Do your drums really need to sound good if they're going through a PA?

keep it simple

Platinum Member
I've heard many players frequently argue that the acoustic sound of a kit is not that important in an amplified band situation, & especially fully mic'd through a substantial PA. Well, count me in as someone who disagrees with that, & there's some support for my position too :)

4:50 onwards http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK-ss3dxhww

Opinions - flames? :)
 

Ian Ballard

Silver Member
I always make sure my toms and bass are tuned well, have minimal ring and are tuned FOR mic'ing. Sometimes, if the gig isn't mic'ed up, I'll tune a little higher to get more cut but if I'm getting the PA treatment, the toms will have a nice, low fundamental so there is minimal effort needed by the sound guy to dial them in. This is also why I prefer birch drums... microphones seem to love them if they're tuned properly.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
I don't know if I would argue that the acoustic sound is not important. On the contrary, I spend a great deal of time tuning my dinky 4 piece kit to my idea of perfection.

What I would argue, though, is that running a dead sounding kit (that sounds to my ear like shite) through a decent PA can often yield a more pleasing sound than the kit provides standing next to it. As we talked about before, it is a one dimensional sound, but still better than the acoustic sound. I've seen this time and again.

Of course, a superbly tuned kit will sound better, whether through a PA or not.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
Andy, you if anybody, have the real world knowledge of drum construction to disagree with me. The reason I play a birch kit is because I think it sounds better when put through a PA. Birch seems to give more high end which really plays well through a large sound system. The Maples seemed to get lost a bit in the mix.

So to answer your question. I think it is very important how your drums sound. Most of the overtones will get swallowed up by the band, but that initial attack of stick on head is of paramount importance. Expecially when that is really all the crowd will hear.
 

Jonny Sumo

Senior Member
one of the times that my Yamaha dtxtremeIIIs is worth having...mixes strraight in to the PA for an awesome sound...
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I've heard many players frequently argue that the acoustic sound of a kit is not that important in an amplified band situation, & especially fully mic'd through a substantial PA.
Never heard a pro say that. It seems like players who really believe that are rationalizing, because they either can't (or are too lazy to) tune well, or they don't have the best gear (which can often be overcome with good tuning.) Or, they simply don't care about their drum sounds, which means they don't care about the group, the music, or the audience that has to listen to those sounds. They don't have to be overly anal about it, they just have to care.

Again, I don't know of any pros with that nonchalant attitude about their gear, or with such resignation about their sound that they would completely leave it in the hands of an engineer.

This should not to be confused with what I've said in the past about an engineer hearing our drums in a way that we can't, and having the ultimate control over our sound. There's a necessary partnership there. But that doesn't mean they should be relied upon to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Bermuda
 

slowrocker

Silver Member
I would have said they need to sound good before, but recently I was somewhere and the drums sounded fine from out in the crowd, and then I played them and they actually sounded awful and out of tune. You can however, tell a big difference with a set that is well tuned and sounds really good. It does make a difference, I guess in part it is do you want the drums to blend in or be a strong driving force in the music.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
Perhaps from the mics' perspective. As the player, I want the kit to sound good from the driver's seat. Of course, if you're banging away on cymbals, Sabian B8s will sound as good as Sabian AAXs through the mains, but not from the throne. Also, for more nuanced playing, this is clearly not the case.
 

dwsabianguy

Senior Member
...they simply don't care about their drum sounds, which means they don't care about the group, the music, or the audience that has to listen to those sounds.
This is how I feel about drum tuning; it shows a certain pride in one's craft. And as a sound engineer myself, there's only so much anyone can do to polish a turd. A well-tuned drum kit is always going to sound better than a badly-tuned kit and it makes everyone's job easier. Tuning makes a huge impact on the sound of the drums in every way, and I really don't know why someone would willingly choose to not make their drums sound good.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I had a thread running like this earlier: http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=106615

In the end, I think if you start with a good-sounding instrument, you are able to make it sound good anywhere, and it's easier to get a great sound from the PA. It's more rewarding to play something that sounds good from the drivers' seat as well as to the rest of the band, and the sound guy will thank you for making his life easier. But many times, outdoors acoustics and sound engineering can get a passable, even good sound out of mediocre drums.

I agree with Bermuda, too: Nobody's going to go on the road with CB700s because they sound "okay" through the PA.
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
Good replies!

Tuning for close mic'ing whilst also tuning for the room/stage is another layer of tuning skills. There is a progression that all drummers eventually move (even occasionally) to big stage acquire. You start your drumming journey by tuning so it sounds good to you, then you move on to tuning so it sounds good to you, but working with the room. Then you learn how to tune for the audience, then to tune for close mic'ing. Of course, you can throw tuning for recording into the pot too, but that's another discipline.

There's two ways of approaching tuning for PA. You either tune for head attack & work from the desk/outboards up, or you tune for close mic'ing to allow the mic's to pick up the resolved sound. The first is easy enough, the second not so.

