General Guidelines of Tracking Drums
All right, so we're going to track a song but first before track a song room talk about tracking a song unless if you just feel like going ok cool so uh kind of like the first point I want to make witches don't be in a rush to start um it's definitely pointless if you don't have your tone straight, you're going to track it and push the drummer, do a really good job and then just have to do it all over again because you didn't take the time on tone so everything we did in the previous segment just get it right um and like I said, uh personal opinion of how drums session should be structured a seventy five percent tones twenty five percent performance in the break we did a dry run in that song you has heard that like recording wise we're really fast I mean probably one or two takes and then some punches at the end and then done that's it like if the tones aren't straight though then what's the point of all that so that's actually more like ninety ten or something like that not everyone's...
like that, but I feel like that's what you guys should aspire to again the recording side of it should be fast just for the sake of saving the ah the mind of the drummer and your own ears and drum heads and mike positions and all the moving parts try to get that part quickly so first question is is the drummer need to be coached in this case no in most cases yes uh we're actually not even going to record this too a click it's total total freedom which is really, really cool um in most cases yes you will in very rare cases you can just get out of the way, let them do their thing and your job is the producers to know when that is is it's not gonna happen very often most people dropped the ball like we said in the uh first segment that's not being negative it's just most musicians these days don't know what it takes to record right so you are gonna have to coach them and hold their hands and be there, dad but um every once in a while you will get a guy who is on the level and in that case try not to ruin your own recording by pretty overproducing it just let it happen so say you get a guy that's not that good you guys ever dealt with that you ever dealt with it? Yeah, as everybody in the room nods their head vigorously yeah yeah, her dealt with it bill it sucks. Um it really does um I actively tried to avoid dealing with it because it sucks the life out of the recording process you work really really hard to get tones hopefully as a producer you've worked really, really hard over the years to get good at it and some guy is coming in and not respecting that at all and just sucking it's a very, very tedious process already so to have someone ruining it for you uh making more tedious is just not worth it, so I try to avoid that but say you can't avoid that uh you have to do some coaching uh and there's some general rules that I make make drummers go through general practices that air important I'm a drummer's warm up uh again obviously you get someone like him in here whatever you want to do, I want todo cool ah say I have someone like kevin tally or shannon lucas or whatever any of those guys, whatever they want to do is what I want what do they want to warm up? Cool if they want to do it all as long as the tones air straight that's the only time that they're not gonna win is if they want to record before the tones air straight sometimes drummers air over anxious to get going you can't let them you can't let them bulldoze you in that regard, so that goes for the awesome drummers as well usually they're personality types are such that they've become awesome, they're just ready to go at all times, and you can't let that overtake the session. So one more reason. Have a drum tech involved it's not tire your drummer out, so drummer should come in, play for you and then get lost for a little while of drummer tunes at a drum. Tech tunes. Everything changes heads helps you with mike's. That should not be the drummer's job, in my opinion, um and it's not because put them on a pedestal or saying they should be treated like divas, it's so that you don't tire them out. Their job is to play the drums great and that's it. So say you have a drummer that's ah, primed and ready to go make him warm up and, ah, how do you know if you're warmed up? Uh, I mean on guitar. I just know it's like that moment where everything just kicks in and you're feeling good. The times that I could equate it to is three to four songs in on a show, a live show where jitters are gone. You're feeling awesome adrenaline is flowing that's where you want your drummer's before you start recording you go before that you're probably gonna end up with takes that you don't want to keep you might think they're good at the time and then by the time they're warmed up it's going to sound so much better than you could go back and re record everything and just point let's just make them warm up and if you're concerned about the drum heads d tuning just puts a mutes on or get avi kit uh good drummers will show up with snare pads and kick pads and a whole warm up set up as kind of how you know that they're legit is they come prepared for that like for instance we just recorded do name alex ringer on uh uh on conquering dystopia which is keith maron jeff loomis's project and alex is the drummer and he's absolutely unbelievable and is unbelievable for reasons because he doesn't stop playing and