Topic: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control  (Read 3297 times)

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Offline Bill Bachman

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Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« on: March 04, 2010, 09:21 AM »
I was telling a drummer friend the other day how I wish that I had the clout to insist on recording with only two overheads and a bass drum mic or walk away from a session. (Of course this could only ever happen if I was a really big deal and didn't need the money, but, I'm not a big deal and I need the money so I'll take the sessions when I get them.) The reason for my opinion is that almost every recording I've done has been ruined in post by guys behind computers. A lot of you guys probably have similar experiences, they add terrible effects to individual instruments until they're almost unrecognizable and mix the levels of each individual part of the kit until they're completely out of whack. Suddenly the hats are too loud, you can't hear the toms & the whole balance of the kit is ruined. Hand/foot combos which were cool become bizarre bass drum rhythms that seem totally out of place because the toms are gone. You guys are tracking with me right?

Then I was told that's what John Bonham did. He insisted on three mics and would not record otherwise because people could then ruin his balance. SWEET! Have you guys heard of this? Any confirmation out there?

For now I'll continue to soundcheck intentionally hitting the toms quieter than the rest of the kit and trying to explain to people that it's like playing a piano where the white keys are loud and the black ones almost inaudible.   
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Offline Big Yummy

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2010, 11:50 AM »
For now I'll continue to soundcheck intentionally hitting the toms quieter than the rest of the kit...

Interesting...  Is that viable for a live show, or would it lead to feedback or other problems once the set starts?
"Some people say I ain't so super groovy.  Why don't I leave the music alone?"  Black Uhuru

lopan

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2010, 12:01 PM »

Then I was told that's what John Bonham did. He insisted on three mics and would not record otherwise because people could then ruin his balance. SWEET! Have you guys heard of this? Any confirmation out there?


I've seen concert footage, and it looked like everything was Mic'ed individually, but I don't know what configuration he used in the studio.  I agree that your dynamics can be altered and even ruined by a ham fisted sound engineer. "Let's run everything through a compressor?"  The next time my band plays and I have to Mic my kit, I may try just using a Kick and two overheads.

Offline David Crigger

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2010, 12:31 PM »

Then I was told that's what John Bonham did. He insisted on three mics and would not record otherwise because people could then ruin his balance. SWEET! Have you guys heard of this? Any confirmation out there?


I've heard many stories of such heroic bravado regarding Bonham and other legendary figures. The "three stick lengths above the snare" overhead placement rule - attributed at different times to the Motown drummers and Bonham - comes to mind. Never any confirmation that I've read. And for me, such extreme "my way or I'm outta here" axioms, always run contrary to everything I've ever experienced around really successful players. And that is their knowledge that making a recording is a team-work project - a collaboration - and their great skills at making themselves a valued part of the team.

Of course, with every collaboration, there is going to be differences of opinion and jockeying for power/control. In my experience, for a player to "insist" on something to such a huge degree, then they better be sure they have the political "coin" to make such a play, and that their suggestion had better be clearly and demonstrably superior than what, in this case, is considered the industry practiced norm.

I don't know, I can see the "David Sanborn" thing - "here's the mic that most people have been happiest with over the years - why don't we try it first?". Or the early years Simon Phillips thing (very bold play IMO), with the big double headed unported bass drums - but with great mics installed inside (long before May mounts). So he had it all set-up so it really worked - and could demonstrate that, right there.

But trying to "damage control" the final mix from the drum chair at a tracking session? I get the frustrating temptation. But unless you're at the mixdown session - with the power to dictate - there's no way. It doesn't matter how many or how few mics are used - the ears in that room with the say are going to be the ones determining the mix.

Now the hands to kick balance problem, I can totally relate to. And as long as pop records continue to favor the BD being so incredibly up front in the mix - this is going to be a problem. All I've come up with for this - is what in my mind I call my "Steve Gadd solution" - and that is on pop sessions (or any other time I think this will be a problem) to just compose hand-feet combinations that still "work" even if the BD ends up 3x louder than I intended. Which it probably will!!

