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

brentcn

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.
If I want my floor tom dead, my snare ringy, and my rack tom to ring out for days, then I can just tell the guy it's intentional.

But let's not pretend the world isn't littered with drummers who have zero concept of tuning, or any sonic desires at all, beyond "make it loud and smash"...
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
The resident in house sound person will have their preferences/ biases but will also know the room and therefore frequencies that cause issues once a crowd is in the room. Maybe it’s me but everything changes once the audience is in place often the piercing high frequencies present at sound check just disappear. And some control of the mids becomes important. Also some advantage to going on last/headline once all the sound experimentation is done with.

I say tune them as you want, trying to tune ‘flat‘ as you might do in the studio never works live, it’s a different approach - totally open uv1 or uv2s bigger 13 and 16 toms and let the sound person do what they will. Trying to change someone’s ears and preferences isn’t going to happen on a one night stand, 1 min conversation.
 

CommanderRoss

Silver Member
Good attack & full tone. I know sustain won't be there live as the other instruments will quickly overtake it. But when i hit the 12", I want it to sound off!
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I've never had any sound guy say a word about toms to be honest. Usually they just have you hit them while they "dial out" any frequencies they don't like.

Bass drums... Well, that's a different story.
 

moxman

Silver Member
I agree with the comments about showing up with your drums tuned up (sometimes adjusting tuning for the room pre-sound check as stuff happens like heat/humidity/room acoustics etc.). Also keeping the cymbals a safe distance away from the toms.. I tend to keep mine off to the sides partially for that reason but also to get a better audience view.

Definitely tune the bottom head higher for a punchier sound and moderate sustain. The sound tech can tweak out and fine tune the sound if needed - but I hate it when they heavily gate the drums and radically color the sound. I prefer they just capture the authentic sound of the drums.

The weirdest thing I ran into a long time ago - playing outdoors and a mic was positioned on the floor tom with a ride or crash directly above it. This happened to be in the perfect position to create a feedback loop as the sound from the tom was bouncing off the cymbal and reflecting back into the FT mic. The odd thing was - it would randomly just start making a low hum and it wasn't obvious where it was coming from.. but we eventually figured it out!
 

petrez

Senior Member
Always been very happy with how I get my drums to sound, good heads and spending some time tuning helps out. For recording, it sounds great. However, I've been very unlucky, in my opinion, with the sound guys that normally do our local shows. Cool guys though. My band sounds great with these guys doing our sound, but they (both) are so hell-bent on dampening the toms to almost zero sustain, to the point I feel like I'm playing cardboard boxes almost. And I use a high-end kit, tuned well (as I said). I use clear EC2's over EC Reso on the toms, which both have dampening rings. Still, I get the evil look as soon as I hit my toms. I guess I will have to start bringing some moongels for every gig now, as the last time I had to use duct tape on every tom, top and bottom until the soundguy was happy. I'm not the one to argue about it though, as it's not me hearing the drums out there in front, but it still bothers me not to hear full tones and sustain from my toms when playing.

Just came back from a tour around Europe (w/ Six Feet Under), playing on another drummer's kit (Pearl Masters Complete), G2 over G1, no muffling needed at all. Not even on the floortoms, which baffled me. Granted, bigger venues than what we play at home, but still. Drums sounded incredible, so much fun to play. Must be some tricks that the really good sound guys know of that the regular Joe's missed out on, or something. It is possible to get a good live tom sound without dampening to death, even in a loud metal situation..
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
If I want my floor tom dead, my snare ringy, and my rack tom to ring out for days, then I can just tell the guy it's intentional.
I'm with you, just understand that in my clubs...

I have 4000 watts available to make your non-ringy floor tom loud.
I have 2000 watts available to make your ringy floor tom loud.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I'm with you, just understand that in my clubs...

I have 4000 watts available to make your non-ringy floor tom loud.
I have 2000 watts available to make your ringy floor tom loud.
Yes!

And that’s the whole point: the cleaner and clearer sounding the toms are, the happier the sound guys will be, because it’s possible to balance the parts of the kit at a high volume.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known 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.
after playing metal, punk, rock, and jazz for 35+ years in venues with space for 5 or 5000, this is the only thing a sound guy has ever said about my toms

I get way more discussion about my kick or snare tuning than my toms
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
What do sound guys want? LOL WTF? I knew what I wanted, The band knew what it wanted. It was up to the sound and lighting guys to deliver that. Not the other way around.
 

