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Drum Gear Review

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I’ve been asked to do a lot of tracking at home for friends recently, but I’ve been struggling for years to get a home recording sound I’m comfortable with. I’ll usually get what I feel is a decent raw sound, and then get pretty overwhelmed with tweaks and fixing things to the point of totally losing a usable sound. I still struggle to identify phase issues and to find a sound that will work on as many speaker types as possible.

Stripped things down a good bit recently and kind of restarted the whole process. I feel like I’m getting closer, but there’s still some stuff in here I don’t like.


So, I was hoping for a little feedback on the sound here. I’d love to hear what you all think isn’t working about this recording.

I’d also be curious about some of the sources you all have turned to for like a deeply comprehensive, home recording for absolute morons kind of tutorial. I think I skipped a lot of fundamentals when I was having to record drums for review purposes. I’d like to fully start over and improve the whole process here.
 

Cauldronics

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Check out Steve Albini recording tutorials on youtube. Several subjects are directly aligned with what you're trying to accomplish (phase relationship between two or more mics) and he even moves mics around until they're in phase, improving the sound dramatically. A few inches closer or farther away can make a huge difference, along with understanding the physics at work, which he explains.

I've been recording for a long time and still learned a few new things from his videos. In case you don't know who he is, he's a world renown recording engineer and producer.
 

Cauldronics

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The audio sounds average in your video, and recordings of that quality have been used countless times for band projects, so more than passable. To me, the one thing that really sticks out is a lack of room sound to give an overall picture of the kit. It sounds dry, close and claustrophobic, which can be a sound people are after when recording. It depends what you want it to sound like.

I'd suggest trying a mic at least 5 feet out in front of the kit and setting it up in a way that minimizes phase issues. The Albini tutorials above will have a video showing exactly how to do that effectively and what difference it makes.

I remember hearing very similar sounds in my own recordings to what he was getting in a video when he showed how mics sound when they're not well-positioned. It outlines the difference between sounding like a professional recording engineer and a home hobbyist, but shows that you can achieve pro sound if you know what you're doing and why it matters.
 

dcrigger

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I can't really relate to "tweaking and fixing things to the point of losing a usable sound"... If I'm mixing something for sure (x1000), but for doing remote tracking?? I don't really follow...

To explain... when I started doing this sort of remote drum tracking stuff (which for me goes back to around 1998), I was pretty experienced with teamwork and partnership between the drummer and engineer/producer that goes into the traditional process.

On the "what to play" side of things, where the collaboration was in the form of "they talk - I play - they react - I play again - they react" and on and on until they are happy. Obviously with remote track - there would be whole lot less "back and forth". The process would be the same - but with way less steps. For it to work - time wise and money wise - I'd have to left to my own devices a lot more. And to a great degree - they'd have to happy with what they got as do-overs can be time-consuming.

But the actual recording/engineering "getting sounds" aspect is different. Basically the questions were - "what parts of the engineer's job did I have to do by necessity?" and which parts should I avoid doing (considering the producer wouldn't be with me to give feedback) so as not to tie the producer/engineer's hands later on.

So what I came up with is this....

I generally record every mic to a separate track. And I record directly off the mic-pre/A to D converter. Any EQ or compression I do is strictly for monitoring - for rough mixes and to help me know if I think it is working or not.

But I don't print any of that processing into the individual drum track/files. For me, I feel any thing that I might do to the sound processing-wise is something the "real" engineer can do later. Especially as he can make sonic decisions based on what he's hearing overall - and thus not have to try and undo what I've done (which is always a sonic compromise).

That said - what I almost always do is comp. I may send clients more than one version of things. But one of the beauties of working alone is the ability to try a number of things (in a judgment free environment - it's just me by myself) and then pick a choose between them.

So this can amount to combining takes, editing in short "fixed" sections - and yes, even some time correction as needed or warranted. All of course while still preserving the raw "right of the mic pres" nature of the data.

So what I send forward are performance edited, individual files that are basically raw captures of each mic (or rather, mic pre). Plus if I think it would useful - a stereo rough mix, fully processed of the drums - as it isn't always really clear how I was hearing it going together - or fitting in with other parts. (This particularly an issue when doing hybrid stuff - where there is acoustic drums working with a bunch of loops and programmed stuff - sometimes a rough of all that can help those trying to make sense of it all downstream.

