Shell Micing Q&A
Have you experimented with the P39? Mike Glennfricker recently reviewed it but only demonstrated what it can do on guitars. Have you tried it?
I don't think I'm familiar with that, who makes it?
I don't know. Maybe they'll - hopefully, so if you asked that question tell us who makes that microphone - the P39. Travis wants to know, do you normally have the 91 really close to the batterhead or further back from the drum?
It's generally further back. I found that by, you know, within the drum there's going to be certain points where the low end is stronger and it's not necessarily about distance from one end to the other. It's about the resonance to the drum. So, it does help to kind of move it around a little bit but generally I try and keep it a little bit further away from the drum, from the batterhead. And one of the reasons for that is, that microphone is picking up almost omnidirectionally, in like a hemisphere around it - it's what's called a boundary microphone. And you get ...
a lot more of the snare in that microphone than you get in a conventional kick mic. That's kind of the one draw back with that microphone. The closer you bring it to this side the more of that you're gonna get. You're gonna really hear very nasty, raspy sound which is kind of coming from the bottom of the snare through the head, so if I can put some extra distance there I will. But you have to gait that microphone if you're gonna process it, in any regard.
Cool. Darcy wants to know, how could you go about getting a boomier kick sound, something like the sound on the "In Utero" album by Nirvana? Sounds like a distant miking, sounds like distant miking but it probably lies within actual drum set. Do you have any insight on that? Have you ever gotten a sound like that?
Just knowing Steve Albini, who's the producer and - I love Steve Albini. He's very interesting to me as an engineer because he's exceptionally well-schooled, he's developed some really pioneering microphone techniques and he uses that to create extremely noisy, raw sounding recordings which is really interesting to me. His method of recording a kick drum is, generally, to do what I started out by talking about, Mike, the batter side of the drum and the outside of the drum. And I think he's quite fond of not having any hole in the drum, which is gonna really increase the amount of resonance. He also likes to tape microphones to the floor for the room mics instead of using them on stands. Maybe in addition, I don't know I've never been in one of his sessions, but I know that is something he does. And he has them quite close to the kick drum and that's probably giving you some of that resonance in the room kind of sound. So, if I were gonna try and do that I would probably start with a fairly large kick drum, no resonant head, and use some room mic as well to get that resonance.
Would a kick out mic be a similar distance to what we have here today, or -
That's really quite close and, again, that's to do with reducing bleed as far as I'm concerned. I think Steve is more of the ethos of embracing bleed and I think he probably wouldn't care so much about - or he wouldn't mind so much about pulling it back. Probably still not too far but I would guess maybe like a foot, just a little bit more like that. Get more of the bloom off the front end of the drum.
Dave Grohl's also one of those drummers that is amazing at mixing himself. And for any drummers out there trying to get a hand on how this kind of works, listen to "In Utero," listen to some other Nirvana records and pay attention to the consistency of the actual drums. It's great because there's absolutely no samples, there's no, kind of, crazy tones happening. You can really hear how Dave plays and that also, I think, contributes to that kind of sound because when you have two heads - no hole on the outside and I don't know what the drum size they use - but there's a little bit more rebound which requires a little bit more control with the feel of the actual kick pedal against the head. And harnessing that is something that he's one of the best at, for sure. Recording drums with Dave Grohl is probably, for producers, just - it's great. It's awesome.
Would you say he's probably not burying the beater, as well?
He's likely not burying the beater. What that means is, when you kick the bass drum instead of sort of laying into the kick and holding it - holding the actual beater against the drum head - you basically would kick and let the beater bounce off pretty quickly. And what that does is, it stops the kick from being dampened. It allows it to really have more resonance and more kind of, almost like a pulse to it that you can hear continue out.
It's actually quite difficult, I think, to hit hard and also bounce back.
It is, but you can practice it with different techniques. And that's the best way to do it. Learn how to at different dynamic levels use different techniques for that so you could do heel down technique with your foot and just kind of very lightly bounce it. Or, if you're gonna hit harder use your leg but practice sort of almost like if you were walking. When you walk or if you're running fast you kind of kick hard into the ground but you quickly pull it up. There's a balance in it that you can sort of figure out to learn how to pull it off the drum and just watch it too. Use your eyes to see like, could I afford to pull the kick pedal back quicker or am I need to bury it for a certain amount of time.
