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fat '80s snare sound

Discussion in 'Drums' started by Nutti, Feb 5, 2013.

  1. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member


    I've been trying to get the fat, long snare sound used in the 80's for a while now but with no success. Like when listening to queen - to much love will kill you, how do you get that kind of sound? I understand that most of it is in the snare itself with depth and size. I've got a pearl export stell snare that i think is 14x5,5" with evans power center reverse dot tuned low and a evans resonant skin bottom tuned higher. Is it possible to get the sound with this or does it need to be a wooden snare?

    What about the magic of eq, compressor, reverb for this sound? Micplacement? 57 top and bottom?

    Thanks for any tips on this one!
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    ok here's how we did it back then.

    tune the top head as low as possible (sometimes it would even start to wrinkle) and dampen it with an old wallet taped to the head. the snare strings should be tight.

    that should get you there.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    to add to Kurt's excellent method,

    A lot of 80's sounds were also, samples triggered from Linn, Akai MPC60, Emu so don't rule that out either. I haven't listened to the example you are referring to but don't rule that one out, ever. And the 80's were heavy on reverb and gates.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i forgot to mention as BT says sampled snare. the big rage then was the Roger Nichols "Wendell" computer to trigger snares and kicks. check Steeley Dan records for that ... "Hey Nineteen" is a perfect example.

    whta are you doing awake at this hour Chris ???? :confused: i thought i was the only night crawler around here ....
  5. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    The snare drums of the day were deeper than 5.5" too. I remember more of them being metal than wood, and 7" or more in depth.
  6. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Hey thanks all. I tuned the snare by tightning lugs by hand and then 1/4 by key, it got wery low :)

    No to the afterwork...I don't want to go with samples, I would like to get the sound with the natural recorded sound. Would someone like to give it a try with a raw clip of my snare if I upload it on dropbox? I figured it would be the easiest way of learning if someone eould make an "correct" sample clip and describe how its done, that way I could hear what you did and not just read tips on it.

  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    don't forget the wallet. it's a very important part of the method. it should be leather btw ...
  8. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    I listened to hey nineteen but that wasn't my goal...I thought more of an ballad snare, the ones with endless reverb that seems to get the drum to ring until next stroke. Altough it was a nice fat sound in hey nineteen it was to short for what I had in mind
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Steely Dan is famous for that "dry" sound. Fagen and Becker very rarely used any kind of reverb, tending to lean to the dead room sound. still the snare is the same typical deep / low tuned tone sans verb.

    you can do the low tuned / leather wallet treatment and then add some verb perhaps gating the aux send on the way to the verb to prevent the rest of the kit from bleeding ..... go for a 225 millisecond verb with a little pre delay.
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I've been listening to all my Steely Dan Albums for the last month here. Man I loved those days. Hey, I had a drummer friend who played with the Bob Lukas Trio in your area (80's) Kurt? Do you know him Kurt? Anyway, They used Dead Ringers for that sound.

    Maybe that would help here?
  11. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Gated reverbs and reverse reverbs were also in vogue at the time.

    Here's one gated reverb tutorial I found with samples of what they're talking about for every step: How to Create an 80s Gated Reverb

    Dig around and you might find what you're looking for on that site.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    To add to what Dave and others have already,

    I just listen to the queen track - to much love will kill you and that's a pretty basic live snare too me. Tons of reverb with low end and what Kurt said will get you there.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Lots of those 80's tracks also used equipment like the Linn 9000, EMu, Synclavier or the Fairlight system. Sampling was big in those days, especially with snare drums.

  14. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    don't forget them noise gates :)
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Mario brought up what I was going to talk about.

    I happen to love my drum recordings. KEPEX 1's I still use. And they are usually after my 1176 or DBX 165 A depending upon what kind of sensor, be it peak or RMS and whether I want FET or VCA. And some EQ. And you get these mind blowing bass drum and snare drum sounds. And I frequently do likewise with the tom-toms. And most of the sound of the drums are coming from the overheads. I don't care if the gate clips off a bit of the leading peak. The overheads catch that. And then you get all the meat from the drum.

