Sound engineers creating kick tone.

The Scorpio

Senior Member
Hello fellow drummers. I have a problem with sound guys (or girls, if that's your thing.) When I sound check, they always love my snare, my toms, and overheads (if we need them) but they hate my bass drum. Recently I actually had one sound guy ("Yeah I've worked with Phil Collins AND Judas Priest") lecture me about my kick drum sound, for about thirty minutes. Nice fella...just VERY "word-y."

Let me explain. I used to play a 22 inch kick (Remo Powersonic Batter, Remo Ebony Ambassador Resonant with port hole off center) and that was fine. I could get a really nice sound that way. Sound engineers loved it, the world was at peace, and it rained butterflies and rainbows.

Then I got bored. So I flipped the script and and bought a 28x16 inch Yamaha sFz marching bass drum, which I then converted to a conventional bass drum. FREAKING LOVED IT right away. Great tone, projection, and pedal feel. I use an Emperor on the batter and an Ambassador on the reso side, no port hole. Felt Strips on both sides.

But here lately it's been really pissing the sound engineers off, which in turn is pissing me off.

***WARNING: I AM ABOUT TO RANT***

So here's the deal. I am the drummer. It is my job to a) set up the drums b) tune those drums and c) play those drums. If you are doing sound for me (specifically drum sound check) It is NOT, I repeat NOT your job to "create" my tone. That's my job. It is your job to REPRODUCE my drum sound as faithfully as you can.

I don't want my drums to sound dead as a hammer just so you can create the same sterile drum sound you created last night. Where's the fun in that???

I am my drum sound and my drum sound is me. My bass drum doesn't click, my toms ring. That's how I like them. I tuned them to sound that way for a reason.

Am I alone here or is anyone else having a similar experience?

-Kyle
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Being an audio engineer, we're a funny bunch. Some guys are willing to take the sound that's given and simply amplify it. Others really feel you should do it their way. It's a shame you're running into people who've presumably worked for big name artists and still feel the need to tell you how they'd like it. This tells me he's lying about his abilities and doesn't know how to do his job.

That said, in a live sound situation, it's basically his venue and he's only thinking of how to best project your sound out there. He is having to deal with everybody making sound on the stage too and he's probably making sure you guys are comfortable with what you're hearing as well. But I've never made a big deal out of having a ported or non-ported kick. Yes, you lose alot of attack with a non-ported kick, but if that's the sound you want, well...

Perhaps you can just help educate the man on what you want and talk about certain artists that you're emulating. Maybe he'll get it.
 

Bertram

Silver Member
On our school we preformed a show last year, with some music and such. The "sound engineer" if you will, was very annoying - atleast i felt that.
I was playing a regular song, which happened to have fast double bass hits sometimes. But then he told me not to play the double bass hits, cause it was muddy on the speakers. I wasn't really okay with it.
1) it was hard to leave them out since i've been playing that way the entire week.
2) It sounded boring as hell.
3) (it was an e-kit) so he changed the sounds of the drums often, and i wasn't allowed to pick the sound of the cymbals, etc - splash - crash/ ride - crash etc..
4) I hate e-kits and wanted to bring my own - if that was possible - but it wasn't.
 

The Scorpio

Senior Member
I have worked with a few sound guys that know exactly what to do with my kick. So later I went up to them and asked what they did. Two nights later, similar gig, different sound person. After I set up and check tuning, engineer will walk up to me and say "Dude, you've gotta put a pillow in there, or else this is gonna be horrible." To which I politely laugh and say "Nah dude it's cool. We played in so-and-so two nights ago and the engineer did this. It sounded really cool, just what I was looking for. Do you think you could do that?" Most of the time this trick works and I get what I need in a short period of time. Sometimes I really piss the sound guy off and have to buy him a drink later to soothe his bruised ego.
 

The Scorpio

Senior Member
On our school we preformed a show last year, with some music and such. The "sound engineer" if you will, was very annoying - atleast i felt that.
I was playing a regular song, which happened to have fast double bass hits sometimes. But then he told me not to play the double bass hits, cause it was muddy on the speakers. I wasn't really okay with it.
1) it was hard to leave them out since i've been playing that way the entire week.
2) It sounded boring as hell.
3) (it was an e-kit) so he changed the sounds of the drums often, and i wasn't allowed to pick the sound of the cymbals, etc - splash - crash/ ride - crash etc..
4) I hate e-kits and wanted to bring my own - if that was possible - but it wasn't.
Dude...he wanted you to alter your playing to make his job easier?!?! That's not a "sound engineer." I call those people "the guy attempting to run sound."
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I am my drum sound and my drum sound is me. My bass drum doesn't click, my toms ring. That's how I like them. I tuned them to sound that way for a reason.

