Cymbals mixed low in modern rock recordings.

stevesmithfan

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I have been listening to a lot of modern-day Hard Rock and metal on YouTube with my headphones and I noticed the cymbals are so low in the mix I can barely hear them. The close kick, snare, and tom tracks are very loud and present but the cymbals are barely audible.
Does anybody else notice that?
Your thoughts?
 

hsosdrum

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I hear it all the time. I also participate in pro sound forums and frequently read complaints from FOH engineers that cymbals tend to obliterate vocals in the mix, so they back off on them. If this is indeed happening then the drummers are using cymbals that are unnecessarily heavy, or are playing them too hard, or a combination of both. OR...

...the engineers could be idiots who don't know how a drumset is supposed to sound, but without hearing the drums live in the room there's no way to know any of this. But yes, I find that cymbals and toms tend to get buried in mixes these days.
 

drummingbulldog

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Does anyone remember Santa Monica? The 90s song? That was the first time I noticed bad noise gating on cymbals. Now every time I hear it or other examples I can't not hear it. There's tons of examples of bad mixing. It makes you wonder if it is inexperienced engineering or laziness because I can't imagine any quality person thinking that would sound good. Gates choking crashes. I had a guy forget to turn on the close mics. Had to do the whole track over. Brilliant!
 

Old Drummer

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I've noticed this on most recordings, regardless of genre, with the exception of jazz. Listeners hear the snare and bass drums, an occasional crash, and maybe a little hi-hat along with some fills, but the drummers may as well not even have ride cymbals. I've even wondered if the attention drummers devote to choosing rides is a self-indulgent diversion, since in most of the recorded music most people listen to the ride cymbals are inaudible.
 

Targalx

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I'm actually very okay with cymbals being lower in the mix than usual. Much better than being too loud in a mix. Nothing sounds more annoying to me than some hack rock drummer, slicing away on the hi-hats while ignoring solid backbeats on the snare.

I specifically seek out dark, low-pitched crashes for this very reason. Yes, I've been burned before by mix engineers that mixed my cymbals too bright for my tastes.
 

karlcrafton

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I hate not hearing the cymbals.
On my bands latest CD, the cymbals sound as exactly as they sound as they could be.
I said I wanted to HEAR THEM. You can hear them! I wish the ride would have cut through just a touch more, but it doesn't change the vibe or feel of the song where it does sit, and where I would have brought it up to though.

My band is called Artificial Agent and the CD is called Death Ray if anyone was interested.
I also use CUSH Pads by Sonall Percussion instead of felts.
 

wflkurt

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I hear it all the time. I also participate in pro sound forums and frequently read complaints from FOH engineers that cymbals tend to obliterate vocals in the mix, so they back off on them. If this is indeed happening then the drummers are using cymbals that are unnecessarily heavy, or are playing them too hard, or a combination of both. OR...

...the engineers could be idiots who don't know how a drumset is supposed to sound, but without hearing the drums live in the room there's no way to know any of this. But yes, I find that cymbals and toms tend to get buried in mixes these days.

I like this response. I don't see why cymbals should ever be buried. We drummers spend LOTS of money on cymbals and it seems pointless if an engineer is just going to barely make them audible. In that sense I might as well just buy some ZBT crashes and be done with it. My modern country band put out a CD in 2013 and I had to practically BEG the engineer to bring up my cymbals. They are still not at a great level but it's much better than it was the first time I head a mix down. I just couldn't understand how someone could mix like that and not see that as a problem.

I also understand that there is way more to a recording than the drums but I have great cymbals (high end Paiste) and I am not bashing the crap out of them. I have been listening to a lot of older recording from the late 60's/early 70's and this was never a problem.
 

Targalx

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This is a highly uneducated guess, so it might be of no value, but here goes: Perhaps one of the reasons some drummers can't hear the cymbals all that well in the mix is because as we age, the high end frequencies of our hearing starts to fizzle out. (I am not an audiologist, or ENT, or any kind of medical professional.)

So, they think it's sounding kind of dull, but in all reality, it's probably clear enough — just not to them. Does this sound plausible at all?
 

Tornado

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Queens of the Stone Age is among the biggest proponent of buried cymbals that I’ve heard.
If I recall correctly, the first album they even recorded drums and cymbals separately so that there would be no bleed into the drum mics.
 

