Bad recording experience

rmac86

Member
Hi guys, first post in a while!

Over the last weekend I have been recording drums for one of my bands EPs which we are hopefully going to use to get gigs - fingers crossed.

However, I must say that as this is my first time recording drums "properly" i.e. fully mic'd up etc. I found it a little bit of an disappointing procedure.

I was so excited to be recording my new Pearl Vision Bop kit, especially to hear the punchy 18" kick, however after I had set everything up the sound engineer came in and noticed the lack of hole in the bass drum, to which he suggested I cut a hole in it there and then! Having spent a lot of time tuning all the drums to suit this particular band, this was not an idea I was overly keen on. So he said something along the lines of "ok fine, we'll do it your way". So, I left the engineer to fit his own mics (didn't really mind this), but when I came back in the room he had completely removed the front skin and taken out the pillow and also had re-tuned the batter head! Naturally I asked why he did it and he responded with "no-one records a bass drum with the front skin on". Ok, fine.

Then he asks - do you really need that second floor tom? I told him obviously yes, he tries to argue me down that it isn't worth his time and I should just pick one and record that. I eventually win that one and get to keep both.

So, recording starts and after about 2 rehearsal tunes I think everything is going alright but the engineer re-enters the room and says I'm going to have to do something about the snare sound (apparently it has too many overtones, which he doesn't like), so despite my protesting he basically said if I didn't let him re-tune my snare I should just forget about the recording and go home. So, I decided not to let my band mates down by throwing a hissy fit (which was very tempting considering the large distance I had driven to get there and back pain I gave myself lifting the gear in and out of the studio) and with great annoyance I proceeded to record a snare that sounded like a cardboard box.

I wouldn't normally mind people making suggestions about my sound and I am all about constructive criticism, but after 9 months of fine-tuning a very particular sound I feel like all this good work has now been undone and most of the joy of hearing my own equipment being played back to me has been cruelly taken away.

The upshot of this all this that the end product - the premixes, whilst good - could have been far better. Even the rest of the band agree that the drums are lacking and that they should be re-recorded. Which basically means me forking out more money that I can't afford. I am also now embarrassed to play the mixes we have received from the studio but feel I have no choice but to pay up and do this all again.

What do you guys think?


Thanks,

R.
 

poekoelan

Member
I think that if you know what you're doing (i.e. know how to tune your drums properly ) and know the sound that you are going for, then the engineer should be able to get the sound you are looking for or at least close to it. Now don't get me wrong, he may have to remove a reso head or retune a snare in order to get the sound that you're after. But here's my question, did he ever ask you what kind of drum sound you were after?

Remember, if you are paying for this, then the engineer is working for you and should be able to deliver the goods. Things like this happen often to drummers. It happened to me many years ago and I vowed that if I was ever in that situation again, I won't let it happen again.
 

rmac86

Member
I think that if you know what you're doing (i.e. know how to tune your drums properly ) and know the sound that you are going for, then the engineer should be able to get the sound you are looking for or at least close to it. Now don't get me wrong, he may have to remove a reso head or retune a snare in order to get the sound that you're after. But here's my question, did he ever ask you what kind of drum sound you were after?

That's a fair question - and the honest answer is no. His whole attitude seemed to be that he only has one way of recording drums and if you don't like it, well tough. I honestly was always of the opinion that a sound engineer should have to mess with the tuning of any instrument at all, likewise a good musician wouldn't go and start messing with the sound desk just because he/she is not happy with the sound.

Remember, if you are paying for this, then the engineer is working for you and should be able to deliver the goods. Things like this happen often to drummers. It happened to me many years ago and I vowed that if I was ever in that situation again, I won't let it happen again.
Exactly, though the whole day I couldn't help but feel I was working for this guy and everything I was doing was wrong.

Thanks for your response!

R.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I can share your pain man. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. Engineers hijacking your sound because they only have one method for recording drums. When you are paying.
I would sort that out on the phone before I even committed to the session.