Anyway that's what I've been doing with this stuff - and no one has ever complained. Except for a couple of folks wanting a stereo mix from me because they considered my ability to guess at how the drums should be mixed would be better than their limited abilities to do it - I've yet to run into an engineer that doesn't prefer getting tracks that sound just like what get to start with when they've tracked the drums themselves. They can't change or move the mics and can't swap out pre-amps - but everything past that is their's to do as they wish.
 

Drum Gear Review

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The audio sounds average in your video, and recordings of that quality have been used countless times for band projects, so more than passable. To me, the one thing that really sticks out is a lack of room sound to give an overall picture of the kit. It sounds dry, close and claustrophobic, which can be a sound people are after when recording. It depends what you want it to sound like.

I'd suggest trying a mic at least 5 feet out in front of the kit and setting it up in a way that minimizes phase issues. The Albini tutorials above will have a video showing exactly how to do that effectively and what difference it makes.

I remember hearing very similar sounds in my own recordings to what he was getting in a video when he showed how mics sound when they're not well-positioned. It outlines the difference between sounding like a professional recording engineer and a home hobbyist, but shows that you can achieve pro sound if you know what you're doing and why it matters.
Extemely helpful. Thanks so much, Cauldronics. I have been using a room mic for most of these recordings, but I haven't been super pleased with the results. Great suggestion to go back and dial that in.

Big fan of Albini's as well. I love Shellac. I've watched one or two of those videos, but I'll dig back into them. Thanks again
 

Drum Gear Review

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I can't really relate to "tweaking and fixing things to the point of losing a usable sound"... If I'm mixing something for sure (x1000), but for doing remote tracking?? I don't really follow...

To explain... when I started doing this sort of remote drum tracking stuff (which for me goes back to around 1998), I was pretty experienced with teamwork and partnership between the drummer and engineer/producer that goes into the traditional process.

On the "what to play" side of things, where the collaboration was in the form of "they talk - I play - they react - I play again - they react" and on and on until they are happy. Obviously with remote track - there would be whole lot less "back and forth". The process would be the same - but with way less steps. For it to work - time wise and money wise - I'd have to left to my own devices a lot more. And to a great degree - they'd have to happy with what they got as do-overs can be time-consuming.

But the actual recording/engineering "getting sounds" aspect is different. Basically the questions were - "what parts of the engineer's job did I have to do by necessity?" and which parts should I avoid doing (considering the producer wouldn't be with me to give feedback) so as not to tie the producer/engineer's hands later on.

So what I came up with is this....

I generally record every mic to a separate track. And I record directly off the mic-pre/A to D converter. Any EQ or compression I do is strictly for monitoring - for rough mixes and to help me know if I think it is working or not.

But I don't print any of that processing into the individual drum track/files. For me, I feel any thing that I might do to the sound processing-wise is something the "real" engineer can do later. Especially as he can make sonic decisions based on what he's hearing overall - and thus not have to try and undo what I've done (which is always a sonic compromise).

That said - what I almost always do is comp. I may send clients more than one version of things. But one of the beauties of working alone is the ability to try a number of things (in a judgment free environment - it's just me by myself) and then pick a choose between them.

So this can amount to combining takes, editing in short "fixed" sections - and yes, even some time correction as needed or warranted. All of course while still preserving the raw "right of the mic pres" nature of the data.

So what I send forward are performance edited, individual files that are basically raw captures of each mic (or rather, mic pre). Plus if I think it would useful - a stereo rough mix, fully processed of the drums - as it isn't always really clear how I was hearing it going together - or fitting in with other parts. (This particularly an issue when doing hybrid stuff - where there is acoustic drums working with a bunch of loops and programmed stuff - sometimes a rough of all that can help those trying to make sense of it all downstream.

Anyway that's what I've been doing with this stuff - and no one has ever complained. Except for a couple of folks wanting a stereo mix from me because they considered my ability to guess at how the drums should be mixed would be better than their limited abilities to do it - I've yet to run into an engineer that doesn't prefer getting tracks that sound just like what get to start with when they've tracked the drums themselves. They can't change or move the mics and can't swap out pre-amps - but everything past that is their's to do as they wish.
Makes complete sense, but I should have laid this all out first. I'm often recording for people who do not have an engineer. Sometimes it's a guitarist friend who is just putting down a few songs so they have something to share or distribute.

