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Old 06-14-2011, 02:34 PM
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Default Sonic Identity?

This thread is partly inspired by KIS's "Origin of your perfect drum sound" thread http://drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=77221 and partly inspired by a conversation I recently had with a guitarist.

While discussing Jeff Beck, my buddy began to rant about how much he was in love with Beck's tone, and how he had a "sonic identity" unlike any other. I asked him exactly what he meant by this, and he began describing his belief that each individual should have a unique "sonic identity" that one can be identified by. Pretentious as it may sound, it got me thinking. It seems that in order to set oneself apart from the crowd, many musicians have established unique tonal characteristics and, in doing so, created a personal "sonic identity" for themselves. I'm talking the sound of the instrument; disregarding the playing itself, it seems that many great drummers in history have had unique traits to their individual drum sound - think the Tony Williams ride sound, the Bonham kick drum sound, the ?uestlove snare sound - the list goes on. So now I ask of you: do you guys see a major importance in establishing a unique identity for yourself through tonal means alone? Once again disregarding the playing itself, can you find significance in employing personal sonic traits to create a musical identity for yourself? I found my conversation with my guitarist friend quite interesting, and I thought maybe you guys would too.

EDIT: Please excuse the poor wording -- I had to rush through this rather quickly.
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Old 06-14-2011, 05:07 PM
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bermuda bermuda is offline
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

Some of those signature sounds depend greatly on the music, and the band. Bonham's sound was more of a production trait than his deliberate tuning, as was Bev Bevan's with ELO. Would either signature sound work elsewhere? Possibly, but not without being forever linked to those original drummers and bands. And of course that's why they're a 'signature'.

How many signature sounds are there? Is it possible for everyone to have a specific sound (and style?) No, there just aren't that many distinct sounds and styles available.

And having a signature sound, or rather, insisting on it, will pigeonhole the drummer, and not always in a good way. Not everyone wants a specific sound forced on their music, and if the drummer is inflexible, he won't get hired as much. But there have also been drummers - mostly in the studio scene - who were hired because of their drum sounds. Some actual drums were unique, such as Hal Blaine's concert toms, and other players just had kits that were tuned well and ready to record.

I don't really have one sound. I pride myself on having the right sound for the right gig, and I do a number of different kinds of gigs and recordings as a result. In my case, that means having a lot of drums and cymbals at my disposal, and being able to adapt is part of what keeps me working.

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Old 06-14-2011, 06:28 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

As I posted in the other thread, Steve Jordon said in a recent Modern Drummer interview, which I think holds true, is too many drummers get caught up in trying to have their "own sound", when in fact, the sounds chosen should best suit the songs.

Jeff Beck might be able to get away it, because he's the band leader.

I'd say Alex Van Halen has an identifiable sound, but he has the luxury of having always been in a band with his brother. Other guys might have sounds they prefer, but I don't think too many are married to them.

If one's objective is to be a session guy, a free lancer, or is looking for permanent gig, I can't see the point in trying to develop one identifiable sound. If you're in one established band, perhaps you can get away with it.

As for Bonham, had he lived, and kept recording into the 80's when drum sounds changed drastically, who knows if he would have kept the sounds he was known for, or if he would have adapted. My guess is Zep would have adapted.
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Old 06-14-2011, 06:56 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

Playing in mostly cover bands, I have almost no interest in having a 'sound'. I may alter my snare tuning depending on the gig, but I usually try for a middle of the road sound that will appeal to most people. (if anyone even notices)

Back in the 80's you could always tell when Phill Collins was playing on a track, because of his concert tom sound. I guess that was kind of cool, but it seems like it could get gimmicky pretty quick if taken to far.
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Old 06-14-2011, 07:58 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jon e rotten View Post
I may alter my snare tuning depending on the gig, but I usually try for a middle of the road sound that will appeal to most people. (if anyone even notices)
People may not notice when it's right, but they'll certainly notice when it's wrong. Imagine having a tightly-tuned OCDP snare sound and trying to make it work on most songs! It would stick out like a sore drum.

See, when I say "OCDP", most of you know exactly the sound I'm talking about. That's a signature sound association - whether deserved or not - and a very niche, largely useless snare sound for most drummers on most gigs.

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Old 06-14-2011, 07:59 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

iīm of the opinion that everyone already has a unique sonic style. itīs mostly in how you achieve what you ĻhearĻ in your head.

if you put a given player in front of equipment that is not his own, he will try his / her hardest to compensate by altering his technique to get his / her sound out of this OTHER equipment. Bonzo on a toy kit still sounds like Bonzo. the foot pedal may not be able to actually DO triplets, but he will alter his technique so that you THINK you you heard a triplet, even if the equipment couldnīt handle it. [after which he would probably throw the kit against the wall, but thatīs a different story].

that said, i agree with Bermuda and Steve Jordan.

versatility is a plus.

versatility is a must.
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:16 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

i do also think that everybody has his/her personal style.
those great players we admire (or dont) just worked hard to refine their own voice. maybe the sound of a younger or less trained musician is separated from the others just by subtle nuances that are more difficult to hear. but its there i think.
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:57 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

Each drum has it's own sound. Even if they are the same brand, size, wood, etc, they will sound different. Then ad in heads, tuning and how they are played...
I think it's more about the player then the drums.
Didn't Art Blakey say " I am the instrument "

We can just autotune them and/or replace the actual sound with a sample anyway!
kinda makes me sad :(
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Old 06-15-2011, 04:32 AM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

It's a balancing act, isn't it - the level to which you're capable or willing to subsume your individual quirks to ensure you fit into the whole ... or if your quirks are especially compelling then the other players might want to adapt the whole to feature you (eg. Moonie, Bruford).

