Kenny Aronoff studio tour vid - my personal takeaways

dcrigger

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All in all a great video - really nice tour of Kenny's work set-up - lots to take in - lots of great stuff. I recommend watching the whole thing for sure.

But tucked into were two little bits that really grabbed my eye...

The first wasn't surprising... I know Kenny reads, I know he's known to write charts for sessions - it was just cool to see how much that is true and to hear, at least in part, why he does it.

Charts, Charts, Charts...

Kenny charts.jpg


And around at 8:35 - he shows a bunch of charts and says.... “And I write everything out… (shows charts)... so I write that and then I can sight-read it and just blow it out. I want to be able to perform when I record”

I love this as he just addresses one of the great reading myths head-on. And that is that we can't fully perform while reading. The same myth exists with actors and cue cards. And then we watch Brando in the Godfather (and virtually every other movie he's famous for) - all lines read from cue cards - and really the myth is far from absolute. The fact is many (maybe even most) actors can't fully perform with cue cards present because they've never learned the skills to do so. Or just work better from memory.

I think what Kenny means is that when he is recording - he wants to spend as much time in actual performance mode as possible. He doesn't want to have to break in and out of performance mode by having to stop and learn a song, then gear back up to perform it. It seems like his workflow allows him bunch projects together in order to have a big focused session preceded by earlier "homework" sessions, likely away from the drums.

This to me explains why his charts are so detailed - because he may do a "homework session" for someone's track a week before it gets recorded with a bunch of other songs. This would be an impossible workflow style, if relying on memory. Because between gigs, other sessions, other project tasks - editing, mixing, promo work, etc. - it would be impossible to remember some song you listen to a few times a week ago - let alone remember the decisions you made regarding how to approach it.

Personally I make charts for everything I record as well - they are only rarely as detailed though. As my career is usually putting one thing at a time for me to record - there's rarely an opportunity to allow tracks to wait to be recorded until I have a decent size bunch. So often it is - here's a new song, chart it out, play with it a bit and record. I don't need as detailed of a chart - because any decisions are current and fresh in my head.

Striving to prolong the performance vibe though is an enviable thing. As it is a continually drag to try and "psych up" into a performance frame of mind for 5-10 and that's it, we're done.

Anyway - I just love it as a great testament to the degree that being able to read is a money in the bank skills for the working musician. Never does "time is money" rear it's head quicker than when considering being able to read music or not.

OK - like I wrote above - I basically knew all of that about Kenny - but #2 took me by surprise.

#2 - Prime Real Estate and How It Applies to Drum Set-ups

This topic comes up a lot here on DFO - usually when discuss large set-ups. For me, the idea is that I try and never have a large set-up change the essence of my most core, small set-up. In other words for me that means - BD, SD, HH, ride ad 2 or 3 toms never really move. And absolutely when it comes to BD, SD and HH.

So thinking about one Kenny records more often than not... straight forward, big, full sounding, mainstream rock and pop. So of course, good size BD, probably a black beauty type snare, 2 toms, HH, a couple of easily accessible crashes, and...

Well for most that would leave space for that tradition "Buddy Rich" ride position - but modern pop and rock only rarely even need a ride cymbal. So why stick right there from and center - in such prime real estate?

So what does Kenny put there?

His Music Stand!!! I love it!!

To explain why this is so cool to those that don't read a lot. Drummers tend to put there music stands in two places - 1. in front of the BD, up high so you can see it over the toms. The problem is that is a LONG way away. For many making it a distance hard to read from. Also a real stretch to reach - so impossible to turn pages and a pain to even make corrections or marking to your chart.

2. The second location is off to the left - usually just above the hi hat. This offers good proximity - easy access for page turns and marking charts. But play that way - head turned to the left - for too many hours and... wow, talk about a neck ache. And like most things, this does nothing but get worse and worse as we get older.

So he rigged up that extension boom arm to get that music stand right there. Easy to see, easy to mark - easy to see ALL of the drums peripherally while reading (another downside of the "off to the left" position). Just genius. Again I love it.
Kenny music stand 1.jpg
kenny music stand 2.jpg


Like I wrote above, these are just two things that jumped out at me - but there's a lot more touched on in the video. Doesn't hesitate to chime in about whatever you found cool about the video...

 
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Hop

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I was really curious just how much that studio costs him month-to-month, year-over-year... he's got a lot of space and it can't be cheap!
I always just figured he would plow this money into a home-based studio, like some other well-known and constantly working pro's.
 

