Snare Muffling and Close Micing


Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou


Lesson Info

Snare Muffling and Close Micing

You know what, I forgot to talk about some different drum off techniques? I'm actually step back for a second. Um, this is thiss picture actually it's, one of my favorite tricks for drum muffling there's, a lot of different techniques that people use people put, you know, towels on drums or tape some kleenex to ah, drummer, they use duct tape, or they use moon gels, they use wacky wall walkers because they don't want to spend the money on men gels. Ah, no, I think that some of those techniques are great, especially for tom's, although one of one of my thoughts on most muffling techniques is that it will muffle both the attack and the residents of the drum, and in some cases, you want to have a nice, clear, open, crisp attack, and then a muffled residents, and I feel like snare drum tones really polarized people more so than tom and bass drum sounds. You know, some people to them, and open snare sound is a very short snare drum that reacts a lot with the room for other people, and open ...

snare drum sound is a very residents near room that doesn't react so much with the room, or maybe it's some some combination of those two, I tend to prefer less residents near drums that interact with the room, so so tight it's a tight sound up close I think that's because I record a lot of fast music is I don't like when someone's like you know doing a blast being having unlawful snare instead of like that that that that that that that that you get like oh, you know I don't like that kind of stuff, so I tend to go with amore muffled sneer but then I like how that sounds in the room so I get more of my dick a from the room sound so what I'm doing here is actually a trick that I picked up for my friend carl plaster whose he's ah fantastic recording engineer drum tech and believe he currently works as the front of house engineer for blue man group and what he likes to do is to cut up a gold piece of drum head and then take that to the rim of the drum so that when you strike the drum, the drumhead ash the drum move like flap of old old cutdown drumhead will sort of bounce up so when the initial strike of the drum is unrest is undammed but then you know gravity causes that flap to fall back down and rest against the head when it's resonating so it's sort of deadens the residents of the drum but not doesn't dead in the attack and that's been the best technique I found for you for muffling snared with with with my style and you can kind of scale how much you muffle that based on how big you make your flap and you can have multiple flaps or single flaps small flaps but I do it's important you can see on this in this picture how there's a gap in between the the hoop and the flap you want to make sure the flap is free teo to bounce around on sound all right, so that's it for drum muffling so well, any first well before going any questions about science we talked about so far uh was that like tape or something on the head to prevent any kind of noise or the white? The white piece was was a gn old drum head that was cut up it's a bit it's a not a high contrast in this photo so it's a bit hard to see, but what I did is I cut up an old drumhead just any old drum head and made a little rectangle that can sort of float on top of the drumhead and then there's some, uh I think themed duct tape seemed to be the prevailing wind these days, so this is some mustache tape I found probably home people or something so much that moustache taped tio hold the flap in place so close my king uh first thing that's important is choosing what kind of makes you want to use you know, some people of me this condenser mikes just dynamic mike says ribbon bikes and you know, one choose the right tool for the job, so I think you know, going back what we talked about earlier but the history of sound you know, most often in a lot of the records that we like used a lot of dynamic microphones for the close miking you don't have to do that you can use you can use condensers you can use ribbons I don't tend to use a lot of ribbon mike's when close making a drum set just because most ruin mic star figure of eight patterns and um depending on how the drummer sets up his kit, sometimes a figure of eight patterns can be nice because you can use the null of the figure eight to reject and jason symbol but more often than not the uh the backside of your figure it mike is probably aimed directly at a symbol if you do have like minimal microphones to choose from or you're going for a minimal mike set up, which can be great to reduce your phase discrepancies sometimes a figure of eight microphone position in between the thomas symbol is great because you just need one mike to get the symbol and the tom and I think eric valentine is well known for using that technique but it's also very dependent on the drummer's set up I'm going to be mostly talking about generic microphone techniques that should work maybe not always the best thing but techniques that will work regardless of musical style and regardless of the type of drum set someone has set up have fifty times or zero tom's like this stuff will always work it's not always the best but will always work so when it comes to close miking most often on snare drum I'm using either heil pier thirty or thirty one on the top sometimes fifty seven if you can find one the old unit nine fifty seven's those tend to sound better bigger more open than newer fifty seven sometimes we use a buyer to a one buyer to one's probably like the the most condense ary sounding diana mike that I use it's got quite a bit of christmas so if you're going for like a real sicily constantly going sometimes a two a one is the right choice the high lt's my favorite for a bark and then fifty seven is just so like you know you want something that you know is