Drum Tracking Q&A


Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou


Lesson Info

Drum Tracking Q&A

Let's say one from us to phoenix and we sort of touched on this a little bit earlier but if a drummer doesn't know his stuff too well, do you push them to play better or do you just edit their stuff in pro tools and do you think that a better performance sounds better than great edits yeah for sure I mean it's a dream to record a band just comes in and kills it ana a great drummer is a joy to record and makes for a great record you know, I think with general rule of thumb for me when it comes to editing were really any sort of studio magic is you can only improve it one letter grade so if somebody comes in and they're give you a d performance, you could make it a c now if the sea performance you can make a b and b and if you could make it be into an a but maybe in a minus um and you can make a name twenty plus so like depending on you know what your goals are this I'll still at it a great a great drummer if that's what's the best thing for the song and sometimes really bad rumors are r...

eally hard at it and you have to get pretty deep into forensic audio so like auto tune like auto tune doesn't really work so well for singers that are way off it's, like someone has to be pretty close for itto work well in sound natural on me, unless you're going for the, you know, that sort of antoine dobbs and kind of effect by now. Yeah, if you're auditing the news than you want, that sort of edited effect. That's one thing, but I find it, at least with for my my chops, I find it really difficult to perfect a poor performance, and, you know, I could improve it a little bit, but if someone's not a great drummer, what all do is, um, you know, I'll try to embrace what is their strength, and maybe, you know, maybe they're real wild drummer, maybe, and, you know, actually, the thie pop had this sort of philosophy about the students and which was in there, and I think he was pretty heavily involved with a lot of their mixing was take the worst element of the mix and make it the loudest if you sometimes, if you have something that's not so hot, and you try to hide it, it actually sounds like you're trying to hide it and it's actually better toe, like, put something kind of crappy way up front in the mix and make it look like you're trying to feature that and embrace the character of of something less than perfect rather than try to disguise it you know an interesting interesting note on that is so too in track you know with easy drummer comes with all these like midi grooves that are recorded by actual drummers you know you can load in they don't edit them at all and if you look at those that there's a gene haugland one who you know everyone calls like you know the human clock or whatever if you look at that it's not on the grid the velocities are all over the place it's not like wildly off the grid but it's not on the grid so I think the idea I think what people think is perfect and what they what they perceived reap like the mathematical reality of it are oftentimes to very like our ears and brains play a lot of tricks on us because we hear things that are in perfect as more perfect I agree absolutely and I'll also I'll also add that it's impossible to separate our perception of music from the way in which from our sentimentality about music so the music that were raised on has dramatically affected the way that we hear all music in the future and you know, like I just I just turned forty so you know I'm coming of age in the in the eighties and at the time listening to eighties music but a lot of seventies music and there was just techno technology wasn't nearly what it is today, so I'm used to hearing I was raised on mohr dynamic, less perfect records than kids who are young right now were raised on and their experience of music and the music they're raised on was quite a bit different than mine, so they're hearing probably music with less distortion, or maybe the distortion there hearing is mohr like second order than first order on dh there used to hearing music that's, maur, rigid, mohr be detective, and they're raised with that. So they probably have a different filter for what is good than the filter that I have, you know jesse can talked about? Yeah, I was just going to talk about, you know, recording kids who are raised with digital recording versus kids who are raised with analog recording. They have a different perception of what good is, and I think, you know, as recording engineers it's our task to know, like, what is the goal of this recording? And who is my who's, my audience, who is my client and and in order to to make them happiness and what what will orphan what will best represent their artistic vision? Is it that perfection, or is that variation is that, you know, is a distortion or is a cleanliness? Great one from sean fits who's kind of noticed curtain a lot of videos in your studio the guitarist is in the room with the drummer while tracking are they just playing along with an answer him for the drummer to follow on do you ever have a problem noise from them being in the room yeah that's that is the case yet most of the time I'm using an amps and lately I've been using the camper profiling amp which is my favorite scratch track tool right now haven't really done a whole lot of tracking real tracking with it but it's great it's certainly great for scratch tracks and I don't have to worry about any issues of late in sea or hogging any resource is in my main dot but you know you could do scratch tracks any different ways it's really just a matter of coming up with something that makes the drummer comfortable feel like they're interacting with another person and have have somebody to play with and then also especially if you're not tracking on a click some you know, someone who's right there live with them to be malleable and adjust to what they're doing and to provide them with feedback so yeah and then but then sometimes there are conflicts I try to position whoever is out there playing scratch track away from any room mikes and overheads if they're strong really hard especially if there's like a you know like a little gap in the drummer's performance where they do a simple choke and there's just a guitar break. Sometimes you get that in the overhead mikes and you might have a new little editing on the overheads to get that out of there or or maybe you just enjoy that want to embrace and leave it in the mix. But yes, sometimes you might want to ask them to play a little bit a little bit quieter maybe not as aggressively as we usually do. Another nice thing about having a scratch guitarist they use a lot is, you know let's say there is like a short guitar break like that all instead of having the guitar player like play the rift during the guitar break in middle of something have a guitar players coach because it's usually easier for them to keep time with, like ah self made click track than it is to follow like a distorted, fluid kind of guitar riff. Right. Okay um if you have a drummer, if you have the option of a drummer's really dialed with a click and well rehearsed with it and they can play with the click or not do you find that it's usually better to not play with the click or with the click for few allies and things like that that's that's totally like a case by case basis and I usually um if we're not sure just recorded each way and then sort of take about you know, like let's listen back to the reforms and see what feels more exciting sometimes it's half and half you know sometimes will be like you know the verse and chorus feel great but then by the time we get to the bridge let's just let's just take the click off at the end of the song be a little bit more wild and I was told totally case by case for that look at that it's a hand let's see if we've got one here from toto who blesses the rain down in africa not sure karen do you ever some to mike's together when you're tracking drums like the snare kick drums? Um not typically on the way and oh, by the way supposedly I'm related to people in toto I don't have the look I don't know like my grandmother insists that they're like distant cousins of mine but I don't I don't know yeah, they're cool maybe this is your cousin as well? Yeah, it totally depends on what your your setup is how many, how many you know microphones and channels you have how many? How many inputs on your converters you have my studio's is pretty well equipped and have a lot of gear, so I'm able to keep that stuff separate on the way in but when I was tracking primarily to tape, especially when I had, like, a mini track and a sixteen track, then I would combine that stuff down to one track. And we talk a little bit more about this tomorrow. But one of the reasons to keep it separate is if there is a, um, you know, this will be. There will be a subtle offset in time between the top snare and bottom stair mike, and same thing with, like, inside, kick outside, kick or top, top and bottom, tom, mike, and sometimes that that that offset is cool and gives you a nice effect. But other times you actually want to scoot some tracks around a little bit, tow, line them up, maura, you end up like, can end up with a more pure sound that sounds less like the face discrepancies you get from a lot of mikes, no fewer mike's. You know, if you put eight mikes on a kid, you're naturally gonna have fewer phase discrepancies. And if you have twenty mikes on a kid, but if you can take, you know your top and bottom snare mike scooped the bottoms near mike a little bit and then sort of make make that on ly one phase discrepancy from the snare of supposed to to face discrepancies from the snare do that. That can help you out a little bit. So I like to keep all those stuff all those things on separate tracks while I'm tracking. And then sometimes and talk about this more tomorrow also, but sometimes even within a single tracks, all to dupe a track inside pro tools and process the two tracks independently from each other, even though it's coming from the same source.

