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  #1  
Old 08-11-2017, 01:53 PM
JohnoWorld
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Default My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

Hey guys,

Been recording a load of my gear recently from different kits to different snares. Different styles, different mic positions etc, but ultimately with the goal of downsizing my collection and selling a good bit of gear.

My question is: If studios are centres of "magic" or "cheating", why do we need to buy high quality gear?

Not want, need.

I know we all want high quality gear because of the way it plays and looks, plus there's also the willy-waving element. But i want to know why, with the capabilities of digital studios, do we really need to buy something that sounds amazing when it can all be cleaned-up in post-processing?

I mean, every single mix you hear will have been engineered to a huge degree, hits quantized, hits replaced, hits doubled-up, lots of compression etc.

I have always been an advocate of high-end gear, I always will be because of how it feels, looks and sounds to the naked ear. However when it comes to recording, I believe that the quality of your drums is less important.

thoughts?
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Old 08-11-2017, 02:04 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

For one, a lot of people don't record so they want good sound out of the box that doesn't have to be altered.
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Old 08-11-2017, 02:14 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

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Originally Posted by GruntersDad View Post
For one, a lot of people don't record so they want good sound out of the box that doesn't have to be altered.
I agree: recording and live playing are 2 different, separate worlds, with more drumming being live.
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Old 08-11-2017, 02:22 PM
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Odd-Arne Oseberg Odd-Arne Oseberg is offline
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

While the concept you're proposing might be relevant in modern pop music and other styles where heavy editing and processing is done, it's hardly true for every situation. Not at all.

There's also a couple of other points.

1) It's nice to keep the turd polishing and "fixing it in the mix" things to a minimum if you don't absolutely have to. It is actually a lot of work and headaches for the engineer and why the top and more expensive guys are still hired for pretty simple stuff. 1 take and you're done instead of spending the whole day getting something passable aka you didn't save any money anyway.

2) If you like the way you sound you're happier and you certainly play better.


There's also the obvious concept that whatever sound you like for a song is the right sound. Wether that's a technically perfectly executed rimshot with some outrageously expensive custom sticks on a Craviotto snare or the sound of you closing the lid on your neighbour's mailbox accented by your cat's purring is irrelevant.
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Last edited by Odd-Arne Oseberg; 08-11-2017 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 08-11-2017, 04:12 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

Yeah, it matters, but it matters for what you want.

A well cooked ribeye steak doesn't need anything at all.
A well cooked hamburger still needs something on top.

Both can taste good if that's what you like to eat.
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  #6  
Old 08-11-2017, 04:48 PM
Matt Bo Eder
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

You have a point. I remember KD Lang said her "all you can eat" album was recorded with a toy drumset and those tracks sounded great. But the toy drumset wouldn't survive on the tour. That's why we have high end gear.
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  #7  
Old 08-11-2017, 05:46 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Odd-Arne Oseberg View Post
1) It's nice to keep the turd polishing and "fixing it in the mix" things to a minimum if you don't absolutely have to. It is actually a lot of work and headaches for the engineer and why the top and more expensive guys are still hired for pretty simple stuff.
That's the key for having great gear. Mics hear the drums from just inches away, and detect the little harmonic issues that drums have, that we don't hear with our ear 18-24" from the drum. The better the drum in terms of roundness and edges, and of course good tuning, makes a world of difference. That applies even when the drum isn't mic'd. This is the reason that pros rely on drum services (Drum Doctors and Chris Heuer here in Los Angeles) to provide drums that are ready to record. Starting with the best source results in the best finished product.

Put another way, if you have a photo to publish, would you rather it already look right, or would you simply rely on Photoshop to correct it? They may yield very similar results, but the quality is better if it doesn't need to be processed further.

There's another pitfall to relying on studio magic to make marginal drums sound good, and that's the likelihood that the problem drums - often the snare - will simply be "sound replaced" with a sample, and then they're not your drums at all anyway. It's just short hop to using sequences and samples in order to get the best sound without all the live drums coordination.

Bermuda
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Old 08-11-2017, 07:22 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

You're not all that wrong. I've been in paid pro studios; and before the engineers even hear the kit or setup at all they're already planning on doing sample replacement or mixing in samples at a minimum just because it's routine.

Not a fan personally. I think the drum sounds should match the music and band, not the engineers idea of "perfect".
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Old 08-11-2017, 07:30 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

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Originally Posted by Dr_Watso View Post
I think the drum sounds should match the music and band, not the engineers idea of "perfect".
In traditional sessions, the producer and artist run the show, not the engineer. They're the ones, the producer even more so, who decide how things will sound, and the engineer takes direction from them. I've never done a session where the engineer made 'production' decisions on their own, unless they also happen to be the producer, or even the artist.

