Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Did some work last night with Grand Ultimate, a live hip hop combo from down the hall at 11 Hope Street. Built bass loops to a click using their Line 6 Echo Farm, laid down a guitar loop the same way, then the band performed live drums/vocals to the track. George called the drum sound "the best we've ever gotten," although absolutely no cymbals or toms were used.

A quick mix through the board, and everyone was happy... except for our upstairs neighbor, who was concerned with the lateness of the hour and the heaviness of the mix.


At 5:14 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

It seems to me that it would be easier to get a good tight drum sound without cymblas, It's like saying the best game the Jets ever played was when they had no opponent.

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Tony Alva said...

I've been devoting a great deal of thought to the recording of drums and would love yours and George's op on a few things. I've got a session coming up next month in which I will be tracking a drum set on my own for the first in a while (have learned much from working with you and have built a little confidence).

It seems to me that the toughest parts of getting a great drum sound is balancing the overheads so that they act more as "cymbal mics" and grab only a modest amount of ambient color with a little bit of stereo image vs. picking up a lot of the rest of the kit. The other challenge seems to be to positioning your mics to grab the drum that it is designated to (isolation). Back in the day (15 years ago when we were recording at the rate you are now and onto analog tape), we employed soft mic gating on all toms and snare for instance to cancel transient pick up. We also used compression on the overheads. This really thinned the cymbals out so they didn’t dominate and wash out over everything. It always seemed to even them out. Stereo imagining on the cymbals also greatly improved as sort of a pleasant byproduct of “taming” them so to speak I picked this up from my interning days at a big production studio I worked at in the eighties. We had a big room with tall ceilings back then as your guys have now, but I’m not so fortunate at Grey Cat. To be clear, the gating we used on the toms etc… was not applied as an effect like it would be to get that big snare so prevalent on eighties hair metal records (although we did apply for those acts during mix), but simply to control the audio. The idea was to make it as transparent as possible.

Working with you guys, you seem to have a much more organic approach. I’ve noticed that you place very little, if anything, in the signal path of any drum mics and never print any compression to tape. You get some great drum sounds that’s for sure, but I sort of think that using some basic tools to get from line check to hitting the record button seems to make some sense to me with drums, let alone the easier it is to get a mix post prod. I’m not one of those seventies era engineers that view recording drums like some wrestling match for control, or as something that requires vacuum tank like isolation, but rather a dance where there is balance between the organic nature of a drum kit as an instrument, and getting good mixable audio on tape.

This post sort of speaks to this a bit I think. You got great drum sounds because you didn’t have to worry about overheads picking up cymbals and washing everything out. They simply grabbed the ambient sounds and provided good stereo image (natural reverb). I’ve had the same experience myself doing any kind of drum set minus cymbals. You also didn’t have cymbal bleed coming in through your tom/snare/kick mics.

Appreciate any advice or comments you have. Keep up the good work on this blog. I hit it everyday.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

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