Jeff Porcaro tuning tips

SamuelPepys

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Hello! This is my first post here. Not a professional drummer by any means, but a professional studio engineer, so I'm not experienced with the more unusual tuning techniques out there the way real drummers are, just how we do it in the studio.

I've been kind of into the late 70's, early 80' snare sound (before they put all their reverb on the thing).
I found this quote by Jeff from about 78' about how he tunes his snares for studio dates.

"As far as snare drums go, I recently hit upon something that's a little hard to talk about, but you have to hear it on records! A lot of them like that big, fat, meaty snare drum like you hear on Fleetwood Mac. That real thick sound. I use a 6 1/2 metal snare with the bottom head pretty tight and the snares going all the way across. I put the top head on and use a splicing block, like those used for splicing tape, or something about that size. I put it together with some foam, and I wrap a piece of leather around and lay it so the foam is resting against the head. I don't like any internal muffling, or cloth with tape. A wallet sounds good on top of the snare. The top head is tuned loose, to where each lug is about to fall off. Start hitting it with the snares real loose and raise the pitch of the head from that position, tightening the snares slightly. Within about three rotations, you've got yourself a nice sounding snare drum. I keep the top heads loose and the bottom heads tight on my toms to get the pitch to bend a little"

First of all: what does he mean by "snare going all the way across"? Was there ever any other way? Again, not a drummer so I have no clue.
Second of all, does anyone understand what he means by the splicing block tip? Is it on the top of the head taped on, or what is the deal? He later says that a wallet sounds good on top of the snare, and that he doesn't like cloth with tape, so I started thinking maybe he meant that it's somehow placed underneath the head, but then he said he doesn't like any internal muffling. Frankly, I don't feel I completely know what he's doing. Would anyone who think they understand this try it out the way he described here and give some feedback on how it worked and what they did?

Thanks!
 
J

jaymandude

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Dude. I'm going to call you out. Don't hate me. Professional studio engineer right ? Do some research on how they used to record and edit with tape...
 

Seb77

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I think by snare going all across the head, he refers to some kind of parallel snare strainer, such as Ludwig Super-Sensitive.

There are some dedicated snare mufflers around these days that use quite a lot of weight (snareweight). Then again, some players put a piece of cloth near the edge and get a great sound Check out yt channel "Sounds like a drum".
With an internal muffler, the mechanic kind, you lose a lot of fundmanetal tone, I think that's what he wanted to avoid.
 

SamuelPepys

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Dude. I'm going to call you out.... Professional studio engineer right ? Do some research on how they used to records with tape...
If you mean how they recorded with tape (which we still do from time to time), then I think I understand how that works pretty well, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the snare tuning tip. I know what a splicing block is. We normally use the inbuilt splicer on the Studer though.
 

SamuelPepys

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I think by snare going all across the head, he refers to some kind of parallel snare strainer, such as Ludwig Super-Sensitive.

There are some dedicated snare mufflers around these days that use quite a lot of weight (snareweight). Then again, some players put a piece of cloth near the edge and get a great sound Check out yt channel "Sounds like a drum".
With an internal muffler, the mechanic kind, you lose a lot of fundmanetal tone, I think that's what he wanted to avoid.
Maybe that is what he meant with the snare comment. I have a Super-Sensitive, so that's practical in that case. Yeah, we normally use our home built rings or something heavy for muffling, but I'm still kind of confused about how he did it. Yeah, I think you are spot on about his comment about internal muffling was specifically directed owards the internal muffler mechanism, and maybe not about muffling the head from the inside in general.
 

tris66

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Hmmm.... interesting. If ". A wallet sounds good on top of the snare." where is he using his tape block, foam, leather contraption? Not muting the snare side is he?!
 

SamuelPepys

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To me it sounds like the splicing block and foam wrapped with leather is just an 'artificial wallet'.
Ok, that feels pretty right. I was confused about his comment about the wallet. It almost sounded like he liked to use a wallet on top of the head in addition to the splicing block trick, so I wondered how the splicing block could be anywhere other than on top of the head.
 

SamuelPepys

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Hmmm.... interesting. If ". A wallet sounds good on top of the snare." where is he using his tape block, foam, leather contraption? Not muting the snare side is he?!
That's exactly what I was confused about! Haha. I've seen enough interviews with him to know that the way he talked might not have been very ideal for verbatim transcription, hehe. It's more a stream of conciousness. But this had me properly confused.
 

Seb77

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Yeah, sounds like that contraption or a wallet.

I never understood how to really use a wallet until I saw a picture of one flipped open and only half of it covering the head, the other half hanging down outside the drum. That way it stays in place.
 
