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Drum Cover – Rush, “The Analog Kid”

by Omar on March 7, 2011

in drum cover


Welcome to another ‘drum cover’ edition of The Paradiddler.  This time it’s another one of my favorite Rush songs, “The Analog Kid”, from their 1982 release Signals.

Just recently, a subscriber to The Paradiddler newsletter asked me why I play mostly Rush covers.  The main reason is that that’s what I grew up listening to the most, and I always said that if I ever get a drum set (and keep it), dang it I’m gonna play Rush!  I guess you can say it’s to get it out of my system.  But I’m not complaining!

There’s a certain discipline to playing Rush songs, a certain vibe that I don’t get when playing other songs.  I’m sure it’s mostly due, again, to how much I listened to the band growing up (I still listen to them a lot).  I always feel like, when playing a Rush song, that the three musicians are always aware of the sensibilities of the other two, and they always play to the song.  It’s not just about drumming, it’s drumming to the bass, the guitar, and especially the singing.  It’s like being taken to school, per se.

I have a long list of songs I still want to cover; who knows if I’ll get to them all.  They are mostly Rush songs, but there are others thrown in there as well.  In any case, each song teaches me something new – it’s always a learning experience.  So I shall continue to play my list, hoping that the viewer (and listener) gets something out of it, however small.

As far as “The Analog Kid” goes, that was not my next choice.  I had something else planned, but somehow this song comes up (I don’t remember where – Pandora, YouTube video, or other), and I thought to myself, “hey, I think I can play this right now!”  It’s one of my favorite songs, and it has a really nice groove, so I figured, what the heck, let’s play it!

Around this time, I’m also starting to experiment with different recording equipment and video editing software.  I recently purchased the Zoom H2 recorder, and it records drumming significantly better than the built-in microphone on the camcorder.  Also, I’m dabbling with CyberLink’s PowerDirector 9 video editing software.  I’m going to class on both of them – that is, I’m self teaching myself how to use them.  Hands on is the best way to learn, so I decided that this would be an opportunity to experiment.

Of course, the most important part of any drum cover is the drumming itself, so I started to set myself up to play.  I always record myself practicing the song, since I don’t want to miss a possible great performance!  🙂  Anyway, I was planning on recording multiple angles for this cover, but the audio cable from the H2 to the camcorder just wasn’t long enough.  Since my camcorder has the built-in mic-in jack, I have the flexibility of recording any angle I want, while leaving the microphone (the H2) in the best spot for recording the drums, while still maintaining the proper left/right stereo image.  I decided to buy a longer cable.

Now being really prepared, I positioned the H2 in the ideal spot (about 2 meters straight away from the bass drum, on the floor [more experimentation with that to follow]), and connected the long audio cable from the H2 to the camcorder.  With the camcorder at the angle I wanted, I start playing.  I play several takes at that angle, then I position the camcorder at another angle, record some more – rinse, lather, repeat, rinse, lather, repeat…  I even recorded shots of my feet on a couple of takes.

I had a lot of takes recorded, so I let it be and a few days later I sit down to edit.  I was anxious to get into the new editing software, and I have to tell you it was a little daunting.  It blows Windows Movie Maker out of the water (even though Movie Maker is adequate for most drum cover recording, as I discuss in the “Recording Drum Covers” series), but for what I wanted to do, I needed to jump right into the program.

While I was messing around with PowerDirector, I was noticing that there was a subtle ‘humming’ sound coming from the speakers while I was evaluating each video take.  They all had this hum.  I started listening more closely, and it seemed like the right channel was the culprit.  No drumming was coming out of the right speaker.  And it wasn’t just one of the videos – it was all of them.  My stomach knotted.

After I ensured the actual speakers were connected properly to the computer and other audio sources sounded correctly, I went back to the source videos and opened them in the native video software that came with the camcorder.  I played the takes there, and indeed, every video was recorded with no sound from the right side (just the humming).  Let’s just say I was not happy! All of that drumming, all of that recording, and it was useless.  After I finished fuming, I decided I had to re-record.