going to sound right and not enough time keeping might go for fifty seven on the bottom of the snare drum I always mike obama's nearby don't always use very much of it in the mix and I'm typically using a sennheiser four forty one and for forty one it's great, just because it's a hyper cardio aid pattern, so it rejects a lot of the bass drum in the high and what not, you know, trying teo colleges his best. I can isolate the drums from each other without doing it in a way that totally inconveniences the drummer so like for forty one bottom when it comes to tongues. You know, this is a lot of great solutions for tom makes a mean sennheiser four twenty ones really popular for tom's. I mostly use josephs and twenty two esses, which is kind of pricey, but they're great sounding likes and that's, the steve albini signature model that josephson puts out and that mike typically positioned kind of, uh, almost along the same plane as the drumhead some I actually don't really know how legit this is, but some people believe that with larger dia framed mikes, that if they're kind of off access from the source, that there's actually a bit of a phase discrepancy within the capsule, I don't know how true that really is, but I do. I have found that positioning those mikes sort of along the same plane as the drumhead works best for me and, um, most records, I do also bottom, like the drum heads on the toms and if I have a small enough kid and I have enough twenty two's I'll use the twenty two for the bottom mike if not I'll use something else the bottom mike is certainly not is crucial as the top mike but it does tend to add a sense of three dimensionality to the tom and I like it I like how it sounds and I'm gonna talk about balancing out the bottom likes a bit um another this was also a lot of other condensers that khun sound great on tom's have a wonder cm seven fete but I used quite a bit especially on floor tom and that's a okay you forty seven fete inspired microphone large dia fram condenser you have to be really trust trusting in your drummer that they have good accuracy and won't won't hit the mic when using like that expensive and fragile yeah they sound cool and it's also a tunnel like sort of poor man's equivalent of those josephs and mike's like the shirt I think is the case and one forty one's pretty pretty red small by frame condense it sounds great on tom's um think audio technical came out with one sort of recently that looks sort of similar to the jos sends aside addressed condenser mike but you know what cases you know you're choosing these mikes not because like so and so used in such a mike on a certain record but you're no, the reason why they chose that, mike was probably like, you know, this guy had a symbol position in that way I chosen, like, with this polar pattern because I could, you know, get it into this drama. It was going to reject that symbol, it's not because they had to have that specific mike, but there's just a property that mike that worked out well for that particular drum kit. And I try to think about that as an engineer in the kid. So then we come teo bass drum, and I feel like I'm never happy ideas from sound. I'm always trying new things and certainly very dependent on the drummer, the bass drum pedal, the base from peter the bass drum heads and you know, whether they want a boom or bang or a click or a thud or whatever, you know, make sure that you understand what it is. They're looking forward to sound and choose try to choose appropriate drums and heads and what not that will work well with that sound. So I would say that my most common inside, based on mike's, are, uh, sure, beta ninety one a, which is a, um a, uh, whatchamacallit pcm microphone meant for highest pee l's the drawback to that mike is, um that it's it's because of the pcm mike it's sort of it's flat inside the drum yeah, you have to use some sort of like a t shirt or a towel or something in the bottom of the drum so that the microphones has something soft to sit on doesn't isn't rattling around inside the drum and it's also it's aimed at the beater but it's also aimed through the head at the bottom the snare so sometimes you get too much bottom stair many's that mike but when I'm recording like a mentally type a band that's usually the closest thing to a finished bass drum sounds to use use that mike for twenty one on a stand into the bass drums comin for me as well as as is a d one twelve dealing twelve is maybe the one of the only like purpose built based on mike's little frequently pull out, I think I think I want to say is actually the first the first purpose built based on mike I think it's pretty common l every every manufacturer seems to have their own purpose built bass drum like, which is already pre queued for a modern bass drum sound typically with most with most things I prefer to do that eating myself and make my own decisions, but I do like to do one twelve and I do like the baby ninety one um and then outside the bass drum, I use all sorts of different things, depending on how organic of atoning, trying to capture if I really want to get a lot of character of the drum, but I'm not looking for mega amount of bottom, and I might use a large diaphragm condenser like that c m seven mentioned earlier or another condenser a lot of times uh, large diet friend condensers aren't great at at handling high spl scent or sound pressure levels when one trick you can do with those is to improve their handling of high output is put a pop filter in front of it. Or you can use the pen trick and they talk about the pen trick actually tomorrow, and we're your time of vocals because it's another great trick to control plo serves on vocals, but let's just say that my water glass is a large life and condenser get a pen, maybe just empty out depends that just has the tube and a rubber band or some tape or something, and then tape thea depend to the center of