David




Offline Tim van de Ven

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2010, 01:19 PM »
The basic fact in recording studios is: the producer gets what the producer wants; there is no democracy in the studio.

I love recording in my own studio with only three mics (two OH, one bass drum) as BIll mentioned; it's my favourite personal sound. But in my studio *I* am the producer. So, I get what I want.  ;D

I've also tracked in other studios where the producer insists on extreme isolation and in some cases, has used my performance to trigger samples of other drum sounds. Do I like it? Not really, but it's not my project. I've had my drums mixed into oblivion, had fills completely changed through editing, had drum sounds replaced....all of it. I chalk it up to being "part of the territory".

I'd rather have my sounds turned to mush than to be replaced in the session.


Offline Chris Whitten

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2010, 02:42 PM »
I don't think the Bonham thing can be true.
The drum sound varied somewhat from album to album.
If you read the accounts of the 'When The Levee Breaks' session, there are mics all over the place, and they experimented with fx (such as Binson Echorec) on the drums.
Page was the producer and much as Bonham is regarded as alpha male these days, I would think Page was slightly more alpha in the context of the band unit, and the way the records sounded.

On from that.......

I'm really not into introducing conflict into the studio.
It's a collaboration for me, and I can quite honestly say I've learnt so much from recording engineers and producers. I'm really grateful they took the time to discuss and demonstrate their perspective on drum sound with me. Something unlikely to happen if I walked in and tried to impose a single vision of my own on the session.
To be frank, I started recording as a green 20 year old. To insist I knew more about recorded drum sounds than the experienced crew i was often lucky to work with would have seen me stuck in my early 20's mind set, and lacking in personal development and perspective for the rest of my career.
FWIW, when recording I set out to make a great record, not focus on the drum aspect alone, and as such I soundcheck the drums in the same way I think I'm going to play them on the song.
If they decide to mix the drums strangely, or put some fx on them, I see it as another opportunity to learn, see my drums from someone else's perspective.
The above is my experience working with mid to top level studio personnel.
I realise all bets are off when working with people who rarely record drums, or are still learning to record drums.
In those cases I try to help them with the knowledge I've gained over the years.
The knowledge I gained by working with and listening to great recording engineers.

Offline Bill Bachman

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2010, 03:01 PM »
I agree with you all, of course it's totally impractical to be "that guy" in the studio--"that guy" gets fired pretty quick when he tries to over-ride the producer. (That's why I mentioned the idea of the big-deal guy who doesn't need the money.)  It's just a mild rant after having many otherwise cool projects messed up by amateur-hour mixers. Of course it can be done great with many mics and the right guy mixing. The three mic method can sound fantastic and certainly makes it a lot harder to ruin!  :)

Oh, and for live soundchecks I do tend to check the toms with a little bit less velocity, unless I know the sound guy is one to get it right.
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donelk

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2010, 03:05 PM »
Last time I was in studio I was miced as follows... I was in an isolated room.

SD/HH... Shure SM 57
BD... AEA 44
Near overhead... Neumann M49
Right side front low... Neumann KM84
Left side front low... Coles 4038
High room... 2 Neumann U87s

I don't have a lot of studio experience, but I sure liked what this setup captured.

Offline Chris Whitten

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2010, 03:21 PM »
FWIW, I'm less scared of being fired. More interested in learning from people who live and breath studio craft.
Live performance drumming is to studio as theatre is to television.
Two different disciplines.
What works at The House Of Blues, doesn't necessarily work at Sunset Sound.

One of my all time favourite drum sounds is Billy Cobham's on 'Spectrum'.
Dozens of mics spread around a multi-tom, multi-cymbal, double bass drum kit.

