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How Drum Parts Evolve

Lesson 17 from: Studio Pass: Periphery

Adam "Nolly" Getgood, Matt Halpern

How Drum Parts Evolve

Lesson 17 from: Studio Pass: Periphery

Adam "Nolly" Getgood, Matt Halpern

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Lesson Info

17. How Drum Parts Evolve

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of this lesson is how drum parts evolve during the songwriting process.


  1. What factors influence the creation of drum parts?

    The song itself, including the music, lyrics, and overall message, can dictate the type of drum parts that are written.

  2. What should drummers focus on when listening to a demo of a song?

    Drummers should focus on learning and understanding every aspect of the song, including the melodies and accents, before focusing on the proposed drum part that has already been programmed.

  3. Why is it important to be flexible with drum parts?

    Being flexible allows for artistic expression and the ability to adapt and make changes to the drum parts as needed. It also allows for the possibility of adding more elements later on if needed.

  4. What is the benefit of programming drums during the demo process?

    Programming drums allows for instant gratification and the ability to hear and experiment with different ideas without the need for a recording studio. It is a cost-effective way to develop and refine drum parts.

  5. How should drum parts be approached during the recording and live performance process?

    Drum parts should be open to evolution and small changes over time. It is important to be open to suggestions from bandmates and to try out different ideas to see what works best for the song.

Lesson Info

How Drum Parts Evolve

So I think we should talk about just part, like the writing of the parts, specifically. Again, every band is gonna be different, every scenario's different. And I get a lot of questions about, what's the right way to, you know, how do you come up with your drum parts, what's the right way, what's the method I should use? And really, again, it's all about the song. The music and the main message of the song, even, sometimes, even lyrically, that literally can dictate what kind of parts you write or what you would play for the song. You really want to listen to what's happening in the mix, and try to pay attention to every little thing that's in the song. So when I get a demo from one of the guys in the band, I'm lucky enough to have guys that can program a little bit of a drum kind of skeleton, there'll be a bass part, sometimes if Spencer writes it, there's already a vocal, there's different guitar layers, maybe there's already different, I don't know, melodic layers or ambient layers ...

