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How to get a really good drum sound LIVE

Discussion in 'Drums' started by damianepic, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. damianepic

    damianepic Guest

    I've been talking to a lot of drummers lately about getting a good drum sound at live gigs and it seems that a lot of them have the same problem. Even with the use of various dampners etc there still seems to be a problem in getting a good in particular tom and bass drum sound. For example we are using sennheiser e604's on the main kit and AKG D112 on the bass drum. We are also using DBX 266xl Compressor/ Gates with the kit to try and achieve that BIG sound. This is probably down to operator error mostly but is their an idiots guide or something similiar to getting a good drum sound live using compressors etc or even without using them. Cheers in advance.
  2. rockstardave

    rockstardave Active Member

    add some reverb to the toms
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Caution: Old guy talk coming on.

    Back in the day recording engineers tried to get recordings to sound like a live drum set. With the advent of lots of tracks it became possible to mike each drum separately and modify each sound individually. These individual sounds gradually got to sound less and less like an actual live drum. They got "bigger." People liked these sounds and for many these sounds became the standard by which drums are judged. Some of us are a bit bored by it, but we are a very small minority.

    The problem with getting these sounds live is that they are not the sounds made by real drums. To get them you have two choices. (1) Repeat the process with which they were produced in the studio: mic individually, gate, compress, eq. This takes a lot of equipment and a good sound monkey who can make adjustments in real time. Go back and read the threadson recording drums and transfer to your live equipment. (2) Use triggers and samples. There are those who think this is cheating. F*%# them if they can't take a joke. It's no more cheating than using a rack of pedals on an electric guitar.

    Good luck.
  4. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Ah, the ever-elusive live drum sound...And yet another old fart chiming in.
    The trick to a good drum sound is:
    Good drums+properly-tuned drums+a good drummer. And that last one will supercede the others. I work with a drummer who can get a great sound out of a kit that hasn't seen a tuning key in an eon.
    As far as those mics you listed are concerned, the D112 is the last kick mic I'd use. They are very sensitive to their relative placement, and make it super-easy to get that "bouncing basketball" tone when you don't want it. In fact, the ONLY time I'll use that mic is when the drummer provides it and knows exactly where it should be placed. And even then, I know a place where I'd like to put it...!
    I don't know how many of the dbx266's you are using, but I'd limit their use (pun intended) to 1 channel on the snare, the other on the kick. Set them so that they are only "nipping" at the peaks with a 3-4 dB GR on the meter. The 266 is not known for its' headroom or gating action, I'd minimize its' use here.
    Finally, there's this train of thought with a lot of drummers that the more the mics you have on the kit, the bigger the sound. Nothing could be further from the truth. Try using (3) mics:
    And a single overhead.
    You might be surprised at what that rig can do.
  5. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    That is your problem. what sounds good to the drummer behind the set doesn't sound good to the audience. It's all about sounding NATURAL as was pointed out. I don't compress toms. I usually compress the kick. I usually compress the snare. Cymbals don't (shouldn't) need compression. When it comes to micing, try micing the edge of the snare and toms.

    And most importantly, as moonbaby said,

  6. allenk

    allenk Guest

    Try using (3) mics:
    And a single overhead.
    You might be surprised at what that rig can do.

    Moonbaby- I have thought about micing my kit that way. I compress the kick drum only. Everytime Ive put compression on the snare even in small amounts I lose dynamics. Thats what really seperates good drummers from decent drummers. Drummers have to learn to play even dynamics with both hands, how to hit the drum to pull the sound out, not bash into it like most drummers with no training. This goes a long way in getting a good sound from the drum. (Watch Vinnie Colaiuta, he plays hard but with perfect dynamics and finesse.) After that no need to be real technical or overplay. Most people (unless your playing a gig in front of other musicians) will not notice anyway. Lay down that back beat right on the 2 & 4 and your golden!

