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Drums: Gain-Staging

Discussion in 'Drums' started by ThirdBird, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. ThirdBird

    ThirdBird Active Member

    How hot should levels be going into the DAW? Peaks at -20? Should I make all close and far mics the same? Any other thoughts?
  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Average levels around -20 to -18dBFS. Lower if necessary to accommodate peaks. Get your levels correct regardless of mic distance.
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    you need to be more specific when you post. let us know what you have in mind. how many mics? never mind which mics at this point. how many channels on your interface? never mid what type of interface or what sample rate you will use. how many tracks can your daw record in one pass? it doesn't matter which daw you have.

    there are many ways to approach recording drums. if you have the channels you can record each mic to it's own track. set levels to no more than -16 (-20 works too!). near or far doesn't matter set all mics to this nominal point.

    or you can use several mics to 4 tracks, kick /snare/ overheads l-r. in this case you will have to blend the levels to a suitable "pre mix".

    overall i think you may be obsessing on this all a bit much. bottom line, record something that sounds good to you ... do it again and again. along the way, you are going to find something that works for you.

    have fun with it. you might as well because there ain't no money left in it at this point. best to you .....

  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    what has been said is right for 24bit, if your in 16bit you might wanna go a little hotter, but either way clipping sucks, and headroom is your friend
  5. Mo Facta

    Mo Facta Active Member

    Some have disagreed with me but I set my gains as close as I can get to the final balance. For instance, I wouldn't track the hi hat mic as loud as the kick and snare. What I go for is to have a relative balance with my faders at unity (0dBfs), especially if it's getting mixed by someone else. That way, when the project it pulled into his system there is a rough balance between the microphones and instruments without having to make any adjustments.

    I usually have my peaks hit -12dBfs or so. 20dB of headroom is a bit much for pop music, IMO. I adjust the headroom needed based on the material.

    Cheers :)
  6. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I may have been one to disagree, but it turns out on closer inspection I end up doing something similar on some tracks, though it's usually at mixdown. Some signals just lend themselves to being mixed with gain instead of volume.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Mo Facta, they were talking average levels at -18 or -20.
    But I see you! I'm more checking the peaks than the average level, since I use no compressor between the preamps and converters.

    For a drum, peaks at -10 -12 is a fair ajustement.
    The most important thing is that you don't ever cross 0db and get digital garbage..
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    To echo and add,

    I personally believe there is very valuable spacial information between -18 and 0 that we that we don't necessarily see or notice or take advantage of.
    I think the glue (life and distance) between a performance lives there. Its a balancing act.

    As an example: harmonies, cymbals, strings with more spacial headroom sound better to my ears when you leave more headroom. Just like proximity.

    I also don't think keeping this extra headroom is important at times either.

    For example:
    If the spacial info is bringing along of poor room and dead chemistry or needs a more forward nature. Who cares about it, get rid of the noise and add your our space via a Bricasti or fav process.

    I approach headroom like I do reverb and proximity. If I want something to be a supportive roll, wider, deeper, further away = a bit more headroom beyond to norm sounds great to me. But, the basic -20 thereabout rule seems to produce a fuller mix.

    I guess what I am also saying, I don't track everything to be exactly -20 but I never go past -10. . If it sound right and works out that way, its somewhere between this all.
  9. Mo Facta

    Mo Facta Active Member

    It was bouldersound who mentioned average levels. I just would like to add that the drum peaks would have to be very high to achieve a -20 or 18dBfs average level at the individual channels. So on that, I disagree. Drum waveforms are very short and transient-heavy so average levels mean very little beside what's happening at the master bus or drums sub-group. Peak levels are far more important.

    I would say keeping a -18 or -20dBfs average level at the master bus while mixing is best practice. If you're using the K-System, it might be a -14dBfs average level.

    Cheers :)
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    on most systems -18 would be the equivalent 0 dB on a professional analog machine running ay +4 db levels.

    when i was printing to 2" analogs i would try to keep the average levels to -10 unless i was seriously attempting to saturate the tape ... so, anything from -28 to -18 in digital would work.

    in my work on digital i always print individual tracks at about -18 and that leaves plenty of level without any danger of clipping.
  11. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Followed immediately with, "Lower if necessary to accommodate peaks."

