I've been in one band for about a year, and we're going into the studio to record new songs soon.

Last time they went to the studio, they had an incredible drum kit there, (the drummer said so, he was ecstatic when he saw it) told me it sounded perfect and was really excited to record with this kit.

The engineer then went on and triggered the kit, even though the kit sounded great! I don't understand why he did this, it sounded like a drum machine, not a real live drummer and ruined our takes.

We use triggers live for monitoring only, no trigger signal goes to the front of house, but I just can't wrap my head around why when the studio engineer had an amazing kit we all said we wanted to use, he just triggered it up and used no real drum sound?

Are there any advantages of using triggers over a real drum sound? As far as I can tell, it just changes a natural sounding live drummer into a drum machine :P

Thanks :)

  • 2
    Somebody made a decision to use the triggered sounds rather than the recorded drums. Who made decisions during that recording session? Can you ask them? The engineer SHOULD have been working for whoever was paying the bills, and worked with that person/group when big creative decisions like that were being made.
    – Bill Gribble
    Feb 18, 2011 at 14:14
  • Yes, the studio engineer made the decision, against our wishes.
    – Kyle Sevenoaks
    Feb 18, 2011 at 14:24
  • As I was writing my answer I realized: are you 100% certain they were triggers and running into a CV-to-MIDI module or sound brain like a V-Drum brain? They weren't just piezo contact mics, were they?
    – Ian C.
    Feb 18, 2011 at 15:06
  • 1
    Also: if it was triggers, did he capture the MIDI data or the audio from a drum brain? Hopefully he captured the MIDI data and you can run the performance through something like BFD 2 or Steve Slate Drums -- amazing drum VSTi plugins. You might be able to salvage the performance this way and not have to re-track the drums.
    – Ian C.
    Feb 18, 2011 at 15:21
  • I guess he did do it through some brain, I wasn't there, I can just hear the awful drums on the tracks. There were no natural kicks in it at all though. All triggered.
    – Kyle Sevenoaks
    Feb 18, 2011 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


Why? I can only take some guesses. The only person who can really answer your questions is the engineer.

Possible Reason #1

MIDI data is easier to work with that audio data. The engineer was ensuring he captured data in a format that he could easily manipulate after the fact. Far easier to fix a miss hit by moving a MIDI note around than it is to re-track an entire section or performance.

Possible Reason #2

Triggers are easier to setup than mics. For sure mic'ing a drum kit falls in to the category of "it's an art and a science". It's a daunting task. It requires more than a few mics and in some cases (like mic'ing a kick) some speciality mics are really called for if you want an excellent outcome. Could be the engineer didn't have the know how to mic a kit up or the time or the studio was lacking the gear it needed to capture a full kit adequately.

Possible Reason #3

You don't have to deal with bleed. Triggers are mostly independent, and even if you do get a trigger mis-firing it's an easy thing to just delete the MIDI note.

Possible Reason #4

You don't need a lot of knowledge to mix a great sounding kit if you work with triggers. I realize this is counter to what you're getting from this studio and I'll admit this sounds like a problem with the samples they're using or perhaps the skill of the engineer with the software. I definitely have cut some great sounding drum tracks where the drummer was playing a V-Drum kit, run in to a Alesis Trigger|IO module, and triggering a BFD 2 for the sounds. The sounds in that VSTi are captured so well, and already EQ'ed and tweaked so nicely, even a drum-mic'ing and mixing neophyte like me can get big, beautiful drums out of a setup like that. Could be the engineer was trying to hide some lack of still here when it comes to dealing with drums during mixing.

Those are just some reasons he might have insisted on triggers. I'll admit they don't make a lot of sense. You should definitely take up your issues with him. You were footing the bill and these sorts of decisions should be yours, not the engineers, to make.

  • Thanks for the reasons! I guess we'll have to have a talk with him when we go back to the studio, we don't want this drum machine sound, but real nice natural drums :) It does sound bad on the record, to us at least.
    – Kyle Sevenoaks
    Feb 18, 2011 at 16:55
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    Yeah +1. My guess is that he used triggers out of pure lazyness for the above reasons. Feb 18, 2011 at 20:17

I can't speak to your specific situation, since I can't think of any reason an engineer would use them specifically against your wishes. Mic'ing a drumset is significantly more difficult than triggering it, but isn't that part of what an engineer does?

In general, the main reason I've heard bands cite for using triggers is to keep a really even level across drum hits. But this is only on the kick, and these are generally metal bands who are doing fast kick rolls, and DO want it to sound like that. I don't know why anyone would want to do this in general.

  • Aye, we're a metal band and we use a lot of the long double kick runs, but it sounds so plastic with triggers!
    – Kyle Sevenoaks
    Feb 18, 2011 at 16:55
  • 1
    This is speculation, but maybe the engineer knows that metal bands often like a clickey, beater-y kick sound that triggers do pretty well? If so, maybe you could have him mix a mic'd bass track with a triggered beater sound?
    – Warrior Bob
    Feb 18, 2011 at 17:01
  • that's actually not a bad idea, he could modify the frewuency to give more of the high end click and keep the natural mic'd bass. I shall suggest this next time we're there :)
    – Kyle Sevenoaks
    Feb 19, 2011 at 13:00

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