Sound man knows best?

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Do you guys think the amplified version of the drums should be a strong determining factor when you go to purchase a new drum set?
To an extent perhaps, but the reverse is also true. I have drums that I know will need to be mic'd, so I reserve them for studio or low-med volume acoustic gigs. I also have drums that inhrently have more attack, and I bring them for gigs where I probably should be mic'd, but amn't. All of the drums sound great as-is and when mic'd, but they are suited a bit differently in a strictly acoustic situation. Same for cymbals - I have various sets that I use or various gigs/bands.

How do I know which kit to bring on a particular local gig? 90% of the time, I already know the venue, and when I don't... I ask. If I can't get an answer, I'll opt for the louder kit and adjust my playing, rather than take a mellower kit and beat the hell out of it.

Bermuda
 
A

audiotech

Guest
This really is a fascinating thread.

Do you guys think the amplified version of the drums should be a strong determining factor when you go to purchase a new drum set?

In other words- Does the acoustic sound of the drums in the shop really take precedence when you decide to buy them, knowing that they will be amplified?
When I'm buying drums the last thing on my mind is how they're going to sound when miked. If the drums sound fantastic, they're going to sound fantastic for me live or in the studio. It sometimes takes me months before I make my mind up on a particular set of drums. When I narrow the kits down to two or three, I'll take my girlfriend along with another drummer or two that can play my style of music and I'll just stand five or ten yards away and just listen. After the kits are touched up tuning wise, then the playing field is somewhat even and by directly comparing the sounds of the kits I can make a pretty good evaluation. I don't buy drums from books or catalogs, I have to be able to play them before I make any decisions. The only drums I've purchased that wasn't directly from the store's inventory were add-ons. This same exact thing goes for cymbals. I've been using this approach for many years and Very seldom have had any surprises.

Dennis
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
With that said Aeolian, let me ask you 2 questions.

1. Do you agree with pbloxam's assertion that it is ok to do less than your best on purpose if someone dares provide an opinion of your own basic drum sound?

2. Do you agree with pbloxam's assertion that when the club manager isn't there that the sound man suddenly becomes the club manager? See this is related because your guy here stated he could do or say anything he wanted with musicians because of this power heirarchy.

Is pbloxam right?
You really seem to be fixated on him and these couple of comments. That doesn't really make for very effective communication.

Yes, I agree that deliberately sabotaging a band is a very bad thing. Even being lazy and phoning in a mix is bad (although not as bad). I feel the same way about a muso phoning in a performance, or sabotaging someone they're backing up. But in the abstract, as in standing around chatting thinking wouldn't it be funny if, if the person on stage is a real prick and is asking for it, then it seems funny to give them what they deserve. Be glad you're not a singer. One of the soundman sabotages (that I've never heard of anyone actually doing) that they talk about is feeding the singers mic though a pitch shifter and then back into their monitors. So it sound like they are singing off key to them, conflicting with any sound they hear in their head.

I have a couple of buddies who have this thing they do to losers at jam nights who come on like pricks and can't play. If they count off a song all out of time, my buddies (drummer and bass player) will come right in playing a great groove, but at a certain point, for 2 bars, they do this completely spastic thing. They know exactly where they are, and anyone with good time who plays though it will end up exactly together with them. But the moron who acted like God's gift to music while not even being able to count in a song, will often get completely lost.

They would never do it on a paying sideman gig. That would be unprofessional, and they are total pro's. But over years of weeknight fill in gigs as house rhythm section at blues jams, they've seen their fair share of jerk offs who have no business on stage. So the sabotage comes out. In that case, someone asked for it by being a clown and acting like he was doing them a favor playing with them (when they have regular tours with folks you can buy albums from down at Borders).

As for the second question, if someone is in very tight with the bar owner, and has a good relationship with them, then they might perform a sort of assistant manager function. I know of a few soundmen who are trusted by the bar owners they work for to open or close the club (just as some head bartenders or cooks are) and help out with other things around the club.

But there is not automatic connection between being a soundman and this other sort of work. I think pbloxam was just trying to show that he had a good relationship with the owner of a club he works at, and that not all soundmen are considered by the club owners to be untrustworthy scum.


Most clubs cater to a genre. Which means that the sound people there are familiar with what that genre sounds like. A soul club will have a different clientele and rotation of bands than a punk club, or jazz club. The sound system will probably be set up differently as well. And the soundman will probably be fairly familiar with the different rigs used for those genres. Larger regional providers doing festivals are usually people with experience in several genres.