    If the signal crosses the -18dB threshold fairly often and doesn't clip then it's good enough. I'm willing to define "average level" loosely enough to use it like this.
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    at the studio i use -15 (dbfs) as my average peaking point for most things. reason: there is a bold line on the meter bridge of the mackie d8b and it is an easy visual reference point. by 'average' peaking i mean when the drummer is going the meter dances around -15. generally i try to keep it peeking around there, and hovering the lower, w/ the occasional hit above it. the hat and ride i tend to keep a bit lower, than the kick/snr/oh/rm, because they just tend to cut well, and alot of drummers just freaking bang the cymbals so hard.

    it's basically just a convention that was instructed by the owner as to levels. but alot of the pre's have alot of headroom so while those may approach -3 on their meters my concern is not clipping the converters.

    i used to just use the gain knob almost as an eq when i first started, i'd just turn the thing till it sounded good to me. i learned about cassette tape saturation, and more importantly my lesson back then was looking at the meters being like uber peaked constantly (tascam portastudio 424mk3) and thinking 'oh that's wrong', then i'd play back and barely have a signal going way too conservative. my limited experience has shown me that ears are always the final judge (cliche) but i personally feel that digital levels tend to be a bit more scientific, than analog level setting. but there is still creativity involved either way. different setups will thin out sooner or later than others so i think it's pretty much agreed in general that if your going into digital somewhere between -20/-12 are the extremes of recording levels, in general.

    i think alot of cats are like me who think 'tape' think 'really tapey'. because i came into at the last possible moment of tape (cassettes) i think it's just burned in that it has a huge sonic imprint. and used consumer machines. where the cats who been recording before i took a breath, on the pro stuff aren't/weren't going for tha tape sound, rather trying to minimize it, seeking higher fidelity.

    like when i talk to that dude phil, he always says you wanna record your snare and hats at -10 (on a VU) to preserve your transients to tape. he'll actually recite his preferred levels for each drum, and a helluva lot of instruments. i think he liked the deck overbiased to +3 or like 3.2 or whatever.

    i always find these things interesting, because of sheer differences, and perhaps similarities of tonal change w/ gain given different systems. i think thats what audiokid was illuding to.

    one quote i really like is "just when they got analog right, they went to digital". and while it may or may not be true, it seems to speak overall to the obsession of the involved artists/technology developers to constantly seek improvement. and it's funny, cuz there are cutting egde, and nothing has been as good as, types all over who are successful. i personally love when i don't have to edit takes digitally, so i can imagine how much i'd despise it w/ a razor blade. i don't wanna go into any sort of a vs d crap at all, but i think that amidst the technical basics there is room for preference, and certainly no rules, just guidelines to how 'they' are doing it.

    the day i can make a recording sound as good as an old collective soul album, or as amazing as a tori amos album, i'll have reached my first goal, which is commercial bug label quality, the day i surpass that, is the day where i will say i'm 'really good'. lol then i'll suck again for a while trying to blow that outa the water if i ever get that far!

    anyway srry to make the post about 'me', but i don't think anyone is on the wrong track as far as drum levels go on this one so far, at least on a technical level
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Speaking of Drums: Here is a mix I'm just finishing, (just for you Kyle!) :wink:

    Featuring on Drums : Ryan Hoyle (Collective Soul) amazing playing and song

    (Dead Link Removed)

    These are anywhere from -24 to -10
  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    man that dude is tight on the kit, right alongside danny carey from tool, or the dude from 311. totally different sound than that 90's high pitch snare and/or piccolo sound. i'm not sure how it was recorded or mixed, but there is a point where the drums are on the ride cymbal, and it's ring is so consistent, it sounds like a pad for like 15 sec.

    i freakin love the well tuned splat on a fat snare drum sound, i think i'm hearing some decapitator on the organ style sound, maybe on guitars vox too? just on the usual laptop w/ trashy speakers.

    dudes like who play like that kinda define a certain drum style sound to me. it's cool. it has a way of precision w/ out being sterile.

    cool stuff man.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I mixed it

    Sent from my iPhone
  16. Mo Facta

    Mo Facta Active Member

    Noted. I meant no disrespect.

    Cheers :)
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