Drums Overview


Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou


Lesson Info

Drums Overview

First thing we're gonna do before you talk any more about drum set up is show a little bit about some filming that I did in my studio with the band nice hooves they record a song called weddings and funerals for me as a demo song for this for this course and uh yeah so we have a quick video of me engineering the drums for that song so let's check it out really? Ah well um playing explore your resting beat around the head so it sort of controls sustained kick butt like that peter's bouncing a lots of heads mohr free to resonate so there's gonna be more of like that steady kind of debt? Teo sure, I think it's like pretty loathe don't tell tony I'm raising it so what to do in a space pair of overheads I like tio dial in the distance of it. Both of them are the same distance from the center of the stair keeps the sneer or in phase gives a stronger percenter pan image with a sneer theo plugged in and turned on you just in the short class to something minimum move the mikes teo think like tw...

o or three other positions we'll just do the same thing to those ways so I'm switching teo figure eight pattern on the mike so basically the mic the mic will pick up in front of it and behind it but those two sides air out of phase with each other, which leaves annul point. So everything around this plane of the mike he's dead, collecting cardio oid on the figure eight or somewhere in between here just okay, right? Rolling, wait, so that's a typical day one in my studio on a record, and I'm going to a lot more detail on all the stuff you just saw. You know, I have audio examples for a lot of that stuff, and particularly the various overhead placements I was trying, the various room mike placements, I was trying to show you kind of the differences between how each position and polar pattern sounds on those ambien microphones, a swell a bunch of stuff on the close mikes to s o the first thing I want to talk about is just about building the drum set and making sure that it's comfortable for the player, and they're playing in the best way. A lot of times, drummers will, like, get accustomed to playing in a certain way, but it's not really the best way for them to play, um, you know, a great a great way, tio determine that, or to know that and as an engineer is just to watch them play, but also and see if they're comfortable and they're you know, they're playing their floor tom with their arm tucked up like this they might not you know, maybe you want to move the floor, tom a little bit so they can have a more natural extension of there are more, you know, look at the wear patterns on the heads and try to see like hey, is this person hitting, you know, really centered on hitting consistently or the consistently hitting off center? Maybe, like we'll move the drums around a little bit maybe you know, if the drummer's willing to make certain concessions for your engineering well, that's great. Not all drummers are capable of making adjustments and it's not you know it's not our job as engineers to change people, but you can subtly suggest that hey, lis, get this crash symbol a little bit further from the rack, tom. Like if you want your symbols tohave amore pure tone than moving away from the rack. Tom michael, improve the tone of the symbol I look talking tio some people earlier about our griffin actually, about about the size of the snare that's actually a trick that he used quite a bit of a look att the drummer as they're playing the drum set look at look at the wear pattern on the snare drum head and coded heads are great for that cause you really see the wear pattern you know, if they're hitting the snare drum always to hire always too low, you know you might be able to move the scare normal around a little bit without moving their throne, or maybe raise or lower their throne to kind of adjust their plane. But sometimes you don't actually want a different sized drums. I built myself ah thirteen inch in a fifteen engineered around occasionally will throw in the mix. If I notice that somebody is like, has a predisposition toe hit the drum really off center. Sometimes a different size drone will help them play in a bit. Strike the drum in a place where it sounds better, usually like slightly off center, is the best tone first near groom, so try to get to hit there. One of the problems to is a lot of times the drummer will have when they're playing the ride somewhere crashing well, they've got great positioning on the drumhead, but then as soon as they go to the ride they are. Susan assumes that the high hat. They're snare drum arm comes forward and I start hitting high on the stand or maybe or maybe they pull it back and they play the hyatt like this you know this is kind of like two things that change so you might want to move around where the high hat iss or maybe move around whether throne is to make sure that they're still hitting sneer consistently whether regardless of which symbol that happen to be riding on. So um and then you know there's the whole other thing about the base from getting the getting their feet comfortable especially if it's ah if they happen to have a double bass pedal you want to make sure that the bass drum set up right in the we'll clamp on the double bass pedal is really dead center so that the drums not bouncing around body play you might want to raise the front of the drum lower the front of the drum at maur muffling or increase the tension on the head toe said they're getting the appropriate response off of the base drones that they're comfortable playing there kick you know and that's that's you know that's true with all the drums but especially the bass drum on dh then you know again cymbal cymbal positioning make sure everything's comfortable for the player but also make sure they realize that maybe some of their choices are not so hot for engineering and they might want spread stuff away like when I see todd trainer from shellac plan like because he's always got a symbols like way, way up high and stuff words like you'll see like you know, even something like phil collins hill plays like ride cymbal over there you know? Are you stewart copeland or something and get this the cymbals like very far away from the drums and it's like my my dream thing to engineer or so I've never been a record where I've done cymbals and drums separately but I would love to do that someday so but there's you know thiss tons of techniques you can do to try to minimize symbol bleed into drum mikes and whatnot and I talk a lot about that stuff a little bit in the drum tracking portion of it but mostly in the drum mixing portion tomorrow so we'll talk a little bit about um drumhead selection and tuning so there's a lot of drum heads on the market and you know remo is probably the most popular brand he used that stuff a lot but use evans frequently