    To be honest, I've never really enjoyed recording many metal snare drums. I like wood. I definitely got a good laugh about Kurt telling you to use the wallet. I think most of the good engineers here like myself, figured that out back in the 1970s LOL? And tune them low. Some drummers would bitch over that. They would lose the feel they were so accustomed to.

    One of the best drum recordings I made was from this studio cat I worked with in Fort Lauderdale/Miami. This guy brought in one of the smallest, most worn out looking, virtually cruddy drum sets. 18 inch bass drum. It was the most glorious drum set I have ever recorded! My god how huge it sounded! And it looked like a joke. It looked like he bought it from a pawn shop for $50. It sure didn't sound that way. And I used my cursory Sennheiser 421's on both the bass drum and the snare drum. And I'd use them on the tom-toms if I had enough of them at that studio which I didn't. So I covered those with SHURE SM-53's from like 1971, in 1979. And those worked fine. I do not use, have never used, do not plan to use any drum samples anytime in my foreseeable future. I don't need samples. I make samples. And I don't need to make any samples when I'm working with competent quality musicians. We are not Steely Dan. Steely Dan is Steely Dan. So I use copious amounts of reverb and room simulators/simulations. And I don't want just any reverb. I really only like true plate reverb. And I had trouble parting with that even though I was enjoying using those Lexicon reverbs. And that's another aspect to the drum sound that was part of that huge 1980s snare drum sound, are a real gated plate. And not just a preset or pushbutton you smash on a Lexicon. You had to construct that for yourself.

    Now no one here has mentioned the bottom snare drum microphone? And that was also part of that 1980s sound of the snare drum. Everything from 57's to Sennheiser MKH whatevers. All of which were phased inverted. And with that, you get big fat snare drum. And I also frequently invert the phase of the bass drum microphone because it's inside the bass drum on the back side of the batter head. You don't put microphones in any other drums that way, so they all remain in phase including the overheads. This will give you no flabby sounding bass drum. Which is fine for some things. But when you want that CPR like banging on your chest, invert the phase of the bass drum. And then EQ, compress and gate. And you can hear some of what I'm talking about at my website of, crowmobile.com . You will need Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or newer or, Google Chrome. And you'll hear what I'm talking about from these live for broadcast mixes and recordings. It really tightens up the drum set. I always use them. Not necessarily for jazz or anything other than rock 'n roll.

    I always gate or rather, downward expand all vocal tracks as well. You'll always get to wash of the drum set and everything else into the vocal microphones. This makes for really crappy sound. But when you add your downward expansion sometimes erroneously referred to as gating (a gate is on or off. Downward expansion can be set to a preset level of gain reduction.) And all that wash and all that bleed now, it is no longer ruining your recording. Because the lead vocalists microphone (and backup singers) are virtually off until they utter a sound. At which time the gate opens and tracks their vocal with the proper release time so as not to hear the gating/downward expansion. And no more bleed wash. And I'm using lots of compression on the lead vocal that brings up yet more background wash. So the downward expansion a.k.a. gating is critical. Otherwise everything will sound like little Bobby made a recording of his seventh grade rock band, with the school's equipment LOL. And you don't want that. That's amateur hour sound. So making a great sounding natural recording has nothing to do with natural at all. No one wants to hear natural. It's a misnomer. We might express it as sounding natural and when it was hardly a natural process to develop. But that's the beauty of the voodoo and black magic of audio engineering. And you know you've done all of this wacky processing well when everybody tells you your recording sounds natural. If you try to approach things in a sensible normal and natural way, you generally will get dreck. It might be technically accurate? But nobody will want to listen to it. So all of that clinical technical nonsense goes out the window. You don't tweak the knobs the way you think they should be. You tweak the knobs until you get the sound you know is the right sound. And you might have to keep referring back to other peoples previous CDs? You've got to have some kind of a reference. You can't use yourself as a reference. Unless you're maybe, me? But I'm also using my own recordings as a reference along with all those other superstar engineers' recordings. And I frequently refer back to these recordings in the middle of mixing. You need to regroup and reset once in a while.

