Sampling is such a given in modern music that we probably don’t give it much thought these days – lifting a musical loop, breakbeat or even spoken word sample from someone else’s record is almost second nature to producers and has been commonplace since the explosion of sampling in the early 1980s.
However, these samples are available to anyone else who has that record, sample pack or library. There’s something nice about creating your own, but the often clinical recordings that are so easy to make these days can lack a bit character that we’re so used to hearing on our favourite soul, jazz, funk and Motown records.
In this article, I’ll try to assimilate the sound of the 60s/70s drum recordings that we often reach for, starting out with a modern multi-track recording. A lot of what I’m discussing here has been picked up from Hal Ritson of Replay Heaven/The Young Punx, who is a dab-hand at this sort of processing. You can hear him at work in this great Computer Music video or a more specific Music Tech Magazine one focusing on drums, both of which were a great inspiration in writing this.
I’m going to try and turn a modern, sterile recording into something with a bit more character using only plugins, most of them native to Live. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this recording at all but I want it to sound like it was recorded in the 60s or 70s in a non-optimum environment, like many funk, soul, funk, jazz and Motown records were.
I’m starting off with some stems from a recording done a few years back. The kit was recorded without any processing and, as they are at the moment, sound quite bland. I’m just using the kick, snare and overheads tracks for simplicity, but if you have hi-hats, toms and other percussion, you can apply this technique to it, too. Close-miking techniques were not standard practice until the mid-80s. So although I’m going to use the kick drum stem, the overhead microphones will be the dominant sound.
To start off, I’m going to solo add an instance of PSP Vintage Warmer to each track using the Mix semiDriven Tape setting. This is a subtle yet effective plugin, simulating the sound of light tape saturation.
Now I’m going to group the tracks (using cmd + g while they’re shift-selected) and apply another instance of Vintage Warmer to the group, this time using the Track Tape Normal preset. I’ve added Live’s Glue Compressor, adjusting the threshold to match my material. I’ve left the Attack, Release and Ratio values as they are and have enabled the Soft Clip.
Next I’m going to add the Max4Live Convolution Reverb on a send/return channel. I’ve loaded the Old Plate preset, turning the wet value to 100%. I’m sending the Drum Group to this Return and using the Utility plugin afterwards to reduce the result down to mono. Although my overheads are recorded in stereo, often plate reverbs used in the recordings we are aiming to simulate were a mono send/return channel.
I’m going to use Live’s EQ8 to roll off some bottom and top end. Older recordings don’t have the same sonic profile as modern ones, so shaving off some sub and higher frequencies can get us a bit closer to that. I’m using the 12 db/oct low and high cut filters so as to not be too drastic. You can also use this opportunity to boost/attenuate certain frequencies if you like. If you have any other EQs you prefer to use then that’s fine, particularly channel-strip emulations.
Our break is sounding good, but not quite convincing yet. I’ve added some Waves plugins: firstly the CLA-76 Compressor, using the Rock My Snare preset, and the SSL G-Channel using a tweaked version of the Snare Drum preset, importantly disabling the gate.
Create a blank audio track and select the input in the I/O section to Resample and record the results to it. In other DAWs you can Bounce In Place (Logic) or simply export the results as an audio file and re-import it.