Awesome. About the mic that he was asking about, Mark0 said it's a Heil PR30.
I actually have one of those mics. I'm not that fond of it.
Yeah. I kind of collected all of the dynamic mics that are considered superior to an SM57. And pretty much every company I think has come out with that improved SM57. The PR30 was probably one of my least favorites, personally. I found it to be very dull in the top end, and the presence peak was kind of in an area which wasn't flattering to me. It wasn't bringing out the airiness of the drum. It was kind of making it quite - I don't know. It just wasn't pleasing to me. That said, you can probably get a great result with it. I know a lot of engineers love it. Personally it wasn't for me.
Raul wants to know, where the moongel is on the snare - it's right below the top mic - is that intentional? Does it make a difference if it's right there or somewhere else on the snare?
I don't really think it's gonna matter that much. It's just kind of habit for me to put it there. It seems to me to be a place which is so out of the way that it's definitely not gonna get knocked in some way. It's stuck to the head, but it might come off at some point. I will say probably before we track we'll cut it into smaller pieces and kind of spread it over the drum. But, you can experiment with that stuff. To me, again, a bit like the snare mic placement you can get a different sound. But it's not gonna make or break your snare sound as long as it's within a sensible area.
Eric wants to know, does using foam to avoid hi-hat bleed ruin the top or the high end of the snare top mic?
No, and that's something which I'd really like to do. I don't know if you maybe saw a video posted by Alex Rudinger which was from a session which I just did. And pretty much every comment is, what is that thing between the hi-hat and the snare. That is - I really like to do that. Unfortunately, we don't have suitable foam around. I found - if anyone knows where there is in this studio I'd be happy to utilize it but I quite often will take a pop filter and attach it to the stand here and then get some big foam and just tape it around - it's very cave man style. And then I kind of just put it somewhere which is gonna block the line of sight between the hats and the microphone, and that's gonna reduce - It doesn't really make the hats quieter but it takes out some of the top end information. I don't find that it has any negative effect on the sound of the drum. Again, maybe if you want to do an A/B test you might find something, but for me the far more drastic difference is that the hi-hat has got way less top end.
Cool. Henry want to know, can you comment on the difference between bass drum hole or port hole placement in the middle or on the side. Does that make a big difference? And if so, why?
If you've got a central port, as I was explaining, the air can kind of rush straight out. It means you can put a little bit more tension on to the front head, get it up to a discernible note but you're not gonna get too much rebound back. Now, I know that's a personal thing that you dislike. And I think a lot of drummers don't really like the feeling of the drum kind of - I'm not a drummer - but I guess it's like pushing back on you, almost. And just a bit too lively, like you wanna -
It's like bouncing a basketball, in a way.
Right. So, doing that allows me to get more tone from the front head. But at the same time, the sustain is shorter. There's really nothing wrong with putting a port on the side. - so many recordings are done that way. Lot of the recordings we've done are being done that way. This is a very new thing that I've been doing just the last few sessions, maybe I'm gonna stop doing it - some point. I'm enjoying it for now and we'll see what happens with that.
Cool. One last questions then we'll keep cruising. Cody wants to know, I've noticed that Taylor Larson sometimes puts his snare mic pretty far back from the snare, I've especially seen this on some older Travis Orbin sessions, what do you think about that? Do you think it's only doable because of Travis' kit setup?
Well, I think well for one knowing Taylor I know that he's gone the opposite direction now. That was how he kind of used to do things. Just to go on a site for awhile. If you go on one of your forums or engineering forums, you'll see a lot of people talking about getting more distance away from the drums and that is a really good way to record drums. But, again, in terms of bleed it really works against the sound. It might be great for a lighter style of music and that's probably what those guys are talking about. But specific to rock and metal, to me there's a huge benefit in getting the mics really close up on the drum in terms of getting rid of the bleed as much. And also, you get a bit more of the natural proximity effect to the microphone which is a bass boost which you experience when you put most microphones close to a source. So, I know Taylor maybe used to do that. But, these days he goes a hell of a lot closer than that. It's really quite far over the drum. A lot further than I go.