So, I'll send completely raw stems in case they're able to get someone to help mix and engineer the project, but ill also send a set of stems with some 'best guess' processing based on what I know about the project.

I don't love doing that because I have no idea how any eq, compression, etc is going to line up with whatever else is coming later, but sometimes it's my only option. Someone may get stems from me, drop them in a daw, record the rest of the tracks on top, and then put it out with no additional tweaks.
 

charlesm

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As Trey alluded to, I don't think the important thing so much is how the drums are sounding by themselves but how they're sounding in the context of the track. After getting a good basic sound, adjustments are usually inevitable so that things are sitting well together.

I really think that the MOST important thing you can do as far as recording goes is to develop your ear to the point that you instinctively KNOW what the elements are supposed to sound like. That you know what you're going for with the drum sound...which isn't just one thing, but will typically change track by track. That you know what the mixing and processing moves need to be to get there. Most crucially: that you can hear the overall picture of the complete song, know how to get there, and trust yourself to do it.

This is not to say that there won't be mistakes and discoveries along the way...there'll be plenty.

But you have to become confident and knowledgeable enough in the process to guide it with assurance. Otherwise, with a lack of a degree of certainty about where you're going, yes, you will drive yourself crazy.

Also...VERY IMPORTANT: Do not push your time in front of speakers or with headphones to the point of ear fatigue. That is the fastest way to losing perspective and having no idea what's going on. Allow yourself to take breaks when your ears feel tired, or just shut it down for the day and come back to it fresh.
 

High on Stress

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I think the pros have said it better than I can, but drum sounds can’t really be evaluated in a vacuum. Same goes for any instrument. Think about the biggest Bonham drum sounds. Now go back and listen to how thin the guitar tones are where Jimmy Page left room for the drums to be bigger.

I know this isn’t exactly helpful or what you asked for, but when I record drums I either need to be mixing the whole project or at least know what the other sounds will be … how thick are the guitar tones going to be, am I placing the drums above or below certain other instruments, in terms of EQ. If I can’t do either of those things, I would provide neutral and dry tones like you have here with the addition of a room mic or two and let the mixer figure out how much processing to do.
 

Cauldronics

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As Trey alluded to, I don't think the important thing so much is how the drums are sounding by themselves but how they're sounding in the context of the track. After getting a good basic sound, adjustments are usually inevitable so that things are sitting well together.

I really think that the MOST important thing you can do as far as recording goes is to develop your ear to the point that you instinctively KNOW what the elements are supposed to sound like. That you know what you're going for with the drum sound...which isn't just one thing, but will typically change track by track. That you know what the mixing and processing moves need to be to get there. Most crucially: that you can hear the overall picture of the complete song, know how to get there, and trust yourself to do it.

This is not to say that there won't be mistakes and discoveries along the way...there'll be plenty.

But you have to become confident and knowledgeable enough in the process to guide it with assurance. Otherwise, with a lack of a degree of certainty about where you're going, yes, you will drive yourself crazy.

Also...VERY IMPORTANT: Do not push your time in front of speakers or with headphones to the point of ear fatigue. That is the fastest way to losing perspective and having no idea what's going on. Allow yourself to take breaks when your ears feel tired, or just shut it down for the day and come back to it fresh.
Excellent points on guiding the project and sound to a desired result. Since we have no producer when we're recording ourselves, we have to take up the role of one. Every point you made about knowing and choosing a direction for the recording is what a producer does, along with suggesting or sometimes even requiring changes to the arrangement or structure of a song when they know it'll make the material better. George Martin, for example.
 

Cauldronics

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Big fan of Albini's as well. I love Shellac. I've watched one or two of those videos, but I'll dig back into them. Thanks again
While referring to a mic technique that live sound engineers brought into the studio that he quickly found to be useless, Albini says in one video that he never played live or anything, and then they show a second of him playing some show back in the day. lol He said it so deadpan that I almost believed him for a moment except I knew he toured everywhere with Shellac and Big Black. He has a dry sense of humor.
 


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