that are there. I think it's misconstrued that in that setting, or even when drummers do this themselves, when they'll program their own parts, what they focus on learning and performing are just the drum parts. I'll get a demo, I'll hear the drums, and then that's all I'm gonna focus on. But that's not actually what I personally like to do. I really try my best to learn everything else before I ever really focus on the proposed drum part that's already been programmed. I find that if I can sing back any part of the song, then I don't need to feel kind of tied down to any specific one way to play it. And I can also learn the main accents of the song that way, so that when I am in this process of writing and experimenting, I'm not getting used to hearing one beat that might limit me. And, Periphery, in particular, we tend to take, we have different takes on different, on similar sections. Where the guitar riff might be the same in the verse, in Verse 1, and it's the same in Verse 2, the drum beat in Verse 1 versus Verse 2 might be very different. But again, the accents, the main placements are all very much the same. And they need to be that way because that's how the song, the melodic parts, have been written. So I think, initially, it's very important to focus on the melodies, and try to be able to sing them back and even be able to sit down on the drums and take the different parts of the song and recycle them. And try recycling different phrases of literal performances, see what works. The more you can sort of experiment, the more you can sort of "x" out things that won't work for the song, and then you can dig a little bit deeper to find the things that do work. And a lot of times, the simplest approach can be the best approach. You can always layer things and fill in space, but I think it's really important, again, as the drummer, specifically, and really anybody in the band, don't take away from the song by doing too much. It's almost better to leave a little bit more space. You can always add in more later if need be, rather than to fill all the space and then have to figure out how to pull it back. It's better to build it from the ground up and then go from there. And there's been times when we were in the studio working on this song, or other songs, where you were pushing me to go a little bit further with some of the busyness or the exploration of parts, and I was really hesitant because I felt like, maybe, the vocals needed to stand out here, and my part might take away from it. And that can be tricky when you don't have a full vocal part written yet, and you have an instrumental. A lot of times, we get married to that one section that's there, and then the vocals come on or this other part comes in and it throws you off. So I think it's good to be a little bit flexible and leave it as kind of stripped down as you can, initially, before you commit solely to "this is the one part that really works." And for me, personally, I tend to enjoy the option to be able to, even in a live setting, sort of change it up. And I don't mean song structure or song formula, but there are always gonna be certain sections where maybe I can add a little bit more by the way of ghost notes, or I can maybe add in a couple different cymbal accents, or I can do little things that kind of just to entertain myself or to entertain Nolly a lot of times. Like I'll do stuff, and he'll look at me and be like, "Yeah that's cool," or he'll be like, "that sounds terrible." But it's cool to not be so tied down to one part. And I think, if you can learn how to be more flexible, then it becomes more of an artistic expression when you're writing the songs. It's more about what feels the best, versus what technically could be cool if I put all of these things in here, and make sure I do all of this stuff. Not every song needs every little layer. So I think that's important. And for this song, in particular, when we first got the demo for it, I think it was pretty stripped down, if I recall. I really feel like Jake even may have programmed the parts initially. Some of the riffs, yeah. Yeah. So the grooves were really, really light as far as how much space was filled in. There wasn't a lot of attention to detail to the ghost notes or the way the cymbals were accented. I mean, just very straightforward. So when we decided to really focus on this song, in particular, that's when we really started thinking about, okay, how are we gonna accent the high hat, how are we gonna accent the kick drum, are there ghost notes, should we use the ride bell, or the open high hat or the crash. Making those decisions, a lot of times, just comes down to experimenting. Programming drums in this demo process can actually be an incredibly useful tool because a lot of times, we don't have a recording studio set up at a whim just for us to use anytime, and it can be expensive to obviously rent out a studio and have the space there. So if you have a means to program the parts, then you can, right on the spot, when you have an idea, or when you wanna see what it sounds like to play a section with a crash cymbal versus a high hat, you can just program it in, hit play, and hear what that would sound like. So it's a very, very on-demand, kind of instantly gratifying way that you can sort of hear your idea. And then from there, I think it's very important to take what you've developed and actually sit down in a room with your bandmates and on the drums, and actually work out how it feels. 'Cause how something sounds, a lot of times, is different that how it feels. So again, it's all about being open and flexible and not freaking out if something changes, even in the tracking process. Today I may play a couple things different than what I did on the original recording just very, very small, but it's just because over time of playing this song live, I've kind of set into new ideas. And if I had to really restrict myself, I would feel bummed out by that, I wouldn't be as happy playing the song. Because it should be an evolution, as long as it's not a drastic change. So does that make sense? Yeah. I mean, from your perspective, as now the bass player, and for Juggernaut specifically, just a producer throughout the process, what's your thought on how we put the drums together. Did it seem like a process that was easy, that was hard? Yeah, I think it is quite, I think it comes quite naturally to you. Misha, too. I was gonna say, Misha programs really in-depth parts when he does, and he very much knows how you play drums as well, so I think there's a really good symbiotic relationship there where you're getting stuff that's really good, kind of fodder for your chops. And when you actually get behind a kit there's ways that you can improve upon it. I don't wanna say it's all natural and requires no effort from you, but it's stuff that plays to your strengths really well. And, hopefully, I think we'll do a bit of jamming, and people can see the kind of variations that you can come up with, perhaps even on beats that appear within the song. Yeah, definitely, we'll hop in there shortly to play through that. And I think that's cool. I mean, as a drummer in a band that has a say, I could change and take ownership of every single drum part that's programmed, but, a lot of times, if Misha is writing the song, specifically, he'll program a part that I hear and I really like, and I think it's awesome, and I don't necessarily feel the need, just because I can, to change it. There's no ego in that regard, I think. There's no, I don't feel like, oh, that's not my part, I need to change it. And I think a lot of drummers struggle with whether they should let that happen or not. And I think it's okay; if you have someone in the band who wants to help, or make a suggestion for a part, go for it, allow them to do that, because maybe it's a good idea. And we learned through the Juggernaut writing process how important it is to listen to your bandmates' ideas or suggestions, even if they don't work, the extra couple minutes it takes to try something can either lead to finding a great new part or it at least satisfies that person's want to sort of experiment and then realize, okay, that was a good try. But it's good to be open to these other ideas.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Halpern Drum Samples
Micing Guitar Cab
Nolly's Mic List

Ratings and Reviews

Connor Smith

I haven't even finished the course and already my mixes have improved dramatically. Night and day difference. I haven't watched the portions with Matt as I'm using drum samples (GGD specifically), but I have no doubt it's great. Matt is always incredibly helpful and is a brilliant drummer. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Nolly, he's very articulate and his approach to audio engineering is flat out brilliant. I'm so happy I purchased this course. Before my mixes were good (balance and things of that nature) but lacked life and energy. I just wasn't getting the professional level sound I was searching for. Now, I am proud of my mixes and actually think they're getting to the point where they sound professional and don't sound like they were produced by a dude in his bedroom with about half of year of recording and audio engineering experience. The metal genre is difficult to mix as there's a lot going on and the "current metal sound" is very crisp and clear while still being very heavy and punchy. It isn't 80s dad metal where guitars are hissy and flubby. lol I am a huge Periphery fan and it's a privilege to watch Nolly share his knowledge. I really enjoy his approach as its very simple but very effective. He doesn't have insane mixing strategies, he just does what works and it's applicable to any DAW and is helpful for almost any genre of music. Brilliant course!

a Creativelive Student

This was an amazing course! I loved hearing from both Matt and Nolly on their thought process behind drums in general. I love the point they drove home about getting a great source tone. That seems to be forgotten in a lot of recordings and they try to fix it in the mix. Jolly did a fantastic job of making it look "easy" to take already great sounding source tones and making them really shine! Cant wait to put these concepts into practice in my own projects. What a great source of knowledge here. Thanks for this great class!

Adrian Gougov

Best course and overall learning experience I've had in a long long while. Nolly and Matt are superb. Nolly is an astonishing mixing and recording engineer and a great teacher. Not only does he explains his methods carefully and in detail, but also lays down key concepts in an understandable language. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna learn how to mix modern heavy music. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna learn how to track drums properly. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna see one of modern metal's best drummers track a whole song from start to finish. Props to Creative Live for bringing this material to us.

Student Work