between every take use on his drum pad all day long so stop take go do drums and then it would be that but louder um and most of the guys that are awesome well we'll do that so drummers warm up um I I kind of look at it like one hour of warm up equals fifteen to twenty minutes of recording and uh at this point again you're going to find out if you need teo go the virtual drum round um it could be that you didn't want to have the talk that we talked about earlier and you've gotten this far and germer starts playing and you realize that it ain't happening um no matter what you do it's not gonna happen this is time number two to make the call um if you're going to make the call it all so what's your warm up routine do you even have one? Yeah for me it's mostly stretching. I'm gonna definitely bring the pad and get the hands going, but I like to get down on the floor stretch my legs, stretch my back. Um, are that from touring with you? Yeah it's more stretching and getting blood flowing and kind of getting your muscles ready tto you know, move to get to get moving at all times because, you know, like you, I don't have another drum set, but I could just bring on the road and set up, so um usually it'll just be in what works good nine times out of ten is just find a chair backstage, it's like the perfect height, just sit there and kind of do patterns and constantly stretching things out meet even before I'm on stage I'm behind my kid doing this stuff, rolling sticks and I have a couple of sticks, stretches and and how long does that take you start doing that stuff about an hour before I go on stage if I can, you know, definitely at least a half hour before and if you don't do it do you suffer yeah, you suffer early on because your body is not ready to just go and jump in and you find yourself overcome you overwork because you're not relaxed, you're not you're not ready to take on the task um and I've also run into some cramping problems you know and so things like drinking lots of water and taking the right vitamins and knowing your body I mean drummers it's very physical instrument obviously so there's kind of a certain physicality to it that needs to be negotiated yeah, so that I mean that's kind of kind of my my thing I find that most drummers that do a good job pay attention all those things you said in the studio too I haven't really had too many dudes just come in and wing it without doing like having their own routine it's different with everybody, of course, but it's still routine but going to the studio it's not about drinking beer and no party it's like, you know, like man, the times that I've had bands do that things don't go too well no the parties could theo doesn't sound yeah, there is a party the party's best after the record I think they say that for the record release yeah, pat yourself on the back after he actually got something done um so said drummers warmed up while they're warming up you might want to set up a headphone mix for them now one thing that I highly recommend is getting a here back unit that is the way to go right now that's not what we have oh, I tried to get one for the class we didn't get one it's cool, but the that would be the ideal because what it allows the drummer to do is set their own mix on dh that's very important because the drummer doesn't always want to be hearing what you're hearing and it takes a while to set of sub mixes. If you have a hear back unit, you just route everything out to the hair back unit via ethernet and you're good they can make their own mix and if they want to deafen themselves with click way too loud cool. So I find that this is a super important part of the process though it's not very much fun just like all the other parts, but if you don't get the headphone mix right for the drummer, they're not going to perform at their peak and the same goes for vocalists you have tio take this part seriously so if you guys have I think it's about eight hundred bucks to invest get a here back unit it will save your vocal sessions and your drum sessions if not, then you got to pay close attention to what drummers request in their headphone mixes and you're gonna have to get a headphone amp on extender cable and have headphones like these on hand because well, not every german comes in with them you know or earbuds um so sennheiser makes some recording headphones that are really good I don't remember the exact model number but get those or these are called high noise mont another's just get these they're pretty cool. Um have you ever had a situation in the studio where you felt like it was just blown because of the, uh, big time? I mean, we used to hear back now a czar live regus well, but yeah, I find that if if I've overlooked it before and realize what the problem wass and if if it's too loud in my ears that I'm competing with that um plus it's just obnoxious and you year fatigue so so much quicker what I use his earbuds with with the phone so it kind of acts as an earplug seals it in and then I have those aircraft carrier things so not only am I not bleeding into the mikes with cranking music um I can listen at a very nice level that soft in my ears, but yet completely, completely adequate. Um, so it may it makes a big difference energy wise and how I react to it. You know, I it's definitely, you know, if you come in and you're just playing to a click and there's no music, then you're not really responding