Studio drummer gear requirements

Chris Whitten

Well-known Member
What about your first sessions? Did you start off right out of the gate in your session work as an A-list player, or did you work your way up to that over a period of time?
I always maintain you learn how to be a recordable drummer, you aren't born that way.
I started before the internet AND VHS video. So there was no actual knowledge to hand, like there is now. I made a lot of terrible mistakes and worked with record producers who would never hire me again.
After a couple of years I happened to be in a studio when Jerry Marotta was recording. I watched what he did, how he played, how he tuned etc. I loved how the final result sounded, so I absolutely copied his drums, heads, tunings and playing style (as far as I could) and my recordings started to dramatically improve.
 

Lefty Phillips

Active Member
I always maintain you learn how to be a recordable drummer, you aren't born that way.
I started before the internet AND VHS video. So there was no actual knowledge to hand, like there is now. I made a lot of terrible mistakes and worked with record producers who would never hire me again.
After a couple of years I happened to be in a studio when Jerry Marotta was recording. I watched what he did, how he played, how he tuned etc. I loved how the final result sounded, so I absolutely copied his drums, heads, tunings and playing style (as far as I could) and my recordings started to dramatically improve.
"Good artists borrow, great artists steal."~Pablo Picasso (allegedly)

I just visited Wikipedia to look up Jerry Marotta and Chris Whitten, and I've got Noble and Cooley's website open in another tab. Turns out, I've seen you play live, way back in 1992 with Dire Straits. That was a great show. I was obsessed with Knopfler's playing around that time, as I was developing my own fingerstyle approach to electric guitar.

Given that everything is open for consideration in the recording sessions you typically work, is there any piece of gear (throne excluded) that gets used consistently from session to session?
 

JimmyM

Silver Member
I always maintain you learn how to be a recordable drummer, you aren't born that way.
I started before the internet AND VHS video. So there was no actual knowledge to hand, like there is now. I made a lot of terrible mistakes and worked with record producers who would never hire me again.
After a couple of years I happened to be in a studio when Jerry Marotta was recording. I watched what he did, how he played, how he tuned etc. I loved how the final result sounded, so I absolutely copied his drums, heads, tunings and playing style (as far as I could) and my recordings started to dramatically improve.
LOL! I've been doing the same with Ringo vids since I have no Jerry Marotta to observe :D
 

JimmyM

Silver Member
May I ask who here is doing modern studio session work blind-date style?
Well we know for sure Chris Whitten has. I've done a handful of blind date demo sessions on bass. I'm sure plenty of others on here have, too. I suppose it's less common the more the world turns to home recording, but it's not uncommon to be handed a chart (either chords or notated parts), or to be played a demo and you take notes on it and work it out there on the spot. Either way, it's fun to find out what's required out of musicians as far as what they need to bring to studios.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Platinum Member
Sadly, accurate.

I don't get it, personally. If I can't hear the other players clearly, we're all screwed. My favorite amp (stage and studio) is an old Deluxe Reverb. Drummers tend to prefer my Mesa Boogie because THEY can hear it better; it never gets dimed.

so, at one of our first gigs ever, the sound guy came up and told her that she had to turn down...her stage volume was drowning out the fronts...

she said:" I have to be that loud b/c if I can hear anything else, I get lost"

it took having one of the guit players from the other band playing her rig while she went up front to prove his point

it is way better now though


You think you’re going to miss that definition, but you’re not. Come join us on the dark side!

well, thanks to mountain biking, I am an "N+1" guy, so any excuse to buy another cymbal will probably keep me on my lonely perch!!
 

Lefty Phillips

Active Member
May I ask who here is doing modern studio session work blind-date style?
Define "blind-date style"

As a guitarist and as a singer, I've been called for many recording gigs involving artists and projects that were completely alien to me.

Always because the producer or engineer knew me, and knew that I was the guy for the job.

How did I get familiar with so many engineers and producers? Previous work. How did I get the previous work? Building relationships with other artists, musicians, engineers, and producers over the course of many years.
 

Lefty Phillips

Active Member
so, at one of our first gigs ever, the sound guy came up and told her that she had to turn down...her stage volume was drowning out the fronts...

she said:" I have to be that loud b/c if I can hear anything else, I get lost"

it took having one of the guit players from the other band playing her rig while she went up front to prove his point
I know that there are many guitarists who suffer from this syndrome, but I fail to understand the cause. Free pass for singers?

