Drum Techs

jer

Silver Member
Inspired by Larry's "Roadies" thread, (in my best Jerry Seinfeld voice...)

What's the deal with Drum Techs?

The new band is heading into a rather expensive studio next month. I'm used to having all the time in the world to get my drums up to snuff for recordings while in the studio as I usually record at places that don't charge by the hour. I'm just not as confident with tuning my drums as I am playing them. My concern is elevated as there is a lot more time and money, (other people's), involved in this recording.

Would it be advisable to hire someone to come out? Would that be my responsibility, the producers or the studio's?

Many thanks for thoughts.
 

Ethan01

Senior Member
Do you have time? When you get home from work at 6PM, do you have 6-11PM to spare? How many days away is the recording session? Take the time to buy a number of heads you're interested in, take your drums, and start experimenting and tuning and listening. Get a sound that YOU like because you want to sound like you, not like a drum tech you're thinking of hiring.

Is your whole band ready for an expensive recording session? Or is it just you that's not confident about it? If your whole band isn't ready, you might want to suggest going a cheaper route till you guys are better and ready. If it's just you, take this opportunity to kick it into overdrive, take a shot, learn as much as you can and see what happens.

P.S. The drums are your responsibility, that's why your band hired you (even if you don't get paid). If you leave that responsibility up to the studio/producer, they're more than likely to "record" your drums in studio but replace em with a session guy. You wouldn't want that, would you? Ok, so get to work on learning to tune. It's not hard, it's not rocket science, you just spend time with your drums and learn how to make them sound good.

P.P.S. (I keep thinking of things to add, sorry!) If you're thinking of paying for a drum tech, I suggest going either these 2 routes:

1) Outright hire a decent session drummer. You'll be confident that your band's album's drum tracks will be good.

2) Use that money to buy a bunch of heads and learn to love your instrument!

Let us know how it goes!
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Jer, if I was anywhere near Toronto, I'd lend a hand for sure.

Essentially, it's your responsibility to tune the kit. You may strike lucky and get a recording engineer who physically knows how to tune your drums to sound their best in his environment. I'd say hiring a pro tech is a shoot in the dark. As I've said many times here, you've gotta fall in love with tuning. Go beat yourself up for a few hours & see what comes out in the wash. Good luck!
 

Lucho

Member
I don't have any advice of my own really, what's written above sounds good to me (about buying a bunch of heads ahead of time and trying them out yourself before you get in the studio).

I'm just curious what studio are you recording in? Because I'm in Toronto. Also, I would really like to hear about the finished product when it's done.

Thanks!
L.
 

jer

Silver Member
Do you have time? When you get home from work at 6PM, do you have 6-11PM to spare? How many days away is the recording session? Take the time to buy a number of heads you're interested in, take your drums, and start experimenting and tuning and listening. Get a sound that YOU like because you want to sound like you, not like a drum tech you're thinking of hiring.

Is your whole band ready for an expensive recording session? Or is it just you that's not confident about it? If your whole band isn't ready, you might want to suggest going a cheaper route till you guys are better and ready. If it's just you, take this opportunity to kick it into overdrive, take a shot, learn as much as you can and see what happens.

P.S. The drums are your responsibility, that's why your band hired you (even if you don't get paid). If you leave that responsibility up to the studio/producer, they're more than likely to "record" your drums in studio but replace em with a session guy. You wouldn't want that, would you? Ok, so get to work on learning to tune. It's not hard, it's not rocket science, you just spend time with your drums and learn how to make them sound good.

P.P.S. (I keep thinking of things to add, sorry!) If you're thinking of paying for a drum tech, I suggest going either these 2 routes:

1) Outright hire a decent session drummer. You'll be confident that your band's album's drum tracks will be good.

2) Use that money to buy a bunch of heads and learn to love your instrument!

Let us know how it goes!
Interesting thoughts.

Maybe I'm underestimating myself, I can tune my kit to my liking, for sure - I just feel as though it will really be under the microscope, and I'm curious if high end recordings are tech'd by the drummer themselves?

Don't worry, I'm confident the band and myself are up to the task at hand. :)


Jer, if I was anywhere near Toronto, I'd lend a hand for sure.