I wonder how the engineer would have reacted if it was me and I said that I wanted the kick mic like 1 foot away from my unmuffled, full front headed bass drum, and the snare miced about 12" from the snare head so it gets the hi hat too, and 2 overheads for the cymbals and toms. That way overtones would be not overpowering, but they would be present in the exact measure I want. There would be bleed AAAAHHHH! and the kit would sound like a kit, not a collection of instruments in a vacuum. I would mix my cymbal and tom levels myself, the toms would be tuned perfect, and the bass drum and the snare drum sound can still be tweaked if desired later on.

You're not the guy to go home, he is. Kinda pisses me off.

Who is hiring who here?

Now if I'm not the one footing the bill, whatever.

But if I'm paying, I'll find an engineer who will do what I want beforehand, rather than find out on the session.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Who was paying for the recording time? Who was paying the engineer? Who was the producer?
If you and the band paid for the studio time you and the other band members should have had a united front and told the engineer how it was going to be.

Sounds like you had a jerk for an engineer.

.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
In my experience, usually it's best to listen to the engineer, and basically kiss their ass. Drums literally almost never ever sound like they do in the room by the time it gets through mixing and EQ. It is very, very common to dry out the drum sounds heavily in the room and then use those drier/shorter sounds in the mix, enhancing a bit of this frequency, and a tad of that frequency. First on the list for most sound guys and engineers is the bass and snare.

The other part of this that comes into play with drums is that we read all about this technique and that technique and how if we put time into it, you can record the sounds you want and not compromise... the issue with that in the setting most of us will be in is that it takes too much time. Typically studios get booked by the day and you have a very short amount of time with which to get a good product. Many of the stories we read about the cool recording techniques fail to mention that it took the drummer and engineer sometimes weeks to come up with the perfect scenario and settle in. Most of us in un-signed acts only have a week total including mixing if we're lucky.

Which is why it's usually best to maximize the time you have, use the techniques that your engineer has vetted and finds easiest/quickest/best for the room to get going and then focus on getting an amazing performance rather than worrying too much about a special tuning we had in our heads for the record or that the kick sound isn't quite as full as you'd prefer.

Next time, show up with a ported head already on. Make sure it's a nice tuning and not too many overtones are present that will need to be eliminated later, bring a few snares, and tune them lower than you would in a live setting. Bring moongels and dampeners and don't bitch about it if the engineer wants to try them.

Now, to be sure, the guy could have explained this to you but chose to be a jerk instead... They get jaded after seeing so many new-to-recording drummers come in who seem to question their every decision when they're trying to work quickly. They usually aren't invested in your music like you are, and if you really feel strongly about something you should push it. But keep in mind the priority and end goal isn't all about one element of the product, it's about the whole end result.
 

rmac86

Member
Who was paying for the recording time? Who was paying the engineer? Who was the producer?
If you and the band paid for the studio time you and the other band members should have had a united front and told the engineer how it was going to be.

Sounds like you had a jerk for an engineer.

.
The engineer and producer were the same guy, and the reason none of the rest of the group challenged him is that he didn't do anything to their amps, guitars or mics etc. so they had no reason to dislike his methods. And they all seemed to be happy with their respective sounds on the mix also so no reason to complain.

He also is quite an overbearing guy, the type who tells stories about how many fights he gets in etc. so I just felt it would be better to let him have his way and just never darken his door again after this session.

Thanks,

R
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I don't know about this particular studio, but this has been very common in my experience in budet studio situations. Haven't done that since I was mainly a guitar player, but still...


It seems some engineers have just read a book and know one method. They understand only one type of music and sound and just go on some strange irrational habit.

They don't have a real perspective or adaptability and often just simply have too litle knowledge about music in general.

This goes for micing, both choice of mics, setup and amount of mics anything...

They don't have the overall picture and the abiulity to adjust. Certainly not to understand that they are there for the artist's vision, which really is what their job is. Wannabe techheads basically.

I remember doing a soft slow singer songwriter thing and the engineer, because he had heard about reseting your ears with a recording you know, was using "Hip To Be Square" at an insane volume to do that. lol


There is a sort of common illness. You'll even see it in orchestras where a conductor will spend 90% of his/her time working with their own instrument or instrument group.

It's not always the drums that suffer, though.

