Why Quantizing Su*ks. Part Deux.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080708200645.htm

Not only does quantization suck, but MIDI in general. You can have a MIDI part perfectly lined up on the grid, and it still might not sound right.

I don’t use Q anymore. I’ll either manually fix the really bad notes, or just do a re-take. Unfortunately, being a heavy user of vsti’s I rely on MIDI – for now. I want to also dare myself to turn off the click

This is why I want a groove creator for MIDI tracks. Didn’t Cubase 3.5 VST have something like this, i.e. where I could select a playing style and it would modify the MIDI as it was being played back to conform to the selected style?

I don’t know enough about the way drummers play, for example, to hand modify the MIDI tracks to make them sound more realistic. Part of this is, I realize, in the design of the fills, etc. but other aspects are related to when they play ahead of the beat or behind the beat, etc.

I don’t know, maybe there’s a genre component to this. On any given day, are more people moved by a quantized Katy Perry tune or a live performance of a Chopin piano work? If the music is trying to get you up and dance, I think it’s probably easier to dance to roboto than rubato!

I’m not sure. Were the dance tunes of the early 60’s and 70’s less satisfying and compulsive to boogie than the more recent trends? It’s true the Disco movement relied on a steady beat but there was still a sense of groove to them that the more recent tunes lack. I find “Brickhouse” or “Get Down Tonight” FAR more enticing of boogieing than most of the more recent dance tunes

I’m just saying dance tunes have always tried to be exactly on the beat, even when they didn’t have computers to help them. Benny Goodman didn’t play rubato.

Nobody (I think) is making that sort of argument, but rather, that the slight timing differences between quantized dance music and non-quantized dance music actually have a marked effect on our perception and even enjoyment of them. Kind of like how many people prefer the “analog sound” with it’s distortion and flaws to the sound of digital, with its accuracy and perfection.

This article doesn’t seem to be referring to quantising so much as music expression and unexpected chord changes… though I understand that ‘expression’ can also include pushing and pulling of the timing, but I see rubato etc as being somewhat different to ‘non-quantised’…

Although the participants did not play instruments and considered themselves unmusical, their brains showed clear electric activity in response to musical changes (unexpected chords and changes in tonal key), which indicated that the brain was understanding the “musical grammar”. This response was enhanced, however, when the sonatas were played by musicians rather than a computer.

What I’m left wondering then is for example if a piece is played expressively by a concert pianist via MIDI, then quantised, using iterative quantising, would that still illicit the same neurological response?

Personally, for MIDI stuff I very often use iterative quantising - selectively over areas that are a little…err… loose :blush:

Sadly this is the usual non-musician myth. A computer is as good as the operator. Q sucks but Steely Dan did ok with a drum machine back in the very early eighties. Maybe you need a Linn Drum.
It doesn’t matter what a drummer does it’s how you work with him (or any other machine). It may sound like all your favourite tracks have great feel from any given session drummer but there are far more tracks that “suck” abandoned on studio archives, that the same session man did that just didn’t fit that job, than you think.
And most drummers are far more accurate than they get credit for in the pages of DAW forums.
If you want laid back then it’s easier to move the music slightly forward / faster than the drums.
However, with the really good session and performance drummers that follow the artists inflections around, it would be impossible to Q every nuance as there’d be thousands of movements per song.
Q sucks because real life Q isn’t as simple as many think.

PS. Getting the tempo right for the song is the most important. That late night idea mostly sounds naff in the morning because it’s not played at the same tempo as when the idea hit you.
If I can I will, when inspiration strikes, get my watch and count 15 seconds of tempo (and then X by 4) so I can be near the bullseye the next day. Good songs are, remember, only 10% inspiration.

But it does make a change to see that now drum machines are getting some stick instead of drummers. :mrgreen: Doesn’t that say something?

This is already available in SX3 / C4 / C5 / C6. Its called “groove quantize”

I get what you’re saying, but I guess I wasn’t clear enough. I’m a guitarist / bassist who’s played keys in more bands than I have guitar and marched saxophone in high school. I get music. I just don’t get the “science behind the art” of drumming.

