When recording live drums it is extremely hard to predict which particular drum sound will most compliment the other instruments in your final mix, for this reason the ability to replace or blend the original kit sounds with samples is common sound engineering practise and an effective technique to master. In the following three tutorials we will look at the various methods available in Pro Tools for replacing or sweetening the drum sounds present in your mix.
SoundReplacer is a Pro Tools AudioSuite plug-in designed to analyse audio tracks in your session and generate identical performances, using samples from your sound library, that match the timing and dynamics, it is used predominantly used for the replacement or layering of percussive sounds such as the kick and snare. To make the replacement appear more natural, three separate samples, for example a hard, medium and soft hit, can be loaded into the plug-in, these can then be assigned to trigger from different velocities that are derived from the original performance.
Tip: It is best to duplicate the track you wish to process in order that you can later blend the balance between the original and SoundReplacer samples if necessary, this workflow will give you maximum flexibility later on.
Duplicate a the track by control clicking on the track name and selecting ‘Duplicate’ from the drop down menu.
The ‘Duplicate Tracks’ window will appear, press OK.
We now have two identical tracks in the session ‘Snare’ and ‘Snare.dup’1, because Sound Replacer works by replacing the original file, by first duplicating the track we still have the option of layering our new SoundReplacer samples with the original.
Make a selection on the duplicated track, this represents the area you wish to process, this could be the whole clip, or just a part depending on what you are looking to achieve.
Open the SoundReplacer plug in from the Pro Tools AudioSuite menu (AudioSuite > Other > SoundReplacer).
Press the ‘Analyze’ button at the bottom of SoundReplacer to display the selected audio’s waveform in the plug-in, click on the zoom controls arrows to view the entire waveform if necessary (shown below).
Use the individual Load (Floppy Disk) icons to import samples into each of the three trigger zones available (pictured below), use a soft, medium and hard hit to make the replacement appear more realistic.
Adjust the three ‘Threshold Zone Sliders’ to assign the threshold ranges that will trigger each of the samples soft, medium and hard derived from the dynamics of the original performance. The image below shows the adjusted Threshold Sliders and the resulting individual sample’s ‘Trigger Zones’ represented in the SoundReplacer graphic display.
SoundReplacer is an AudioSuite plug-in, this family of plug-ins work non realtime, meaning that they have to be rendered and cannot simply be placed on an insert and adjusted, for this reason SoundReplacer features a ‘Preview’ button that allows you to hear the result of your processing before committing. The mix slider adds the ability to blend the original signal with the samples allowing for a layering rather than a total replacement in both previewing and the final render. The Mix On/Off button turns the slider function off and plays the samples in isolation, because we duplicated the track at the beginning of the tutorial the mix amount should be left at 100%. These three controls are identified in the image below.
When the crossfade feature is enabled in SoundReplacer it creates crossfades between the individual samples, this avoids the sound abruptly changing between different trigger zones and adds further realism to the sound replacement.
SoundReplacer has a ‘Peak Align’ option to synchronise the placement of the samples against the original audio with greater accuracy. When enabled SoundReplacer references the initial peak transient of the original audio rather than the beginning of the waveform when calculating sample placement. This can lead to a tighter synchronisation and is useful when working with percussive sounds.
Tip: To avoid losing your settings after closing SoundReplacer choose ‘Copy Settings’ from the Preset Menu before rendering. If you need to make further adjustments after processing reload SoundReplacer and return to the Preset Menu and choose ‘Paste Settings’, this avoids the need to start the process again from the beginning.
Pressing the ‘Render’ button commits to the processing and generates a new audio file in the Pro Tools timeline.
In the following tutorial we will look at a ‘real-time’ RTAS alternative to SoundReplacer, TL Lab’s ‘Drum Rehab’.
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Jason O’Bryan has over 20 years of music industry experience, having worked as a record producer, recording artist and sound engineer in London, Jamaica, Barbados, Los Angeles and New York. He was a member of the infamous UK band ‘Dub Pistols’ (voted best U.K live band 2011 by DJ magazine) for over a decade as producer and bassist and also recorded under various artist names including ‘Strange Nature’, ‘Avenue A’ and ‘City Hi-Fi’.
Throughout his career, Jason has been commissioned to remix many world famous artists including Bono (U2), Lily Allen, Scissor Sisters, Moby, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Rob Zombie, Ian Brown, Bush, Natalie Imbruglia and Robbie Williams and has co-written music with many influential artists’ including Busta Rhymes, The Specials, Massive Attack, Gregory Issacs. Freak Power, Rodney P and Lindy Layton (Beats International). His work and music is also regularly featured in advertising, numerous major Hollywood movies including ‘Zoolander’, ‘Mystery Men’, ‘Bad Company’ and ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’, TV series and Computer games.
Jason currently works freelance as a Record Producer, Remixer, DJ and Educator.