Incredibly Overly Muffled Drums

gish

Senior Member
My band has opened up for 2 different touring cover bands at a large local club in the past few months. Each time I had to use the other drummers kit to minimize changeover time, which is fine. Both drummers were talented players, with 1 thing in common. Both drummers muffled their drums to the point of sounding like boxes! 1 guy had red Evans hydraulic heads on his toms with multiple moon gels on each tom; the other guy had black Remo heads with studio muffle rings that were then taped onto the heads with multiple strips of gaffers tape. Both kits had emads with the larger foam ring AND blankets/pillows inside the drum. Is this just the easy, no fuss way to get drum sounds through a big PA? I've been playing through big sound systems for years, but never muffled my drums like this. I tune, and I'll use a moon gel if needed, and always got compliments on my micd drum sound. So what gives? I'm not trying to rant here, just don't understand the thought process on killing the sound of the drums just to mic them. Anyone else sit in on a kit and experience this?
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Quite a few times, this past summer at a gig. Our sax player in the band is also the sound guy. We used his kit/soudn system and he likes it all muffled, so he can 'EQ' to where he likes it. Its simply awful to play and awful sounding. I told him never again, lets use an extra 20 minutes to setup my drums.

I guess I never understand people's tastes. I mean if a kit sounds awful acoustically, how do you expect it to be at its best when mic'ed? And its also not enjoyable playing drums that sound like that.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I mean if a kit sounds awful acoustically, how do you expect it to be at its best when mic'ed?

The sound behind the kit and the sound through the p.a. are quite different. You can have a (seemingly) great sounding kit acoustically, that's problematic when mic'd, and a (seemingly) dead kit that somehow sounds amazing through the p.a.

The fact is, sitting behind the kit, we really don't know how our drums sound to the guitar player on stage, or someone in the audience 30 feet away, much less to a mic 2" from the head (or inside the kick) and run through a p.a.

I've played kits that I thought sounded great, but they just didn't translate to the listener, as well as kits that were lackluster, but turned out to sound great.

It's certainly possible for drums to be muffled beyond where they're manageable, but in many cases, the context needs to be considered.

Bermuda
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
From a sound guy's perspective:

You don't have to de-ring a dead kit. You don't have to worry about the floor tom trying to jump off the riser whenever the bass player hits a note it's sympathetic with.

Dead head drummers don't necessarily like the sound of their drums, they've just given up on having to deal with the sonic bullshit that comes with gigging night after night.
 

gish

Senior Member
From a sound guy's perspective:

You don't have to de-ring a dead kit. You don't have to worry about the floor tom trying to jump off the riser whenever the bass player hits whatever note it's sympathetic with.

Oh yeah, I get that. I'm not one of those guys that fights with the sound man over muffling. I've always been willing to work with the FOH to give them what they need. It was just the amount of muffling these 2 guys used that surprised me; well beyond anything I've seen before. You can muffle drums and still have them sound like drums, right? Acoustically, they didn't sound like drums anymore. Again, not criticizing anyone; just surprising to me, not my cup of tea.

I guess the other side of it is that both of these bands do a lot of traveling up and down the east coast. Maybe they just don't have the time or energy to fuss with the kit at every gig. Easier to muffle down instead of frequent tuning and tweaking .

KamaK, didn't see the last paragraph you wrote until after I responded; I kind of repeated some of what you said lol
 
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williamsbclontz

Silver Member
The sound behind the kit and the sound through the p.a. are quite different. You can have a (seemingly) great sounding kit acoustically, that's problematic when mic'd, and a (seemingly) dead kit that somehow sounds amazing through the p.a.

The fact is, sitting behind the kit, we really don't know how our drums sound to the guitar player on stage, or someone in the audience 30 feet away, much less to a mic 2" from the head (or inside the kick) and run through a p.a.

I've played kits that I thought sounded great, but they just didn't translate to the listener, as well as kits that were lackluster, but turned out to sound great.

