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What Is a Drum Track?

The drum track is specially devoted to drums and other percussion instruments.
Drums may be recorded on a single or separate tracks.
Condenser microphones could be used to pick up cymbal crashes.
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  • Written By: Lori Spencer
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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A drum track is the portion of any sound recording devoted exclusively to the drums. In multitrack recording, what is called the "drum track" in fact usually will comprise several different tracks. Each part of the drum kit is be recorded with a separate microphone, and each microphone assigned a track on the mixing board. For example, one track may be just the snare drum, another may be the crash cymbal, and an overhead microphone captures ambient sound in the room. Mixed together, all of these various elements represent the drum tracks.

Many songwriters will use a drum track to help them create songs. Instead of programming a drum machine for a demo or trying to draw inspiration from prerecorded drum loops, songwriters often find the process much easier when working with drum tracks. Specialty CDs are widely available that feature nothing but these tracks. Each features a variety of different grooves — everything from Latin jazz to hip-hop beats and rock power ballads — which the songwriter may then use to craft a new song around. Starting out with only a groove is a building from the bottom up approach to songwriting.

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Drum tracks can be found in practically any time signature or meter. Often, they are played by well-known session drummers based in music capitals like Nashville, Los Angeles, London, and New York City. The tracks are full-length songs performed by the drummer, and each will contain various sections such as the verse, bridge, and chorus. Drummers insert fills where needed and execute changes in dynamics.

In addition to working with commercially available drum tracks, some songwriters will pay to have a custom drum track recorded for a song or even an entire album. Many top-notch session drummers also offer their services for producing customized drum tracks. After hiring an available studio drummer for the task, the songwriter generally provides the drummer a demo or "scratch" version of the song to work with. Other times, the drummer is hired only to record drum tracks for a song's final mix. This becomes the finished product that eventually will be mass-produced and sold.

A drum track is always recorded with what is called a "click track." This is an electronic metronome recorded on a separate track. The drummer uses this to set the song's tempo during the count-off. The click track must be carefully synchronized with all of the other tracks in order for it to be accurate. Click tracks are only used for reference purposes during the recording process as a guide for the drummer; i is later removed by the recording engineer so that listeners will not hear a constant clicking sound.

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