Recording Drums: Analog or Digital??

Drew Shreve

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Hey all!! My band is currently in preproduction for our first full length record, and we are torn on which direction to go with the drums. Our two options right now, are to do the entire record in our Engineer/Producer's home studio (comperable quality and gear to a medium sized, pro level studio) which would involve Pro Tools on the drums but would allow unlimited time, or to go to one of the larger studios here in Seattle such as London Bridge, Jupiter Studios or The Red Room with an in-house engineer and track the drums to 2" tape.

Is there anyone out there who has had extensive experience in both, and could offer some pointers?

Kit:

Tama Starclassic Bubinga Elite: 26x16, 10x9, 13x10, 15x15, 18x16
DW Edge Series Snare Drum 5 1/2x 14

Cymbals: HHX 14" Manhattan Jazz Hats, HHX 21" Dry Raw Bell Ride, Zildjian K 20" Ride, 19" Zildjian "Armand" Crash-Ride

DW 9000 Series Hardware and Rack
 

Drew Shreve

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If we were to go with the analog option, it would be simaltaneously tracked to Pro Tools as well. The main issue is that recording analog would easily add a couple thousand dollars and we would be limited to three days with our budget, whereas doing all pro tools would give us unlimited time on drums. Thoughts?
 

Man minus label

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Personally, I would go digital for budget and pressure purposes. Going analog is an indulgent thing that rock stars can do with a big budget. There are plug ins that can warm up recordings to give an analog softness to it. Save your money and take your time to get a good recorded performance.
 

Chunkaway

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I have done both and my abbreviated answer is go digital. With mp3s and such, music is compressed to such a degree that the average listener will not be able to identify any sonic differences or benefits of one recording method over another. Digital is cheaper and less time consuming.
 

Drew Shreve

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Thanks for the tips guys!!! Here's a link to the EP we recorded last spring which gives an idea of how we sound, although on the full length we want a much stronger, more art rock tone ala Band of Skulls or The Arctic Monkeys. The drums and cymbals which will be used are the same ones, any other tips as far as improving on the EP's drum tone would be GREATLY appreciated!!

http://ladyjustice.bandcamp.com/
 

dcrigger

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First - I agree that this one of luxurious niceties, that while cool and certainly valid audio-wise, really shouldn't be done if it means compromising anything on a whole long list of far more important things - more time for tracking, for mixing, for getting things just right, mastering, pre-production-time, etc., etc.

Second - if you were to choose to go the route of capturing the drums to 2", I hope when you wrote "simultaneously tracked to ProTools as well" that you mean that "the signal off the play head of the 2" machine will be captured into ProTools, then time shifted back in order to be in sync with how you played it in relation to the track" (if that makes any sense). Which I assume is what yo meant.

Again, I'd really think twice about this - besides the pressure of initial time constraint, it allows then makes it near impossible to say re-do a track further into the project... or re-do the drums after with everyone's completed overdubs a song has morphed into something different than it started out with. Possibly something deserving of a different drum approach - easy to do if you're "in house" a far tougher choice if it means booking another analog session, etc.

David
 

JCKOriollo

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Chunkaway said:
I have done both and my abbreviated answer is go digital. With mp3s and such, music is compressed to such a degree that the average listener will not be able to identify any sonic differences or benefits of one recording method over another. Digital is cheaper and less time consuming.
+1
 

lazer

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with budget restraints go dig

otherwise track live off the floor to 2" like the big boys!
 

Drew Shreve

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dcrigger said:
First - I agree that this one of luxurious niceties, that while cool and certainly valid audio-wise, really shouldn't be done if it means compromising anything on a whole long list of far more important things - more time for tracking, for mixing, for getting things just right, mastering, pre-production-time, etc., etc.

Second - if you were to choose to go the route of capturing the drums to 2", I hope when you wrote "simultaneously tracked to ProTools as well" that you mean that "the signal off the play head of the 2" machine will be captured into ProTools, then time shifted back in order to be in sync with how you played it in relation to the track" (if that makes any sense). Which I assume is what yo meant.

Again, I'd really think twice about this - besides the pressure of initial time constraint, it allows then makes it near impossible to say re-do a track further into the project... or re-do the drums after with everyone's completed overdubs a song has morphed into something different than it started out with. Possibly something deserving of a different drum approach - easy to do if you're "in house" a far tougher choice if it means booking another analog session, etc.