    Moonbaby- What kick and overhead mics do you like?
  7. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Hogwash. Even the greatest drummers are compressed. The greatest bassists are compressed. The greatest vocalists are compressed. The greatest guitarists... well, electric guitars are already really compressed. :lol: Josh Freese is very compressed, along with Ty Smith and Brooks Wackerman. These drummers could wipe the floor with just about anyone else. Sure, we're not talking nuclear limiting, but they are very compressed on everything I've heard them on. Great tone = bashing the crap out of drums. Of course, there is technique to this, because no one wants any broken wrists and/or drumheads and cymbals, but if you're hitting the drums really hard to get good tone out of them, then guess what? You're gonna need a lot of compression; I don't care how good you are, and I don't care what style you play. Hitting drums softly will never get great tone, unless you're one of those people who think that those old, paper-thin jazz and classic rock drum sounds are good, and then I think you need to get your hearing checked. :D
  8. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    SERIOUSLY old fart chiming in... with 46 years behind the kit.

    1. Try different heads on top and bottom
    2. Tune the drums to the fundamental tone (most drummers tune the drum well below, or well above the correct pitch)
    3. Let the drums ring... only dampen overtones
    4. Squeeze the hell out of the kick
    5. Squeeze the snare more
    6. Try 4 mic's.... kick, snare and a pair of OH's, with the OH's just above your shoulders... (google the string method)
    7. Use a smaller stick (I use a 7A and can usually cause people to wince in pain if I really lay into it) but a smaller stick with the proper technique will give you more control and a richer tone out of the drum... and you DON'T have to wail the piss out of a drum to get a good tone, if you're worth a $*^t, that is.

    You should be able to match the volume and energy of the music and your tone shouldn't change. If it does, you need to work on your technique, tuning and/or different heads and/or a decent set of drums.
  9. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Well, let's see. I have a Heil PR-40, a couple of A-T ATM25's, E-V RE-20's, a few Sennheiser MD421's, a Shure 52, an Audix D6. I have used others, too. As for the OH, I like the Shure SM81, E-V RE-200, and in a pinch, the venerable Sennheiser MD421 does pretty well, too. And I have to say that a bit of compression-like I said "nipping the peaks"- helps the snare stay in "the pocket".
  10. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Can you prove this argument? Let's apply this to the acoustic guitar: playing softly and loudly will have the same tone, or, only the volume will be changing. That is obviously not the case. People who play acoustic guitars softly have anorexic tone, because they aren't moving the wood and air. The louder you hit the drum, the more overtones will come to the surface (I don't know a better way to word it), and the more the wood itself will resonate. Sustain also will be better for obvious reasons. I realize that sometimes bashing drums is not an option due to people having delicate ears (I go through this every Sunday and Wednesday at my local fellowship :roll: ), but the more air you move, the fuller the tone will be. Think of it like a bowl of water; if you plunk a drop in, you get a few surface ripples, but if you drop more water in the bowl at once, you get more of a disturbance. The same thing happens with sounds waves. DRUMS SOUND VERY DIFFERENT WHEN HIT HARDER. And yes, there is a right way to do it; a lot of drummers these days will leave the stick in contact with the heads too long, thus choking the head resonance and cramping the tone, so to speak. But when proper technique is used, there is a definite tonal difference between loud and soft hits.
  11. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    My thoughts:

    If I stand in a room and mutter something, I won't hear the reflections from it.
    If I stand in that same room and yell the same thing, I WILL hear the reflections.

    The echo is there in both cases - but because the muttering is so quiet, the reverb (which is maybe 30dB down from the original speaking volume) falls too low to be heard by the human ear.

    If you amplify a soft tom hit, it'll sound like a harder hit. There might be a slight variation in the sound but that's more to do with the change in the way the drum gets hit.

    To clarify, 40dB with reflections at 40-30dB is going to sound dry.
    90dB with reflections at 90-30dB is going to sound pretty wet.
  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    You can cherry pick from all the responses above, there's certainly lots of good information there - but there are too many variables to say "do this, buy this, and you will reach drum nirvana tonight".