For example, if you’re playing a 2-hit-per-tom run from the 10’ to the floor tom, the first hit is always slightly accented, probably due to the need to speed up the arm / wrist motion to get there from the last drum. If you want to increase tension, play the snare slightly ahead of the beat. Etc. I don’t know enough about these types of things to make my drumlines sound more realistic.

And, worse, since I’m not a drummer I don’t really know the “playing paradigm,” i.e. what are some of the trick fills that drummers use at the end of a verse, for example? As a result, I’m stuck with “robotic” sounding drumlines in a lot of my songs because I really don’t know any different.

Does this make sense?

I knew it was in an old version, but I didn’t realize it’s in my current version (4.5.2, though I’m going to buy the upgrade to 6 soon).

jamstix: http://www.rayzoon.com/ . IT generates and plays fills. And if you don’t like the fill (or groove, etc.) you can tell it either to recalculate or you can manually adjust it.

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/nov05/articles/jamstix.htm . Reviews an older version - it’s only gotten much better since then.

You may buy me a beer at some future time to thank me! :smiley:

P.S. And look at the price … it’s an investment in time to make it work (and not all that much time compared to some things like this), but not much else.

I get what you’re saying, but I guess I wasn’t clear enough. I’m a guitarist / bassist who’s played keys in more bands than I have guitar and marched saxophone in high school. I get music. I just don’t get the “science behind the art” of drumming.
For example, if you’re playing a 2-hit-per-tom run from the 10’ to the floor tom, the first hit is always slightly accented, probably due to the need to speed up the arm / wrist motion to get there from the last drum. If you want to increase tension, play the snare slightly ahead of the beat. Etc. I don’t know enough about these types of things to make my drumlines sound more realistic.
And, worse, since I’m not a drummer I don’t really know the “playing paradigm,” i.e. what are some of the trick fills that drummers use at the end of a verse, for example? As a result, I’m stuck with “robotic” sounding drumlines in a lot of my songs because I really don’t know any different.
Does this make sense?

There is science behind the art of all music. Classical music teachers can listen to a pupil who, to the normal ear appears to play beautifully and then spend a half hour pointing out seemingly unimportant details that make the music more vital. Drummers at the top of the game will spend considerable time going over their rolls and runs (that you mention) to get the inflections right and may have to do it again if they change their kit. And they don’t just play the kit. There’s the target audience, the room and the fellow artists to provide the right feel for. Only armed with a computer it’s a pretty tall order to reproduce all that

The first place you should look is to get some audio drums (or better still a mate who can play you some midi drums) on their own, grab from a solo or any tracks you record live by getting a drummer to play basic patterns. Put them into Cubase or Wavelab and just study the dynamic peak pattern where you will notice that the actual changes of dynamic are not as great as you would suppose. This is of primary importance to get anywhere near to drum realism. The dynamics are way more important than the Q. It’s only the last stroke of a rising roll that is significantly high and gives the false impression of a smoothish ramp. A lot can be done with the pencil tools on the velocity with small effort if you study only a little the dynamics of the real thing.
Look up Mike Dolbear or other drum forums to get the best tips on these things and drum lessons on YouTube are great for those solo drum parts.
And one time in (analog) studio I was worried about my own bad quantising at a vital point in the song and the next session guitarist in moved his part the other way and cancelled it out. Which is what’s great about the real world v the digital. But we spent so much time in the old days getting the timing spot on using clicks that now we have a hard time to get our robots to play more like us. :mrgreen:
Maybe the men who build the robots need more schooling in music.

Unfortunately, finding a good drummer in my area is more difficult than finding a naturally blonde haired Asian woman with huge…uh…tracts of land. So that may have to wait until we move down to my hometown at the end of the year where there are more than a few good drummers. (My hometown is 900 miles away, so I can’t do it now.)

