There are a few VSTs out there, SPL's drum xchanger for example, that do what's called "drum replacement". I don't understand this concept. Can someone explain it to me?
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If the drumset is recorded in a fairly isolated manner, then you can often get very very good results.
This is based on transient response. You can often assign a different sample to a different amplitude range of the transients on a given track so that you don't lose the dynamic feel (varied amplitudes) of the track.
It's not an easy process. It's not like you can just say, "I want to replace this snare," then click one button, and it's done. It takes a lot of time and tweaking to get it to where it needs to be. Also, you don't need to use a drum replacement plugin to get the effect. If you know what you're doing, you can easily use the "Tab to Transient" feature in Pro Tools to achieve the same results.
The quality of the final product is dependent quality of the samples you are replacing the drums with, and the amount of time you put into it.
I would say that probably 50% of the stuff you hear on the radio has some sort of drum replacement involved in it. When I used to work in the music world, half of everything I worked on had drum replacement in it. That included grammy winning projects. So the quality is there, it just takes time a patience.
Drum replacement is on more modern albums than not. You can either replace the original drums entirely, or layer the replaced drums over top of the original recordings, to fatten them up as needed.
There is one company that had a demo at NAMM, where they miced up a bunch of pots and pans in a traditional drum kit configuration, and then played the live replaced samples in real time as people would bash away on the kit.
Also, if you have Logic 9 (and maybe earlier versions as well), it has some nice drum replacement stuff built in.