    I have the great pleasure of working with a GREAT veteran drummer who:

    A) keeps good heads on his kit,
    B) who knows how to tune his drums with the very best of them,
    C) uses very little damping, just a little moongel here and there,
    D) has several kits and brings the one best suited for the venue,
    E) owns good mics, - but nothing spectacular
    F) and he can really, really play.

    Using the mics you listed (more or less), and no compressors and no gates, he sounds like a million bucks when we use my PA, and when we're doing the occassional big outdoor show through a pro tour-caliber system. Through the tour system, he still uses his own mics and the most jaded high-end soundmen will say, "come look at this, there isn't any EQ on his drum kit anywhere and it sounds amazing".

    The e604 wouldn't be my first (second, third, or fourth) choice for snare. It's a little dark for my tastes on the snare, but it will work OK. The e604 works really well on a well-tuned tom. As noted, the D112 is not a mic you can put just anywhere, but it's capable of sounding great.

    Hopefully the drummers you're dealing with have the appropriate tone for the style of music they're playing. If they do, there are specific mics that are better suited for a particular style.

    With the drummers you're talking to:

    What kind of music are they doing?
    What is their PA comprised of?
    Is there a method to where they're placing the mics?

    Good luck.
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Older than the hills fartster chiming in....I'm not a drummer....I'm the Bass Player and I can get great drums. Anywhere.

    I will reiterate....

    1. Really good heads (lately we are both into the Evans EC series...snap,thud,and the right length)
    2. Really good drums (my drummer has the Mahogany Gretsch set...the tone kills straight up before you mic em)
    3. Tuning....not a city in China
    4. Drum technique (theres books on this)
    5. Drummer who really cares ( I have kilt off all the ones around here who didnt)
    6. Good mics and the knowledge of where to put em.

    I am not a fan of the 112 mic. I do like it on a bass cabinet if it has tens...Live I like the ATM25 or the D6 on the kick...i5 or 57 on the snare although a 414 does a snare quite well also...Audix D2's on the toms...excellent control, bullet proof and easy to place and not dark at all, they're kinda 421ish...I have secret weapon overheads so I cant tell ya or I'd have to kill ya kinda thing.

    We dont need no stinkin compression or limiting. The drums have very very little dabs of moongel and they are open and as loud as you need em to be.
  14. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    There ya go! When you've got a drummer with all that going for them - you would have to work to make them sound bad.

    Again, I'm betting Davedog's PA is pretty tight from 20Hz - 20kHz too. The quality of the speakers, amps, cables, console, and electricity ALL come into play as much as mic selection.

    Note: D112s can change tone over the years. I don't know if the diaphragm changes or gunk builds up in the internal windscreen, cummulative moisture damage - I don't know. When I first started working with this drummer years ago, he had a phenomonal sounding kit, as always, and he had an old 112 in the kick. For the first month or so we had to spend a lot of time moving the mic looking for the sweetspot. Although the mic looked perfectly normal, after a while I started suspecting it might be the mic and brought a new one from my collection. It was like presto, no more standing on your head to find the sweet spot. Not that you could put it just anywhere, but it was a lot richer, beefier tone and a lot more forgiving than his old one regarding placement.

    But on the other hand I have a vintage D12e, that still sounds great. But as D12e's get more and more valuable I get less and less inclined to take it to a live gig. Warm, punchy, a very substantial bass instrument & kick mic.

    I think if you just want live BOOM a PL-20 is nearly idiot-proof, if you're doing more aggressive music and want that snappy beater sound a 421 is really cool.

    Compressors, reverb, and whatnot should be the icing on the cake, not the cure for bad tone.
  15. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Think about what you said here;

    Let's go back to your pebble in the water example for a minute.

    Take a 5 gal bucket of water and simply drop a pebble into it from a short distance. Look at the ripples... they have a set of defined wave pattern that will propagate at a frequency.

    Take the SAME pebble (that's the key here) and throw it in the water as hard as you can. The ripples will NOT change frequency! They will only be higher in amplitude. They will last longer in duration, but they will NOT change frequency.