the microphone that sort of will disperse sounds that are aimed at the center of the diaphragm with a microphone and spreads it out and allows it to handle that. Super super hot stuff without bottoming out? Um, sometimes they'll use a ribbon mic outside of the bass drum, but that's also got to be careful about blowing it off. I've blown up a bunch of questions. I was wondering if you had up variants of microphone to use if the resident had was vented or not invented. Yeah, well, uh, yes, well, typically I d'oh change what I'm doing based on whether it's rented or not, but that has a lot. The choice to use, vented or not vented has usually stems from a drummer's preference and a stylistic preference of the song, so, you know, anon anon invented head. Typically, they're not going for like the modern, super deep, mid range scooped kind of sound that usually going for a bang. In that case, I'll favor something like a twelve as opposed to the one twelve, despite their similarity and name, and twenty two d one twelve couldn't sound more different, and so focusing on like like a non vented head would probably have a less a less scooped us carved out type sound, although sometimes like I'll pull the head off and stick like a maybe ninety one inside the drum and find a way to route the cable through some hole. In the in the shell and get that in there to try to find some sort of compromise which doesn't always work, but actually my buddy alex he has abated ninety one permanently mounted in his basement and he actually instead of like putting into the bottom of the drum he's got it mounted in the top of the drum so it's actually facing the floor so he gets really great rejection of of the bottom sneer on dh he actually played I think he plays with a gn vented resident head on his bass drum, and it works great for him, and I don't even know if he used he does use an outside mike sometimes just just a couple more things on outside my king is, you know, river mike's can be great, and can you really capture the tone of that mic and ribbon nicely nice, too, especially on a four piece kit where the ride symbols kind of over the bass drum. You can angle the ribbon mic down towards the floor and reject use the no point of the top of my to reject the ride cymbal you do have to be careful while blowing those up, going up a couple of lawyers doing that, but the problem with proper positioning, a little more distance and a pop filter in front of it should be safe in the final outside type like that I like a lot is beyond aha sub kick or or some other variant of that which is essentially just a speaker a small attendants will for working in reverse I'm sure at some point you've accidentally plug a set of headphones into the input of your guitar amp and you can yell into your headphones and it comes out like a dynamic mike that's what like intercoms like you go to someone's apartment you press the button it's only one speaker like the speaker is the mob a phone and you know so you're talking you're you're making that speaker resonate that sending a signal up to them and they're making their speaker resonated that sending a signal to you and that's essentially what this speaking reverse thing is but it's it can capture you know this immense amount of bottom end although you have to be careful sometimes because just the mass of this largely here sometimes it can be kind of slow moving so with faster music I don't always go to the sub kick sometimes we'll go with with you know like more of a conventional diana like our lightweight diana mike all right, so um signal processing I don't tend to do a lot on single processing and close mikes in the way and just try to select good my cramps and depending on the drummer from trying to capture a ton of time transience I might use a gnome or open sounding like pre empt that's maybe a little bit brighter maybe it doesn't have a transformer transformer lis mike cramps tend to be a little bit faster or from trying to get more of a away any type of drums said I might go with like a need fbi tried and aching kind of thing I think day king's heir probably my most common close mike drum pre empt I also will sometimes go teo how much chandler my cramps that sort of are inspired by vintage yves my cramps and the vintage am I like gramps and those are all like transformer based stuff taking stuff tends to be a little brighter than any of stuff which which works well I think for a lot of the fast music that I'm recording but certainly not the only choice and so I'll tend to azem azem tracking drums I like I'm not one to put off decision making for later someone who likes to make decisions or at least push myself in the right direction while I'm tracking. So I'm not afraid of doing sneak you in compression on the way in, but I try not to pay myself into a corner so I'll give it like a you know, a couple d b here they're of booster cut or maybe of limiting on the way in just to kind of bring myself into the right zone and I feel more confident about doing that when I'm tracking a band live, when I can hear all the elements happening at the same time as the drum set. When I'm tracking just a drummer by themselves to a scratch track on maybe a little bit mohr less, less heavy handed. So, yeah, just a little bit, a little bit of stuff on the way in, just to, um, you know, push push myself in the right direction to a finnish tone, but not making all the decisions on the way in. And when it went out with any of that stuff, just print extra tracks. You know, it's discourage people from saving decisions for later. But if you're experimenting with someone new and you're getting game pigging out of band, you know, give you give yourself a safety. If you're doing something you're not sure about, just and you have, you have enough inputting enough microphones. You can do it, give yourself a safety.

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.