What do live sound guys REALLY want (primarily from toms)?

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Disclaimer: I know sound techs can be female as well, but I'm using "guy" here because I don't think I've ever worked with a female sound engineer, but I look forward to the day I do!

I've been doing this a long time, and I'm pretty sure I know how to tune drums ok. Sound guys are all different though. I'm pretty sure I have my kick drum and my snare sound pretty squared away, but the toms can be another story. I feel like some of the sound guys are totally cool with toms with lots of sustain. Some like a more dampened toms, then they like to add their own reverb, effects. I know in theory that I should just tune drums the way I like them, and make them deal with whatever sound I show up with, but I like to be accommodating and have the best sound possible in the house. At this point, I tune my toms lower in pitch with a nice bit of sustain, and then I bring a couple of extra Snareweight M80's with me in case there's an undesirable (and unpredictable based on the room) ring or hum coming from the toms. With the Snareweights, I can adjust the amount of muffling/de-ringing as necessary.

Is there a certain sound that sound guys want from the toms, or is it just all over the board everywhere? The latter seems to be the case based on my experience, but I'm just curious if I'm missing something here.

(In case anyone is curious, I gig out with either a Ludwig Classic Maple (20, 12, 14) or a Pork Pie USA (22, 12, 16). I use single-ply clear Remo Ambassadors on the bottom and Remo Ambassador coated on the batters.)
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Is there a certain sound that sound guys want from the toms, or is it just all over the board everywhere? The latter seems to be the case based on my experience, but I'm just curious if I'm missing something here.
Assuming a contemporary rock/pop/country medium tuning (as opposed to a higher, jazz tuning), they all seem to want a reasonable sustain and a strong fundamental, with little pitch bend, and as few harmonics as possible. Perhaps the most desirable thing is that the toms' sustain should match each others'. One drum should not ring out longer or shorter than the next. Partly, this is just what's expected of a typical rock drum set, and partly, it makes their job easier, since they can dial in one tom, and then quickly and easily duplicate those settings for the other toms. The less knobs they have to twist, the easier their lives are to live.

The signal chain for a tom goes like this, usually: Drum -> Mic -> Mic input Gain -> EQ -> Noise Gate. Nothing crazy here. A bit of gain adjustment depending on how hard the drummer plays, a mid scoop around 350 Hz, a slight boost around 3kHz, and a gentle gate so that the tom mic isn't picking up noise from monitors or nearby amplifiers on stage, when it's not being played.

If there are too many harmonics, the engineer is probably going to fiddle with the EQ, but the improvement will be minimal at best, which is frustrating. If the sustain is too long, then the noise gate parameters need to be adjusted. Now, the gate may or may not open when it's supposed to, or it may shut in an unmusical way. Any EQ adjustments (made due to poor tuning) can affect how well the noise gate behaves.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Assuming a contemporary rock/pop/country medium tuning (as opposed to a higher, jazz tuning), they all seem to want a reasonable sustain and a strong fundamental, with little pitch bend, and as few harmonics as possible. Perhaps the most desirable thing is that the toms' sustain should match each others'. One drum should not ring out longer or shorter than the next. Partly, this is just what's expected of a typical rock drum set, and partly, it makes their job easier, since they can dial in one tom, and then quickly and easily duplicate those settings for the other toms. The less knobs they have to twist, the easier their lives are to live.
This is very helpful. Thanks!
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I sure can't figure it out. The one engineer I get to play with never likes my sound. It's ok though, the feeling is mutual.
Yup, I've got one of those in one of the bands I play with. He's a know-it-all-but-really-knows-nothing sort of person.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
Depends on the level of equipment the sound guy has and the time available for tweaking each channel. Good sounds make it quicker and easier.

I mix a range of bands including an Irish band, a Ukranian folk ensemble, jazz swing, country and several classic rock bands. I’m going for slightly different sounds for each, generally how ‘up front’ the toms (and the drums overall) should be.