But you're right, the drum sounds - all sounds - should serve the song, regardless who achieves that.

Bermuda
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Old 08-11-2017, 07:39 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

Semi related...why do people close mic drums when they don't have to, such as when they're tracking just drums. I understand that a 60 hz wave is like 20 feet long. In my mind, micing a drum from 3" away...doesn't make sense to me, considering how long the wavelengths are. I much prefer 2 overheads, kick and snare. Maybe a room mic. It gives the drums some air....some atmosphere, and the kit tones naturally blend together to make a cohesive sound. Not 5 separate drums, with no intermingling. For some reason, a close miced snare and bass doesn't bother me, but I don't like mics anywhere near my toms.

Your thoughts?
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  #11  
Old 08-11-2017, 08:00 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

If overheads are the main thing used then they are usually the main sound. It's often just an option for dialing in a bit more attack, having separate control and of course, if appropriate separate processing. It's like with bass drums these days when it's getting normal to both 3 and up to 5 mics. Doesn't mean they're all in the final mix and certainly not at the same level. Options for final mixing. Better to have a source that just does the job rather than going crazy with EQ.

You can mic a kit with one mic. You can also mic everything + having reso mics. Rooms mics both high and low, throw an extra ribbon on the side of the snare, that magic mic at the on th left side of the bass drum shell, have an extra ambient mic in a different room......

It all depends what you're trying to do.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:04 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

If I start with a drum that's 98% perfect, I only have to rely on the engineer for 2% of my sound. If I start with a drum that's only about 40% of the sound I want, that means the engineer, not me, is responsible for the majority of my sound. To me that's not an acceptable balance.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:27 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

My photography days go back to film and darkrooms, but the object of the game was always to get as close to a perfect negative or transparency as possible, so that the labwork had a great image to work with in the first place.

Same principle here -- to get a great sound through the speakers, start with a great sound from the drum itself. That's why most session drummers have so many snares, so they can get as close as possible to the desired result.

One of my most satisfying moments as a builder was about eight years ago when an artist was trying out one of my snares during a sound check in an arena setting. (He was playing in a Sheila E gig, actually.) I went out to the audience area to hear it, and then went to the sound man working the board. I said, "That snare sounds terrific out here. What processing do you have on it?", and he said, "Nothing."
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  #14  
Old 08-11-2017, 08:33 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

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Originally Posted by motleyh View Post
What processing do you have on it?", and he said, "Nothing."
There ya go. :-)


Same thing with guitar amps, mics and mic placement. There's no way the right sound and perfect overtones that cut the right way from the source can be beat by tweaking later in the chain. You can't beat that right kind of complexity of the natural sound.
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So, kick drum...or...bass drum? I'll tell you what. If it's 18" or less, it's a FOOT TOM.
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Old 08-11-2017, 08:57 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

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Originally Posted by motleyh View Post
My photography days go back to film and darkrooms, but the object of the game was always to get as close to a perfect negative or transparency as possible, so that the labwork had a great image to work with in the first place.
This.

Good drums, good tuning, and most importantly, good playing are critical in making a good recording. While sound engineering manipulation can "save" a bad track, it works much better as a tool for enhancing an already great track, just like photoshop.
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:46 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

I'd rather have a wife that looked good without makeup than a wife who had to have makeup on to look good.

Same principle.
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Old 08-11-2017, 11:50 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

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Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
In traditional sessions, the producer and artist run the show, not the engineer. They're the ones, the producer even more so, who decide how things will sound, and the engineer takes direction from them. I've never done a session where the engineer made 'production' decisions on their own, unless they also happen to be the producer, or even the artist.

But you're right, the drum sounds - all sounds - should serve the song, regardless who achieves that.

Bermuda
Sorry, I was using "producer" and "engineer" a bit too loosely. At my level, they're often the same guy. =P

I also wouldn't call it a decision they made, but more like they were surprised that we didn't just default to wanting "perfect" sounds mixed into (or replacing) our tracks... The concept that we'd prefer our own sounds seemed a little foreign, though I was complimented on how it came out.