My only question is, do you listen to your drums from the audience's physical perspective?

If you have another drummer sit in while the band is playing and the sound from the room is good, tell the sound guy that is what you want. To be fair, you should also get your band mates to concur.

My point is that your perspective from behind the kit is skewed.

When I was gigging, I would occaisionally do sound for other bands as I owned a PA system. I would often try to work the kicks with a bit of dampening and the drummers would always be little b****es and claim they wanted nothing to do with it. They didn't understand that I was a drummer, I had a good ear and I was capable of giving them whatever sound they wanted. I never bothered to argue with them. I just let their music sound like crap.

The bottom line is that it takes several people to make music and everyone has to be capable of doing their job. You may feel that you are the artist (heh heh) but at some point, you will have to trust sound people to do their thing.

One thing you could try is use headphones to monitor the sound from the mixer/sound system. That way you could get a better idea of what your kicks sound like from an audience perspective.




And.....when I was playing, I simply trusted our sound guy to do his job. It was either that or trade places with him.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
There are two sides to this:
1. The sound person has to work with what they've got. There are limitations to what the PA and/or room can handle, so there may well be a legitimate reason for their requests.

2. The drummer is "the artist" and chooses the drum sounds that he/she prefers. That includes drum sizes and whether or not to dampen snares / toms / bass drums.

The problem from my experience is that most drummers do use dampening on their smaller bass drums so naturally sound people default to that. If they're not drummers themselves, or if they're not keenly interested in drum sounds, then when those odd-ball drumkits do come along, they don't know what to do with them other than to try and get the drummer to make them sound like all the others.

I agree that it's an annoying "feature" of playing out in clubs where there's a house sound person. Many of them are graduates of whatever local art college that has an audio engineering program, but have little in the way of real-world experience.

I played a show Friday night where the soundman mic'd up all my drums and I played them like I always do. They're not atypical drums; my bass drum (24x14) has no internal muffling except that it's got a PS3 batter and ported Ambassador reso so it isn't that boomy, and my toms are wide open with coated Emps over coated Ambs. Nothing unusual about that, either. But from everyone I heard from after our set, the drums were MIA. I do a lot of tom work and none of it came through. It was like the guy slapped his mic's on there and just walked away. He wasn't listening at all.

Very frustrating.

But as long as we don't have our own sound guy, then we get what we get. Just the way it is, no matter how maddening that can be.
 

The Scorpio

Senior Member
My only question is, do you listen to your drums from the audience's physical perspective?

If you have another drummer sit in while the band is playing and the sound from the room is good, tell the sound guy that is what you want. To be fair, you should also get your band mates to concur.

My point is that your perspective from behind the kit is skewed.

When I was gigging, I would occaisionally do sound for other bands as I owned a PA system. I would often try to work the kicks with a bit of dampening and the drummers would always be little b****es and claim they wanted nothing to do with it. They didn't understand that I was a drummer, I had a good ear and I was capable of giving them whatever sound they wanted. I never bothered to argue with them. I just let their music sound like crap.

The bottom line is that it takes several people to make music and everyone has to be capable of doing their job. You may feel that you are the artist (heh heh) but at some point, you will have to trust sound people to do their thing.

One thing you could try is use headphones to monitor the sound from the mixer/sound system. That way you could get a better idea of what your kicks sound like from an audience perspective.




And.....when I was playing, I simply trusted our sound guy to do his job. It was either that or trade places with him.
Unless its a venue and engineer I am familiar with, I always go out into the house and listen to my kit. Learned that lesson from tuning marching band drums lol. My band mates also concur with my drum sound.

And I do feel that I am the artist thank you very much Mr. sarcastic pants hahaha!!! Most guys I do trust fully after meeting them. But some of these guys seem like they only know how to do one drum sound, and anything other than that and they start getting defensive and backed in a corner. It's not like I'm trying to revolutionize the kick drum sound business. I just want a nice warm thud. Not a smack, or a slap, or a splat (in some cases.)

That's a wonderful suggestion you had about using the headphones to monitor the mix and I will definitely be giving that a shot.