I remember many live situations growing up when they spent literally hours work on the drum kit, but the just threw a mic on the guitar and spent 1 minute makng it sound like a swarm of bees.

It happens all over the place, though. Even at the higher levels with the wrong producer for the gig.

I forget which interview, but Peter Erskine talked about doing Rod Stewart's christmas album and being asked to use a wooden beater and play a very strange type of beat. Just doing as he was told by the producer, when Rod showed up he was wondering what the f''' the drummer was doing Peter got to do it his own way again.
 
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Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I don't know about this particular studio, but this has been very common in my experience in budet studio situations. Haven't done that since I was mainly a guitar player, but still...


It seems some engineers have just read a book and know one method. They understand only one type of music and sound and just go on some strange irrational habit.

They don't have a real perspective or adaptability and often just simply have too litle knowledge about music in general.

This goes for micing, both choice of mics, setup and amount of mics anything...

They don't have the overall picture and the abiulity to adjust. Certainly not to understand that they are there for the artist's vision, which really is what their job is. Wannabe techheads basically.

I remember doing a soft slow singer songwriter thing and the engineer, because he had heard about reseting your ears with a recording you know, was using "Hip To Be Square" at an insane volume to do that. lol
In addition to what I posted above, this brings up another point. It's my experience that selecting a producer/engineer who is into and good at "your" style of music is of huge importance. Don't go to a jazz guy to record metal, and don't go to a punk producer if you want jazz sounds. They'll try, and may give you a good rate, but it won't get close to the results of someone who's renowned for producing and working with your style.
 
T

The SunDog

Guest
I think you should know more about recording. I never run into these kinds of situations. I started making multi track recordings in my practice space when I was a teen and when I started renting time I chose the most awarded studio and engineer in my city. In hindsight this was the best thing I could have done. I've continued making recordings on my own for the last twenty-five years and when I do use a local studio I'm at the point where I can mic the drums and run all the gear myself. I guess you expected perfection, but your level of preparation was below that. Bring a ported head or be very familiar with how to mic and get the best results from an unported reso. Be prepared to tune the drums for the room. A great room can make a bad kit sound good and a bad room can make a great kit sound lifeless. These things need to be dealt with. You need a greater understanding of the process in order to deal with these things in an efficient manner, especially when managing a budget and deadline.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Unless you hired this guy specifically to produce the session, all that stuff is totally out of line. It is absolutely not the engineer's job to be tuning your drums, telling you what to use, or what to play. Even if he's acting as producer, if he wants to do something with your sound, he's supposed to make a polite request, and give some deference. If an engineer has a suggestion for helping you get the sound you're after, same deal, but more so.
 

Rosemarydrumco

Senior Member
Unless you hired this guy specifically to produce the session, all that stuff is totally out of line. It is absolutely not the engineer's job to be tuning your drums, telling you what to use, or what to play. Even if he's acting as producer, if he wants to do something with your sound, he's supposed to make a polite request, and give some deference. If an engineer has a suggestion for helping you get the sound you're after, same deal, but more so.
I totally disagree with this. It's the engineers job to get the drums sounding good for the song. Period...so if it's not working, it's absolutely his job to make some suggestions and attempt to solve the issues. To think that what the drummer is hearing behind the kit based off the way he thinks they should be tuned is the end all is very short sighted. The recording environment is very different and how you think your drums should sound doesn't always translate into the best recorded sound.

Of course this all comes down to the skill and experience of the engineer, so if he sucks, then his opinions can be problematic...but if he has experience and you like his work (probably why you hired him), you should trust him.

It seems to me that the OP came in with very strong opinions about how he was going to have his drums sound, and it didn't really mesh very well with the engineer.

Let's be real though...if you are making a metal record he's probably going to enhance or replace your drums with samples anyways...so you should see some improvements to the mixes you have already heard.
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
Before doing a recording it is always best to actually talk to the engineer and or producer. From the very start you need to ALL be shooting for the same sound, mic placement, heads/ tuning, drum, drummer, stick type, room acoustics not to mention all the downstream preamps, eq and actual recording medium culminate in the desired or undesired recorded sound. I've had both wow moments and ohh dear what have you done moments.

