Monday, April 16, 2012

Bag of Tricks: Layering on Train's "Mississippi"

Today while driving I was listening to a playlist on my iPod that I titled, "The Groove." It only contains tunes that I think represent the very best of feel, time and flat out groove.

I must have been in some alternate state of mind (sober, I promise!), because I was listening with what seemed like totally different ears. When this track came on, I heard some things I've never heard before.

One of the biggest challenges for drummers is to figure out how to increase or change the intensity level of a song without damaging the texture or distracting from the effect or message of the song. This track achieves the goal perfectly.

The drum sounds on "Mississippi" are amazing on at least a few levels. For one, there is not a single fill. In over five minutes of music, not even a kick variation (that I could tell) or a variation of pattern. Backbeats all stay on 2 and 4, etc. 

But after hundreds of times through this track, these subtleties finally caught my ear. I was astounded.
  • The track begins with a synth-type hi-hat sound. It plays the same ostinato pattern throughout.
  • At the 1:10 mark, what sounds like real hi-hat is layered over the synth-hat.
  • At the 1:36 mark, a heavier hi-hat (louder, slightly more open) is layered over the synth and first real hat tracks.
  • At the 3:38 mark, a super reverb-heavy (or possibly synth) ride cymbal starts playing quarter notes. It's faded in so that you're not sure when you actually start to hear it.
Seriously, I was blown away. I happened to be on my way to pick up a bass-playing colleague of mine for lunch, and I made him listen to it. He was also blown away. Between the two of us, we'd never noticed the layers before. 

Take another listen to this track, and enjoy the work of musicians who know how to serve the music.

Happy drumming!

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