a swell on dh evans have made some pretty nice advances recently in the shape of the collar of their heads and I think it's really improved improved the their product but yes so so I think the first thing to determine when you're setting up a drum set is kind of a mind to use and most of the records I've done have used either clear or coded emperors for tom's clear diplomats for the bottom heads on toms and if I'm going for like a mork licky orm or like resonant kind of tom sound, I'll go with clear heads that if I'm going for a likable maur like mid range forward punchy kind of tom sound will go with coded heads and then we're also like clears maybe a little more modern code it's a little more classic it also certainly depends on the drum itself to differ drums respond better to different heads I have ah my house kit is ah tempest in vancouver toe five fiberglass toms and those work great with either clear or coded emperors and pretty good with ambassadors to but for some reason not so hot with pinstripes but you know, other kids were, you know, pin striper perfect. So um thank you so you picked now you've picked which kind of head you can use actually one more thing my heads um, I actually had a really great luck with this new evan's head called the black chrome whenever I'm recording you like that one. Yeah, if you're recording like aggressive music, I think they're really good or really anything where you want like a deep thud without a ton of resonance, which is often something I'm you know I might use tape or moon jails or something like that to take like a clear emperor to that like deep study sound fine that the black homes worked really well for that without any additional treatment have you set the new experience yeah so they're cool snare I mean the coded emperors just like the classic snare head and I think that there's a lot to be said in recording for um you know, the history of music that we've that we've been raised on and you know we've been you know, his rock people you know we've been raised on marshall amps and zildjian cymbals and remo drum heads and and that's all like a familiar sound to us so and I think that coded emperor on snare is a very familiar sound which is why I think it's just like using the fifty seven on snare it's a familiar sound and a lot of times we gravitate towards familiarity as being good not always the case but a lot of times to gravitate towards that I don't always use a code number on sneer but it is a favorite of mine and then depending on the snare itself and how bright it is naturally I might go to one of the vintage emperors which is a little heavier weight or never x the on this session tony was using a snare that I made out of titanium and it's super sensitive it sounds rad but it's kind of a bright from seoul, use a little thicker drumhead either, uh, vintage emperor or emperor ex typically on that the last recording I did, I used the new evans g fourteen, which is a really thick, single ply head, which actually works quite well as well. So, yeah, that's ah, story how I feel about drum heads regarding drum teaming that varies widely and it's really the preference of the player, but I find that lower tune drums don't go out of tune faster, but they also have, you know, deeper tone and click your town. Um but, you know, also with less tension on the head that wears out faster, she could be a little careful of low tings higher tunings will last longer and have a little bit more buoying and mohr residence and more like a classic type of sound. So, you know, people talk about when you talk about drums, you know, people always talk about john bottom, and they talk about these huge crumbs he had, but he actually turned them quite high, so he has, like, his toms or not, super deep sounding, they're just they have that depth from the size of the drum, but they're actually tune on a high and he had a lot of residence because he really needed that tight tension in order to get the balance off the sticks that was integral part of his technique so keep keep in mind the drummer's technique as you're helping them two lumps that unfortunately lot of drummers are not really great at tuning, so if you can and there's the million demo videos on youtube what not about trump too? So if you can if you can learn about drum tuning yourself and if you're recording a drummer's not particularly great at on, you can't afford to hire a drum tech than you know you might be called in to be the drum tech on your own record and you know crap goes in crap comes out so you know, get the drums sounding right before you make them because we're trying to avoid at least for the purposes of this course we're trying to avoid sound replacement so you have a drum set set up you have the heads that you like that you feel like are appropriate for the songs we re recording the drummer's comfortable with all the positioning the drummer is comfortable with the tuning, then you want to just kind of sit back in the room and listen to how the drums that sounds in the room with that person playing it and see does it feel like it's appropriate for the songs that they're going to be recording? You know, a lot of times all instrumentalists you know they might love the john bottom sound but they're playing him like a death metal band so like they have this john long in tune kid but it's not appropriate for their songs or vice versa you know it's true for guitarists and bassist is well it's going to make sure that the tones of the instruments are appropriate the song's gonna be recording um and you know also saying the same thing goes for symbols you know thin thick, big small symbols all have a different sound and I typically tend to favor larger thinner symbols I like I like deep tones but I like like sicily sounding symbols I try to avoid the really brash harsh sounding symbols like ze customs and the alphas and the roots and that kind of family of symbols aren't aren't my favorite but some people some people work well with him I mean, I think that with with overhead mike you've got to do with the room making idea I'm always doing things to reduce the amount of symbols that I hear in those mikes particularly the high hats so the thinner sizzle your symbols feel like get out of the way of the toms and sneer a little better than the brash thick symbols do um and again like uh you know the further the symbols are from the drums, the better trump sounds and cymbal sounds to be able to get out of them and then three other thing to think about, too, is how wide is the drum set. And this. This was very much will affect the way that I might get drummed. Say, if they have a lot of tom's. Or if the half a lot of symbols of the symbols position kind of like, because the drummer arrange himself vertically or just drummer, arrange himself. Mohr horizontally, very much affect how you like a drum set.

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.