It's certainly possible for drums to be muffled beyond where they're manageable, but in many cases, the context needs to be considered.

Bermuda

I've encountered this in a studio setting, the owner had a old tama kit and the top heads on the toms were so loose that they sounded completely dead. Wrinkles and all. I asked him if he wanted me to tune them for him, and he told me that they would sound better through my headphones, and sure enough the drums sounded amazing. I guess all of the tone was due to the bottom heads, I'm not sure I don't know the science behind it. But don't judge the sound until you hear it through the mix

But sometimes I see guys muffle heavily mainly because they can't tune their toms that well
 

BertTheDrummer

Gold Member
he told me that they would sound better through my headphones, and sure enough the drums sounded amazing.
That's the first question I was going to ask, were they on in-ears? I've notice a lot of times with in-ears super muffled drums end up sounding better and cleaner if your using in-ears than having the over ringing. However, if you are listening to them live with a monitor I prefer to have some ring.

That being said, as someone who has been the sound guy as well, ringing drums can be a pain to deal with as well. A lot of times I've found most "normal" (e.g. not people who come on forums like this) actually don't know a whole ton about tuning drums and basically just take whatever someone says... usually from a soundguy who doesn't want to deal with ringing drums :) .
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Well, there was a point in time when the "dead" sounding drums were the popular thing to do.

And I've noticed some of that has come back in a retro fashion sort of way.

Hey look, concert toms!
378f9ec9-4a2b-4814-a608-6196f8c3ccb2
 

gish

Senior Member
Well, just got back from my second gig of the weekend (feels like I'm out on tour!). We mic'd up my freshly reheaded Saturn kit, which was fitted with coated ambassador batter/clear ambassador resos. EMAD with small foam ring and Aquarian regulator custom logo head. Snare had an Aquarian texture coated with Evans 3 mil reso. Nothing in the kick, 1 moon gel on each tom, snare was left wide open. Drums sounded killer (maybe the best I've ever heard that kit sound), and we got drum sounds in 5 minutes without any issues. It was nice to play drums that sounded like drums from the driver's seat! First time using coated ambassadors on this kit; man did my toms sound great! Very happy with the drum sound and the gig went great! I think I'll stick with what I'm doing and keep the tape away from my drums!
 

Demford

Member
I have to say, I worked at a club here in LA doing lights and helping bands change over for a year and I was shocked at the state of most drum heads. I saw hundreds of bands and I couldn't believe how many drummers had really old heads with duct tape and/or gels all over them. Or new heads with tons of tape and whatnot. I honestly couldn't believe it. I thought, doesn't anyone want their drums to sound like drums instead of tupperware? I get everyone has their preferences, and I'm personally a fan of the open, ringy coated head drum sound, but still...I didn't get it. To each his own, but in a year where I saw A LOT of bands, I think there were maybe 2 or 3 times where I said, whoa, those drums sound awesome! And I'm pretty sure they were rentals from SIR each time.
 

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
I saw hundreds of bands and I couldn't believe how many drummers had really old heads with duct tape and/or gels all over them. Or new heads with tons of tape and whatnot. I honestly couldn't believe it. I thought, doesn't anyone want their drums to sound like drums instead of tupperware?

Yea I see it all the time, the worst part is when people have really high end kits and muffle them heavily. Like what's the point of buying an expensive drum kit if you're going to make them sound that way? Let the drums sing, but that's just my opinion
 

makinao

Silver Member
There's a connection between this and the thread on why "pop songs don't have real drums." The sound of drums on both popular recordings and concert PAs are simulacras. They don't often sound anything like from the driver's seat or unamplified in a hall/room. But we've become so accustomed to it that 1) it has became the standard for how drums should sound, 2) many people have no problem making it ever more "unreal".