    The reason is that the mass of the pebble (drumstick) has not changed, only the energy which the pebble is experiencing has.

    If you change the size, shape or any other aspect of the pebble, you will get a difference in frequency, true. But as my percussion professor in college pointed out many, MANY times... with proper technique, the only difference should be that the drum only gets louder. If it does anything else, you're screwing up.

    To put it another way, what you are saying is that if I set my finger to play a G on a guitar softly, I get a G flat, if I play it hard, I get a G#... If that's the case... then something is wrong... seriously wrong.

    If I set my finger to play a G, and when I play softly, I don't have the ability to capture all of the overtones via a microphone, or ear, unless I have my ear very, very close to the guitar, or unless I gag the gain of my pre-amp. If I play it harder, yes, the overtones are louder, but the overtones and the initial fundamental frequency of the string vibration is still the same... or it damn well should be, anyway.
  16. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    No, that isn't what I'm saying. That would be sort of magical if hitting an instrument at different velocities changed its pitch. Think of it as "richness." I stated that playing an acoustic guitar softly sounds "anorexic" or thin. Think of it like tubes: the more juice it gets, the more saturated it gets, and there is a tonal change. Now, I'm not saying they're exactly the same, but just the basic concept. The PITCH itself won't change, just the lushness, richness, whateverness of the sound.
  17. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    The tonality of an acoustic instrument in relation to the dynamics cannot be compared to the physics involved in something like a tube amp.

    They are not the same thing.

    While I agree in principle that what you 'hear' when you strike the drum with more force is a 'different' sound, a microphone has no internal filtering like your brain does and will simply react to the sound complete with all the anomlies that were present when it was struck softly.

    Playing my acoustic guitar softly yeilds the same tone as playing it loudly as long as I am using the same technique. If I use a pick it will sound like a guitar played with a pick whether it is soft or loud. If I use my fingers the same will hold true and the basic tonality will not change throughout the spectrum of that particular instrument. I may have a harder time in capturing it but it will ultimately be very similar in its tonality.

    The same is true with any drum. WHERE you hit it has much more to do with tonailty than how hard you hit it. At least to a microphone.
  18. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Then why do so many recording engineers want drummers to hit the drums really hard? But even my personal experience has shown that acoustic instruments sound thin mic'd when the person is playing the instrument lightly. I haven't suffered THAT much hearing damage. The difference might not be absolute night and day, but there is an audible difference when mic'd. And how is it that great drummers who bash drums got amazing recorded tone regardless of how low budget a record may have been?
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I want them to hit em hard so when I set the levels we have no surprises and no need for any other devices in the signal chain. If I can pad and set my input levels to match a hard strike at tracking then I dont have as much manipulations at mix.

    What other engineers want the drummers to hit em hard for is up to them....and since I wasnt there I cannot account for their reasons......nor can you.

    Your point is well taken but there are holes the theory. Asking a question about someone elses experiences to prove your point is in itself pointless. I wasnt there for whatever referrence you are pointing to and neither were you. It is a dead end to argue something and use someone elses experience to justify it.

    We all do this in different ways As long as it works for you then thats all it has to do.
  20. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Dan - You are in the tough position of trying to argue what mathematicians call a "universal" proposition - that the only way to get good tone is to play hard - that no one ever got good tone by playing soft. To refute you all anyone has to do is exhibit one recording where a drummer got great tone playing soft. Like, say, most of Elvin Jones, a lot of Hal Blaine, every 18 year old kid accepted in classical percussion to a major conservatory. Of course, you can just put yourself on autopilot and say that anything that isn't he-man speed punk played with tree trunks has bad tone, but you have to do it forever.

    On all of the amateur mathematical physics being tossed around here...it is generally a bad idea to use mathematical physics to "prove" an empirical proposition about music. Dave has described the results of the linear theory well. But while the linear theory is quite accurate and fits a lot of measurements extremely well, it is an approximation and you can't "prove" a physical claim by citing it. Of course, analogies to highly nonlinear phenomena like water surface waves and tube amps are completely irrelevant.

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