J

jaymandude

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Poracro was never really known for using a super sensitive but maybe I'm wrong. That's pretty tried and true method for that sound. Mutt Lange used a similar degree of muffling for his big 80's records. 6.5 Black Beauty with 1/3 of the head taped with a bandana or soft cloth
 

SamuelPepys

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Yeah, sounds like that contraption or a wallet.

I never understood how to really use a wallet until I saw a picture of one flipped open and only half of it covering the head, the other half hanging down outside the drum. That way it stays in place.
I know dude. When I was a teen I heard about that trick and tried it out. It was useless! Sure, it sounded good, but it was impossible to play with. Until I got it explained to me it should be open and halfway off the head. It has worked great since.
 

SamuelPepys

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Poracro was never really known for using a super sensitive but maybe I'm wrong. That's pretty tried and true method for that sound. Mutt Lange used a similar degree of muffling for his big 80's records. 6.5 Black Beauty with 1/3 of the head taped with a bandana or soft cloth
I didn't know either. I knew he played a bunch of Ludwigs during that time, and that he went for the deeper shells, but I have yet to see him with a super sensitive. It just sounded like a weird thing to say. I don't know what he meant by it.
 

Kcmcc

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Yeah, sounds like that contraption or a wallet.

I never understood how to really use a wallet until I saw a picture of one flipped open and only half of it covering the head, the other half hanging down outside the drum. That way it stays in place.
This works best with a Sticksaver rim. But works well enough with a regular tf.
 

Joe61

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My latest method for damping the overtones on toms is to use a piece of felt cut to about the diameter of 3" with a section of the felt protruding about 2'. Imagine a key hole shape for an old skeleton key. Clip the protrusion part to the rim with a small binder clip. Let the weight of the felt lay on the head, gravity only, no tape. When the head is struck the felt flutters/vibrates with the head. I have found that this method reduces volume only a small amount while reducing overtone and sustain to my liking, at least for now. I have also placed another felt of the same shape inside the drum secured between the drum and reso head. The same way one would place the felt strip in a bass drum. Again leting gravity do its thing. I went through the gel phase for about a year or so and still use a couple on the snare but for toms I like felt better. As soon as I can get back to the practice hole where my set is I will take pics and post.

Be safe,
Joe
 

Treviso1

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I think by snare going all across the head, he refers to some kind of parallel snare strainer, such as Ludwig Super-Sensitive.

There are some dedicated snare mufflers around these days that use quite a lot of weight (snareweight). Then again, some players put a piece of cloth near the edge and get a great sound Check out yt channel "Sounds like a drum".
With an internal muffler, the mechanic kind, you lose a lot of fundmanetal tone, I think that's what he wanted to avoid.
I was thinking the same thing...Super Sensitive snares with the parallel snare wires going across the snare head.
 

SamuelPepys

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I think this might be what he was talking about, right at 42:56 (it's where it starts if you press the link)


Looks like something the lenghts of a splicing block or so, and then foam underneath and leather over the top and sides, and taped to the drum head I would guess. And it's from the same year or the year after the interview, so this would have been his primary muffling on all the sessions and Toto work around the late 70's/early 80's. That at last gives a bit of clarity on where he placed it, which I was very unsure of.
 

RIDDIM

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I've used a wallet, when necessary, for years. Works fine.
 

SteveB

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I just use a 2" wide cut out from an old head. For less, and some faint pitch I'll just use a piece of napkin and masking tape. I use that combo 95% of the time on a straight coated Ambassador. My snares are never completely open unless I'm doing LZ covers, which is never. In the studio I've used as many as 3 mics to capture the snare, EQ, compression and truncating the signal. Fat isn't too hard to get.
 

SamuelPepys

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I just use a 2" wide cut out from an old head. For less, and some faint pitch I'll just use a piece of napkin and masking tape. I use that combo 95% of the time on a straight coated Ambassador. My snares are never completely open unless I'm doing LZ covers, which is never. In the studio I've used as many as 3 mics to capture the snare, EQ, compression and truncating the signal. Fat isn't too hard to get.
Yeah, a fat snare sound is probably the easiest sound to get in my experience. Just slap something on the snare and you're golden. Ey, we have a pretty similar method it seems. My favourite is a 2" o-ring cutout of a really thick fiberskyn head. However, I've yet to hear a single drummer or engineer be able to get a snare sound like Jeff had in the 70's. I've heard some try their best, but haven't heard anyone be able to do it yet. It's either too fat, too low tuned or not right in some other way. The perfect example for me would be Night by Night (Steely Dan). That's a fantastic snare. The snare on the tune Gaucho is also pretty fantastic. Tight, tuned pretty high, but with a low, fat as hell sound.
 

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