The Sound Of Drums

JustJames

Platinum Member
Once again, I have learnt that how drums sound in isolation is not how they sound with a band playing.

My toms are tuned for max sustain. But this weekend, playing to music ahead of rehearsal with my band, I thought "this is too much", as I listened to my toms ringing out forever.

This was also my first time using my new snare (Ludwig Black Magic). And in isolation, it sounded...like a snare. I also thought that the sound was more ring-y than I liked.

But in the mix, the toms sounded great, and the snare sounded much more mellow than the Actrolite that it replaced.

I recall the same thing when I went from 13" to 15" hats. Initial impression was thoroughly underwhelming, but in the context of music, the change was exactly what I had been aiming for.

Anybody else experienced something similar?
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Yup, I’ve experienced it. A few years ago, the 4-piece band I was in played an afternoon outdoor park gig. The stage was a very nice, towable, pre-fab folding contraption that had lights, outlets and plenty of space. The 15’x30’ floor was steel covered in thin treaded rubber, the 10’ high back wall was aluminum, the awning was aluminum. Our sound projected off this thing very loudly, as you might imagine. Being outside, we played as hard & loud as we could. It was quite fun.

That night we played at a club. The stage was much smaller, carpeted, with heavy acoustic curtains on the side and back wall. The ceiling (10’ above the stage) had lights and acoustic panels. It was a very sound-absorbent stage, a good thing for the medium-sized club.

I noticed my Starphonic aluminum snare sounded radically different between the two stages. The outdoor venue made it sound sharp & cutting, the indoor venue made it sound fat & punchy. I didn’t notice anything else ‘cuz the difference in the sound of the snare took all my attention.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
i don’t sweat over too many details on sounds one hears up close. Its funny how we often labour over the details of the sounds from the throne but its their sound out with a band that is far more important really.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I love the ring of drums. They are a vital component of the sound, especially toms IMO.

Not only do the rooms (or lack of) change the character of what I hear, my own perceptions could possibly play an even bigger role. Some days I'm just not in the mood for certain sounds.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Instruments with sustain and wild overtones are great when placed in sparse arrangements and expositions. They fill the space and gaps and present our ears with subtext. They allow for a greater range of enunciation and how we convey dynamics.

When an arrangement gets dense, it is often wise to scale back these overtones and shorten the note duration in order to make room for the other instruments. Note placement becomes more orchestral in nature rather than expository. Subtext is conveyed through composition and coordination of multiple instruments. If each/every instrument were to be played wide open, you end up with a cacophony or sonic mayhem, which is rarely desirable unless you're specifically seeking to achieve it.

In a three piece power trio, you will play differently and tailor your instrument differently than you will a 12 piece big-band. Knowing when something is too wild or too tame is pretty trivial. Knowing how to improve a situation is a pretty involved intellectual exercise that a rare few can accomplish intuitively, and most of us resolve through trial and error. Another approach is to simply let the producer sort it out and let the studio tech make the head/dampening choices.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
Every room that I play in has a different sound. I can only change my sound so much. Sometimes I just have to accept the new sound.
 

Xeno

Member
I've played one day and my drums sound fantastic, to me at least. The next day, without having moved them, they sound just so-so.
Seems to me that simply a change in the weather can actually have an effect on your drum sound as well.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I've played one day and my drums sound fantastic, to me at least. The next day, without having moved them, they sound just so-so.
Seems to me that simply a change in the weather can actually have an effect on your drum sound as well.

The weather? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I have the same symptoms, and record my drums a lot... The effect follows the recorded instrument.

If it is the weather, then it is because the weather is messing with my perception in the same manner that a visit to the shoebox-of-curiosities under my garage workbench makes my drums sound better.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I have always realized that the drummer has the worst possible seat in the house to hear how the drums sound to the audience.......unless you a have great feed into a great monitor system.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
For me, the rooms I have to play in keep me on my toes regarding drum sound. They go from massive purpose built venues to outdoor to tiny venues with everything in between!

I trust my band mates to let me know if something isn't sounding right, you can fix it with a bit of tuning in most cases, however I have the emergency moongels/0-rings if I get a really bad sounding room.

Only weather conditions I've ever had problems with was muggy/thundery playing in a marquee the drums just died, couldn't keep them in tune. We don't really get extremes in England.

Like the OP mentioned I went from 13 to 15 hats, 15s sit in the mix so much better. If you're playing funk/disco where the hats need to be louder in the mix 13s are the way to go.
 

Smoke

Silver Member
If it is the weather, then it is because the weather is messing with my perception in the same manner that a visit to the shoebox-of-curiosities under my garage workbench makes my drums sound better.

Hmmm... Shoebox-of-curiosities! I like the sound of that. My brother had a small shoulder bag - surplus of some indeterminate foreign military - he called it "the gray bag." While the contents changed with the season or excursion, it always contained the necessities: cigarettes, lighter, bug dope, people dope, pocket knife, band-aids, etc. Thanks for dredging up a good memory!
 

philrudd

Senior Member
I rehearse most of the time in one of two rehearsal rooms, each for a particular band.

In the one - an actual rehearsal room built into an old warehouse, fairly larger, with carpet and some minimal sound-dampening materials - my snare sounds like a shotgun.

In the other - a small basement room with a concrete floor - it sounds like a really fine garbage can lid.

Truth to tell, though, I've recorded some rehearsals with my iPhone in each, and the difference in playback is much less pronounced than I'm hearing live. But it definitely affects my playing (a lot more than I'd like). Having a good-sounding snare makes everything so much easier...
 

cornelius

Silver Member
I've always been a fan of sustain - that's what helps drums project. For some recordings, it's ok to really mute the snare or the whole kit - even take off the bass drum reso head and muffle the batter - if that's what the music calls for.

I always liked to let my snare and toms to have some natural ring, even recording, but it wasn't until much later that I got into applying the same thing to the kick. When I started to change up my foot technique, I used a front reso un-ported and a batter head with some built-in muffling. I tensioned the drum up more than before and noticed a big, sustaining note. The drum was much louder than before and in context with the music, most of the sustain blended in and there was still enough attack. I also remember seeing Keith Carlock at a local bar a bunch of times and loved the sound of his drums. Alone during sound check his kick was sustaining for days - but when the band started playing, the drum just blended in perfectly.
 
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