You can't take on too much at once, I generally prefer to concentrate on getting a good performance rather than doing the engineers job, but you need them onside.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
Before doing a recording it is always best to actually talk to the engineer and or producer. From the very start you need to ALL be shooting for the same sound, mic placement, heads/ tuning, drum, drummer, stick type, room acoustics not to mention all the downstream preamps, eq and actual recording medium culminate in the desired or undesired recorded sound. I've had both wow moments and ohh dear what have you done moments.

You can't take on too much at once, I generally prefer to concentrate on getting a good performance rather than doing the engineers job, but you need them onside.
Finally a common sense approach!

Last time I recorded in another studio the engineer called me and we had a 20 minute conversation about mics/drums/snares/heads etc. If you let the engineer know what sound you have and like then show up with a well tuned kit with fresh heads on that sounds good at source you'll have the easiest recording session going.

The engineer from the OP sounds like he's read a retards guide to recording drums. He really needs to learn to record a bass drum properly.

Remove the front head????? Welcome to the 70s! The only reason I can come up with for that is so he can put a mic right on the batter head to isolate it and then replace it with a sample bass drum. This may apply to the rest of your drums as well.

The result is usually a generic bland drum sound. What genre are you recording?
 

BacteriumFendYoke

Platinum Member
Before doing a recording it is always best to actually talk to the engineer and or producer. From the very start you need to ALL be shooting for the same sound, mic placement, heads/ tuning, drum, drummer, stick type, room acoustics not to mention all the downstream preamps, eq and actual recording medium culminate in the desired or undesired recorded sound. I've had both wow moments and ohh dear what have you done moments.

You can't take on too much at once, I generally prefer to concentrate on getting a good performance rather than doing the engineers job, but you need them onside.
This is it, right here.

I've been on both sides of 'the great divide' and what really helps is if the drummer and the engineer both know a fair amount about each other's fields, rather than just their own. Then you can have constructive conversations about what you're both aiming for. Engineers bash drummers and drummers bash engineers and it has been this way since time immemorial - this happens because they don't know enough about what the other does and don't have the conversations.
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
As Hollywood Jim said, taking a cup half full approach this has taught you and everyone reading it a valuable lesson.
Many of the drummers on here have got masses of experience in the studio working with engineers and producers from the very best to the very worst. You, and I don't, so upon entering the studio or a recording environment we're at a disadvantage.
My first experience in a studio as a teenager started with me, the bassist and a guitarist all in the same room playing the initial track. I didn't even look and certainly can't remember about mic placement, this was pre Internet- first time in a studio and it didn't register. I did think it was amateurish because in magazines I'd seen things like drum booths etc, so it didn't bode well. To this day that recording was the fullest most "Metal" I've ever recorded.
Next time was a studio with a drum booth, individual recordings etc. Awful.
The next two were the same studio as the awful one but with a different engineer/producer. Very good indeed.
For none of these did anyone ever ask me to "do" anything to my kit.
We recorded two "as live" videos a few years back, we had about 3 hours to do two tracks as audio and video. The engineer/producer put triggers on my three toms, it sounded really good, I can't complain. Especially as rather than automatically destroying my resonant bass head we explored options to tame an errant overtone and managed it with a blob of tone gel.
Ten years ago when I got back into playing I was twisted into cutting a hole in my resonant head on the spot. It worked but never again.
A few years ago we did a massive show in front of several thousand people and, predictably, the stage crew bitched about me having a full head and said it was a good job they had a ribbon mic. I bit my tongue, I get the feeling that it's like a dance and they always say this to someone without a ported head knowing nothing's going to change. I suggested micing it from the batter side as I used to do but "miraculously" they mic'd from the front with no problems or concerns.

And THAT is pretty much my sum total of studio/big live experience. Not a lot really so no wonder many of us fall foul when entering the studio. I am aware that a good engineer might do stuff that sounds counter intuitive and maybe sounds bad at the time, but the recording studio is a different environment and they know what they're doing. As pointed out earlier too, at my bands level any recording will be done on an "in no out within a day" basis so quick fixes are necessary. The proof of the pudding though is in the sound and if the whole of your band don't like what you've ended up with then perhaps the engineer on your recording has one way of doing things only, and that one way is not very good.