As with personality, some people are more different than others ...
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Old 06-15-2011, 04:49 AM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

I was really set on having a signature sound at one point, but over time I moved on and tried to play whats appropriate.

Drums are a tough instrument to try to set a specific sonic identity to b/c so many factors go into the sound. Heads, tuning,shell size & material, mics, eq, compression, playing technique etc.

I like to have a wide variety in sound in the studio as opposed to one set sound .
I mostly use the same tuning, cymbals & snare for live gigs though.
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Old 06-15-2011, 05:10 AM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

I don't really think I support my buddy's opinion in this case. While I have a pretty firm ideA of how I want my drums to sound, I feel no need to sacrifice versatility to feed a conceptual signature sound. Now that I consider this prospect, it seems somewhat futile to try to uphold a signature sound when, in this day and age, a musician has to constantly be shifting their sound to adapt to a variety of situations. I'm sure some of the pros on here can attest to that.
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Old 06-15-2011, 09:40 AM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by theindian View Post
Drums are a tough instrument to try to set a specific sonic identity to b/c so many factors go into the sound. Heads, tuning,shell size & material, mics, eq, compression, playing technique etc.

I like to have a wide variety in sound in the studio as opposed to one set sound .
I mostly use the same tuning, cymbals & snare for live gigs though.
I'm with Indian on this. Tune and get the best sound possible for what you are playing. I used 3 different snare drums on a project because they fit the mood of the individual songs. The Sonic Identities that stick out the most to me for drums would be Bonham's and that high pitched snare from 311....wow!

Other Sonic Identities that stick with me is Dave Sanborn's horn. It took awhile but after many years my kids can now identify Dave's Sonic Identity.
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Old 06-15-2011, 10:07 AM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

Personal sonic identity only becomes of significant benefit if you're the lead instrument (almost always vocals) and are the marketing "face" of the act. Outside of that, largely useless, & almost impossible to maintain across multiple playing situations, even in the same band.

A signature instrument sound however, is most desirable from a manufacturers pov. That's certainly something I'm hoping to come away with after this weekend's drum assembling & testing activities.
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Old 06-15-2011, 10:14 AM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

The hard part is to not play with a signature sound. Having your own approach to the conception of parts, touch, tuning and combination of drums and cymbals is the easiest, most natural thing in the world. It's called just being yourself - happily and ignorantly :)

That's a whole lot easier than trying sound like other players, following the traditions laid down before you. It's also not so easy to be yourself on the kit and produce a pleasing and appropriate sound...
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Old 06-15-2011, 01:43 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by keep it simple View Post
A signature instrument sound however, is most desirable from a manufacturers pov. That's certainly something I'm hoping to come away with after this weekend's drum assembling & testing activities.
You'll have to keep us posted!
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Old 06-15-2011, 02:11 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

This topic can and maybe is branching out in different directions, I understand the premise, and if Jeff Beck jumped on someone elses gear, I am sure his personal sound would still bleed through.
Our soundman always tells me when someone is using my kit, "Don, that is not what your kit sounds like, it sounds amazing when you are on them, this guy doesn't hit the same." So this shows one instrument can project different tonal or "sonic" characteristics when you change the input. Same concept as that benny Greb video on the bob the builder kids drum set, or was it spongebob?
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Old 06-15-2011, 02:21 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

We're all as unique as snowflakes without even trying, like Pol said. You already have your own personality, style, way...sonic identity even. It's no different w/ the drums, for better or for worse.
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Old 06-15-2011, 03:26 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

We are story tellers, so what ever sound identity you have is in your touch. The life one lives dictates that. Production is another thing. Gear is another thing. I agree with Art B on this, you are the instrument. Style is something that lends itself to different gear and approach. Jeff Beck has a bending whammy thing, he brought the instrument to new levels, therefor has his branding and sound. But I bet he can sound like a cover player if he wanted. Does he need to sound like everyone else to stay alive?
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Old 06-15-2011, 03:44 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

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Originally Posted by fat in the middle View Post
But I bet he can sound like a cover player if he wanted. Does he need to sound like everyone else to stay alive?
Ah, but he's Jeff Beck .........
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Old 06-15-2011, 04:06 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

This issue was the main reason I got into the production side of things, reasoning that the engineer is the one who controls the drum sound, and I didn't want anyone else messing with what I sounded like. No regrets about that one!
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Old 06-15-2011, 04:11 PM
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Default Re: Sonic Identity?

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Originally Posted by PQleyR View Post
This issue was the main reason I got into the production side of things, reasoning that the engineer is the one who controls the drum sound, and I didn't want anyone else messing with what I sounded like. No regrets about that one!
Me as well, that and writing my own music. The thing is we as drummers are mixing desks that play. The amount and range of frequencies we deal with on a simple 4 piece kit is huge. touch, tuning heads etc, all play a role, so when we are behind the desk in the control room, we need to know the language. ''boost the kick at 75 htz etc...'' The more we know about the relationship of these frequencies and the drum sound the better. You know Jeff Beck is understanding of why he sounds like he does, because engineers have taught him over the years, and he has numbers that mean things to him now. He knows why and how he sounds like he does.
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Old 06-16-2011, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by siddons59 View Post
We are tale tellers, so what ever sound identicalness you jazz is in your impinging. The life one lives dictates that. Production is added target. Appurtenances is other artefact. I hold with Art B on this, you are the helper. Tool is something that lends itself to diametrical paraphernalia and swing. Jeff Beck has a motion whammy feeling, he brought the pawn to new levels, therefor has his branding and secure. But I bet he can vocalise similar a apparel contestant if he sought. Does he requirement to stable
I think I see your point on this process. You take the original, then add a new vocabulary to it, and your sonic identity is born. Clever, or you are a machine with widget breath!
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