Steve Smith on sound and volume - drumtalk [single strokes 17]

It’s interesting to see how guys who’ve not done much orchestral or super-quiet work can struggle with adjusting to dynamic changes like that. That’s one thing you have to learn as an orchestral player—you can go from the loudest possible sound to the quietest in literally half a second. Or the reverse.
 
Great video, thanks for posting 'newoldie'. One of the best explanations of internal balance and sound production I've ever seen.
Yes, you have to balance the elements of the kit in any genre. Drums DO sound better when played at medium velocities.
I agree with the interviewer that there is an energy to 'bashing' that has become normal in certain music. I don't think The Foo Fighters (or Nirvana) would be the same with Steve Smith's approach, but Grohl and Hawkins (RIP) still played in a balanced way.
After weeks of rehearsal, at the first stage production rehearsal Mark Knopfler said I wasn't playing hard or loud enough. He had me play louder and louder until he gave me the thumbs up indicating he was happy. At that point I was absolutely bashing my drums to destruction.
It really impacted my playing and experience of the tour (in a bad way). I was required to thrash and bash for two hours, on music that was recorded with finesse and sensitivity. If you see any interviews with Pick Withers he cites being asked to play louder and louder as the main reason he left Dire Straits.
 
Great video, thanks for posting 'newoldie'. One of the best explanations of internal balance and sound production I've ever seen.
Yes, you have to balance the elements of the kit in any genre. Drums DO sound better when played at medium velocities.
I agree with the interviewer that there is an energy to 'bashing' that has become normal in certain music. I don't think The Foo Fighters (or Nirvana) would be the same with Steve Smith's approach, but Grohl and Hawkins (RIP) still played in a balanced way.
After weeks of rehearsal, at the first stage production rehearsal Mark Knopfler said I wasn't playing hard or loud enough. He had me play louder and louder until he gave me the thumbs up indicating he was happy. At that point I was absolutely bashing my drums to destruction.
It really impacted my playing and experience of the tour (in a bad way). I was required to thrash and bash for two hours, on music that was recorded with finesse and sensitivity. If you see any interviews with Pick Withers he cites being asked to play louder and louder as the main reason he left Dire Straits.
This is interesting, thanks for writing. I have feelings about this but won't post publicly :)
 
When young bands form organically, they usually blow it on dynamics and overpower venue settings.

Dynamic control is hugely important; being able to play with touch instead of bashing it out with volume.

The School of Rock student kids I've seen have a much more measured, directed, reserved and also a bit less passionate style. They get proficient really fast but I haven't seen them long enough to know how they develope as players as adults.

But if I had to play that music Steve is accompanying, shoot I think I'd hate myself.
 
Great video, thanks for posting 'newoldie'. One of the best explanations of internal balance and sound production I've ever seen.
Yes, you have to balance the elements of the kit in any genre. Drums DO sound better when played at medium velocities.
I agree with the interviewer that there is an energy to 'bashing' that has become normal in certain music. I don't think The Foo Fighters (or Nirvana) would be the same with Steve Smith's approach, but Grohl and Hawkins (RIP) still played in a balanced way.
After weeks of rehearsal, at the first stage production rehearsal Mark Knopfler said I wasn't playing hard or loud enough. He had me play louder and louder until he gave me the thumbs up indicating he was happy. At that point I was absolutely bashing my drums to destruction.
It really impacted my playing and experience of the tour (in a bad way). I was required to thrash and bash for two hours, on music that was recorded with finesse and sensitivity. If you see any interviews with Pick Withers he cites being asked to play louder and louder as the main reason he left Dire Straits.
That's very interesting. It doesn't SOUND like the drums are being slammed in live Dire Straits songs I've heard. Perhaps a testament to your finesse...

In situations where your asked to bash like that, is gear choice part of the equation too? Larger sticks, louder cymbals, etc. Or just suck it up and bash away with as much finesse as you can manage?

Maybe along the same lines; newer Paul McCartney stuff, with Abe Laboriel Jr on drums. That dude is a monster, and plays a lot of large cymbals, yet it doesn't always sound like it in the mix. Peculiar, because he's clearly playing larger/louder gear than Ringo used.
 
Great video, thanks for posting 'newoldie'. One of the best explanations of internal balance and sound production I've ever seen.
Yes, you have to balance the elements of the kit in any genre. Drums DO sound better when played at medium velocities.
I agree with the interviewer that there is an energy to 'bashing' that has become normal in certain music. I don't think The Foo Fighters (or Nirvana) would be the same with Steve Smith's approach, but Grohl and Hawkins (RIP) still played in a balanced way.
After weeks of rehearsal, at the first stage production rehearsal Mark Knopfler said I wasn't playing hard or loud enough. He had me play louder and louder until he gave me the thumbs up indicating he was happy. At that point I was absolutely bashing my drums to destruction.
It really impacted my playing and experience of the tour (in a bad way). I was required to thrash and bash for two hours, on music that was recorded with finesse and sensitivity. If you see any interviews with Pick Withers he cites being asked to play louder and louder as the main reason he left Dire Straits.
That's pretty sad, you and Pick Withers are both very tasteful drummers. Turning up the mics wouldn't have pleased him?
 
