Mike Portnoy Drum tuning techniques?

veecharlie

Senior Member
Hello everybody,
I'm very curious.. I love the sound of Mike's drums. Live and studio they always sound amazing.
I wanted to ask if anybody here knew how he tunes them?
I know he tunes the snare very high (dahh) and he normally leaves only one of two snares off in the main snare.
what about the toms?
 

BenjaminCamelot

Senior Member
Clear Remo Emperors on top, Clear Ambassadors on bottom. Tune the bottom head higher than the top head and put some muffling on the top head. Preferably duct tape for muffling. Be aware he does use mixing/EQ on his drums but don't let the mixing/EQ part let you down.
 

dwsabianguy

Senior Member
I know a little about this!

Live at Budokan still has some of my favorite drum tones. I haven't figured out how to get that kick sound (that's Kevin Shirley's compressors at work right there), but kicks were clear/black P3s with big pillows and felt beaters, toms were clear Emperors over clear Diplomats, and snares were coated Controlled sounds. Snares are tuned high on the bottom and top to the final pitch with snares fairly loose. Toms are higher on the bottom and fairly loose on the top. Kicks were just above wrinkle point, I think.

Earlier kits were Pinstripes over Ambassadors, as is Neal Morse's studio kit.
 

octatonic

Senior Member
From the sound of the last few DT albums that he played on I would say using sample replacement.
 

Elegentdrum

Junior Member
Here are the things I have found help out a kick recording. I will stay away from the drummer or tuning departments, that's creative choices.

#1 Drum sounds good in room
#2 Full paint can in center of drum
#3 Tunnel around the distant kick mic to partially isolate it to minimize phase problems w/ overheads
#4 The right kick mic for the song. Good choices include B52, D6, D12E, ND868, ATM25, RE20, SM7B, SM57+pad
Add in U47 or Ribbon mic at a distance
Add in Sub kick
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
From the sound of the last few DT albums that he played on I would say using sample replacement.
Me 4.

Worth remembering Images and Words was recorded with an electronic snare.

Scenes From a Memory is the best studio sound he's had. I saw him on the Octavarium tour when he had the Bonham setup or the albino monster. That kit sounded amazing. Don't think he could handle the big sizes mind.

There's a video of his bubinga kit unmiced knocking about on youtube and it sounds awful. Lot of eq magic going on.

The drum sound on Neal Morse Grand Experiment is the best drum sound he's had in years.
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
Scene from a Memory has a great great drum sound, you're right (perfect album anyway), but falling into infinity or Octavarium too (iMHO). It's cutting but not dry, powerful and plain but not overwhelming.
I really like his sound, he got back to it in the Neal Morse Experiment.
Of course ther's a lot of studio magic but it can't be sum up to that, otherwise, his sound would be found elsewhere.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
Scene from a Memory has a great great drum sound, you're right (perfect album anyway), but falling into infinity or Octavarium too (iMHO). It's cutting but not dry, powerful and plain but not overwhelming.
I really like his sound, he got back to it in the Neal Morse Experiment.
Of course ther's a lot of studio magic but it can't be sum up to that, otherwise, his sound would be found elsewhere.
I think he's gone back his old head set up. Pinstripe over ambassadors and he has tuned his snare back up. Plus he's actually playing a little more tastefully with Neal Morse. The latter DT stuff was just play as loud and as fast as possible which isn't proper DT.

Always thought Octavarium was 7 tracks too long.

He was one of the guys who I learnt a lot from in terms of odd time signatures and his vid from about 94 when he was with Mapex had a bass drum/tom fill section which showed you how to do every Portnoy fill ever.
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
Of course there's a lot of studio input to his sound, not to mention the possibility that been Raised of sound samples.
However I was surprised, and I don't know why I just was, to see that his set up is either Clear Emperors or Pinstripes over Clear Ambassadors. In an age of three big brands and multiple options within each company (ply thicknesses, reverse dots,mounted plies, colours, outer control rings or attachments) those choices ares about as easy/old school/fuss free as he could possibly make.
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
Of course there's a lot of studio input to his sound, not to mention the possibility that been Raised of sound samples.
However I was surprised, and I don't know why I just was, to see that his set up is either Clear Emperors or Pinstripes over Clear Ambassadors. In an age of three big brands and multiple options within each company (ply thicknesses, reverse dots,mounted plies, colours, outer control rings or attachments) those choices ares about as easy/old school/fuss free as he could possibly make.
In fact, you don't need much : emperor over amb (or G2 over G1) is an undisputable basic that may work in many situations. Like coated amba or coated CS on the snare...

After I was wondering about the tuning, I think he tunes quite high to have a lot of slap and good rebound. Anyway his playing makes the sound - more than the skin he uses or the depth of his drums.
 

veecharlie

Senior Member
I know a little about this!

Live at Budokan still has some of my favorite drum tones. I haven't figured out how to get that kick sound (that's Kevin Shirley's compressors at work right there), but kicks were clear/black P3s with big pillows and felt beaters, toms were clear Emperors over clear Diplomats, and snares were coated Controlled sounds. Snares are tuned high on the bottom and top to the final pitch with snares fairly loose. Toms are higher on the bottom and fairly loose on the top. Kicks were just above wrinkle point, I think.

Earlier kits were Pinstripes over Ambassadors, as is Neal Morse's studio kit.
I agree with you that live in budokan the drums sounded really amazing. I was actually thinking he tunes the top higher and the bottom almost loose.. that's why I started this thread so we can discuss what we know hehe
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
Sorry thr ignorance but does that mean you trigger sounds ? Or just an over modified version on the mix?
None of those, really. Drums are recorded normally, and then the drum sounds are either enhanced or replaced with sampled sounds. It's very easy to do in the digital recording world.

There are plenty of subtleties available, like setting it to only fire when a hit is louder than a certian treshold, etc, but that's the basic idea.

Most big budget commercial recordings these days will feature heavily edited drum tracks, both in terms of edited timing to line it up exactly on the grid and edited sounds using sample replacement and massive modification through EQing and other "effects". The drum sound on an album will generally not sound much like what you'd hear if you were in the room when it was recorded.
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
Interesting, so is the information about the electronic snare on images & words, is that true ?
 

veecharlie

Senior Member
Interesting, so is the information about the electronic snare on images & words, is that true ?
It doesn't sound true to me.. as in those times big reverb on the snare was the thing and electronic beats where not as good as nowadays...
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
Interesting, so is the information about the electronic snare on images & words, is that true ?
Yeah, the producer insisted on using a trigger on the snare, and the band didn't have enough leverage at that point in time to persuade him not to.

The rest of the kit is acoustic and miced, but the snare isn't. If you listen to the version of Pull Me Under and Another Day from their "Best of" album, you can hear they've replaced the triggered sound with another one that isn't quite so overpowering.
 
Top