Drum Micing - Toms


Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy


Lesson Info

Drum Micing - Toms

(drum banging) Alright, I'm gonna listen to the bottom mic on that tom, on the floor tom. (drum banging) Let's see. That one's not so healthy either. So Sylvia, we do have a question while you're doing that. Okay. When you're setting preliminary recording levels, in Pro Tools are you looking for -10, -15, what do you go for? I'm looking to get it just under the yellow. Okay. Because when we actually start recording, the drummer's gonna play harder. So then we'll get into the yellow and hopefully not get into the red. Okay. Yeah. That should be better for the wrap. Should be ready for the... I changed out the mic, if it's not that, then it's the cable and I'll just have another cable ready to go in a second. Okay. I'm working on the... Oh, he disappeared. Alright. Now we've got the top mic on the floor tom is working good. None of the other mics are working. (laughs) So, okay, we got one. Let's see if we can make the top mic on the rack work now. Can you play t...

he rack tom again? Let's see what we got now. (muted drum sound) This is not good! (muted drum) And he just swapped it out, so what's going on here? Where's our buses? Buses are up. (muted drum) Two is working. Did you put it back here or here? I should've put it on the same channel, I just changed out the mic. Yeah, still nothing, nada. I will swap the cable out and go back to channel four then. Great, okay. Hold on, please. Alright, let's see what else we can do in the meantime. We've got a new boombox, so let's go see that it's set up properly. Crossing fingers, the boombox works. Boombox number three. Alright, let's see, what do we got here? Do we have an onboard mic on this thing? Yes, it's over on the side, over by where the input is. Where the output jack is for that. So it's on the far side, to the left. I believe the mic is this thing. I wanna say it's that guy. Oh, uh-huh. Okay. Yes, it says mic right there. Yeah, I couldn't find it for the longest time and then I looked over there and saw it on the side and I was like, well hopefully this should. Okay, and then we've got... Record and play is right there. And you got the little cassette is in there. And pause, okay. (whistling) (clapping) There's no indicator so we don't know if it's working or not. Hm. Battery power, is that right? No, there's a power cable, good. Don't want it to run out of juice. Okay, well, we'll try it. Hopefully it'll work. Scott, are we ready to listen to that mic? Yeah, we should be, the rack tom, right? The rack tom, yes. Go ahead and start playing that rack again, please. (drum banging) Any luck? Still distorted on channel four, I'll try going to channel 10 with it. Okay. Yeah, that's not good. Mm, what is it if it's not, if it's the mic and it's not the cable and it's not the tie line from the recording room to the channel. And if it's not the channel, because we swapped channels. Then it could be the return. We test that, it would be possibly the... Still distorted. So, how about this, we try. It's not a huge level in Pro Tools either. Well, where is it, here? Is it that one? We're looking at the rack. Well that... Let's try another input in Pro Tools and see what happens. Okay? Okay. Let's use the floor tom, let's use the floor tom's... Ah, I know what to do. What's that? To test. We know that this works great and that's going in to bus two. I'm going to sending this into bus two and see what we got. (distorted low drum) Okay, it's ugly as hell but... Let's put the breeze, it's giving you the distortion. So we have a problem with that bus, that's what our problem is, bus one is not good. Or is that bus...yes, that's bus one. So, what other alternates can we use instead of bus one? We have other buses available? The other three buses are taken up by the guitars. Okay. So we could use the other echo send. Let's do that. It's just for this one. Yep, for that tom. So let me patch that real quick. It's tom one. Which was going through bus one. So we're not able to use bus one. So we're gonna go around it by sending these two mics, I wanna sum the two mics together. I wanna sum the bottom and the top mic on tom one together, so I need a bus. If I bus is not working and we've run out of other buses, we'll use an echo send or a reverb send. Whatever's available, we're gonna try that. These old consoles, you know, you gotta love them. And you gotta work with them. It's worth it. Alright, so I'm gonna take that out of bus two. Take it out of bus one and we're gonna send this down fullback one? What does he got? He's gonna have to help. So that's back in to channel four now. Okay. And we should be using echo send two. Echo send two. So make sure the bottom knobs are cranked all the way up. Alright, echo send two on both of these guys, right? Up all the way. And then here's my send, this is my blend right here? No, that's your pre. Oh, is that the pre? There is no... There's no adjustment for that? Oh, I'll use the fader for that. Yep. (low drum) Oh, okay. If I can turn down the mic three. Okay, better, better. Let's see if our bottom mic is working now. Oh yeah. And it's out of faze, good. Alright, we're in business now. Great, could you do back and forth between those two toms. Three hits on the top tom, three hits on the floor tom and back and forth like that. (drum banging) Alright, tom one sounds like we're happy. (drums banging) The level on the floor is a little high. Now the bottom mic on the floor tom is not working. I see it here. I see it here. And we're not getting to the... But we're not getting to the bus. That's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. You know, I suspect that module... You wanna move it down here to 10? Sure, let me do that real quick. 