As a side thought, at our gig on Saturday the soundman ran his desk into a PC and recorded our performance as a multi track. We haven't heard it yet and it might be rubbish, but alternatively there might be two hours worth of stuff we can use as it is, or if we had a mind to perhaps we could use the drum, bass and rhythm guitar tracks as a starting point and overdub stuff? Food for thought for you, from my standpoint once I started playing I didn't think twice about It being recorded, unlike that red light fever that we can succumb to in a studio when the stakes seem higher.
 

BacteriumFendYoke

Platinum Member
Woolwich, in relation to your last question:

You could certainly use any live recording as a starting point for further work. King Crimson and countless others have done this (in their case the album 'Starless and Bible Black' was recorded live and then overdubbed). The only caveat to making it work is timing. Your live timing will not line up with a metronome easily (not a slight at you, it's just the nature of live playing with 99% of people) so you'd have a harder time performing overdubs. The way you've described - using drums, bass and guitar and overdubbing vocals is precisely the way I'd recommend. You could overdub another guitar track (and you might be advised to - just to thicken it all up a bit) without it being too painful but I'd steer away from punching in on anything other than the vocals.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Its sadly not un common. Some of the less skilled engineers have one sound and one way of achieving it, simply because it makes there life easy.

Real engineers are only too happy to try and get the sound that YOU want, no matter how off the wall it may be. If the musicians leave the studio happy with the recording they have its job done, no matter what the studio staff think of the result.

I am happy to try and accommodate an experienced engineers wishes but If his idea is miles away from the sound I like I wont accept it. I am paying so its my call, up to a certain point. I have told an engineer that I tune my drums to achieve the sound I want the audience to hear, and thats the sound I want, If the room or the equipment make it difficult to get that sound in the studio then we compromise.

Close micing is only one way of doing it, there are many others, If the studio is not prepared to even try and get your sound then go to a different studio, you are the customer.
 

STXBob

Gold Member
That engineer seems like a real ass-cactus.

Now, I'm no studio savant. But I've done some recording.

The most work I did I was basically "on call" for a studio. When the producer/engineer/owner would get a gig to record something and he thought I could do it, he'd call me. He'd send me some scratch tracks, I'd spend a couple days working on the tunes, and then we'd spend a couple days laying down tracks. The important thing to note here is we used his kit. He had it set up, dialed in, and ready to go. I'd bring my cymbals and a couple of snares, but that was only to supplement his collection so we had more sonic options.

The point is it was easier to use his gear than bring my own. I walked in, we'd talk for a half-hour or so about where we wanted to go with the project, then we'd start recording. No muss, no fuss, no fiddling around with mics or placement. Sit down, set levels, then hit record.

As a slight tangent, that kit (a DW Performance) sounded like dogsh!t. No front head on a kick with foam and a moving blanket in it, the toms had more gaffer tape visible than mylar on the original stock heads, and every snare he owned needed a new batter head. But the sound in the booth was amazing. He really knew what he needed to do to get an awesome sound out of that kit. He and I used to argue about it; of course my opinion is that if you start with a good sound you don't need to process it quite so much. But he had it dialed in, so...

The last project I tracked, I used my kit, dragged it into a guy's home studio like the OP. No port in the kick, no gels, nothing. Totally my sound. But the engineer/producer was the guy who does Lenny Kravitz's albums, so the experience was a little bit different. :) He set me up where he knows he gets the best drum sound in his space, had me play for about 90 seconds, then started setting up mics. We got it with a kick mic, a condenser about Larry distance from the snare, and a room mic. Totally organic, totally great sound.

So yeah, I really think you hit one of the legion of rather crappy recordists out there, rmac86. If you, as the guy who is paid to record drums, have a Way Of Doing Things when you record, provide a kit and save everyone's time. If you actually know what you're doing and can get a good sound quickly irrespective of what players schlep through the door, then you can let people schlep stuff through the door. You shouldn't do both; it just wastes everyone's time and pisses everyone off.
 
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