Tornado

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I was really curious just how much that studio costs him month-to-month, year-over-year... he's got a lot of space and it can't be cheap!
I always just figured he would plow this money into a home-based studio, like some other well-known and constantly working pro's.
As someone who primarily works from home, there is a LOT to be said for having a physical division between home and work. Just the act of driving to the office (whatever your "office" is) is enough to put you in a more focused and productive mindset. The psychological benefits of just leaving your house are immense after a long enough period of being at home. I've heard of guys who work at home who make a habit of getting fully dressed, and driving around the block before their day starts to feel like they are going to work. For me, the only advantage (beyond pure convenience) to a home studio would be the long term cost savings. I have a place to practice outside of my house now, and it's so much better knowing that nobody else is hearing what I'm doing, I'm not bothering anyone else who lives in my house, no neighbors, no distractions, no TV. I don't want to play at home ever again.
 

Tornado

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After watching, I'm kind of surprised he's using a thumper in his studio. I guess why not?, but I associate those with live playing.
 

CC Cirillo

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The working world of the consummate pro.

Tama endorser who uses a big Ludwig bass drum and Black Beauties, or his own snare drums which he is basically saying are black beauties, if I heard him correctly. I always find those tidbits fascinating.

What a hard worker, that guy. I don’t think I’ve ever read one negative thing about him.

Thanks for posting.
 

dcrigger

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I was really curious just how much that studio costs him month-to-month, year-over-year... he's got a lot of space and it can't be cheap!
I always just figured he would plow this money into a home-based studio, like some other well-known and constantly working pro's.
I've always leaned towards the home recording approach - but there have always been guys that opt for the separate approach (in the past that would usually mean keyboard players, guitars players, etc - the dedicated drum recording studio is a more recent trend). Many would opt for the separation for the reasons Tornado speaks of - but also there's often practical concerns as well. We went through a long period of time in LA where zoning was being a problem for home based room. That, I think, has cleared up a lot, but there's still the issue that to even do half of what Kenny is doing here takes quite a bit of space. Which can push the home price up so high that living more modestly (which you would be doing anyway with the studio taking up half of your personal space) in a smaller house/property coupled with renting the business space (in a far funkier location - which this building here certainly is) might be more affordable.

Other practical issues involve how often the work requires meeting with people - and for someone like Kenny (in pre-Covid times) - where is the bulk of your stuff going to be - does it work in your neighborhood for the cartage truck coming and going regularly to get or return your gear.

My guess with Kenny is that it is some combination of both - I would imagine he was a busy, 5 star session guy seeing the need to also offer a self-contained option - that would also eliminate cartage charges... Solution - build a studio where your gear is store and where the cartage guys haul it in and out of all of the time.

A very workable situation for life before Covid - that I'm sure was essential at keeping things going as much as possible this past year.
 

dcrigger

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As someone who primarily works from home, there is a LOT to be said for having a physical division between home and work. Just the act of driving to the office (whatever your "office" is) is enough to put you in a more focused and productive mindset. The psychological benefits of just leaving your house are immense after a long enough period of being at home. I've heard of guys who work at home who make a habit of getting fully dressed, and driving around the block before their day starts to feel like they are going to work. For me, the only advantage (beyond pure convenience) to a home studio would be the long term cost savings. I have a place to practice outside of my house now, and it's so much better knowing that nobody else is hearing what I'm doing, I'm not bothering anyone else who lives in my house, no neighbors, no distractions, no TV. I don't want to play at home ever again.
Excellent post - and one that lays out so many of the cons of working from home. None of which I'm going to discount at all.

But I will offer up some of the benefits.....

So much of what I've done over the years has so often come as feasts and famines... In 30-40 years, there was rarely a month with a similar schedule to the month prior. And in dealing with this is how having a working studio at home has excelled...

In times of feast, it allowed me to occasionally "be at home" - on real crunch projects, where I might only being getting 2,3,4 hours sleep a night - 7 days a week - for weeks. If I had been working at a separate studio - I would invariably eat and sleep at that studio. Because even the commute (while continually exhausted) would make little sense. At home, I could at least crawl into my own bed for a bit and share usually at least one daily meal with my wife.

Through so many years of touring for a living - being away 24 hours in order to perform for two - I found I had little desire to duplicate that scenario when it came to doing projects in house.

During famine times - the reasoning is even simpler. Dead heading that extra rent - when there was nothing going - could be just killer. I knew too many guys that got themselves into having to do dumber and cheaper projects in order to offset that monthly nut.