So, in a very narrow limited fashion, you are correct. They do not know your exact sound before you have played it. But as I pointed out earlier, from an audience perspective coming though a PA and competing for sonic space with a bunch of other instruments, neither do you. What the soundman probably has, is familiarity with how the genre sounds, how things sound in their venue, and how things sound though their system.

Recordings don't count. Things are tweaked and processed to death.

How often have you been at a large show where the drums are entirely coming though the PA and heard a drum sound that in any way sounds like an acoustic set in a room? There is a very definite "concert sound" to drums coming though a PA. Even in the day before lots of fancy outboard processing there was a common characteristic to drum sounds at a concert. Part of it comes from being mic'd up close. A significant part of it comes from playing the sound through large horns. In the older days where most PA's were almost entirely horn loaded, this was even more prominent. A lot of the effect of horns was worked out by Dr. Earl Geddes some years ago. I've had online discussions with Dr. Geddes on some of this which lead me to build some cabinets with quadratic waveguides made from semi absorbent material. They don't have as distinct a "horn" sound and toms sound sort of like toms though them, but it is still very obviously a PA and not a natural acoustic kit. There are a few high end manufacturers like Nexo and D&B Audiotechnic that avoid a lot of the PA sound. But you are never going to get away from it entirely, no matter how skilled the engineer, or how great your drum set.

So when you carry on about "your sound", it is kind of amusing. Since "your sound" is never going to come out no matter what someone does. What you want is something musically appropriate. That supports the song and the frontline instruments.

Maybe it's this fascination with Rush. But for every Rush, where the drums are a large part of the group, there are a million other gigs where the drums are a rhythm and backline instrument. In support of the songs. If you want to play to ashtrays, or in Madison Square Basement, knock yourself out with "your sound". But if you are playing in support of an entire band, learn how to work with people to make the band sound good. Not wrap everything around trying to be Neil Peart.

And, yes, in 45 years of playing on stage, I've had my share of run ins with idiot sound people. And a few situations that were magic. But over those 45 years, I've learned a few things, and I don't approach the situation the same way I did when I was 20. With much better results and less headaches on my part.
 

pbloxam

Senior Member
You really seem to be fixated on him and these couple of comments. That doesn't really make for very effective communication.

Fixated? How about psychotic?? The man has twisted every word I said and read into every statement... I never said or used the word, sabotage, never said if you look at me wrong, I will sabotage your sound... All words and statements made up by a someone who didn't like what he heard however his brain deciphers it!!!

I think I said if you had a crappy attitude, you damn sure would have a crappy sound..
Pretty sure thats what I said and I didn't even need to re-read my post...I have had the pleasure of running sound for some pretty big a-holes and age wasn't a factor... Lack of experience was... And an ego a mile long... similar to some "artists" out there...



But there is not automatic connection between being a soundman and this other sort of work. I think pbloxam was just trying to show that he had a good relationship with the owner of a club he works at, and that not all soundmen are considered by the club owners to be untrustworthy scum.

Thank you for understanding and not twisting my words around


Most clubs cater to a genre. Which means that the sound people there are familiar with what that genre sounds like. A soul club will have a different clientele and rotation of bands than a punk club, or jazz club. The sound system will probably be set up differently as well. And the soundman will probably be fairly familiar with the different rigs used for those genres. Larger regional providers doing festivals are usually people with experience in several genres.+1

So, in a very narrow limited fashion, you are correct. They do not know your exact sound before you have played it. But as I pointed out earlier, from an audience perspective coming though a PA and competing for sonic space with a bunch of other instruments, neither do you. What the soundman probably has, is familiarity with how the genre sounds, how things sound in their venue, and how things sound though their system.+1

Recordings don't count. Things are tweaked and processed to death. +1

How often have you been at a large show where the drums are entirely coming though the PA and heard a drum sound that in any way sounds like an acoustic set in a room? There is a very definite "concert sound" to drums coming though a PA. Even in the day before lots of fancy outboard processing there was a common characteristic to drum sounds at a concert. Part of it comes from being mic'd up close. A significant part of it comes from playing the sound through large horns. In the older days where most PA's were almost entirely horn loaded, this was even more prominent. A lot of the effect of horns was worked out by Dr. Earl Geddes some years ago. I've had online discussions with Dr. Geddes on some of this which lead me to build some cabinets with quadratic waveguides made from semi absorbent material. They don't have as distinct a "horn" sound and toms sound sort of like toms though them, but it is still very obviously a PA and not a natural acoustic kit. There are a few high end manufacturers like Nexo and D&B Audiotechnic that avoid a lot of the PA sound. But you are never going to get away from it entirely, no matter how skilled the engineer, or how great your drum set.