I then decided to test the audio cables (all of them) to make sure they were not defective, so I recorded some random playing with each cable to see which one was bad.  I was certain it was the longer cable I had just purchased, but after viewing my tests, they all sounded good!  Now I knew that the culprit was me! I didn’t ensure the cables were securely connected to the recording devices, so the right channel didn’t take.  Moral of the story:  after everything is connected, do a test recording, and then view it to ensure both channels record! Whew, I’m spent.

By this time I’m pretty disillusioned, and I’m not into the multiple angle option anymore.  Of course, I want to record the cover, but this time I decided to leave the multiple camera angles for another cover, and just try to get a good one-angle take.  Of course, it still means I have to play it again!  At least I’ve practiced – a lot.

By this time also I had lost a lot of time, and I was anxious to get my video up on YouTube.  I was still in the learning process with PowerDirector, so I went back to Windows Movie Maker and did the audio and video synching there.  However, PowerDirector has a very good effects library, so after synching in Movie Maker I imported the ‘rough draft’ into PowerDirector and added the effects there, and polished it off.

I did learn some valuable lessons recording this cover.  “Don’t be hasty!”  Also, we need to ensure everything’s plugged in properly!  And, sometimes the tools you used before can still be useful (Windows Movie Maker), even when you’ve upgraded.  Some tools are still good for some things, and it may be that the best thing is to incorporate all of the tools and use what’s best for the task at hand.

As far a the actual cover goes, as always, I play it by ear. Every cover I've done is based on what the song sounds like to me, and how I've seen the actual artist play it. I may also look at how others have covered the same song. There was a section of this song that I was a little at odds as to how I was going to play it. During Alex Lifeson's magnificent guitar solo, Neil is playing a pattern on the snare and bass drum. This is all it sounds like to me, but I've seen others riding the floor tom as well. I've tried listening for the floor tom during this section, but I really don't hear it. Or, it's so subtle that it almost wouldn't make a difference if I rode the floor tom or not. I know that if I rode the floor tom, it would be more pronounced than I'd like it to be, making it sound a little too different from the original. So I decided, whether Neil is riding the floor tom or not, that I not do it. As it turns out, I think that section of my cover sounds pretty much like the original, so I'm satisfied with my 'artistic' decision.

In the end, I like how it came out, even though a couple of times I was a little off time (but I recovered nicely!).  I’m not sure I’ll ever record a ‘perfect take’ where I play note-for-note, but one thing’s for sure:  if I never arrive, I’ll definitely enjoy the journey.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave June 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

Great job on what might be the most under-rated song in Rush’s canon. I’m sure you learn to appreciate Neil’s work when you have to try and recreate it. He may not have the scientific gymnastics of a Mangini, but his combination of feel and technique are second to none.

Awesome job!

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Omar June 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Thanks Dave very much!

You may be right about being underrated – it’s a GREAT song, one of my all-time favorites. He might not be a Mangini, but one of my favorite qualities of his playing is his exercise in constraint – he refuses to overplay the song. I think this song is an example of that.

Thanks again!

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haroldo March 31, 2011 at 11:44 am

Hey man,

I saw a couple of your covers, one of them was Double Agent I think. I am a Rush fanatic myself. I understand the discipline and skill required to attempt to cover Rush.

I started learning the drums about 6 months ago, and I practice about 2.5 hours a day, every day. My mother-in-law bought me a DVD “Legendary Licks” Neil Peart, where this guy breaks down 6 Rush songs (Subdivisions, Red Barcehtta, Free Will, Spirit of Radio, Tom Sawyer, etc).

I knew I was nowhere near being able to even attempt any of that stuff, but I just couldn’t resist and I popped the DVD in, and it just slapped me in the face. It just looks so above and beyond anything I can even imagine doing.

How long had you been playing before you were technically apt to cover Rush? (how many hours a day for how long)

By the way, you looked really good in your covers man. AWESOME job, it feels really good, and your groove sounds pretty “Neil Pearty” to me 🙂

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