And of course in-between those two extremes just seemed more doable because of the flexibility.

None of which is discount the points you make - as having the TV, the couch, household chores, etc. right there as easy excuses to procrastinate is a constant problem. Though one can go to their commercial facility and waste time getting nothing done as well. I afraid I don't think there really is a trick to not procrastinating beyond just not procrastinating.
 

dcrigger

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After watching, I'm kind of surprised he's using a thumper in his studio. I guess why not?, but I associate those with live playing.
That was a new to me too.

Though thinking about it - if you're used to "hearing" the low end that way - and you can hear tons of low end that way. I guess it makes sense. Why try and create that experience through headphones only? So I think in the context of trying to make a recording like a performance for the player, maybe it is a pretty good idea.

I just really got the vibe from him that he thinks that it is really important that he's basically smiling while tracking.... really having a good time. So anything that make more that way is worth it.
 

Sinclair

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That was great. Thanks Dave. How does he have time to play drums when it looks like he's in the gym 4 hrs a day. Inspiring to see a guy that could very easily rest on his laurels but chooses to move forward with bigger ideas and continues to grow. I'd bet his motivational stuff is worth a listen.
 

Matched Gripper

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All in all a great video - really nice tour of Kenny's work set-up - lots to take in - lots of great stuff. I recommend watching the whole thing for sure.

But tucked into were two little bits that really grabbed my eye...

The first wasn't surprising... I know Kenny reads, I know he known to write charts for sessions - it was just cool to see how much that is true and to hear, at least in part, why he does it.

Charts, Charts, Charts...

View attachment 502678

And around at 8:35 - he shows a bunch of charts and says.... “And I write everything out… (shows charts)... so I write that and then I can sight-read it and just blow it out. I want to be able to perform when I record”

I love this as he just addresses one of the great reading myths head-on. And that is that we can't fully perform while reading. The same myth exists with actors and cue cards. And then we watch Brando in the Godfather (and virtually every other movie he's famous for) - all lines read from cue cards - and really the myth is far from absolute. The fact is many (maybe even most) actors can't fully perform with cue cards present because they've never learned the skills to do so. Or just work better from memory.

I think what Kenny means is that when he is recording - he wants to spend as much time in actual performance mode as possible. He doesn't want to have to break in and out of performance mode by having to stop and learn a song, then gear back up to perform it. It seems like his workflow allows him bunch projects together in order to have a big focused session preceded by earlier "homework" sessions, likely away from the drums.

This to me explains why his charts are so detailed - because he may do a "homework session" for someone's track a week before it gets recorded with a bunch of other songs. This would be an impossible workflow style, if relying on memory. Because between gigs, other sessions, other project tasks - editing, mixing, promo work, etc. - it would be impossible to remember some song you listen to a few times a week ago - let alone remember the decisions you made regarding how to approach it.

Personally I make charts for everything I record as well - they are only rarely as detailed though. As my career is usually putting one thing at a time for me to record - there's rarely an opportunity to allow tracks to wait to be recorded until I have a decent size bunch. So often it is - here's a new song, chart it out, play with it a bit and record. I don't need as detailed of a chart - because any decisions are current and fresh in my head.

Striving to prolong the performance vibe though is an enviable thing. As it is a continually drag to try and "psych up" into a performance frame of mind for 5-10 and that's it, we're done.

Anyway - I just love it as a great testament to the degree that being able to read is a money in the bank skills for the working musician. Never does "time is money" rear it's head quicker than when considering being able to read music or not.

OK - like I wrote above - I basically knew all of that about Kenny - but #2 took me by surprise.

#2 - Prime Real Estate and How It Applies to Drum Set-ups

This topic comes up a lot here on DFO - usually when discuss large set-ups. For me, the idea is that I try and never have a large set-up change the essence of my most core, small set-up. In other words for me that means - BD, SD, HH, ride ad 2 or 3 toms never really move. And absolutely when it comes to BD, SD and HH.

So thinking about one Kenny records more often than not... straight forward, big, full sounding, mainstream rock and pop. So of course, good size BD, probably a black beauty type snare, 2 toms, HH, a couple of easily accessible crashes, and...

Well for most that would leave space for that tradition "Buddy Rich" ride position - but modern pop and rock only rarely even need a ride cymbal. So why stick right there from and center - in such prime real estate?

So what does Kenny put there?

His Music Stand!!! I love it!!

