Video: The Strokes' "Hard to Explain" Drums | What's That Sound?

Weezer's Rivers Cuomo (2009). Photo by: Kevin Winter / ImageDirect, Getty Images.

This week's What's That Sound is quite a unique one. You might assume that it's really a drum machine used on "Hard to Explain" by The Strokes, but it's actually a set of acoustic drums played by a live drummer (Fab Moretti) and made to sound a dead as possible by producer Gordon Rafael. In the video above, Noam and Jessica take on the challenge of recreating it.

Drums in the Style of The Strokes' Hard to Explain
Drums in the style of The Strokes' Hard to Explain
By Reverb
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Let's start with the drums themselves. For this recreation, Jessica used a Ludwig Vistalite bass drum, a Catalina Maple Gretsch Snare with two Big Fat Snare Drum deadening donuts on top, and a hi-hat with a 14-inch K-Sweet Zildjian bottom hat and a 14-inch Instanbul Agop top hat. To get the sound as dead as possible, Noam and Jessica clamped the hi-hat closed and had a member of the Rax Trax team physically pinch the cymbals closed as well while Jessica played.

A noteworthy feature of drum machine-generated sounds is how segmented and separate each drum sounds—there is no interplay or bleed between any of the drum components that you're sequencing together. Accomplishing this with real acoustic drums is no easy task. Noam and Jessica followed The Strokes and started by moving the drums as physically far apart as they could be, which helps quite a bit to limit bleed—but it isn't going to get you all of the way there.

Kick Snare Hat

Noam also made sure to heavily gate each individual drum so that every component could be processed entirely differently and separate. The kick drum was mic'd with a Neumann U 47 FET clone for the body of the sound and an AKG D12 for the attack, and both of those mics were phase-aligned. The snare and hi-hat were each mic'd with a trustworthy Shure SM57.

Be sure to check out the full video above to see exactly how this recreation was done, and let us know in the comments what songs you'd like to see tackled next.

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