Freelance drummer Brian McRae inspects his computer monitor for the drum overdub he just played onto an existing track called `Everything' by the band Xiren of Denver. His studio, the Wrecking Ball, is in a shed in the back yard of his Lyons home.

Groovin' to the Net beat
Lyons drummer launches online overdubbing service

By Leland Rucker For the Camera
Recording drums is difficult. It's expensive and hard to get the right sound. Ask almost any musician, and they'll tell you that drums are generally the trickiest part of the studio process.

"You're talking about an instrument with so many dynamic sonic variances," says Ben Jansen, co-writer and producer of the Denver rock group Xiren. "One-sixteenth of an inch in placement can change the dynamics."
Brian McRae, a drummer based in Lyons with a lot of studio experience, has firsthand knowledge of all the problems.

"You need a good instrument and a drummer who knows how to tune the instrument - a lot of drummers don't know how to tune," he says. "You need somebody who knows how to hit the drums to get the right sound. Drums are an acoustic instrument, so you're recording the room. Especially in alternative rock, room mikes are important these days."

After spending a year-and-ahalf mulling the idea, McRae, who has worked with a host of local musicians, including the Freddie Jones Band, Sherri Jackson, Sally Taylor and Nina Storey, came up with an economical, expeditious way to put drums on recordings.

Call it virtual drumming. McRae's company,, and Web site is set up to help musicians get the sound they want without wasting valuable studio time. Send him a digital file of a recording in an e-mail, and McRae will study the song, record a few performances in his studio and send them back.
Today, even in studios, it's not necessary to have all the musicians in the same room.

"This process is becoming more popular now because there's a larger home-recording industry. As the industry falls apart, musicians are becoming more empowered to do things themselves," McRae says. 'With technology changes, it's become more affordable."

"I was playing electric piano, and Brian was on drums," Jansen says, "We dug each other. As we moved forward to record, he had this idea. We tried it because of the skill sets involved, and we liked his playing."

Having a drummer who was never present made recording the album less time-consuming and saved the band money. "We always have tight deadlines for projects," Jansen says, "and this was the smoothest way we ever worked with drums - both cost-effective and time-effective."

The band spent its time composing music and creating.architectures for the various songs in their own studio.

"We would quickly e-mail Brian MP3s of concepts, and Brian would put together drum concepts and zip them back to us. We could look at the con
McRae found himself working studio projects, often with unsatisfying results.
"The way I came across this is that I was doing commercials and other recordings where I was coming in after the fact and overdubbing the drums," McRae says. "With studio players, there's a budget that they're trying to stay within, and the hours are ticking on the clock. They play a safe take. With the overdubs, I can be more creative, take a few more chances. The songwriter isn't as worried about it. Every minute isn't on the clock."
The first project completed with the Drumoverdubs system was Xiren's latest album, Polite Conversation. The band members met McRae while working in Colorado Sound studios.

cepts and say, `Don't do that, do this.' Sometimes he would be doing his parts while we worked on other parts. We could make good use of our hectic schedules and his as well."
Besides not wasting valuable studio time setting up the drums, McRae feels this offers him a better chance to be innovative. "I really spend time on the sound and try to write creative parts," he says. He has several kits already and is always looking for more, each with unique qualities and textures. "If the band wants an old trashy sound, I can set up that kit. If it wants a modern sound, I can find a tighter-sounding kit."
There are limitations. The process doesn't work with every kind of music. "If you're doing a jazz piece, it will be harder. The music moves
more," says McRae. It works best, he says, for bands, songwriters, remix artists and jingle writers who use rock and pop.

"There's a lot of creative freedom there, too. It can be a sparse thing, or it can be a big production. It's affordable for people, and I get the chance to talk to them, know the song and choose the sound. They get to hear what they're paying for."

As Xiren's Jansen says, "rime is money, and we don't want to be messing around. It's not that you can't get great drums at a studio. But we let it be his headache. We tell him what we want. We can focus on what we're good at. It's not the only way to do it, but it's nice to have the option."