Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Quick Workarond: fixing the Drum Pitch when Mixing.

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to talk about how to fix an audio or midi drum part, under the point of view of the Pitch/Tuning.
Let's start off obviously by saying that the drumset must be perfectly tuned the way we want BEFORE starting reconding (Youtube is full of tutorials on how to tune a drumset), and the same applies to drum samples, I mean, if we choose a drum sampler for our project, the sounds should be the right ones, alright?

Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world.
Unfortunately we live in a world in which people sends you their bad recorded, bad sounding tracks and ask you to do some voodoo magic to make them sound like Machine Head.
Sometimes they even send you the wave files of exported midi drums, with sounds that seems taken straight from Guitar Pro.

What to do? Since the beginning of audio recording, engineers have always come out with keen workarounds to fix these problems (it's a matter of survival), since everyone who ever worked in this sector will know that 99% of the times the material, the deadlines and the working conditions will be "less-than-ideal".

Today we're focusing on the tuning problems: sometimes the snare has a pitch that is too high, but more often the sound is too low, washed out, because the drummer can't tune his drumset and thought that leaving the skins loose would have made them sound "HUUUUUGE".

The ideal would be to obviously leave the sound as natural as possible, because every step we bring a sound farther from it origin, the more it will sound digitally reconstructed, which is bad.
Keep in mind we're talking about emergency situations, the ones you can't fix even with a pretty steep eq intervention.

The only way left is to Pitch Shift: whether we are talking about a real snare (or toms, or kick..) or a sampled one (but the real ones accept this kind of processing better), we can load a Pitch Shifter on the insert of the single track and start fiddling around, trying to raise the pitch of 1 or 2 semitones to make it pop out a little bit better from the mix, or to lower it a bit if the sound is too thin and "typewriter style".
The obvious aim is to make the drum sound more natural and "in the context", and we can use any of the Pitch Shifters bundled in any DAW, keeping in mind that exceeding with the shift will result in a horribly degraded sound.

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