I recently went to a jam session where a pro drummer who tours with a semi-big name was sitting in. He had tons of chops but he was hitting so hard that he made the drums sound bad--he actually made the whole band sound bad. When the next drummer came up (who was a decent amateur) it was a breath of fresh air. The music came alive because he wasn't destroying the drums.

It baffles me that people get paid big bucks to play like that.
 
I played a private reunion gig in a low ceiling banquet hall yesterday. It was nice to be able to finesse instead of bash.
 
I believe that a drum can be choked by hitting it too hard. And hitting hard is no joke--our bodies absorb a lot of that, along with our heads, cymbals, etc. Pain, from hitting like the Hulk to destroying our equipment--we cannot afford that---on many levels.

Years ago, I was asked to add drums to a track. I wanted to do it quickly, so I asked them for just one well-placed room mic, as it was a sparse song anyway. One person looked at me like I had 3 heads, but I explained if the snare is too loud, I'll play it more softly. If the kick is too soft, I'll play it harder. I think, because the interns usually saw 20 mics on a kit, that they thought it couldn't be done.


Dan
 
Yes, drums choke when you hit them hard, cymbals too.
I think Mark K was nervous and wanted a lot of energy from the drums. We played the songs faster and louder than the records, which is not great IMO. If you watch any of the videos on Youtube from that tour I AM smashing the drums. To their credit, there were huge dynamics, so I could be going from playing as hard as I could to playing as soft as I could in the space of a few beats. But most of the straight ahead songs (Walk Of Life, Heavy Fuel, Money) I'm absolutely smashing the drums.
I played quite loud on McCartney, but not as loud as possible for long periods. I am a louder drummer than Pick Withers - who is actually a light, jazzier player, so I think he found the demand to play as loud as possible very uncomfortable.
 
I believe that a drum can be choked by hitting it too hard. And hitting hard is no joke--our bodies absorb a lot of that, along with our heads, cymbals, etc. Pain, from hitting like the Hulk to destroying our equipment--we cannot afford that---on many levels.

Years ago, I was asked to add drums to a track. I wanted to do it quickly, so I asked them for just one well-placed room mic, as it was a sparse song anyway. One person looked at me like I had 3 heads, but I explained if the snare is too loud, I'll play it more softly. If the kick is too soft, I'll play it harder. I think, because the interns usually saw 20 mics on a kit, that they thought it couldn't be done.


Dan
You don't even have to super slam the drums for your body to absorb a lot of the shock, and then the pain that follows. Just the act of playing moderately aggressively can send you running for ice packs if you're not doing it right.
 
I could listen to Steve for hours. This new interview is no exception.
He's so simple but so clear. And so experienced, what he says makes good sense and rings true-- or will eventually...;)

Great interview.

The interviewer, a metal player, says that, when the music is performed live, the drummer should “sell it”. He implies that there should be some form of performance in addition to playing the instrument. So, add a drum face? Wave your long hair all over? Wave your arms high and twirl sticks? Perhaps.

Steve then reiterates the need to keep the kit balanced so that the snare or cymbals don’t quash the rest of the kit. I couldn’t tell if the interviewer understood that.
 
Great interview.

The interviewer, a metal player, says that, when the music is performed live, the drummer should “sell it”. He implies that there should be some form of performance in addition to playing the instrument. So, add a drum face? Wave your long hair all over? Wave your arms high and twirl sticks? Perhaps.

Steve then reiterates the need to keep the kit balanced so that the snare or cymbals don’t quash the rest of the kit. I couldn’t tell if the interviewer understood that.
Yeah. I kind of thought the interviewer was getting a bit defensive aboht the way he played:).

"Here's what "I" do on "my" gig "

Nobody asked you, dude :)
 
Yeah. I kind of thought the interviewer was getting a bit defensive aboht the way he played:).

"Here's what "I" do on "my" gig "

Nobody asked you, dude :)
True, but he makes a good point. There are some bands that just don’t sound good if the drummer doesn’t give the drums the meathooks. And there are some gigs you just plain won’t get if you go in there playing and sounding like Steve is saying. Steve’s great but I wouldn’t want to see him playing with AC/DC.

It’s a lot easier to slam at 21 than 61, though, so I won’t be looking to play nights of metal so much ;). Not looking to lose my hearing, either. I still have most of it and I intend to keep it that way. But this is so situational that I don’t think anyone should make blanket statements.

BTW, Pick was great on the first two albums because that was the music DS was doing at the time. When he started doing stuff like Skateaway, I thought it required a much heavier touch, too. And I thought Chris and Terry Williams were way better suited to it. Sorry, but I think Sultans would die on an arena stage if it wasn’t played faster and harder.
 
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We've played SoS a couple times at jams just with fairly normal timing and typical dynamics. It's a pleaser.
 
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We've played SoS a couple times at jams just with fairly normal timing and typical dynamics. It's a pleaser.
Sure, I get that. But I assume you weren’t trying to fill an arena and use Sultans as your set closer ;).
 
There are some bands that just don’t sound good if the drummer doesn’t give the drums the meathooks.
This opinion will be sacrilege, but one of the reasons I'm a very limited Foo Fighters fan is that the 100% attack all the time gets old for me quickly. AC/DC too - LOVE their stuff but my limit is about 5 songs before I need something else.

I far prefer more widely dynamic bands and drummers.
 
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