Essentially, it's your responsibility to tune the kit. You may strike lucky and get a recording engineer who physically knows how to tune your drums to sound their best in his environment. I'd say hiring a pro tech is a shoot in the dark. As I've said many times here, you've gotta fall in love with tuning. Go beat yourself up for a few hours & see what comes out in the wash. Good luck!
Maybe that's all I need Andy, a good mate to come by and act as a sounding board or to be there as additional support. Thanks for the well wishes! I'm looking forward to a time when I can tell you about everything that's going on...

I'm just curious what studio are you recording in? Because I'm in Toronto. Also, I would really like to hear about the finished product when it's done.

Thanks!
L.
Metalworks.

PS - not a student project.
 

Lucho

Member
Ah I've been to Metalworks before. Between myself and another friend who's recorded there we've both gotten great drum sounds from the tracks. I found the guys to be really good with helping me out on the drums.

Good luck! Should be a blast.
 
C

Crazy8s

Guest
Jer, it is you being recorded and not the drum tech. You should tune your drums the way you like them, but spend a little extra time cleaning the drums up. Maybe take the heads off and re-wax the bearing edges and clean the lint off the heads and re-lubricate the tension rods, etc. Also, look for things that might rattle and quell them however. When you set your kit up in the studio, make sure that your hoops aren't touching the hoops of neighboring drums, and maybe put a piece of tape in between them if they are likely to contact.

Bring an extra snare head and as many snare drums as you have that you would actually record. Bring a roll of duct tape and some cloth towels and paper towels.

Good luck and be sure to share your tracks with us when you get them mixed down!
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Isn't Metalworks the studio owned by former Triumph drummer Gil Moore?

As for what to Pro drummers do...

In Los Angeles, there are cartage companies that store, deliver, tune and rent out drum kits to the pros. For top session guys, the cartage fee is part of hiring someone.

You want Vinnie? Ok, pay his going rate plus his cartage fees, and he'll do your session.
For someone like Kenny Arnoff who might be doing a session in LA on one day, a session in Nashville the next day, and on tour every other day, having cartage ends up being fairly essential. As for who does the final tuning, I'm sure it depends on the drummer and/or the situation.

For pro bands, the producer may bring in a cartage company to set up a and tune a pro kit, and convince the record company to pay for it, but then it's coming out of the band future royalties like any other expense. Some bands, like Metallica, pay for such services out of their own pocket because they don't want the record company having expenses to hold over them and like to keep as much financial aspect under their own control as possible.

But a lot of session work is moving out of big studios to home studios, where a guy might have is kit set up and tuned ready to go for whatever session comes his way.

So the answer is, like everything else, it all depends.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Having a tech tune drums should be considered a necessity rather than the norm. Players who keep sufficiently busy may rely on person to stay one step ahead of them to make their lives easier and the sessions go faster, but it shouldn't be because they have trouble tuning. I know there are a number of drummers who just can't get it quite right, including some well-known pros, but I think being able to tune is as important as being able to play.

I would strive to handle those duties on your own, rather than saddle the producer, artist, or yourself with the expense. I don't know if there's a stigma attached, there are pros who use techs in the studio, but I'd think it's more of a feather in your cap if you can bring in well-tuned drums from the start and be able to make adjustments as needed.

FWIW, I've never had anyone else tune my drums, and the handful of rental kits I've used have also been retuned by me. I can be duly credited/blamed for every one of my drum sounds.

Bermuda
 

Hercules

Senior Member
Does the studio have a kit onsite? You could use it and just turn up with your cymbals and sticks (and possibly snare).

Or, you could simulate the studio environment (make a temporary drumbooth area in your house) and get your kit tuned in preparation so all you need is a fine tweak once your in the studio.

This is where electronic kits shine imo.
 

jer

Silver Member
Good luck! Should be a blast.
Thanks, yes, I'm sure it will be a blast!

Good luck and be sure to share your tracks with us when you get them mixed down!
Thanks for the recording tips, I'll make sure the kit is up to snuff before the session.

So the answer is, like everything else, it all depends.
You speak truths! Thanks for the post, this was the kind of info I was hoping to find.

I would strive to handle those duties on your own, rather than saddle the producer, artist, or yourself with the expense. I don't know if there's a stigma attached, there are pros who use techs in the studio, but I'd think it's more of a feather in your cap if you can bring in well-tuned drums from the start and be able to make adjustments as needed.
As common with your posts, your perspective not only informs, it encourages us to push ourselves.