So when you carry on about "your sound", it is kind of amusing. Since "your sound" is never going to come out no matter what someone does. What you want is something musically appropriate. That supports the song and the frontline instruments.

Maybe it's this fascination with Rush. But for every Rush, where the drums are a large part of the group, there are a million other gigs where the drums are a rhythm and backline instrument. In support of the songs. If you want to play to ashtrays, or in Madison Square Basement, knock yourself out with "your sound". But if you are playing in support of an entire band, learn how to work with people to make the band sound good. Not wrap everything around trying to be Neil Peart.

And, yes, in 45 years of playing on stage, I've had my share of run ins with idiot sound people. And a few situations that were magic. But over those 45 years, I've learned a few things, and I don't approach the situation the same way I did when I was 20. With much better results and less headaches on my part.
I don't mind coming across as an "idiot" soundman if the musician comes across as an "idiot" when playing venues I may work at........

I am not religious so I don't turn the other cheek,,,

As I said before, I may be jaded due to experience but thats a lot better than arrogant and an egotistical due to the lack of experience from where I stand....

Oh , wait, sound man doesn't know anything other than throwing faders!!!! LOL!!!

Peace!!
 

Average

Senior Member
How often have you been at a large show where the drums are entirely coming though the PA and heard a drum sound that in any way sounds like an acoustic set in a room? There is a very definite "concert sound" to drums coming though a PA. Even in the day before lots of fancy outboard processing there was a common characteristic to drum sounds at a concert. Part of it comes from being mic'd up close. A significant part of it comes from playing the sound through large horns. In the older days where most PA's were almost entirely horn loaded, this was even more prominent. A lot of the effect of horns was worked out by Dr. Earl Geddes some years ago. I've had online discussions with Dr. Geddes on some of this which lead me to build some cabinets with quadratic waveguides made from semi absorbent material. They don't have as distinct a "horn" sound and toms sound sort of like toms though them, but it is still very obviously a PA and not a natural acoustic kit. There are a few high end manufacturers like Nexo and D&B Audiotechnic that avoid a lot of the PA sound. But you are never going to get away from it entirely, no matter how skilled the engineer, or how great your drum set.

So when you carry on about "your sound", it is kind of amusing. Since "your sound" is never going to come out no matter what someone does. What you want is something musically appropriate. That supports the song and the frontline instruments.
Now I'm really confused. I've been to a LOT of concerts where the drums sounded like drums. I've listened to a lot of live recordings, recorded at the concert hall in front of an audience, where the drums sounded like drums. The concerts I have attended where the drums sounded highly processed like cardboard were usually of a certain genre. My guess is that the technology to make drums sound like drums has not been lost with time. My experience has been that there are soundmen who are overly in love with the sound of certain genres and try to make every show fit into that box. A real clue is when you are playing a jazz concert and the soundman is fixated on making the bass drum sound like Ulrich's on And Justice For All.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Now I'm really confused. I've been to a LOT of concerts where the drums sounded like drums. I've listened to a lot of live recordings, recorded at the concert hall in front of an audience, where the drums sounded like drums.
Most of his thread isn't about the resulting sound out front not sounding like drums... it's that the sound isn't typically what the drums sound like to the drummer's ear when sitting behind them. Usually, the sound is improved through some compression on the kick, a little eq and gating here and there. Frankly, I'm glad there's a sound guy to help improve my sound as needed!

I've heard only a few 'bad' drum sounds in venues, and judging by the look of the kit, I have to attribute it more to the drums and drummer than the soundman.