In the meantime, is Jamstix any good? Why is it better than Groove Agent? Or BFD? Is it ease of use? Also, I’m finally considering installing the 64-bit version of Cubase (I have had W64 for some time but was afraid of VSTs not being 64-bit and didn’t want to bother with JBridge), so does this have a 64-bit version?

I just read a great book about what music does to the different parts of your brain!
It’s called “This is your brain on music” by Daniel Levitin - check it out! Very entertaining (and easy to read, which matters, when you’re a knackered old drummer :wink: )

http://www.amazon.co.uk/This-Your-Brain-Music-Understanding/dp/1843547163/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1306277267&sr=1-1

I’ve always said a good drummer is worth their weight in gold as opposed to someone who just hits things :laughing:

Round here just about all the good drummers play in at least three bands or are signed.

QFT

The closest good drummer that I know of is 90m away and he plays in 3 bands already with the occasional 4th.

I think you guys are all on the wrong point.

I don’t know any drummers who program drums. I don’t know any drummers who write music, let alone bother with putting it all in midi! Maybe the best drum programmer who sometimes posts on this forum is Kim, who is a guitarist. I’m pretty sure he quantized everything. Someone said it above, the real key is the right velocities to avoid robotic sounding drums. For example, a high hat is louder on the beat (1, 2, 3, 4) than on the “and” beat (1-and, 2-and, 3-and, 4-and). I spend hours working on that aspect, and no hours working on varying timing.

I’ll bet if someone took a track of Phil Rudd playing a tight AC/DC song and analyzed where the hits are, they would find that he’s right on the beat. I have certainly seen that with the drummer in my band. Maybe he speeds up and slows down slightly over time, but that is not the same as “humanizing” in a range of a measure. If you want to speed up or slow down, use a tempo track.

As far as fills and so forth, composing for drums is like composing for any other instrument, you have to know something about what can be done with the instrument. Takes time, practice, and careful listening. As pointed out above, there are resources to help, and as also pointed out, patterns you can get from Jamstix, ezdrummer, and other drum vstis. I am using Superior Drummer, and there are patterns in it too (which I am not using). But good drummers know what to do when they sit down to play much better than we non-drummers will ever learn how to do. I don’t think we could expect to be able to program Chick Corea either if we weren’t keyboardists at his level. That’s why we still have performers!

I know plenty drummers who write music and can program very well when needed but it does depend when and where you are and what time you’re prepared to allocate to learn new skills beside your own instrument.
Phil Rudd is pretty much spot on for musicality. I wouldn’t even try to match-Q it though because it’d be different for every song. Those ACDC tracks are very sparse, very focussed arrangementwise. You just don’t get more economical. Lesser bands have tried and really don’t get it as the audience fall asleep.

I’m a very, very good drummer and I just go into Cubase and put in straight drums, no Q. Just mess with the hat dynamic or the odd stress here and there. I don’t bog myself down with getting it “right” until I’ve come up with the melodic / chord / bassline ideas later. Let the song decide where the feel is going and then tweak if you must but mostly I find that not much is necessary.
If anything I’ll tweak the bass into line if anything looks shaky. If it sounds better then leave the kit. Sounds worse then the kit needs fixing so move the bass back into line and fix the kit. The principal is a bit like guitar tuning. The closer you get to the tune point the worse it sounds.

And don’t forget that now you’ve got your own studio whatever you listen to you now have a virtual microscope on so whatever is “out” sounds much more drastically out than it actually is to humans without their own studio.

Tip: The good drum programmers mostly all read drum charts so it’s handy to learn how to read them if you’re going to program them. You would not have to learn how to play or read them on the fly but just know what they look like on the grid for later.
There are quite a few midi notation / teaching resources around the net supplying free midi tracks of ACDC, Zep etc and all the old classics and some new ones. You just put them in Cubase and they come up in the score and grids so you know what they look and sound like so you get an idea of how to put a drum line together more coherently. Just Google “drum midi tracks” and something should pop up.

This is JUST my opinion and nothing more: jamstix blows