Of Drum Samples & Mixing Drums with Haldor Grunberg
Greetings, everyone! We recently had a fantastic chat with none other than Haldor Grunberg from Satanic Audio. Now, the Satanic Audio Drum Samples are piping hot and available for you to snatch up. Haldor boasts an impressive resume, having collaborated with renowned bands like Behemoth, Me And That Man, Dopelord, and more.
Today, we're delving into the depths of his drum recording techniques, demystifying the art of using samples, sharing insights for beginners, and engaging in a lively discussion about the essential role of Drum Samples, as well as those moments when they take a back seat. Get ready for an enlightening ride!
Photo credit: Oskar Szramka
Prior to embarking on the journey of layering Drum Samples into your mix, what essential steps should be taken in preparation?
The first thing is to try to make everything to make the recorded drums sound as good as possible. Experiment with reverb and a short delay with a single reflection. Delay combined with reverb can add a lot of space. The second thing is to clean up the tom tracks if we are going to add samples to them. Sometimes, close-up recordings like snare bottom may not have been recorded. In such cases, you can try to extract hits from the overheads or use software like Massey DRT.
As you initiate the process of incorporating samples into your mix, what approach do you adopt? Could you also outline the routing strategy for each individual sample?
The most important thing is to determine what we need the samples for. Sometimes we want to assist the drummer, sometimes add attack to the drums, and sometimes add space using room samples (my favorite option). I often use two or three different groups of samples that complement each other. For example, one track may have a low snare with a focus on close mics to add depth to the snare. The second track, on the other hand, may mainly have room mics. There are really many possibilities. All sample tracks go to a percussion group with a compressor (or not) attached to it.
During a typical session, where do you typically discover the optimal balance? Do you tend to entirely replace the original elements, go 50/50 with samples, or merely add a touch of samples? Additionally, what factors should one consider when seeking that ideal balance – are there specific aspects to focus on or aspects to be cautious of?
I try not to completely replace the original tracks. Even if it sounds terrible, it can add some natural dynamics to the drummer's performance. Toms, in particular, are very sensitive to the addition of samples. From my experience, the best ratios are somewhere between 30/70 and 50/50.
For someone who is just beginning their journey, what would be your most significant piece of advice regarding the integration of live drums with samples?
The fundamental thing is to check the phase relationship between the samples and the original track. I always check whether the phase needs to be inverted in the samples. Additionally, it's essential to remember that the most impressive-sounding sample may not necessarily fit a particular song or album. It's important to listen and see if such an addition won't be distracting or out of place.
How do you determine if your mix has become excessively reliant on samples? Are there specific indicators or aspects to monitor closely?
There are plenty of albums that sound this way. It's challenging to pinpoint a specific album because there are many of them. I often encounter this in Deathcore, where the intention is for everything to be super aggressive, but in the end, it sounds flat and fails to evoke any emotions in me.
In today's music production landscape, what role do drum samples play, and why are they considered essential components of a modern mix?
In an ideal world, we wouldn't need them at all. We would always have a perfectly recorded, fantastic-sounding drum kit. Everything would be recorded on high-quality equipment in a studio with impeccable acoustics. Unfortunately, such situations don't happen too often, if at all. Additionally, samples and drum machines have been used for several decades and have become a part of the album production process. Often, it's not about making the album sound better, but rather about making it sound different.
Is there an example or scenario in which drum samples are not required at all in music production, or is their use considered almost ubiquitous in contemporary recording and mixing processes?
According to me, you can't definitively say that samples are ever necessary. Similarly, you can't say that they shouldn't be used. I had the opportunity to record an album in a rehearsal space with just one microphone on the drums and a guitar amplifier nearby. It didn't sound "objectively" good, but it had a unique character and atmosphere, and people wanted to listen to it. That's the album you linked to (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xihlEX1JlpI).