Bermuda
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Now I'm really confused. I've been to a LOT of concerts where the drums sounded like drums. I've listened to a lot of live recordings, recorded at the concert hall in front of an audience, where the drums sounded like drums. The concerts I have attended where the drums sounded highly processed like cardboard were usually of a certain genre. My guess is that the technology to make drums sound like drums has not been lost with time. My experience has been that there are soundmen who are overly in love with the sound of certain genres and try to make every show fit into that box. A real clue is when you are playing a jazz concert and the soundman is fixated on making the bass drum sound like Ulrich's on And Justice For All.
I mostly agree. As I said in an earlier post, the skill with less impact genres is the manipulation of the mid range. Specifics aside, there's no reason why a large PA system can't reproduce the sound of the kit, but there's no getting away from the fact that the sound will be bigger. You could capture the stage sound of the kit through a spectrum analyser, then replicate that spectrum Hz for Hz, db for db front of house, and it would sound different. Moreover, it would feel different. Put simply, to amplify your kit such that it transmits a reasonable sound level to the audience requires the moving of much more air than the kit generates acoustically. This difference in feel is substantial. So, even if you precicely replicate the acoustic kit sound, it will sound different depending on where you are in the audience and it will feel different because the sound needs to be bigger.

The drummers here want "their" sound to come across FOH. That's certainly possible, but it will never sound the same as the acoustic source, just as it will never sound the same from room to room.

To me, the real issue here is frustration with below par sound guys who want to dictate the FOH sound, irrespective of the artist's wishes. Similarly, sound guys who simply don't posess the skills necessary to get the job done. Well, that's life. They're all out there, and you'll come across them at some stage. At the same time, many musos have little or no knowledge of what it takes to get a good sound and the limitations imposed by auditorium.

The worst thing I've heard on this thread is the story of the good sounding opening act getting deliberately screwed on sound due to pressure from management, promotion, whoever, leaving the headlining act to sound great. I've seen that often enough. It's dirty, it stinks, it's the music business!

Matt and many other drummers are right to expect better, expect more, drive change, etc. There's nothing wrong with that, however, a better knowledge of the challenges and a sprinkling of realism would help bring about evolution, rather than revolution. I've been on the receiving end of crappy sound guys more often than I care to recall, so I fully appreciate the frustration. Equally, I've worked with industry best practice, and that's a real joy. Wouldn't it be great if all sound systems & sound guys were superb. Wouldn't it be great if all musos were uber talented, totally prepared & clued up on how to put on a perfect performance. Both are as likely as each other.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
The worst thing I've heard on this thread is the story of the good sounding opening act getting deliberately screwed on sound due to pressure from management, promotion, whoever, leaving the headlining act to sound great. I've seen that often enough. It's dirty, it stinks, it's the music business!
.
I've seen that a lot too, Andy. Opening acts are always under-powered, and they crank up the PA muscle for the main gig. Law of nature, build-up to the evening? I dont know... but its always great to occasionally see a opening band destroy the crowd, and completely wreck the confidence of the main act inspite of all the odds stacked against them.. Darwinism?
 

JPW

Silver Member
I used to play an electronic kit through a laptop with Superior Drummer (1 & 2) on it and used my own PA. So it's easy for me to say that even with the same PA, EQ, compression, filter and gate settings the sound could vary from place to place a lot. That is absolutely a fact.

I also understand the feel thing. It's completely different to play an acoustic kit and have the feeling of sound coming directly from the drums at you rather than from the monitors or even worse only from the main speakers. So when you mic them up in a big festival or something similar the situation actually becomes much closer to what e-drum players are experiencing all the time.

But the point I'm after is that there was always something I could do with all those settings to get it sound as close to what I'm used to as possible. It might not be the exact clone of the orginal sound but close enough for me and my band to be happy about it. But if I use an acoustic kit, the mics and other equipment aren't my own and there is a bad sound guy in the middle of all this and the communication doesn't work with him, the situation is far worse.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
The worst thing I've heard on this thread is the story of the good sounding opening act getting deliberately screwed on sound due to pressure from management, promotion, whoever, leaving the headlining act to sound great. I've seen that often enough. It's dirty, it stinks, it's the music business!
I've had that twice and, yes, it stinks. The worst thing about it is the disrespect to the headliners' own fans by willfully making their night less enjoyable
 

last man to bat

Senior Member
I've had that twice and, yes, it stinks. The worst thing about it is the disrespect to the headliners' own fans by willfully making their night less enjoyable
That's a really important point Pollyanna. Its easy to forget that both band and sound engineer are being paid by the people who buy the tickets, they deserve a good show from both parties.
 
Top