Thanks for your response,

Kyle
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I completely get & respect both sides of the argument, & we've beaten the good sound guy vs. bad sound guy to death on a big thread earlier this year, so I won't go over old ground. Yes, it is the sound guy's job to craft a good quality representation of the band's chosen sound, but equally, it's the band's job to facilitate that by offering the best possible stage sound, & communicating their requirements to the sound guy. In an ideal scenario of required skills & respectful empathy on both sides, it should work out fine.

Now to the reality. Most sound guys who run multiple bands have a default setting for most things. I'm not saying that's right, it just is what it is. Sometimes that's through laziness, sometimes a lack of skills, & sometimes because he's/she's sick of dealing with bands who just don't cut it at any level. Dragging them away from that narrow view takes a bit of extra effort. Knowing a bit about how your sound is processed, & being able to transmit that in the right way, often helps a lot.

The only significant issue I can foresee is that your bass drum sound may take some controlling in certain venues. Bands often forget that the sound guy's biggest challenge next to bands themselves, is augmenting FOH to the room characteristics. In larger venues, managing a highly resonant 26" bass drum can be very difficult. You can do so much on the board & with outboard effects, but sometimes it's actually better for the FOH sound to control the source rather than compressing the crap out of the signal & killing the sound palate with EQ, etc. If your bass drum sound is bleeding (not physically) into other sources such as bass guitar & keys, the result might be that your bass drum is turned down in the mix. That, to me, is something much worse than sacrificing my ideal sonic landscape. In an ideal world, the sound guy is a fully fledged member of the artistic team, working together with the band to produce the best result, but I realise it's not always like that.

Another thing to consider is that all but the best PA systems don't have a good bottom end reproduction ability. Too many "big black boxes that do bugger all" is an all too common experience. Such systems can make a tight bass drum sound ok, but a boomy source put through a boomy system just makes a ton of mud.
 

The Scorpio

Senior Member
Very frustrating.

But as long as we don't have our own sound guy, then we get what we get. Just the way it is, no matter how maddening that can be.
I agree completely. This is why I end up buying quite a few drinks for sound-men unfamiliar with the subtleties of micing a 28 inch kick=)
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Heh, If you really want to confound a hack soundman, try showing up with the old Steve Smith/Journey set up- Ambassadors on both sides with no muffling. I never got any grief about it from the professionals, strangely.

When I was gigging, I would occaisionally do sound for other bands as I owned a PA system. I would often try to work the kicks with a bit of dampening and the drummers would always be little b****es and claim they wanted nothing to do with it. They didn't understand that I was a drummer, I had a good ear and I was capable of giving them whatever sound they wanted. I never bothered to argue with them. I just let their music sound like crap.
That's the way it is with a lot of guys "running sound" in rock- they don't always take a lot of pride in their work and can be downright arrogant about their incompetence. It's up to you whether to tailor your instrument to accommodate the one thing those people know how to do.
 
M

mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
As another person that has worked as a sound-engineer I want to make a few things clear:

Andy's absolutely right. There are limitations to what can and can't be done in a venue with specific acoustics and a specific front-of-house system. A large bass drum is very difficult to mix in some venues simply because of the size and the issue of standing waves. Furthermore, if your bass drum is very loud and bleeds into other instruments or frequency spectra (especially the bass guitar) the problem is only impounded when the venue is full of people. People are very efficient absorbers of high-frequency information and if your drum sound is very bass-heavy then it is very easy for that bass to totally dominate the mix in lieu of everything else.

What sounds great during sound check doesn't always sound good during the performance. The opposite is also often true. In fact, during a sound check it is probable that the kick will sound like it has too much high-frequency content and that your cymbals sound tinny. The minute the venue opens, it's a total non-issue and a good sound engineer will be able to anticipate and adjust to this. If your kit sounds great (and well-balanced) during a sound check, the likelihood is that if the venue is busy, it will sound very muddy and will impinge upon other instruments.

So yes, to some extent it is the sound engineer's job to amplify you. It is also the sound engineer's job to make your band sound as good as is possible in that venue and it's very hard to explain to somebody that isn't a sound engineer exactly why you're making a decision with something. It may very well be that your kick (no matter what they do) is dominating the mix, so it needs full-spectrum compression to control it. In summary, your initial premise is incorrect. It is not the sound engineer's job to just amplify you, it is his (or her, indeed) job to do exactly what the job demands on a given night.

