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Old 10-14-2006, 12:38 PM
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finnhiggins finnhiggins is offline
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Default Re: More experience as a drummer, less muffling of the kit..what does that tell us?

This is a remarkably huge debate over quite a simple issue. Different music calls for different instrumental sounds - there's little disputing that. It's not really a question of "better" vs "worse", more one of "appropriate" vs "innappropriate". I wouldn't like to try recording a 70s-style disco track with Bill Bruford's snare drum sound.

Not only that, "muffling" is a bit of a wierd concept. It's not about "muffling" as something you add, it's all about the weight of the head. An unmuffled coated Emperor or Pinstripe is going to sound a lot more dead than most muffled Ambassadors. So do we make the unmuffled clear Ambassador the definition of "wide open"? What about the Diplomat? You can always make a thinner head. It's not always going to sound better - the thinner the head the easier it becomes to hear inconsistencies in tuning and in playing technique. So for any player there's a point where thinner heads just make you sound worse.

Now, you could spend years trying to get really good at controlling that sound. Some players do - typically jazz drummers, who tend towards using thinner heads and having better understanding of how to play them to get a lot of different tones. Or you could just go "No, I like the range of sounds I have available with muffling" and stick with that. I'd tend to consider it the mark of a good drummer to make some kind of effort to learn to play well on thin heads, because you may have to play music where it is appropriate - and if you can do that then playing on thicker heads is a snap. But that doesn't mean that "wide open" is somehow better than the whole Steve Gadd muffled thing. It's just a harder sound to control.

As for studios, generally I'd tend to agree with Bermuda. I use more muffling when I record, for the simple reason that it's very easy to add sustain to drums in a studio environment using compression (to boost the existing resonance) and reverb. It's much harder to remove sustain. So in the interest of having a bit more control I'd tend to favour muffling a bit beyond the sound I'm after, because you can usually dial it in and get it back. Not that relying on processing is the ideal, but it's a rare studio environment that IS the ideal - usually things are rushed and stressful, and you quite simply don't have TIME to spend ages trying different microphones in different positions to get a clean and clear representation of what's going on in the room. So you get the best you can, and then fake the rest.
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