TMe

Senior 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!
What about kick drums? I used to have a coated Emperor on my kick, with a felt strip for damping, and no reso head. The drum sounded cheap, acoustically, but the sound coming out of the PA was always great, and sound guys seemed happy because it made mic' placement so easy.

It seems other drummers shudder at the site of a single-headed kick but musicians don't even notice and sound guys (in bars) seem to like it.

Your thoughts?
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
What about kick drums? I used to have a coated Emperor on my kick, with a felt strip for damping, and no reso head. The drum sounded cheap, acoustically, but the sound coming out of the PA was always great, and sound guys seemed happy because it made mic' placement so easy.

It seems other drummers shudder at the site of a single-headed kick but musicians don't even notice and sound guys (in bars) seem to like it.

Your thoughts?
Same deal with kick.

If it's dead, I get to place a B52 on it, gate it, and control the sound from the board. You get 4000 watts peak from the bass bins.

If it's unmuted and lively with two heads and no port, I'll place an LDC a foot from the front, make a reasonable attempt at isolation (no amps pointed directly at the kit), and bring the entire stage down 12-16db like I would for a fidelity gig (traditional jazz band, orchestra, theater, etc).. You get 2000 watts from my bass bins.

The bottom line is that I can either target volume, or I can target fidelity. These are two separate disciplines and require different mics, mic positions, monitoring setups, EQ setups, etc. It's a hardship switching between the two, for example if you have a rock band followed by a fidelity band, though it has been made easier using Presonus's automation if you've done the footwork of creating scenes.
 
Last edited:

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
What about kick drums? I used to have a coated Emperor on my kick, with a felt strip for damping, and no reso head. The drum sounded cheap, acoustically, but the sound coming out of the PA was always great, and sound guys seemed happy because it made mic' placement so easy.

It seems other drummers shudder at the site of a single-headed kick but musicians don't even notice and sound guys (in bars) seem to like it.

Your thoughts?
Well, the bass drum is technically single headed as soon as you cut a hole in the head. You just have to decide how big the hole is. Back on the 80s when you bought a Yamaha kit, the front head on a 22” bass drum had a 10” center hole cut out. So it’s single-headed.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I think there is a certain amount of professional convenience that a sound person is after. Isolation, if not a acoustically then electronically, via bandpass filters, no overtones. A compressed sound that is intense but falls of quickly.

I think these are more artifacts of using electronic media with little time to tweak stuff than actual artistic merit.

Ultimately you will need to think how the drums will sound out of the sound guys system, much of the time there isn't much head room to play with so the toms are going to be buried in the mix, hence the trend towards getting bigger sounds out of smaller drums.
 

TMe

Senior Member
The bottom line is that I can either target volume, or I can target fidelity. ...It's a hardship switching between the two...
Would it cause any difficulty if a drum kit is set up for Blues/Jazz, with resonant toms and ringing snare played at relatively low volume, but the kick has only one head for easy mic' placement and a good "thump thump thump" for underpinning? Or would that be too much of a mashup?
 

TMe

Senior Member
Ultimately you will need to think how the drums will sound out of the sound guys system, much of the time there isn't much head room to play with so the toms are going to be buried in the mix, hence the trend towards getting bigger sounds out of smaller drums.
So it's not my imagination when I think my 18" kick sounds bigger in a small bar than someone else's 22" kick?
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Would it cause any difficulty if a drum kit is set up for Blues/Jazz, with resonant toms and ringing snare played at relatively low volume, but the kick has only one head for easy mic' placement and a good "thump thump thump" for underpinning? Or would that be too much of a mashup?
To be honest, There is very little difference (to me as a sound guy) between a ported head and no head... Provided the hole is big enough for the mic in question. Restated for clarity: I'm either mic'ing the reso head, or i'm mic'ing the batter head, and all of the periphery stuff (big port, no head, muffled, unmuffled, eq pad, EMAD, etc) is arbitrary by comparison.

Once I leave the stage and get to the board, every instrument gets roughly the same treatment. Set the gain, sweep eq to find the sweet spot and accentuate ~+3db, sweep EQ to find the shitty spot and squelch ~-3db, apply the HPF/LPF if needed, apply/set compression if needed, and move on to the next channel. Takes about 1min/chan. After ~16 channels, I glance for overlapping sweet spots and reconcile them. Mic setup, monitors, and a workable soundcheck in under 30 mins.
 
Last edited:
Top