to anything, but I like to record to music so I can respond to something and it's, not just so so the headphone mix is super important. Yeah, I have, and I think it bears noting that even with a good headphone mix here, fatih is goingto happen, so no matter what, you're going to be dealing with your fatigue, so you gotta take breaks that's kind of like phase uh, taking breaks is one of the most important things you can possibly do for recording is going to talk about it for two minutes and get back to this just going to derail for a second to talk about your fatigue, what will happen when your ears get fatigued from blasting the headphones too loud or being from the monitors for too long is that your high end will disappear, everything is going to start to sound really muddy and distant, and you will start cueing things to compensate, and you're not going to be accurate at all, then once you do take a break and you come back you'll realize that you missed the whole thing up uh this can happen in mixing a lot called the mixing vortex of hell and the drum tone for tex of hell it basically you need to pace yourself at all sections of the recording process and like he said even if you have a good mix in the headphones and it's a good non obnoxious level you're still going to get fatigued you still need to take those brakes how often do you want to take breaks? It just depends how how much were supposed to do in a day or when you know what the deadline is because I can kind of push through some sometimes but uh you know and if I'm rolling and it's in a situation where tones or killer you know it's run a tune three or four times right maybe take like a ten minute break this once I'm warmed up I don't want to go through that whole process of warming up again so I'll try to play for maybe record for two or three hours and then maybe take like an hour and a half break you know do a lunch break or something and then come back and record for another two to three hours say that's actually exactly how I like to do it too so there you go two people confirming it um so make sure you take breaks make sure the headphone mixes right drummers make sure you tell the engineer what you want in the headphones if you don't say it don't expect him to be psychic about it I can't tell you how many times something has been wrong and the headphone mix and I didn't know it because I'm not list sitting like the drummer drummer was afraid to say something and four songs in realized that you can't hear the click or you know something like that well and also just I mean his drummers and as any musician and engineer your ears are like your life so don't you know when I practise and rehearse it's the same thing earplugs or you know, some sort of gear treatment you don't want to ruin your hearing I've been playing drums for a little over thirty years of my hearing is still awesome because I've always I could never just sit behind a kid and just play without any kind of protection that's just ludicrous like when I see it since I'm just living you crazy you know like oh my god, you're like it's like what one hundred thirty one hundred forty d be here like I mean crazy town so you know yeah not to see really no it's but you know you ruin recordings that way I know that I've done it through listening to loud because basically it's called devi creep and it happens over master failures and also just happens on the volume knob like as you go your ears get fatigued you know knows you bump it a devi bumping in their devi half on hour later and if you did sit there for three hours mixing very no it it's ten d be louder than it was before and suddenly your ears are in a bad situation so anyways let's get back to tracking now you guys know don't do it don't don't ruin your ears your career will be very short so when it comes to tracking there's basically two basic approaches that liked to take it's really three uh we put too but it's really three um whole song at once riffed by riff or section most section we didn't say section by section that falls under I guess a subset of whole song at once but I think whole song at wants refire if section by section and ah there's pros and cons to everything and once again goes back to the first section where we were we were talking about nothing technical who are you recording? What is their skill set and what kind of music is it? Um I think that a lot of the pros to this is that it's just faster the feels better it's far more efficient I mean, you guys heard during the break we got through about a minute and a half of music almost perfectly in one take that's a minute and a half tracked and about a minute and a half the punches will probably take five more minutes and we'll be done as opposed to going rift by riff which will probably take an hour umm the problem with that is he requires a dude who can really play uh and that's kind of rare but jens toe and stamina you because you're you know you're gonna be there a while in that process is kind of like sitting there and tuning and doing you know you're doing it in little little micro bits instead of the whole thing yeah, well I I don't um I haven't had a drummer besides shannon lucas really record songs in single takes in a while it just doesn't doesn't happened that often but ah I definitely do the rift by riff approach very often and I wanted to kind of go around the room and find out what approach you guys take