To explain why this is so cool to those that don't read a lot. Drummers tend to put there music stands in two places - 1. in front of the BD, up high so you can see it over the toms. The problem is that is a LONG way away. For many making it a distance hard to read from. Also a real stretch to reach - so impossible to turn pages and a pain to even make corrections or marking to your chart.

2. The second location is off to the left - usually just above the hi hat. This offers good proximity - easy access for page turns and marking charts. But play that way - head turned to the left - for too many hours and... wow, talk about a neck ache. And like most things, this does nothing but get worse and worse as we get older.

So he rigged up that extension boom arm to get that music stand right there. Easy to see, easy to mark - easy to see ALL of the drums peripherally while reading (another downside of the "off to the left" position). Just genius. Again I love it. View attachment 502682 View attachment 502683

Like I wrote above, these are just two things that jumped out at me - but there's a lot more touched on in the video. Doesn't hesitate to chime in about whatever you found cool about the video...

Love the energy and enthusiasm.
 

Matched Gripper

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That was great. Thanks Dave. How does he have time to play drums when it looks like he's in the gym 4 hrs a day. Inspiring to see a guy that could very easily rest on his laurels but chooses to move forward with bigger ideas and continues to grow. I'd bet his motivational stuff is worth a listen.
Can you believe he’s 68 y.o.?
 
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There is a Modern Drummer Legends coming out that is entirely on Kenny, it includes an excellent, in-depth (and loooong) interview (best one ever done,) transcriptions, his own handwritten charts, extreme detail on his gear, and MUCH more.

Kenny had a lot to do with the book, and is very proud of it. He mentions (and talks about it a lot) it in the John DeChristopher "Live From My Drum Room" show. In his Legends issue Kenny goes into detail about many of the subjects that he mentions in this video, and that have been talked about here in this thread. Thought y'all might want to know.

That was a great video tour, he's a fascinating guy!
MSG
 

mebeatee

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Cool vid!!! Interesting setup(s) and ways of working. I’m glad I watched it now instead of with morning coffee otherwise I wouldn’t have spurted....
8:10 in.....there ya go folks....12 mics on your kit (down from 18!) and you’re Kenny to go....with no overkill....I can understand and appreciate but what a great line!!
One or one hundred mics doesn’t matter....I just loved his attitude....although Polynesian Nightmare needs 17 toms..........12 or 18 mics like the old daze won’t cut it.
Also cool in there is/was no small mounted tom on the right on his studio kit as per his usual setup(s)....that partly answers the 6 less mics question....;)
bt
 

musiqman

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Check out the other studio tours too.

Insane!

Eventhough im very lucky with this home studio in our garden, it makes me jealous :icon_e_biggrin:

Gotta love the ipad for reading (im going through 71 pages for musical sub work)

71F6169E-5E20-403B-B8BE-B472DD597349.jpeg


Although my eyes probably need a larger 12.9 model :-D

I love it in the front position too.

Until the 8” tom comes in, this is the perfect spot.

After that I will probably move it above the front estate next to the wide screen that needs to go there too.

I do need the ride still (although the hats get more use).

As I learned over the years to play from head I still prefer this meothod over (sight) reading for now.

But I can see why with his amount of work its a necessity.
 

ppfd

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40 years with Tama, that's saying something. I don't know anything about what they were talking about :-D
Still very interesting
 

853guy

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My personal takeaway is the confirmation of how significant the gap is between a very well-respected professional musician who's played on hundreds of chart-topping albums, and someone who has writing/arranging/publishing rights for those same albums.
 

Piggpenn

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Wow. Kenny is not on my radar but I have to give him props. I had no idea about this drummer. I'll take notice from now on.

Thanks for the education. I'm humbled.
 

cworrick

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Wow. Kenny is not on my radar but I have to give him props. I had no idea about this drummer.
:blink::shock:

I could understand this about some drummers as they tend to only play in certain genres or circles of performers. We as drummers and music consumers tend to also pay attention to our favorite genres and performers. However, besides being very active in the music scene since the 80's, Kenny has such a HUGE circle of styles and performer and playing experiences that he has played with I find it hard to believe that he could fly under anyone's radar.
 

musiqman

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:blink::shock:

I could understand this about some drummers as they tend to only play in certain genres or circles of performers. We as drummers and music consumers tend to also pay attention to our favorite genres and performers. However, besides being very active in the music scene since the 80's, Kenny has such a HUGE circle of styles and performer and playing experiences that he has played with I find it hard to believe that he could fly under anyone's radar.
Tbh. If I didn’t had a bookshop that had Modern Drummer in my teen years I wouldn’t have know about him either.
 


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