Not all sound engineers get it right, either. Some get it very wrong. It is also often the case that the drummer gets it horribly wrong, too. If the drummer gets it wrong, the sound engineer gets the criticism for not altering the tone. So, as a sound engineer you can't win. There are good and bad sound engineers but you can usually spot a bad one a mile off. So before you go around telling somebody what their job is and implying that they are there to serve you, try sitting on the other side of the fence for a week.
 

The Scorpio

Senior Member
@mediocrefunkybeat- I really wish you were running sound for me. You seem to know what the heck you are doing!!

I will, however, say this again. Most of the time, I do not have any problem getting the kick sound that I need. The engineer is knowledgeable, prompt, and willing to work with us. I would like to imagine this is the type of engineer you are.

I am referring to the engineer who is late, pissy, and generally difficult to communicate with. I am pretty sure the engineers I'm referring to have never heard of a standing wave. Or they think its some freak thing that happens off the shoreline of Australia every two hundred years lol.
 

The Scorpio

Senior Member
@mediocrefunkybeat- I also appreciate your enthusiasm lol. Not trying to start a war, I just get frustrated with sound people whos catch-all solution to kick drum sounds is a pillow and a port. Its ridiculous.
-Kyle
 
M

mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
@mediocrefunkybeat- I really wish you were running sound for me. You seem to know what the heck you are doing!!

I will, however, say this again. Most of the time, I do not have any problem getting the kick sound that I need. The engineer is knowledgeable, prompt, and willing to work with us. I would like to imagine this is the type of engineer you are.

I am referring to the engineer who is late, pissy, and generally difficult to communicate with. I am pretty sure the engineers I'm referring to have never heard of a standing wave. Or they think its some freak thing that happens off the shoreline of Australia every two hundred years lol.
It's all good. I fall into the militant camp sometimes so I'm sorry if I came across as a little tetchy.

Yes, there are engineers that think like that. Sometimes they have a reason though and that might be venue-specific. I'd like to think that if you had a real issue with it that they would try and explain to you what they're doing but sometimes either the engineer isn't a good communicator or they just don't have enough time!
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I really appreciate your response. It was very informative and gave me a good bit more perspective on how to work with sound-people.

-Kyle
Thanks Kyle, & yes, I get very intolerant of negative and/or pissy sound guys, just as many good sound guys get intolerant of incapable and/or pissy bands. I also have a huge hatred of the big black box brigade. When I walk into a venue that's supplied the rig, & all I see is a huge mountain of budget gear, my heart sinks.

In all cases, communication & empathetic knowledge gets the best out of the situation.
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
On many occasions, I have told the sound tech that hey it's cool that you don't want to mic the toms, I'll just put them back in the car. I know there are a few occasions where it isn't necessary, but almost never in an eight piece band playing to a wedding or bar crowd.

I once went out front to hear my drums after a sound check, only to find there was no crack at all in the snare, just the top head tone. The soundguy's reasoning? "I was going for a Van Halen snare sound". OMG.

That said, most of the people I've worked with have been good, and some very good.
 

Mikecore

Silver Member
I think it behooves us as drummers to understand the situation we are walking into. I have had the best guys in town engineer the show and it sounded great, and I learned quite a lot by communicating with those guys and trying to understand their viewpoint. I might prefer a particular bass drum sound, or whatever, and I can articulate that to a knowledgeable soundman, but he's not there just for my bass drum. He has the whole band to think about.

The flipside is that I've had terrible engineers as well, but sometimes you just roll with it. I try to treat every gig with respect, but I'm also not staking the future of my band on a venue that doesn't really understand sound enough to get a good soundman in there. If it's a really important gig, I have to imagine that a pro engineer will be at the helm.
 

Evilbagua

Silver Member
A 28 and unported how have sound guys not had a heart attack haha I have a 28x16 and 26x16 unported kicks and on the rare occasion I play somewhere with a large stage that has to use mics I always get "Yo bro why using that stupid size drum get a 22 and cut a hole in the front part" speech from someone who clearly isn't a drummer and then wants to "lets make it sound clicky!". Atleast I know what local venues know what there doing, and what ones that have people running sound who don't have a clue. Out of town is a different story obviously.

I usually can tell smaller venues "No mics on anything" because I have the sound of my drums and bands amps already down and I have them just run vocals through the PA. It's a doom/stoner band so loud amps and drums mic free work most places.
 
Top