most often we'll start with you um and you do rift by riff for section by section is there like one particular method you go with? Yeah the rift by riff um method mostly just cause it with the people that I've worked with this just made life easier and less stressful yes what it does um well not everyone can hang with going the whole song or section by section and then also for the style of music sometimes that's what you got to do, give your recording fear factory or something like that. You're probably not going to go whole songs at once, probably going to get sections brutally perfect. Um, but you for drums, always one take. I record a lot of hardcore bands, a lot of punk bands, I don't record to metro home either. So it's, usually a guy in the room live with a very, very quiet and ah blanket id off guitar cab, um, and it's it's, it's punk rock music so I don't edit drums or anything like that. Well, I got eyes, they're different world, though, I guess that's something that bears mentioning that it's it's a stylistic choice if you're doing technical meddle more than likely you're going to go rift by riff if you're doing punk, you can get away with it or folk or sent acker something. Um, leave like, but I know if you're doing super fast stuff, you can, uh, pretty much bet that it's not going to be whole takes, um except for one or two or three drummers, and if you do hold takes your probably sacrificing some quality about you. Just depends on who I'm playing with if I'm playing with my friend he's an awesome drummer will just do it and take you know he'll really get two more of the flow of the song that way and you know you really get the ups and downs when he doesn't like that fits me I'll spend half a knauer on four bars you know and how you which method you think has better vibe I mean just depends on the style of music really better you know if if it's me I'm doing it it's more of aa sampled purpose you know, purposefully chopped kind of sound more elektronik style fits him it's the acoustic I mean I think that there's more emotion to the acoustic just the one take definitely uh because you really you can get the dynamics for an entire song yeah, you kind of feel like you kind of have to fabricate the dynamics you know that's that's the whole performance category you know, like getting a good performance and uh I mean when you're playing to something that's gritted it's easier to make it sound like a performance doing the rift or riffing but there tends to be something kind of loss and I mean you're you're more caught up in the perfect nous of doing that that's kind of part of that technique vs having a little bit of push and pull yeah and it's totally a stylistic stylistic choice so quick question for shawn to start curiosity how did you do the cynic and death stuff back in the day? Uh no clicks to any of that stuff if you listen to it a lot of those tunes or ten fifteen bpm faster than when we started the song I mean we'd have like an intro guitar something that were set a scratch track that was a reference if there was some sort of introduction otherwise it would be a click off and go and you know, uh, cynic even though he didn't do analog tape, we did it the digital tape and it kind of have the same ah limitations as analog tape in the punch in category so it was mohr you know, once you're starting don't stop unless there's something really you know, tragic happened on and sometimes those mistakes turned out to be little lucky things that you know that end up staying in the record but yeah, I mean and funny enough this last cynic record we just did we reverted back to that old old style where it was just I'd give you know, off my iphone my little metro no map I just for two bars and then play till a section had some sort of openness where it was like okay let's, listen back is that cool okay, cool now what's that tempo match it do do do do do couple bars reference and then go from there because we wanted something more elastic you know what I mean? And and that was just kind of our choice but I really you know, it turned out surprisingly well, you know and we didn't encounter anything that was ah, you know, going back which is like darn you know, we just had to really critically listen before we went on you know, because you really can't go back at that point you can only go forward yeah, son because you guys can actually play so well is that I have a question about back in the day and the reason I want to ask it now because he's not going to be here on day three and we cover this so it's just a brief deviation but ms ins were talking about how things were done before can you tell us about how triggers happened back in the nineteen oh yeah well, I mean, you we didn't have trigger devices that maura sound they would do what you did was farrah samples it would be hit the kick drum five times, you know, at the velocity it was one velocity that at that point though it was like give me your party's destiny picked that audio sample onto tape then they said that into literally a digital iraq mount that was a digital sampler and then they would go back feed just think the kick track channel from the tape machine into this device the device would replica you know send out that sample and they re recorded back to a different kick track so that's and it was used for kids drums mostly because it is a pain in the butt to do it for tom's or anything else but