The post above summarises it very well, but I like a consistent tone with some sustain. A few of the rock guys always have one or two lugs completely loose (without realising), so I’ll discretely ask if they’re happy with the sound of that tom, and maybe hint that I’m picking up a mysterious flapping sound somewhere. Some of them don’t care at all that one tom goes ‘boom’ the next one goes ‘flop’ and the floor goes ‘buzzle’. If that’s what they want to sound like, I can only do so much.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I also say "take off the bottom heads" so I can stick a mic up in there. It's the most consistent sound ever!
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
I find if you show up with a drum kit in tune with good heads on then the sound guy is your best mate because it's less work for him. 9/10 what you hear behind the kit isn't what's coming out of the pa after it's been eq'd etc.

I tend to find a lot of sound guys mix kick heavy which I hate.

If you get one that's stuck in the 70s and not Glyn or Andy Johns just use moongels and keep the peace.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
I've rerecord and played many gigs and live sound guys want a different sound then recording guys. Specifically for live sound they want a pure tone. some like the pitch bend, some like a solid note but the genra really dictates what we are dealing with here.

In the metal and punk relm they want loud punchy in your face drums as that is how they are going to sound in the mix. clear heads, lots of attack, I usually use g2's over g1's and have no complaints, but I know some like gels to cut the sustain a bit. I personally don't really use or need gels anymore. It's more of a studio thing for me now if they are needed.

What sound guys LOVE is to mount your cymbals a bit higher. the bleed from the crashes in to the tom mics suck. Raising them just a bit allows your toms to be louder and compressed in the mix without hearing nothing but crashes. This goes for recording too. Same with the hats in the snare mic and ride in the floor tom mic. Do that, tune your kit good and you will have no issues.
 

BonsaiMagpie

Junior Member
What sound guys LOVE is to mount your cymbals a bit higher. the bleed from the crashes in to the tom mics suck. Raising them just a bit allows your toms to be louder and compressed in the mix without hearing nothing but crashes. This goes for recording too. Same with the hats in the snare mic and ride in the floor tom mic. Do that, tune your kit good and you will have no issues.
Seemingly every other drummer I share with too. Recently, I spent so long adjusting the seat and snare, that first hit of the show I completely missed the cymbal which was about 6 inches higher than my sound check. :whistle:
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Seemingly every other drummer I share with too. Recently, I spent so long adjusting the seat and snare, that first hit of the show I completely missed the cymbal which was about 6 inches higher than my sound check. :whistle:
I used to LOVE my cymbals right above the toms hahaah

My guitar player has a studio and is a recording engineer. After he explained this, it made sense.. Plus it does give you a better stage sound.
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
Right. In studio it's all about eliminating ring, especially on snare. Which conflicts with how our band likes crushed closed rolls to sound. The band and I do not want them to sound clean like a marching snare. Moon gel or a wallet tends to ruin our sound.

I've rerecord and played many gigs and live sound guys want a different sound then recording guys. Specifically for live sound they want a pure tone. some like the pitch bend, some like a solid note but the genra really dictates what we are dealing with here.

In the metal and punk relm they want loud punchy in your face drums as that is how they are going to sound in the mix. clear heads, lots of attack, I usually use g2's over g1's and have no complaints, but I know some like gels to cut the sustain a bit. I personally don't really use or need gels anymore. It's more of a studio thing for me now if they are needed.

What sound guys LOVE is to mount your cymbals a bit higher. the bleed from the crashes in to the tom mics suck. Raising them just a bit allows your toms to be louder and compressed in the mix without hearing nothing but crashes. This goes for recording too. Same with the hats in the snare mic and ride in the floor tom mic. Do that, tune your kit good and you will have no issues.
 
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KamaK

Platinum Member
The objective of a house-sound-guy is to attempt to amplify the natural sound and avoid the problems/idiosyncrasies of the house . He has no notion of the stylized coloration or artistic vision you're after. It's a "make it loud and smash problems with a hammer" approach.

The objective of a band-sound-guy is to create a sonic soundscape consistent with the artistic vision of the band, and will work with the instruments, mics, and reinforcements to make this happen.

In a perfect world, you have both, and they work together.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I also say "take off the bottom heads" so I can stick a mic up in there. It's the most consistent sound ever!
I did this for a short while, and sound guys always commented on how much easier it was to much the kit. I hated it, but they seemed to like it. It was nice not having a bunch of mics in the way though.
 
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