Class Description

In this two-day course, prolific producer Kurt Ballou will take you behind-the-scenes of GodCity Studios to show you exactly how the magic happens. This all-access studio pass will immerse you in every aspect of Kurt’s distinctive sound — from choosing and setting up gear, to tracking and mixing.

Kurt will show you the basic and advanced techniques he uses in his studio every day, and teach you how to apply them to your own recording — regardless of whether you’re working in a studio or at home with a DIY setup. Using anecdotes from his years behind the board, Kurt will also teach you his best practices for working with bands to extract the best and most inventive sounds.


Keith Foster

First off, even though I'm neither a beginner nor a recording professional, this class is absolutely worth the money you spend on it - especially if you plan on making heavy music. There are enough tips, tricks and guidance in here to get your money's worth many times over. That said, as an indie artist who goes to a studio to record drum tracks, then does the rest ina home studio I found some of the things disheartening. Much of the class follows a "I do this thing using item / amp / microphone / plugin (X), it's pretty cool" vibe, and it sounds cool.... until you check the price. As an example, the 'stereo buss processing' section sounds fun to try, except for the part where the three pieces of gear cost about $8K. As a result I found myself figuring out how to incorporate the essence of what he was saying without the gear budget to do so. Maybe I'm not the intended audience but a little more concept and less gearhead would have been even better. That said you should totally get it, it's a low price for so many hours of great content.