A similar concept actually comes out when doing the initial mic placement and EQ... Often times they'll want to cut frequencies that seem important to my ear or making things sound on the record how they sound to me in the room.
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Old 08-11-2017, 11:56 PM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

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Originally Posted by larryace View Post
Semi related...why do people close mic drums when they don't have to, such as when they're tracking just drums. I understand that a 60 hz wave is like 20 feet long. In my mind, micing a drum from 3" away...doesn't make sense to me, considering how long the wavelengths are. I much prefer 2 overheads, kick and snare. Maybe a room mic. It gives the drums some air....some atmosphere, and the kit tones naturally blend together to make a cohesive sound. Not 5 separate drums, with no intermingling. For some reason, a close miced snare and bass doesn't bother me, but I don't like mics anywhere near my toms.

Your thoughts?
Close mic-ing is more about isolation and cutting the bleed from other microphones. It's assumed we won't get the full wave-length of the tones, but the ones we get are much more prominent than the external sounds and therefor easier to isolate with EQ and play with later during editing and mixing. It also cuts down on another fact of life with sound waves, and that's bounce, or echo. Mics further from the source of the sound will have more ability to pick up echo from walls, other bouncy surfaces or the general features of the room.

That said, it's certainly not un-heard of to mic up the room and get a very natural sound, but it can come across as "thin" compared to the fullness achieved with close techniques that enhance the fatness and desired tones while killing the rest.
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Old 08-12-2017, 12:47 AM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

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Originally Posted by Matt Bo Eder View Post
You have a point. I remember KD Lang said her "all you can eat" album was recorded with a toy drumset and those tracks sounded great. But the toy drumset wouldn't survive on the tour. That's why we have high end gear.
Many a great studio piece was recorded with basic substandard gear, orphaned drums. A few that come to mind, the first Pearl Jam record, Supertramp's Crime of the Century....
The magic of the studio, coupled with a good drummer.
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Old 08-12-2017, 01:51 AM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

Maybe a bit OT, maybe not.

I was just looking for a live version of one of Allen's tunes when this popped up and simple as the tune might be Jimmy is doing all the Ts so right I'm simply floored.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eA8i83VTKk

Must be the easiest bass player to play with in the world.
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Old 08-12-2017, 02:24 AM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by larryace View Post
Semi related...why do people close mic drums when they don't have to, such as when they're tracking just drums. I understand that a 60 hz wave is like 20 feet long. In my mind, micing a drum from 3" away...doesn't make sense to me, considering how long the wavelengths are. I much prefer 2 overheads, kick and snare. Maybe a room mic. It gives the drums some air....some atmosphere, and the kit tones naturally blend together to make a cohesive sound. Not 5 separate drums, with no intermingling. For some reason, a close miced snare and bass doesn't bother me, but I don't like mics anywhere near my toms.

Your thoughts?
This is anti logic Larry. The first studio I stepped foot in dedicated sixteen tracks to my five piece kit. Overhead and room mic'ing are good. Close mic'ing is good. The two ideals together is ultimately best. There's entirely too much credence lent to the "it's one or the other" argument when the truth is more is better. Let's all stop vilifying close mics. If you are talking purely live mic'ing, we'll that's different, but try using two overheads, kick and snare at a 15,000 person festival. Not the best technique in that situation. Both techniques are excellent and each is better suited for different live settings. In the studio though, both used together will get the best sound.
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Old 08-12-2017, 04:06 AM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

I look at micing a kit as: snare/bass/overheads are the bare minimum (this is for trying to make a decent professional recording, not a demo track or youtube videos). Everything after that is just icing on the cake. You dont need to close mic your toms. You dont need a room mic or a special reverb mic set up to achieve a good sound. These things are there to add and enhance the base sound from your snare/bass/overheads mics. I dont really believe these additive mics should be the primary sound you are hearing. They should be recorded (why not if you have the ability), but added in slowly and deliberately (or completely omitted) to achieve the sound you are trying to achieve.
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Old 08-12-2017, 05:35 AM
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Default Re: My drums sound brilliant - does it matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by larryace View Post
Semi related...why do people close mic drums when they don't have to, such as when they're tracking just drums. I understand that a 60 hz wave is like 20 feet long. In my mind, micing a drum from 3" away...doesn't make sense to me, considering how long the wavelengths are.
Which wavelengths? Every frequency has a different wavelength, and every drum/cymbal's sound is made up of many, many frequencies, and each frequency reflects off of surfaces, and the every room has resonant frequencies. The further away from the source the mic is, the more the room itself will affect the sound. And if you're trying to add specific spatial effects to individual drums or if you want to be able to adjust the frequency response of an individual drum without also affecting other parts of the set, you need to close mic.

The number of mics and where they are positioned are huge decisions, largely determined by the drum/cymbal setup, and the sound of those drums in that room. The end results justify the means. Sometimes one mic works great, other times every drum could have three mics on it.
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