Drum Mic Placement Intro
So welcome to day three of the CreativeLive Metal Recording Boot Camp. I'm Eyal Levi. And I'm working with the amazing Monuments and the even more amazing Anup Sastry, the drummer and probably the best drum tech ever, Matt Brown who was cool enough to fly here all the way from Orlando. We're in a lay right now. And today we're gonna be talking about microphone placement on the drums. Because, let's face it, drums don't just sound great in a room and your done. They have to sound great in the microphones, and how you place them makes a big impact on the sound. So we're going to be talking about isolation. We're going to be talking about patterns. We're going to be talking about phase. We're going to be talking about the angles. We're going to be talking about the height. And we're going to be talking about the distance of the mics from the drums. As well as how far over the drums they go. So basically, yesterday we went through what we have available to us. How many inputs we have here.
How to actualy tune drums. I think that everyone should watch yesterday's class and take notes. Write everything down you said, and then do it again. And then do it again. Do you think that people should go out and just buy a cheap drum and practice? That's one thing that we didn't really talk about. How do you think that someone could get like really better at that?
I mean yeah, the only way to do, you have to practice. Getting a cheap drum will definitely help in the sense that you're taking something that was maybe not potentially could not sound as good as a great drum. And if you practice enough, you'll eventually be able to get that cheap drum to sound pretty good. And from there on out, working on higher quality drums becomes a lot easier. So I guess in the sense of like, you know, if you're going to play guitar, learn how to play acoustic first so you can build up the strength. And then switch to electric. It becomes a lot easier. Same sense with a lower quality drum to begin with. As long as the edges are secure and straight and sharp, it probably would not be a bad idea.
How about instead of cheap, inexpensive?
Inexpensive is better yeah.
If you can find a mid-line drum that's used but in good condition, that's probably the best way to go.
I think it should be said also that, practicing this stuff should involve actually recording the tones.
Yeah, not just tuning.
Yeah, not just tuning.
The not just tuning the drum, then okay. Let me take the head off and try again. Yeah, you should go through the whole process and see what, you know, get the tuning and hear what it sounds like in the room and then maybe, you know, record it. And that way you know what the mic sounds like versus what it sounds like in the room. And you can start to hear the differences and you'll be able to educatedly guess where you need to go tuning-wise before before you get there.
So I think on the topic of tuning, I think today people are actually going to really see you tuning in action cause we're going to go through all the drums we have available and choose what rules and what doesn't rule. But the thing that I kind wanna get out there though is to, let me just, how long have you been doing this?
Well, I've been playing since I was three, so 37 years. I've experience with drums. And then I've been actively working as a tuning guy for 25.
And how long, I mean, even though you grew up with drums, how long do you think it was before you started to really wrap your head around how to tune?
Probably a good four years of constantly tuning my own stuff and trying to figure out how Dave Weckl got this drum sound or how Neil Peart got this drum sound with only having one drum kit to use. It took a long time. It was a lot of experimentation.
I'm not trying to bum anybody out in the audience, more just say that any of this take a long time.
Yeah, it's just with anything. You have to be able to develop your ear to be able to hear what you're doing in regards to every facet of music. You know, it's not just tuning a drum or moving a fader. You gotta practice on everything. It takes time.
Yeah, I remember when I first started learning how to tune drums. It took me about six months before I got something that was even decent. I still don't think I'm very good at it. But I think that people just need to know that you're not just going to watch this class, write down what he said, and suddenly be awesome at tuning drums.
But you watch what Matt said about tuning drums, write it down word for word and then just keep coming back to it over the course of a year.
You gotta think about it like any educational material. If you were doing this as an internship, you would be going in, watching, and observing on a regular basis, over and over and over. And then when there was free time, trying it out on your own. Yeah, you should definitely approach any classes really with that aspect in mind of, okay, if I really want to get better at this, I have to not only revisit the material over and over and over but I have to practice this over and over and over again. And you know, there definitely comes a point where you start to understand the physics of what's happening, and that will help you make more educated choices of where you want to go for the final product.
Yeah, I know that when I learn something, usually when it's like information overload. For instance, what you talked about yesterday with tuning, if that was the first time I ever heard it, that would be information overload. I know that with information overload situations, I'll take them in, try to understand as best I can, go over it, and then maybe not think about it for like a week. Then try again, kind of understand, and still kind of suck at it. But then by revisiting, there usually comes a day where like suddenly it clicks. And I felt the same way with guitar when I was trying to get fast. You try to get better with scales, and you're sucking, you can't get faster. But you keep at it, keep at it, keep at it, and then one day suddenly you're 50 BPM faster.
Right, a breakthrough happens. Yeah, it's the same thing.
Yeah, so I definitely think that, you know, shameless plugs and everything, but you're going to get the most out of this class if you can actually revisit this material.
Oh for sure.
Because this is a lot of stuff to just try to take in in just one sitting. And so that said, let's get on with it. Yesterday, we went over the heads, how to tune, and they types of drums. So the next step in getting a sick-ass drum tune is to actually put on some microphones and hear where we're at. So we got Adam the drummer to set up his kit how he's comfortable. And we put up a few microphones. Nothing's placed really like in detail. These aren't the final place fits. They're just close enough to know if it sucks, if it's great, or it's close. But before that, let's just listen to some Gojira. Some Josh Wilbur mixes. I think Josh is one of the very best metal mixers there cause that's kind of what the band wants as a reference for the drum tone, so one thing that we always like to do before we record something is to just get some sort of a reference in our mind for where we're going. It's not like you can actually copy it.
No, but the advantage for me as a technician is when you play me a sample of a reference of a track of okay we want the drums to be in this neighborhood. Because I know the drums that we have to work with and the head choices that we have to work with and all that, I can help make that easier by saying oh well that snare drum has a lot of body to it but it's also is a very bright. So we want to go with something that's more of a steel size. You know, a steel drum or the toms or for example in the Gojira theme, the toms are very short. So we have three selections out there that are all short in nature, but there is one that might come out a little better because of how short we want to go with it. And so we'll have to figure that out. But at least we have made the right head selections to know that with the tom sounds, we wanted that open and bright and a lot of punch and low end to it, so we went with clear heads to help all the drums speak in the same type of manner. And now we're relying on the actual drum shell material to dictate that choice for us. And then once we get that, it'll go into okay, what type of muffling scheme are we using to, you know, either make them a little bit shorter or get rid of the overtones, and there's no overtones on that snare drum so we'll have to do a little bit of magic with the snare drum and the the toms. Even if we switch out the drums, we might have to do a little bit more with the muffling scheme on the toms to make them really fit where the reference was.
Well yeah, when you tuned them yesterday, they already sounded pretty good. But I mean honestly, that's just the starting line in my opinion.
Having the drums decently tuned is the starter. From there on, the real work begins in my opinion.
Right and then we also have to address the issue that we haven't talked about yet which is really like the drums on a stand sound different than the drums do in your hand when you're tuning. So it could sound great in your hand and as soon as you put it on the stand itself, the stand is interfering and reacting, or making something sound better. The sound will change once the drum goes on that stand, or the floor tom goes on it's legs. So we'll have to make those adjustments to the tuning at that point as well.
And through a microphone.
And then through a microphone yeah.