Jeff Porcaro tuning tips

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jaymandude

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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.
It would be helpful to hear the raw tracks. Pre mix. Also, not sure what your setup is. But unless you're at one of about 12 studios in America, I doubt you have acesst o those mikes, those pres, and that room. And that money. Everyone is searching for that, look at all the sound replacement tools now ... It's a worthy quest for sure. Just keep things in perspective maybe..
 

SamuelPepys

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It would be helpful to hear the raw tracks. Pre mix. Also, not sure what your setup is. But unless you're at one of about 12 studios in America, I doubt you have acesst o those mikes, those pres, and that room. And that money. Everyone is searching for that, look at all the sound replacement tools now ... It's a worthy quest for sure. Just keep things in perspective maybe..
We have W A A A A Y better rooms here than they had back then. If you clap in our two storey main room, it literally sounds like a more alive and fuller version of the TC System 6000, with the perfect tail and everything. It wasn't until the early 80's that people generally started moving out of their completely dead and small drumrooms into larger rooms with high ceilings. Because of that, I find it easy to capture the drum sound of Toto's "Rosanna" for example, as Sunset Sound Studio B sounds close to our main room (although I would argue that ours is even better. It was certainly more expensive). We also have most of the same mic's. A collection of C12's, m49's, u47's and some other classics. + the regular less expensive studio workshorses they used back in the day.

I also have a personal collection of 60's 3ply Ludwigs, Gretsch sets and a collection of Ludwig snares from the 60's, so I can come pretty close to the sound, but I've yet to truly nail it, even when having the drums gobo'd to hell and back, lol!

We do have different pre's most likely, but we use two Neve consoles and one SSL + a collection of API pre's and some other fun toys.

In general though, I think it is difficult for modern engineers to get those sounds because we complicate things too much. That's just how we are taught. And it's difficult to let go of modern practices, as we are so drilled in them. Had I been around in the 70's, it might have been a different thing though. But as engineers who worked back then are so keen on erasing that part of their history and only focussing on their current work, precious little information seeps out that would help us reconstruct some of those awesome sounds today.

I did hit on something the other day though, specifically regarding the sound of "Night by Night". Much of the awesomeness of the snare sound comes from the toms. They were un-gated, tuned low and rang quite loudly in the mix. It gave a dark and low sound to an otherwise tightly tuned snare drum. Haven't been able to test it out yet considering the virus, but it might be the missing piece of the puzzle.
 

multijd

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I also have a personal collection of 60's 3ply Ludwigs, Gretsch sets and a collection of Ludwig snares from the 60's, so I can come pretty close to the sound, but I've yet to truly nail it, even when having the drums gobo'd to hell and back, lol!
The reason you‘ve yet to truly nail it is because Jeff isn't playing the drums. It sounds like you've got a great studio, great drums and you are a thoughtful engineer. You probably work with some really fine musicians (drummers!) also. But the single most important factor in getting ANY drum sound is how you hit the drum. All of the great drummers from Max Roach to John Bonham, Buddy Rich to Steve Gadd etc. and of course Jeff Porcaro have a unique sound that is primarily based on their stroke. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) you’ll never copy that.
 

SteveB

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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.
You CAN get a tight snare quite deep with some simple EQ. Try boosting 250-300 and that should add weight to the sound.
 

SteveB

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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.
You CAN get a tight snare quite deep with some simple EQ. Try boosting 250-300 ad that should add weight to the sound
 

SamuelPepys

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To everyone who has replied. I figured out a few things. By a complete coincidence, in the comment section of a random "react" video, I crossed paths with Jeff Porcaro's drum tech from his first gigs up to 75'-76'. He was able to clear up some confusion.

Regarding "snares going all the way across" on his 6.5 Ludwig snare, I asked the tech what snares he used throughout the 70's, as there has never been any public info on exactly which metal drums he used. He said he had a couple of radio Kings (we knew that), but that his main snare on recordings was a Ludwig 6.5 Super Sensitive.

So there we go, the snares did go across the head because it was a Super Sensitive. The tech also said that Jeff didn't tune any of his drums, because he used heads that were so old they didn't need to be tuned. He said:
"the key to Jeff's sound wasn't really in the tuning, it was in the heads. We didn't replace them like they do today. Heads would last forever, sometimes years of continuous live and studio use. Jeff's heads were very broken in, and you never really had to tune them once they were old and worn enough. That's primarily where Jeff's sound comes from".

He also mentioned that the well known session drummer Ollie Brown bought heads at Pro Drum in 1970, and that the owner Bob Yeager said "hell, they'll last a lifetime". Ollie took that literally, and to this day has not replaced those drum heads he bought in 1970. They are still going strong after decades of heavy studio and live usage.

So that's what I know now. I'll ask him more things when I can pinpoint specific questions I'd like to have answered. He also said he'd hook me up with Jamo, Jeff's drum tech and best friend from right before Toto to Jeff's passing. Hoping to get some more information on Jeff and on his equipment, as there is not too much information out there on what Jeff used to get his sounds, considering he was not too keen on sharing that stuff in interviews.
 

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
As promised here are a couple of pictures. The material is similar to what the airlines provide as blankets on flights but a bit thicker. My current tuning for toms is reso head lower tension than batter. The journey continues.
 

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SamuelPepys

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As promised here are a couple of pictures. The material is similar to what the airlines provide as blankets on flights but a bit thicker. My current tuning for toms is reso head lower tension than batter. The journey continues.
Looks good! Cool way of doing it!
 

SamuelPepys

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OK. Additional details. It appears "snares all the way across" went for all his snare drums, and not just the SS where it dies that naturally. He simply used 15" snare wires for all his 14" snare drums so that they went all across the head.
 

foxy_shazamtastic

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OK. Additional details. It appears "snares all the way across" went for all his snare drums, and not just the SS where it dies that naturally. He simply used 15" snare wires for all his 14" snare drums so that they went all across the head.
Interesting, no strainer modifications?
 

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