I've done recordings where I've been quite happy with how my kit sounded, others where a tom sounded a little flabby or something started to squeak and I wish I had someone who hasn't been wearing cans for 4 hours to catch it.

Does the studio have a kit onsite? You could use it and just turn up with your cymbals and sticks (and possibly snare).

Or, you could simulate the studio environment (make a temporary drumbooth area in your house) and get your kit tuned in preparation so all you need is a fine tweak once your in the studio.

This is where electronic kits shine imo.
No kit on site... I will for sure be spending time tuning up my kit before the session. I've got nothing against e-kits, but don't share your opinion for this project / session.
 

eddiehimself

Platinum Member
This is where electronic kits shine imo.
Not for a high end album recording they don't. Unless you want some sort of effect. E kits have come a long way but i personally would still much rather use an actual kit than any sort of electronic kit if I was going to be doing an expensive session like this one.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
E kits have come a long way but i personally would still much rather use an actual kit than any sort of electronic kit if I was going to be doing an expensive session like this one.
They've come a long way indeed, and for most kick, snare & tom sounds, they can work very well. Cymbals are a telltale weak spot on V-kits, and it's not uncommon to simply play live cymbals with a V-kit, assuming it's important to go straight for those sounds. Why struggle with tuning a snare for a simple backbeat, when the ideal sound is already in the module? In most contexts, they're completely believable. We've all heard V-kits on tracks and probably not known it. I've even been fooled by well-programmed sequences, the sounds were that natural and the 'playing' that human.

But V-kits don't do everything. Some genres - most notably, Jazz - are expressive enough where they don't lend themselves to a pad's lack of finesse and physical playing attributes (playing near the edge, varied rim/head ratios, different rim click sounds, playing extra-hard with both sticks to get to get that 'choked' sound, the effect of a tom bulding its sound under repetitive 8ths or 16ths, etc.) This is specifically why cymbals don't work well on V-kits. It's not that the sounds are bad, they're actually great on the pro-level kits and a simple crash would normally be fine. But playing a pad doesn't begin to approximate the physical attributes and responses that a real cymbal has when played at various velocities, with different positions from the stick, or with repeat crashing. Hence one solution where the V-kit would otherwise sound right for a particular genre: use live cymbals. It's actually pretty easy to adapt to mixing pads & pies, and even permits using lighter, sweeter cymbals where mixing them with live drums might be a mixing conflict.

Bermuda
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
i have to confess that one time i took my drums to the local drum shop and had them tune it for me before an important recording session. they did a great job! i can't do that all the time though. i'm not the world's greatest drum tuner, but i can make them sound ok i guess.
 

toddy

Platinum Member
They've come a long way indeed, and for most kick, snare & tom sounds, they can work very well. Cymbals are a telltale weak spot on V-kits, and it's not uncommon to simply play live cymbals with a V-kit, assuming it's important to go straight for those sounds. Why struggle with tuning a snare for a simple backbeat, when the ideal sound is already in the module? In most contexts, they're completely believable. We've all heard V-kits on tracks and probably not known it. I've even been fooled by well-programmed sequences, the sounds were that natural and the 'playing' that human.

But V-kits don't do everything. Some genres - most notably, Jazz - are expressive enough where they don't lend themselves to a pad's lack of finesse and physical playing attributes (playing near the edge, varied rim/head ratios, different rim click sounds, playing extra-hard with both sticks to get to get that 'choked' sound, the effect of a tom bulding its sound under repetitive 8ths or 16ths, etc.) This is specifically why cymbals don't work well on V-kits. It's not that the sounds are bad, they're actually great on the pro-level kits and a simple crash would normally be fine. But playing a pad doesn't begin to approximate the physical attributes and responses that a real cymbal has when played at various velocities, with different positions from the stick, or with repeat crashing. Hence one solution where the V-kit would otherwise sound right for a particular genre: use live cymbals. It's actually pretty easy to adapt to mixing pads & pies, and even permits using lighter, sweeter cymbals where mixing them with live drums might be a mixing conflict.

