married to them, NIN as Todd Pointed out. However, I feel this is more a function of the Genre. If you are doing Rock/Alternative etc I believe real drums will always elevate the song. My latest song. "Bye Bye Lullaby" uses drum loops to very good effect, I wrote a bass line to fit like a glove and to the layman it is a real/complete rhythm section playing an original tune. In fact it is a real drummer, recorded on a real set. I just never met the guy, and he is not aware he is playing with me :)

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Bob Elliott

4/29/2009 10:38:49 PM

well, I was trying to move this topic away from the idea of drum machines or no to what I think is more the issue: is there any sloppiness?

Last track I did(Endless) I used electronic drums for most of the drum sounds, but had to play them in real time by hand. In that song there is just a pile up of inexactitude that serves the song. I had thought about going back to program it all, but didn't think it would turn out better. Thought it would turn out too tight.

Zep was sorta sloppy, too.

I think it's kind of essential in rock and folk and even soul.

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Jeff Allen Myers

4/29/2009 10:56:48 PM

Well I guess it needs to be "controlled sloppiness" :)

I am no drummer, but on many of my songs the drums were recorded by me playing a roland SPD-6 percussion pad by hand. The bass drum, snare, hi-hat, etc... It was fun, but it sounds a bit artificial as the sounds are from a drum machine. It was definately "humanized" :)

I know what you are saying Bob, you need a little 'anticipation" and "energy" sometimes if its too perfect it loses it. The top notch session drummers get this by constantly mixing things up...

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Tom O'Brien

4/30/2009 12:04:59 AM

There's something more to whether a drum machine or a drummer is "better." A drum machine might give you a perfect beat, but afterwards, you can't sit around and go, "Man, that totally rocked! (or grooved, or swung)" Computers can make music, but isn't the whole idea that we're reaching into an otherwise unknowable part of ourselves when we play and listen to music? Music is one of the most spiritual aspects of humanity. We don't even know why we do it, but we do it.

Consider this as a distinction: in geometry, a line, in its perfect definition, has no beginning and no end, and no thickness. Now we can draw something that represents a line, but in drawing it, it necessarily has to have thickness, and it has to both begin and end. A human being can understand the geometric perfection that is a line, but a computer can only present a lame symbol for it. In the same way, a human being can understand the infinite nature of rhythm and all its ramifications, while a drum machine can only make a lame representation of it.

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4/30/2009 3:20:37 AM

I don't hear that many artists that are particularly rhythmically savvy.

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Kevin White

4/30/2009 3:31:21 AM

Charlie Watts is a drum machine ... just a very early model, that occasionally got blitz faced.

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Jeff Allen Myers

4/30/2009 4:29:04 AM

"I don't hear that many artists that are particularly rhythmically savvy."

Not all artists are drummers, but they need to be rhythmically savvy. If they are not , they suck as musicians. You need that quality to sing or play an instrument....

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