that's kind of how maura sound ended up getting the first decent sounding you know death metal speed metal heavy you know, kick drum drum sound because it was it wasn't like a d for sample that was your own sample but it was that consistency you know what I mean yeah that sounds really tedious oh my god you want to talk about you know yeah days just doing that kind of stuff because you know sometimes it miss triggers and now you're dealing with analog tapes so you know what I mean and I can do the kicks for an entire album in like an hour that's not the thing scott bernard doesn't want teo not not not the snares definitely no you can't do the snares in an hour but we could do the kicks in about an hour on I'm talking about fast material yeah yeah just beats day when I was first coming out no it's but it's true I mean and back then we were stoked that was like technology really well this is um amazing. You know what I mean? So it's it really is kind of amazing how far far things have come in that regard. But it was yeah, it was just like any hangouts regarding recording drums and so it's a tedious process, you know, it's not an overnight thing. Yeah, even now with technology, the way it is is you guys can see it's not an easy process or your decision. I kind of got a question just because I've listened to focus a lot and I never would have guessed that it was live was it? Guitar and drums track together? Yeah. Okay, I had either jason and paul in the control room or in the other room. Um and we we'd play it down and then go back in and listen in and then go back, okay, okay, this part needs, but, you know, can we punch now? So we weren't you find the section where you can come in, play through that whole section, come back into the punch work because you can't tell right off the bat you can't edit it. It's either a nice you know, you have to make sure you're playing the same phil hitting the same symbol so they ring out when you come in so there's no, you know, dropouts and on these your things you still have to pay attention yeah I mean, you have a little more leeway with non destructive where you khun and cross fading tricks but uh it's definitely going to make things easier if you're aware of what you're playing that you can play it again it definitely makes things easier yeah, yeah, yeah being able to replicate your performance helps um anybody else want to say anything before move on to more tracking approaches? I was just gonna say typically I used the I start by recording the entire song through on and then four if specific you know riffs or sections that are more problematic I'll just punch in and do those multiple times but typically when I record and go all the way at least to begin so it's like the mix these air no, you know it's that this is use what works and it will be different every time you know, and some you know, it's just that it's how the drummer is used to working and again what your deadlines are, what your parameters are I think what ah, what people need to realize out there and internet land is that, um if you're looking for a consistent thing uh, through all this what's consistent is that it's always changing the always have to be adapting to it and was consistent is that if you try to stick to anyone approach every time you're going to fail bill, where you want to say something it's just a different spin in it with me, and I'm sure you can attest this when you're ripped by riff for section by section, for more of the song running process because if you have, like, a a ar guy coming in halfway through your set up or a management coming in from the record label and they want to change a bunch of stuff, you know how the song is actually written then as you know, rift by refer section by section that has to be set up that way I mean, I know for me personally that's happened a lot where they wanted to change the flow of the song, you know, because they have to say ultimate control, but a lot of labels or air guys do yeah, and it would be almost impossible for most guys to just learn how to play it from start to finish with whatever changes and non musician made to it in the control room right then and there uh so you have been in that situation a lot, and for that you definitely need to be able to punch in on and that's when click is your friend, absolutely, so I think that for a lot of professional recordings like meaning recordings that are going to be released I don't mean professionally in in the way that you made money off of it. So your professional I mean, actually released records that are for a third party that's, not the band. For instance, the label is buying the masters, so they are paying for the band to go, uh, in that situation, you are hurting yourself if you don't record to a clique because of what bill just brought up, uh, people will request changes, and you need to be able to accommodate those changes because you're not making the record for yourself, you're making it for them. So with that said, uh, you know, the, uh, the approach definitely depends on the drummer and the workflow. Um, you know, I feel like if you're an r came in, they wouldn't pull that same card as with some other bands, but, well, very depends on when, right and who, um and definitely, unless you know the drummer, you're not going to know which is right until you start tracking and ah, that just goes back to doing your homework. Do your homework.