'Cause we can do that. Yeah, I can do that real fast. We'll see if we can work around this problem. He's gonna plug it in to a different mic input. So we're gonna move it and hopefully the bus on this channel will work for us. We're getting close now. Cool. (Sylvia laughs) Alright, and our mic pre is up. Floor bottom is now on 10. Okay. (loud low drum) Oh yeah, oh yeah. Better? Yeah, so that channel is suspect, yep. And now that mic pre needs to come down, it's distorting a little bit. Okay. (drum banging) Oh yeah, nice. But this has to be flipped out of faze. Now we've got some deep tone. Okay, and she's going back and forth between the two. (drum banging) When I'm listening to these two toms, I keep them in mono. I wanna just monitor them right in the middle. I don't wanna pan them it's bing, bing, bing, bong, bong, bong. I'm gonna just listen in the middle so I can really listen to the faze. And make sure, if everything's mono and it sounds even, then we're good. So I'm gonna bring down, seems like the floor is a little louder then the rack. How's our levels? Rack's good, floor is screaming. Screaming, okay. (drum banging) Is that better? Yeah, brought it down here a little bit too. Okay. Oh yeah. (drum banging) Gonna bring that back up a little bit. Alright. Okay. If you could play a beat now, I'm gonna listen to the cymbals and the hat. If you could do a pattern with the hat and go between the hat and the ride back and forth. You don't have to worry about the toms right now. (cymbal and drum rhythm) Hat and ride now. And our hat, where are we? Bam, bam, bam, here we... (loud cymbal) Oh, screaming. That is really loud. Lay pad here. Great, thank you, I think we're gonna need it. No problem. We can run one in line if we need one also, but. Okay, thank you. (drums) Great. (drums) That's good. Let's listen to the ride. We're getting very close now. (upbeat drums) Okay, let's here some ride. Oh, that's screaming. Let's see what we've got here, levels. (loud drums) Oh, that's too hot. (drums) Hat and ride. Okay, still a little hot on that. (drums) Alright. Alright, hold on. What is that noise? There is something very noisy. The rooms, the rooms are really noisy. Oh, it's because I've got that thing cranked. Output, yeah. Okay. (laughs) Okay. Let's see, I think we're at a point now where I could start trying some EQ to improve the sound of the, all the mics are working, all the placement I think it gonna be alright. So now I'm gonna detail the microphones with EQ. Are we getting the boombox? Oh, we didn't check that. Okay, okay, crossing fingers. It looks like it's going, I think I see it in Pro Tools. You do? You're still talking terminology... That must be what's on the tape. What? It's not recording. There's at least some familiarity... That's what's on the tape. Okay, okay. Port's not working on the microphone on the input. Okay. I thought it was paused, so, let's see here. Are you in pause? Yeah, that should be good, how's that? Are you getting anything now? (Scott clapping) No. How's that? (clapping) No, oh, was there something? No. Hey, whoa, what's that? No, that's not anything. Nothing. I just brought the volume up. (Scott clapping) No. (Scott clapping) Well, bummer. Oh, hm. Is it still the Sanyo? No. This is the third one. how can all three of them not work? How can all three of them not work? I think it has to be something else. I have this little tape deck, I should've brought that. You guys need a mic. Yeah. This beef jerky's really good. (laughs) Okay so, alright. Scott. Yes? How can three boomboxes not work? There's gotta be something going on. Well one of them did, it's just that the microphone wasn't working. And then the other two, I'm not sure. You have a genius tech here, don't you? His name is Jay. Yeah. Is he here right now? He's somewhere around. Let's get him. Alright, let me ask him. Bring him in here, we're gonna look at and see if he's willing to take apart one of these things. I Was gonna say, can we take it apart and make it work? It's like, we're so close, we're so close. He's gonna hate this. We're gonna torture him. We should've brought more boomboxes. How many mics do you have set up on the drums right now? Well, talk into that mic. There's many, many mics on the drums. Yes, like 16. Oh, I was gonna go for 19. Okay, Jay, we need help. We have everything working great but the boombox, we've tried three. Oh three, okay. Now the second boombox, which is your boombox that usually lives down here, made a sound. Made a sound. But it sounded like... Here, where's that mic? Oh you got it, okay talk into the mic. Okay. So it made a sound but then it stopped making a sound. So I think that maybe the onboard mic is loose or something. And I hate to ask but... Oh, getting in to that, yeah. So it's not like it popped out of record. No whenever she'd hit the snare, it'd fuzz. It'd go, (crackle noise) But then anything else short of smacking it wouldn't make any sound. What do you think it would be caused by? Sometimes you just hold them underwater until the quit wiggling but. Could be the record button maybe? It's possible. I can take this back to the shop and try a couple of things. Could you, please? Because when it's in record pause. Okay, are you taking the phones out? Yeah, we're taking the headphones out. Yes. I'll also clean that just in case. Alright, thank you. Alright, so we have Jay, the genius tech, he will try... He'll try and make some magic happen. Alright. Crossing fingers. In the mean time, how are you feeling? Great. Would you mind playing another five, 10 minutes? And it will be, just kind of play around, get comfortable this time. I'm going to be getting a drum sound for the song so maybe play the beat of the song and do you have a lot of tom fills in the song? Yeah. Okay, so kind of do those fills, don't bother with the double time, we'll work on that later. But I'm gonna listen to everything and kind of work on kick and snare a lot. Actually, I think I want to put some tape on these toms. I brought you some gels too, if you like. You mentioned something about that earlier. Yes, I wanted to put some tape on the bottom. That's great, we'll put some of these on the top. But let's find the tape, there's tape right there. We're gonna use some tape for the bottom of the tom heads, the heads on the bottom of the toms. These things are kind of gross but they're great. Moon gels. Let's do that. Let's swap one out because this tape's falling off. Oh it is, okay. Thank you. Yeah, no problem. There we go. I'll take some of this too. It's just a little too much. On these toms. Did you need some more? I'm okay. Okay. Alright, we're gonna try to reduce the some of this resident stuff happening on these toms 'cause when you're playing the kick and snare, the toms are just rumbling away. So I'm gonna try to reduce some of that with this tape here. That should help, I'll put some more on the bottom of the floor. And we're getting close. I sure would like to get that boombox working though. Yeah, I Was very excited to see how that'd sound. Yeah. Alright. I'll go back in to the control room now and if you could play just that beat. With fills and stuff, basically the song, what you'll be playing in the song without the double time. Great, thank you.