David
Yes David that is what I meant by "simultaneously tracked to ProTools" :) And thanks again for the tips, these are all the things I had been thinking and just needed a second opinion. I hadn't considered the factor of the song morphing and having drum overdubs be an option. That is an enormous benefit at this stage that I think would far outweigh the slight bump in tone from 2"
 

JCKOriollo

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Dare I say I think analog is overrated. With some solid analog pres through a great analog to digital converter...not sure how much you are really losing.
 

equipmentdork

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After PT HD came on the scene, the gap between digital and analog lessened. I do basic tracks to analog and dump to PT where possible, because there is still nothing like it.

Production-wise, if you have to sacrifice massive money as well as put a gun to your head due to lack of time, there's no choice. No need to rush the project, because that could very well have an adverse effect. Plus, tape stock is much more expensive now than when it was when it was all the rage....go figure. If you have some nice Neve mic pres, a good room, and a good engineer, you're all set!

I'm very aware of how people listen to music these days, but that does NOT mean I am going to use an inferior studio and find some mastering hack who will smash my songs to bits with a limiter. If just one person puts my song up on his system and is impressed, my job is done.


Dan
 

bleen

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Since I regularly track at the three studios you mentioned, I can tell you that the ROOM will be far more of a factor in the drum sound you get than whether you track to tape or not. Tape is not some "magic potion" that guarantees you'll get a better sound than tracking direct to PT. Will the 2" be aligned properly? Will it maintain its alignment? Etc...
 

Drew Shreve

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bleen said:
Since I regularly track at the three studios you mentioned, I can tell you that the ROOM will be far more of a factor in the drum sound you get than whether you track to tape or not. Tape is not some "magic potion" that guarantees you'll get a better sound than tracking direct to PT. Will the 2" be aligned properly? Will it maintain its alignment? Etc...
This is also another major factor I've been considering. Just out of Curiosity Bleen, which of those three did you get your favorite sound out of? I've always loved the tones that Derek gets out of The Red Room, but don't have a lot of first hand experience at the other two.
 

bleen

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It depends on the sound I'm looking for. London Bridge is the largest/most reverberant space of the three, so if I need the "Large Rock™", that's a good bet. I've gotten drum sounds I'm extremely happy with at Jupiter and Red Room, too. My favorite tracking room in town in Studio Litho - a ton of versatility in that room, plus a large enough booth to get a completely different sound on a kit if I want a smaller space, too.
 

Markkuliini

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bleen said:
Since I regularly track at the three studios you mentioned, I can tell you that the ROOM will be far more of a factor in the drum sound you get than whether you track to tape or not. Tape is not some "magic potion" that guarantees you'll get a better sound than tracking direct to PT. Will the 2" be aligned properly? Will it maintain its alignment? Etc...
Also the skills of the engineer (and later the mixing engineer) can make a huge difference for better or for worse. The recording media itself is only one small detail on a long audio chain. I would not put too much value on that.
 

Drew Shreve

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I understand all of this, this isn't my first rodeo :) We have figured out every detail including engineer, mixing engineer, mastering, etc. Changing the media is the only part I have no experience with, and you guys have been beyond helpful!! A good friend of mine just bounced their entire mix to tape and had the 2" mastered, and it gave the drums that warmth to where my ears couldn't tell it was "cheated" has anyone ever done this? It seems like a great compromise between the two, but again I don't know :)
 

SteveB

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Drew Shreve said:
I understand all of this, this isn't my first rodeo :) We have figured out every detail including engineer, mixing engineer, mastering, etc. Changing the media is the only part I have no experience with, and you guys have been beyond helpful!! A good friend of mine just bounced their entire mix to tape and had the 2" mastered, and it gave the drums that warmth to where my ears couldn't tell it was "cheated" has anyone ever done this? It seems like a great compromise between the two, but again I don't know :)
I would think the only person who can answer this would be you personally, and if it was worth the time or expense. If the drums are super important in the sound of the material you might want to go through those ropes to get a sound you and the others like. I agree with the person above who said its become an mp3 world (unfortunately) and this may all be moot. You'd want to at least start with the best sound you can get. It would be fun to A and B it. I'd like to hear the difference when you're done!

Of course by the time it gets over here it will be a scewed mp3.
 

thewedge

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If the point is to shop yourself...then go digital. I've never seen anybody get a deal because they recorded analog. If your music calls for the nuances of analog...they will pay for it and get someone who truly understands how to use it in post production.
 


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