Hey guys, this is Dan, the drummer for The Shake. I’m gonna be taking the reins for this post. We just wrapped up our third full band session in the studio late Tuesday night, and my job is basically done for the current songs we’re working on. Even though we’ve been playing with full instrumentals and vocals during these marathon sessions, ultimately only the recordings of drums, bass, and rhythm guitar count at this stage. It’s rather like building the perfect plate of nachos. Sure the cheese, beans, and guacamole are the tastiest parts and probably the most memorable, but you’ve got to have a solid foundation first; you’ve got to start with chips. And I’m chips. I’m also very much in the Cinco de Mayo spirit.

One thing worth mentioning is the click track. Essentially a high-pitched metronome blaring in our headphones while we record takes of each song, the click track keeps us on beat (or, more specifically, I use the click track as the primary tool for keeping us on beat). Having established all the songs’ proper tempos beforehand, we set the click track to, say, 160 bpm (beats per minute) and try to lock into the groove. Using a click track in the studio is a bit controversial (some believe that it detracts from the way a song naturally develops, that it’s too rigid). But we found the click very helpful in pointing out those areas where we tend to drag or speed up. It establishes the pulse of a song, the heartbeat, and it keeps us honest. Not to mention that using the click makes all takes of a song a uniform tempo, so if there’s a cool bass lick in take #5 but overall take #7 is best, we can add the lick in and create the Ultimate Take. It’s extremely useful.

As the drummer, it’s imperative that I’m in sync with the click at all times, as all the remaining parts have to match up with what I’ve laid down. Any dragging or rushing on my part would cause serious problems later, when it’s time to layer the other instruments on top. Basically, I have to be perfect. (Special thanks to the band and our producer, Dan Stringer, for not striking fear into me or mentioning all the PRESSURE involved). The good news is that, after spending some time with the click blasting repeatedly in your ear and getting accustomed, it becomes the drummer’s biggest asset in the studio, his best friend (a way better friend than my actual best friend, Rick).

Other than having 10 microphones capturing every inch of my drum kit, what made these sessions especially cool was how interactive the experience was. Even though I had solidified my drum parts before going into the studio, I ended up making lots of changes on the fly when others had suggestions: make that snare fill bigger at this part; how about a triplet figure going into the chorus?; go with hi-hat instead of ride cymbal, etc. And with 6 or 7 takes of each song, there were plenty of opportunities to try variations on my standard beats and experiment with different fills. In the end, you take the track you dig the most, and I’m thrilled with the drum tracks we got for 11 songs, recorded over 3 sessions at Stratosphere Sound in Manhattan and ACME Recording Studio in Mamaroneck.

In the weeks to come, I’m looking forward to listening as the remaining layers get added to the mix and offering my two cents…when the others care to hear what the drummer thinks.

Until next time, rock on.

Dan

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