Bermuda
I've been waiting for someone on your level to post something like this.
I have been doing this myself for a few years, but using samples, rather than module sounds. Anyone who thinks e-drums (SAMPLES) don't sound believable any more is kidding themselves. There have been numerous blind A/B tests on gearslutz & the like, where the drums (especially once in a track & mastered) are simply impossible to distinguish between. I know many big name producers have either SD2, SSD or OWD nowadays, for drum replacement. It's kind of normal. Producers have been augmenting their live drum sounds with samples for years, especially in metal & rock, with drumagog.

I would agree on the jazz front, there simply isn't enough sensitivity at the moment. That said there are some E-kits (the guy I buy from) who have in the past few months made all toms dual zone, so you can have rim sounds too. But I certainly wouldn't advise it for that style of playing. I would include some south american styles with this too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AG_-d9D-4I

This track, infact the whole album, was programmed. The cymbals aren't live, they are simply from a sample pack (Superior Drummer 2). If anything lets this down in terms of being "real" then it is one of the smaller crashes, and a few of the ghost notes, due to the way the velocities have been edited (or rather not edited), other than that (to me) it sounds fine.
What's more the drummer (Navene Koperweis, ex Animosity) nails it live too.

Programmed drums are extremely prevalent in sub-genres of metal now, especially in a sub-genre named Djent. There are a few high profile bands (AAL are sort of on the fringe of this sub-genre) who have popularised VST's like SD2. This is mainly because the movement is filled with solo guitarists, who program their drums, often because they can't find local drummers good enough to play in a band with them.

Also what you said about mixing Bermuda, is very true. The greatest thing for me about the samples in question, is that you don't really have to do much in the way of EQing (unless you want to), and the samples sit in a mix very easily. That's not to say there is anything wrong with an acoustic kit... the whole point is that the samples are of high end acoustic drums.

Btw sorry to derail your thread Jer, but that post by Bermuda is extremely important! Well it is to me anyway.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I've been waiting for someone on your level to post something like this.
I have been doing this myself for a few years, but using samples, rather than module sounds. Anyone who thinks e-drums (SAMPLES) don't sound believable any more is kidding themselves. There have been numerous blind A/B tests on gearslutz & the like, where the drums (especially once in a track & mastered) are simply impossible to distinguish between. I know many big name producers have either SD2, SSD or OWD nowadays, for drum replacement. It's kind of normal. Producers have been augmenting their live drum sounds with samples for years, especially in metal & rock, with drumagog.
.
True.

I don't think there has been a metal album released in the last ten years that didn't use samples for the kick. And if they did use a mic on an actual kick drum, they tweaked it to sound like a sample.

But then again, an actual sample is a real drum with a real mic that has been recorded, with some assorted EQ added, and put into a digital format that can be recalled by a trigger.

So really, when you hear most samples, you're hearing an actual drum as the source of the sound.

The only real difference, as Bermuda pointed out, is dynamics are much easier to get with real drums. But on so many rock recordings, actual drums are compressed to the point the dynamics are often lost anyway, so go figure.

I've done plenty of recordings with e-drums where no one really knew the difference. Other times it's more apparent, especially when you start getting delays in the midi chain. But the ease of use of e-drums can't be denied. I once did an entire EP in my apartment bed room on a TD-6. Set up is quick, no spending hours tuning, tweaking mic placement, or finally getting a take only to find the drum head has worn out.

I recently got BFD2, and that has helped reduce lag, and sounds amazing compared to the stock V-drum sounds. But their much less tweaking you can do with the samples compared to a v-drum.

Although after years of experimenting and playing with e-kits, I'm sort of over it. I want to just save up for some good mics. Although then it's back to spending hours tweaking drum heads and mic placement, so there is certainly a trade off.
 

toddy

Platinum Member
Hey yeah great points DED. You know, BFD2 is cool. If you feel like you need something where you can do more tweaking then give SSD or SD2 a try, they're focused at a slightly different audience. That said BFD2 is great for plugging & playing, and there is nothing inherently wrong with the samples, rather the depth of customisation is not as great, as you alluded to. Great point about the compression.

I own a pearl masters studio (birch) too, with an assortment of mics that I collected through my teenage years, as & when I could afford them. I would say that I am happy recording with either, but in terms of time, effort, and efficiency, well samples/e-drums are just damn nice.