Getting definition into the kit sound so each element delivers "bite" is more a product of EQ than anything else, but it's helped along by drums with a pre EQ'd sound (i.e birch, bubinga). The very staple diet of most (pop, rock, funk) sound guys is "bite" & "weight". Get those two in balance, & you have "impressive", yet all these common approaches are very one dimensional. One dimensional works, & works well. It's fast & reliable. It's therefore the industry thumpy default.

Delivering tone, nuance, & breath however is a whole 'nuther approach. A clear fundamental, aligned to a dominant voice, & a sound engineer with the balls to back the mic's off a bit & work on positioning more than outboards is key. Knowing how to tune in such circumstances is a real black art. This approach can only bear fruit when all elements work together, & that means a damn fine set of drums too. Get this right, & the result is sublime. Multi dimensional, dynamic, expressive, & open are suddenly soundscapes & tools at the artist's disposal. Getting this opportunity is rare, even for the top players, but so special when it happens. The best scenario reality exists somewhere between the two.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
Tuning makes a huge impact on the sound of the drums in every way, and I really don't know why someone would willingly choose to not make their drums sound good.
What I've seen is that a) there is a wide discrepancy in what people think sounds good, and b) some people simply cannot seem to differentiate between sounds very well.

Concerning a), I have met many drummers who love the sound of their kit, and to me it sounds like cardboard. It's not that they don't care what the kit sounds like, they just don't like what I like.

Concerning b), it is hard for me to believe, but quite a few people I meet can't really seem to tell a great deal of difference in drum sounds, even when they sound quite different to me.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I care about my sound. That's why I play single-headed toms and bass drums and tape my pitifully thin wallet to my slackly-tuned snare. A good down pillow in the bass drum up against my black dot too.

If it was good enough for Gadd in the 70s, it's good enough for me ;)
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I've heard sound engineers do wonders with some EQ, processing and other like "electronic trickery". They've managed to liven up some pretty shabby sounding kits all with the tweak of a knob. But over the years the good ones have all made the same point in one way or another. Good sound in = good sound out. I got the message, even if they can seemingly work a miracle or two on occasion.
 

AirborneSFC

Gold Member
Yes of course they need to sound good! I play with at least two other bands a show. Usually my drums sound the best because I take the time to tune ad adjust. I have heard guys in larger bands and nicer kits sound horrible live. Sometimes I would want to be a drum tech just to make other guys sound nice!

My last gig the guys drums were just dead sounding. Through the PA they were even more dead sounding and they were the headliner.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Yes of course they need to sound good!
As I read that, and obviously agree, I have to admit that I experience a genuine anomaly every night on tour.

My 14x24 Ludwig Keystone kick is so heavily padded inside, it's just a dead pop when hearing the drum it from behind or in front. Really not what could be considered a decent or even usable sound by itself. But something apparently goes on inside where the mic lives, because it sounds incredible according to all the drummers who've seen the show!

The FOH isn't doing anything tricky, and it's not triggered, but it is a reminder that what we hear from behind or around the kit, can be radically different than what the audience hears. I don't deliberately try to make the kick sound bad in order to test the sound guy, it just happened to work out that way.

Bermuda
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
As I read that, and obviously agree, I have to admit that I experience a genuine anomaly every night on tour.

My 14x24 Ludwig Keystone kick is so heavily padded inside, it's just a dead pop when hearing the drum it from behind or in front. Really not what could be considered a decent or even usable sound by itself. But something apparently goes on inside where the mic lives, because it sounds incredible according to all the drummers who've seen the show!

The FOH isn't doing anything tricky, and it's not triggered, but it is a reminder that what we hear from behind or around the kit, can be radically different than what the audience hears. I don't deliberately try to make the kick sound bad in order to test the sound guy, it just happened to work out that way.

Bermuda
Bass drums can be the exception, & certainly work to different rules than toms & snares. In the right room, & with a PA that can really move some air, a very muffled sound, especially in a fairly shallow large diameter bass drum, can really deliver the goods :)
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
As I read that, and obviously agree, I have to admit that I experience a genuine anomaly every night on tour.

My 14x24 Ludwig Keystone kick is so heavily padded inside, it's just a dead pop when hearing the drum it from behind or in front. Really not what could be considered a decent or even usable sound by itself. But something apparently goes on inside where the mic lives, because it sounds incredible according to all the drummers who've seen the show!

The FOH isn't doing anything tricky, and it's not triggered, but it is a reminder that what we hear from behind or around the kit, can be radically different than what the audience hears. I don't deliberately try to make the kick sound bad in order to test the sound guy, it just happened to work out that way.

Bermuda
Just curious, Bermuda - how did your use of all that padding come about? Was it the FOH guy's request, or was it to get a concise signal for the Butt Kicker? If it doesn't sound great where you sit, there must have been some external impetus to choose that sound.

I can vouch for the fact that it sounds fantastic from the audience!
 
Top