I hate most club/backline kits, but if I'm not a featured act I'll will play them anyway just to save people time and effort. OTOH if it was my kit and I'm a featured act, I'll argue as much as I want about both the driver's seat and FOH sound until I get what I want.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
OTOH if it was my kit and I'm a featured act, I'll argue as much as I want about both the driver's seat and FOH sound until I get what I want.

What is your method for getting the FOH sound you want. Do you have someone else play the kit while you set mics, mix, EQ etc?
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
What is your method for getting the FOH sound you want. Do you have someone else play the kit while you set mics, mix, EQ etc?

When I'm behind the desk, I click, "scene->load scene->natural drums->9-16->OK". It's usually just fine after that.

Granted, it took us a good three months to set up all of the scenes.
 

moxman

Silver Member
Overly muffled is not for me.
I've heard played kits like that; in one case the drummer had triggers stuck on the dead heads to re-inforce the sound - it had a pretty clean and punchy 'studio' sound out front. In another case, the drummer was after the same kind of thing but just relied on the sound guy to dial in and mold his sound.
To me.. why not just buy an e-kit and get the same crappy studio sound.. in all cases above, you lose the presence of the drums, unless you're in the sound cone of the FOH speakers. Case in point, I opened for a touring band where the drummer was playing an e-kit - weird! At the side of the stage all I could hear was 'click-clack - click-clack' not drum sounds. That just sucks...

As mentioned, because kits can sound different in different rooms.. after soundcheck, I always ask my guitar player to play my drums while I walk around to the back of the hall and listen for things like tone and separation.. and snare/kick duration etc. As the sound guy is still there I can request fine tuning if needed... or go back and tweak my tuning/muffling etc.

The hardest hall I've played was a big wedding in a big old barn. very difficult to avoid a 'washy' sound.. like playing in a giant cave. Could have been the overhead condensers.. but just hitting the drums in the room with no mics sounded really weird.. like the sound just dissipated into the ether with a lot of reverb! Maybe it was the century old wood.. but the sound guy said it wasn't easy to get great sound in that hall!

k.. one more.. and this one I can't explain.
I played another guys 'unmiced' kit at an outdoor party. Standing in front with the crowd, his wood snare sounded rich, full, crisp and punchy.. I'd say medium high pitch. When it was my turn to get up.. I hit his snare and found it was low pitched, crazy loose snare tension and sounded like MUSH. So no audio tricks involved.. either that or he torpedoed his snare before I got up LoL! (not possible)
My only theory is the volume he played at (pretty hard hit but not over the top) and maybe sticks. Sometimes if I notice the snare sound is getting thin while I'm playing.. (eg. maybe a stick is about to go), I'll flip to the butt end and you get a fatter sound. Saves the day!
 
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New Tricks

Platinum Member
When I'm behind the desk, I click, "scene->load scene->natural drums->9-16->OK". It's usually just fine after that.

Granted, it took us a good three months to set up all of the scenes.


But how did you originally get the scenes set up?

One thing I always disliked was not being able to hear the FOH mix from behind the kit. I could never hear shit buried behind a wall of amps.

At the pro level, I would presume you would have complete confidence in your engineers. At an entry level it seems like a crap shoot.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
But how did you originally get the scenes set up?

To start, simply recording and playing back the 8 drum tracks. Refined as additional bands played, night after night.


Honestly, once you've EQ'd and de-ring a room (and saved the venue), there's not a heck of a lot that goes wrong. Occasionally, something will change (new BD mic for example) and you'll have to adjust the scene. For the most part, everything stays the same with a couple of nudges for balance.

If you're using a Studiolive or similar (X32 for example), you can record a sound check and play it back in any other venue to set levels without anyone having to take the stage. As long as your amps and mics stay the same, you don't even have to really sound check. 8-button-presses will do 90% of the setup work.

The new digital desks are F'ing fantastic.
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
The best recorded drum sounds I've ever heard have either one of these two things that apply:

1. Simon Phillips is the engineer

or

2. Simon Phillips is the drummer

That is all.
 
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