Class Description

Over the last 30+ years, Sylvia Massy has built a career as one of the gutsiest and most innovative recording engineers and producers. She has worked with legends like Prince and Johnny Cash, and won awards for her work with bands like Tool, System of a Down and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. In this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you will get a peek inside the recording process of one of rock’s legendary engineers. 

While she is a proficient master of vintage gear, Sylvia stresses that great records come not from having the right gear, but from capturing great performances. Join Sylvia as she records a song in the studio with Seattle alt-rock band Thunderpussy, and learn how to work with an artist to capture that magical take in your own work.

Pulling from her years of experience and sharing stories from her newly published book Recording UnHinged, Sylvia will show you:

  • How to get interesting and vibrant drum sounds, using the room and the drummer to your advantage
  • Capturing great sounding guitars at the source, without editing and reamping
  • Pushing vocalists to deliver their best vocal takes 
  • Mixing both in the box and through a console using outboard gear

Sylvia is also known as a prolific educator, speaking and teaching at some of the best recording schools around the world. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the industry’s most celebrated A-list producers. 


Jimmy Foot

This Studio Pass episode with Sylvia Massey covers a lot of ground. From fundamentals like correct mic placement and phase to experimentation with amps, cell phone delay and a few extra parts, Sylvia makes it fun! I have been lucky enough in my career to work with a number of great engineers and producers. I haven't had the opportunity to work with her, but Sylvia is certainly in that category, and anyone who gets a chance to work with her would be a lucky person. This broadcast is the next best thing. Great job there at Avast Studio and fantastic camera work! And as for Thunderpussy; you guys rock!

Marc Felish

Wow, that was such a blast. Thanks so much Sylvia and everyone else for making this such a fun experience. I picked up so many new ideas that I can't wait to try out! Sylvia is such a creative producer, it was so much fun to be a fly on the wall watching everything. Loved it!!

Marcus Soares

Awesome! A great opportunity to pick into the creative mind of one of the greatest and get that kind of knowledge that you can't acquire otherwise. Highly recommended!