I totally agree however on the dynamics front. Which is why the snare drum still isn't as good as it could be, and cymbal samples aren't too great. However, I think that in the next ten years, e-drums will be excellent. Not only that, but I think investing in the drums (and keeping up with the technology) will pay off in the long run. Only my personal opinion, of course.

I promise I'll stop talking about e-drums now, and leave Jer to his recording!!
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Hey yeah great points DED. You know, BFD2 is cool. If you feel like you need something where you can do more tweaking then give SSD or SD2 a try, they're focused at a slightly different audience. That said BFD2 is great for plugging & playing, and there is nothing inherently wrong with the samples, rather the depth of customisation is not as great, as you alluded to. Great point about the compression.
I had read on 101 other sites BFD2 was more customizable, or at least that was my impression.

I'm just used to years of using V-drums, where if you want that sound, but wonder if it would be better by switching from a coated head to a clear head, you just do it. On sample based VSTs, not so much because what ever head the sample was recorded with is what is it is.

So instead, I spend hours tweaking the EQ, compression, and everything else trying to get the same effect as if there was a different head on there. Which sort of defeats the point of using a VST.


I own a pearl masters studio (birch) too, with an assortment of mics that I collected through my teenage years, as & when I could afford them. I would say that I am happy recording with either, but in terms of time, effort, and efficiency, well samples/e-drums are just damn nice.
No doubt the time factor. Not to mention not having to change drum heads, or buy new heads all the time.

For me is was $. I already had the e-kit from apartment living, so it was cheaper to upgrade to a VST than buy mics, preamps, cables and stands.

.
However, I think that in the next ten years, e-drums will be excellent. Not only that, but I think investing in the drums (and keeping up with the technology) will pay off in the long run. Only my personal opinion, of course.
One would think, but there has not really been any major technological advancement since the TD-20, and that is what? 8 or 9 years old now. Roland has focused on making more affordable packages, and not pushing the envelope. The new Yamaha from last year is pretty cool, but it's not leaps and bounds technologically advanced over the TD-20, although it is cheaper price point.

Ddrum is essentially out of the market (although they still sell triggers), Alesis and Pearl are not even trying to complete with the high end stuff.

It's seems like we're way over due for an advancement, but I've not seen any evidence anyone is actually trying to work on one.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
It's seems like we're way over due for an advancement, but I've not seen any evidence anyone is actually trying to work on one.
Well, they're certainly not trying very hard. There's apparently not much of a market for pro-level kits, as most pros are either playing acoustic drums, or programming. For performance considerations, V-kits are a real liability, susceptible to pad damage, power spikes, and scariest of all, bad cables. If your snare cable goes out, there's no snare. Compare that to an acoustic kit, where if the snare mic or its cable goes, there are overheads, hat, nearby tom, and maybe a vocal mic to pick up the slack. The snare doesn't disappear altogether. Same applies to any other pad and its cable.

Triggers are just as susceptible, but at least there's an acoustic counterpart.

Anyway, that's why you don't see many V-kits in concert.

Studios are a different matter, where if there's a problem, you just re-take or punch as necessary. A failure there doesn't bring things to a halt like it does in front of 10,000 paying audience members.

I have a TDW-1 (updated TD-10) and the last time it got any use was 2005, and that was just the module (I needed some passable timp sounds.) I can't recall the last time I set everything up as a kit, or even had a desire to. I've worked regularly at a Casino with a TD-20 house kit, and even that isn't pro-level. It's nice, but not nice/sturdy enough to take on a real stage.

Bermuda
 

toddy

Platinum Member
It's seems like we're way over due for an advancement, but I've not seen any evidence anyone is actually trying to work on one.
There are some people that continue to work hard on e-drums. Mainly those with vested interests. Some of them are members of the v-drums forums, some of them custom e-kit makers, some of them tech guys that are trying to improve the VST aspect. I doubt the innovations will come from roland, alesis etc.

As for the live aspect, I agree with Bermudas concerns. I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable taking my e-kit on a major tour or something. But I would certainly take triggers, & run off SD2 samples. Mainly because I play within a genre where that is acceptable. e-drums seem to have some sort of "taboo" nature surrounding them. Which is fair enough.

(insert apology here).
 
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