It's horses for courses.
The Bonham sound worked beautifully for a rock band with three instruments backing a singer.
Most likely it wouldn't have worked for Steely Dan, Rush or Yellow.
Some of the biggest hits U2 have enjoyed were recorded in an open space with a PA system blasting the drums and vocals back into the studio mics.
If Larry Mullen jr was more of a godlike figure, I'm guessing a lot of young drummers would be asking for PA systems to be arranged around their kit on a studio date.

OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration.   ;D
 

Offline Big Yummy

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2010, 07:49 AM »
Oh, and for live soundchecks I do tend to check the toms with a little bit less velocity, unless I know the sound guy is one to get it right.

I've always thought annoying a sound tech during a show is about as wise as annoying my my dentist during a filling. 

But now I'm temped to hammer the snare and barely touch the bass drum during sound check, so I can get more of the bass heavy sound I want when we start playing.
"Some people say I ain't so super groovy.  Why don't I leave the music alone?"  Black Uhuru

Offline Chris Whitten

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2010, 01:23 PM »
Personally....... I wouldn't.  ;)

Offline David Crigger

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2010, 04:00 PM »
Personally....... I wouldn't.  ;)

Yeah, and it's not like sound guys glue the faders into a locked position after soundcheck. They can - and will - make adjustments to fix the mix as a result of , from their point of view, the drummer's inability to do a good soundcheck.

There's just no getting around the ears at the mixing board controlling the mix.

David

donelk

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2010, 04:24 PM »
Since the sound guy is so important, I try to see this all as a collaborative effort. If we have a chance, I talk with him about the kind of sound I'm looking for and ask him what kind of sound he goes for. Then we talk from there.

Heck, I'm a nice guy and the sound guy almost always want to do well... so it usually works out.  Besides, in the end the sound guy wins... so what do I have to lose?

Offline Mister Acrolite

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2010, 04:38 PM »
Since the sound guy is so important, I try to see this all as a collaborative effort. If we have a chance, I talk with him about the kind of sound I'm looking for and ask him what kind of sound he goes for. Then we talk from there.

Heck, I'm a nice guy and the sound guy almost always want to do well... so it usually works out.  Besides, in the end the sound guy wins... so what do I have to lose?

Bingo. Make the sound guy your ally. Not somebody you're trying to trick.
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Offline Bill Bachman

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2010, 07:31 PM »
Yeah, you guys are right. Often times I don't get to talk to any sound guy and it's a quick set up & go, otherwise I try to make friends and explain the importance of tom to bass drum balance. I try to soundcheck simply and play a lot of easily readable back and forth between the toms and bass.

When there's no time for any of that though I'm still inclined to ease up a hair on the toms after listening to the vast majority of soundmen under-mix them. I'm certainly not talking about a major difference in velocity and am not recommending that everyone go crazy trying to fool the soundman. It's certainly true that in the end he's in control of what the audience does or doesn't hear and I'll never know until the reports from friends or a zoom recorder out there.
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Offline Chip Donaho

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #15 on: March 11, 2010, 09:09 AM »
Make the sound guy your ally.
That's what I did. Then my daughter married him. He knows what I like and his ears are my ears. When something isn't working on the drums, he tells me and we discuss the matter. Then we fix the problem. 8)
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Offline Chris Whitten

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2010, 02:58 PM »

I've learnt what sound engineers like.  ;)

Offline Tim van de Ven

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2010, 04:29 PM »
I've learnt what sound engineers like.  ;)

This is a great plan; I try to do that as well.

Offline Chris Whitten

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Re: Drum Miking & Mixing: Damage Control
« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2010, 04:51 PM »
Here's a challenge -  ;D

Raise your cymbal stand height if the engineer says the cymbals are too loud in the tom mics.
Conversely, on another day you might lower your cymbals if the engineer says they are too loud in his preferred overhead configuration.
Your personal goal is to get the best possible drum sound to tape as you can - which in my experience usually occurs through team work not confrontation.

 

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