Targalx

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If I recall correctly, the first album they even recorded drums and cymbals separately so that there would be no bleed into the drum mics.
QOSTA's album #3, which was Songs for the Deaf, was recorded in that manner (Dave Grohl).
 

gbow

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As a drummer who sometimes wears the other hat, and does engineering and production. I can say that it is very difficult to get the cymbals right. Multiple problems exist, starting with the room the drums are recorded in.

A bad room and/or cheap mics creates very harsh cymbals, which are difficult to tame. Producers have resorted to just burying them in the mix. There are a lot more recordings these days that are done in artists studios, small studios, home studios. Not as many are done in properly designed rooms.

Inconsistent playing, where sometimes the cymbal hits are soft and sometimes very loud, creates an overhead mix that's a challenge to deal with. Producers have resorted to just buying them in the mix.

And of course styles of production. Rap and HipHop bury them, most times there is no real drummer, so that definitely contributes. And it goes all the way back to the Peter Gabriel album in the early 80s that had NO cymbals in the entire album, by design.

It all adds up to a lot of producers burying them. While in general I'm opposed to it, I'm not opposed to it if the cymbals are harsh and sound like crap!

gabo
 

Formula428

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As a drummer who sometimes wears the other hat, and does engineering and production. I can say that it is very difficult to get the cymbals right. Multiple problems exist, starting with the room the drums are recorded in.

A bad room and/or cheap mics creates very harsh cymbals, which are difficult to tame. Producers have resorted to just burying them in the mix. There are a lot more recordings these days that are done in artists studios, small studios, home studios. Not as many are done in properly designed rooms.

Inconsistent playing, where sometimes the cymbal hits are soft and sometimes very loud, creates an overhead mix that's a challenge to deal with. Producers have resorted to just buying them in the mix.

It all adds up to a lot of producers burying them. While in general I'm opposed to it, I'm not opposed to it if the cymbals are harsh and sound like crap!

gabo
I agree with this, and also being my own engineer with my own studio, have become super conscious of playing cymbals too hard - especially hats. For this reason, I use very light hats with a light hand when playing.

The fact is, a great drum set sound comes from the overhead mic's. If the cymbals are too loud, it adversely affects the rest of the sound of the kit. When recording, I also try to hit the drums as hard as possible, within reason, as to really project into the overhead in room microphones.
 

Browny

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QOSTA's album #3, which was Songs for the Deaf, was recorded in that manner (Dave Grohl).
Not every song though. From memory the title track was one that was recorded with drums and cymbals simultaneously.

Part of why they did it on that album was wanting these huge thumpy drums with stacks of mids and lows but have the cymbals separated, let the shimmering high end float on top. Recording them separately removes bleed and allowed them to really tailor the room, mics, mix and outboard effects for the drums and cymbals individually. It also removes the issue of cymbals, especially some nice and bright As/2002s/etc getting the crash-ride treatment, from overpowering the loooow tuned and muffled drums which inherently have a lower volume threshold.

Then there's the issues of competing frequencies, particularly vocals and acoustic guitar, or simply having a wall of brittle harshness in the upper register that isn't fun to listen to.

It's pretty much what you hear from every session drummer out there say first when they're asked to give advice to someone entering the studio for the first time; lay off the cymbals in comparison to the drums. There's a balance thing, certainly for backbeat orientated music you want that snare and bass/kick to be the prominent components. The cymbals can be forward/really noticable in the mix, but they have to be balanced and you don't want them ahead of kick & snare. I think When The Levee Breaks is actually a great example of this; that kick and snare are what everyone talks about (and is drawn to) but those hats are super upfront, way forward in the mix, driving away, but still balanced within the track.
 

Targalx

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It's pretty much what you hear from every session drummer out there say first when they're asked to give advice to someone entering the studio for the first time; lay off the cymbals in comparison to the drums.
That's very true, I was told that very same thing many years ago. The engineer said that I should be very conscious of how the room mics will pick up the drums versus the cymbals. Hit the cymbals too much and that's all you'll get in the room mics, overpowering your drum sound. He told me, "Don't worry about hitting your cymbals on the light side, we've got overheads for that." I got a killer sound after thinking in those terms!
 

Gunnellett

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I hadn't thought to listen to how Queens of the Stone Age songs were mixed but I can say at one time I was in search of that exploding crash sound on "I sat by the ocean" but never found it.
 

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