    It's a good way to go.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    hi guys!

    remy got it what i was talking about. I want to learn to produce the sound without samples.
    i was at the studio the other day and ran into problems. First of i use cubase, so i dont have aux, but i used a fx track instead. So i routed the snare to that and added reverb to the fx track then added the gate. Problem: I dont have a side chain funktion that can listen to the original track. So does anyone know of a gate that would have this funktion? Free vst would be prefered...

    forgot to mention that this is a studiotest with mixing in the box :/
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    When you gate the reverb, you don't necessarily need a sidechain. It's the level at which you set the gate to open. And it's the release time in which you choose for the ultra quick decay. So it's really how you set the threshold on the gate which actually requires no keying.

    I think I've seen some Pro tools like gates in software that do allow for a keying input. Which we also did with the hardware KEPEX 1's, back in the disco days when you were adding a 60 Hz sine wave to the bass drum. And we would key the gate from the sidechain, with the bass drum and adjust the decay accordingly to match the bass drum. This gave you more of what you wanted for dance music. I only did that a couple of times. I really didn't care for that. It works for that application but I considered it bogus engineering. But you did what the client wanted. It was a popular thing to do of the times with that particular gate made by Allison Research later Valley People. And I really have trouble understanding why I do not see better and more effective and downward expanders in software? I mean like what? No decent gates in software? What are these guys doing or not doing? What they did not learn enough about recording to write good software for real engineers? Can't they come up with all of this other nonsensical folderol? I know I cannot live without downward expanders and gates. I started playing with them in 1973. I didn't realize the value of them until 1978. And I really cannot find anything that does what that old KEPEX 1 can do? And while I use software dynamics GUI's to draw my own downward expanders and gates, I just find this rather peculiar and somewhat clunky to do in software. I make it work, sure. I still like those 40-year-old gates. And they mush up the sound ever so slightly which works well for digital today. Basically it's a discrete transistor VCA of the earliest type. Even before LED's were born. Those had neon lights and also required an additional 100 V DC power supply. Later to be modified to accommodate those newfangled LED's, which I had to do of four of my eight. And which I've had for almost 30 years. I don't like working without them. I can get by with my software ones now that I have kind of worked that out. But because of the GUI, I cannot get as fine an adjustment on the threshold as I could from a simple knob on the hardware device. Because you can not zoom the linear display of the GUI for finer control of the threshold. And so it takes longer God dammit. That's not progress. That's audio retardation playing happily with itself. And nobody's stepped up to the plate worth a damn in that area of software. Not that I have found? I found one recently that looked a little more appropriate but I have yet to really play with it much. The GUI looks a little more like a hardware device. And adjustments appear to be straightforward. I believe that includes a key input? So then you need only work out the routing in your software.

    Another possible way or workaround for the lack of a key input is to simply duplicate the track into another timeline. Not sure though how the rest would work out without trying it first myself? I can't even quite remember who created or issued it? It was a free download which was cool. And due to brain damage beyond my control, I have forgotten which computer I loaded it on? It's on one of those four machines. And I've been waiting for a good downward expander/gate so you'd think I would have been playing with it? I've never played with it yet.

    Of course none of this stuff helps when you don't have a good drum that sounds good to begin with and your recording has a lot left to be desired. And while this technique can vastly improve that which is not great, it is certainly not the be-all end-all to a good drum sound. Sometimes cheap drums will always sound like cheap drums and no sound is specially poor if they are not tuned right. Everybody also uses these new crazy drum heads. I still prefer an old Remo Ambassador standard drum head skin over any of those specialized whatchamacallit's. I remember those fluid filled Evans drumhead's. Everybody thought those were the bees knees. I never liked recording them. They just did not offer up the tone like a Remo Ambassador Whether King head, did. But that's just personal taste. But those are the heads I got my best drums sounds from.

    You can take that with a grain of salt
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    actually the Dyna-Mite is available as a plug in now .... that's a killer gate / expander as well as a nice vca comp.
  19. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Really? A plug-in. Originally made by Valley People a.k.a. Alison Re-search makers of the KEPEX 1 & 2 and then that. So maybe that's what I've been waiting for all these years? Cool. I did not know that. Unfortunately, not cheap, $220 as much for the hardware unit. That'll be here long after the software is gone. Nevertheless, it looks like just the ticket. Now I just need more work that will accompany the cash necessary for that purchase. And then I might be in hog heaven? Yeah baby.

    And finally!
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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