Drums, piano, guitars (including bass), are all percussion instruments. It is absolutely, incontrovertibly necessary that they work in concert with each other.
 

Chris Whitten

Well-known Member
Given that everything is open for consideration in the recording sessions you typically work, is there any piece of gear (throne excluded) that gets used consistently from session to session?
There are recording staples. Back in the day it was a Black Beauty, a Supraphonic, a Radio King. Most other parts of the kit are variable and less critical. Producers really hone in on snare and you need to have at least a couple that are guaranteed to sound good.
Nowadays I add N&C single ply and Craviotto. Other snares can be bankers.
Heads are also a studio standard. New-ish heads for each session. Ambassadors, Emperors, Evans G2 - all coated or clear.
Cymbals are dark and low volume - for me Zildjian K Dark, and these days Agop Traditonal.
If you have a decent drum set with good heads, really the main thing producers want to hear (alternatives) is the snare drum.
 

JimmyM

Silver Member
Define "blind-date style"

As a guitarist and as a singer, I've been called for many recording gigs involving artists and projects that were completely alien to me.
That's what I would call "blind date" style, and I've never heard the term either, but I know what he means...going in completely cold to a session without hearing or knowing anything beforehand except who it's for.

I used to do gigs backing Ron Dante, who was the lead singer on The Archies songs like "Sugar Sugar," then co-wrote almost every big jingle of the early 70's with Barry Manilow and produced all of Barry's biggest hits. He told me that he did songs with as big as a 78 piece orchestra and a huge chorus of BG singers, everything would be charted and given to everyone at the session, he would hire Will Lee at triple scale to play bass on most of the biggest hits, and Uncle Will was always 15-20 minutes late. It's usually death for your career, but Will would come in, put his bass on, one take difficult charts like "Copacabana," and be out the door, so Barry and Ron never minded that he was late.

Now that is a blind date you can fall in love with!
 

s1212z

Well-known Member
Define "blind-date style"
Like JimmyM said; essentially cold called for a studio date with no idea what you are encountering or idea on the material you will be working on that day (or no demo or chart whatsoever beforehand). I'm asking in recent times (given how much of the culture has shifted to home recording) for members here who encounter this; where they are in the studio with zero prep and the clock ticking $....just a recommendation that they would be a good fit for whatever particular project.
 

JimmyM

Silver Member
Like JimmyM said; essentially cold called for a studio date with no idea what you are encountering or idea on the material you will be working on that day (or no demo or chart whatsoever beforehand). I'm asking in recent times (given how much of the culture has shifted to home recording) for members here who encounter this; where they are in the studio with zero prep and the clock ticking $....just a recommendation that they would be a good fit for whatever particular project.
Some musicians bill by the hour for home recording just because they can.
 

Lefty Phillips

Active Member
Ok, so now that I understand "blind-date"...

I think the last time I did a session like that was about 3 years ago, but it happened because I was in town that day. I still get calls about once a month or so, but after all this time spent living outside of LA, the first question is "Hey, are you in town?". Once you're on the call list, you're on the call list.

Point being, that I'm certain SOMEONE got that gig, so it's still happening.
 

Lefty Phillips

Active Member
There are recording staples. Back in the day it was a Black Beauty, a Supraphonic, a Radio King. Most other parts of the kit are variable and less critical. Producers really hone in on snare and you need to have at least a couple that are guaranteed to sound good.
Nowadays I add N&C single ply and Craviotto. Other snares can be bankers.
Heads are also a studio standard. New-ish heads for each session. Ambassadors, Emperors, Evans G2 - all coated or clear.
Cymbals are dark and low volume - for me Zildjian K Dark, and these days Agop Traditonal.
If you have a decent drum set with good heads, really the main thing producers want to hear (alternatives) is the snare drum.
Those are extremely valuable insights. Thank you. :)

This all comports with my experiences, as well. The snare drum is really central to the whole enterprise of recording drums, whatever the context.

Before our conversation, my plan was to eventually supplement my current (birch) snare with one acrylic, and one metal. But it's much more nuanced than that, I see now.
 

JimmyM

Silver Member
Those are extremely valuable insights. Thank you. :)

This all comports with my experiences, as well. The snare drum is really central to the whole enterprise of recording drums, whatever the context.

Before our conversation, my plan was to eventually supplement my current (birch) snare with one acrylic, and one metal. But it's much more nuanced than that, I see now.
Not for me! I wouldn't even need an acrylic. But I guess I have to collect something, so it might as well be snares.
 
Top