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Problems getting floor toms to sound "big" in recording

Discussion in 'Drums' started by Lee@theLab, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. Lee@theLab

    Lee@theLab Active Member

    I about to start recording a band in which the drummer has 2 huge floor toms, 16X18 and 18x18. They sound really great in the room, but when they record they sound like someone hitting a bucket with a notebook on top, no resonance and no fundamental. I am using Audix D2 mics on the top on their D-vice clamps about 2 inches up and pointed at the impact point. This same placement with D2s sounds excellent on the rack toms.

    Does anyone have any ideas?????
  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Ancient Chinese secret.......Too-ning. I also have several D2's. Sometimes they dont quite cut it on large toms. I like my ATM25's or the D4's for this work. But it does sound like the top heads are too loose and when you close-mic something you're getting the initial impact amplified....something you might not hear from a distance giving the sound time to develop. Big toms need thick, tight, heads for that big boom sound. The thick skin gives you control over the length of the note as well as the pitch.

    Sometimes, when you've tried everything else, you take the bottom heads off. You can also use a pair of nylons and stretch a layer under the top heads as a damper. You still get boom, just a shorter more controlled boom. Works on the bottom heads too. Also....MOONGEL.
  3. Lee@theLab

    Lee@theLab Active Member

    Thank you, I will definitely give that a shot. I have never played drums before and it is a very young drummer so neither of us really has a lot of drum tuning experience so I thought that would probably be bad tuning I just needed to know how it was bad. Do you know of anywhere a person can get good information/training on the art of drum tuning? I can find a lot of general info but it's really hard to find any good "in-depth with examples" type stuff.
  4. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Dave nailed it. Glad I waited before I offered my rambling response.

    Tuning. Bottom heads not necessary. Larger dynamic (421, ATM25, D4).
    And Moongel is wonderful stuff, if it's called for.
  5. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Send your buddy for several lessons from the principal tympani/percussionist with your regional pro/semi-pro orchestra.
  6. Lee@theLab

    Lee@theLab Active Member

    I will try that, I had never thought of it. Thanks
  7. Lee@theLab

    Lee@theLab Active Member

    Thank you as well soapfloats, I would have been just as glad for the "rambling response." :) I just picked up a D4 and I am going to re-tune them next session and see how it goes.
  8. Disononva

    Disononva Member

    I've played drums for over 20 years, but I'm relatively new to the recording process...so, as an "expert" from the other side of the issue, based on what you said, I agree with Davedog...probably what you are experiencing is that the drum head is tuned too loosely to provide proper resonance. I can give some advice on tuning.

    First of all... there is no perfect way of tuning, so don't bother trying to get the drum (floor tom of a drum kit, not tympani) to be exactly at x note, just get a sound that you like. I could go on ad nauseum about why, but just trust me...too many variables.

    That being said, I'll give you my quick and dirty tuning lesson, and a link from a pro drum tech (I suggest reading, but beware its a looong post, but explains things nicely).

    quick and dirty...

    1. Make sure its a new head (as in brand new).....you can spend 1-2 hours trying to tweak a used/worn head to sound alright...or you can just go spend $15 and get a wonderful sound in 10 minutes
    2. If you get any flak from anyone, refer them to step #1
    3. Regardless of whether you have a new head or not...loosen all lugs, take metal rim off
    4. Run your finger over the bearing edge (exposed top of drum, should be about 45deg down into drum). Use enough pressure to get dirt, dust off, try not to let anything get in the drum, while you are at it, turn the drum upside down and shake anything out (hopefully nothing comes out :) )
    5. Run you finger around the inside of of the metal rim for same reason. Cloth works well in both cases, but your finger is more easily accessible, just wash your hands before eating...
    6. Place new (hopefully) head on drum, and move it back and forth for a half sec...if it moves, great, if it gets stuck, you are in for some pain
    7. Put the metal rim back on
    8. Tighten lugs until they are finger tight in a star pattern, google it for image, but start with one lug, tighten, go to the opposite one, tighten, go to the one just right of that one, tighten, go opposite, tighten, rinse, repeat..
    9. Take a drum key and do 1 cycle of star pattern using only 1/4 key turns
    10 Do another cycle with 1/4 key turns
    11 Do another..
    12 If its a new head, you will be in an appropriate range, maybe a bit high...if its a head that has been used, you may have to repeat the 1/4 turn cycle until you start getting a sustained sound, instead of a thuddy, rattle-y sound

    Ok, i said quick and dirty, and it is...that should take you no more than 5 minutes, and will get something useful (not perfect), you should have a sound isn't annoying and is in the ball park hopefully... if that is good enough, cool...if not, read on

    "fine-tuning" the drum

    1. Get a keyboard or whatever so that you can play a note that you like, play it often to get used to that sound.
    2. Go around clockwise (not star pattern) starting with whatever lug you want to start at
    3. Tap the drum about an inch or so in from the lug, be a bit generous about the
    "inch"...the closer to the lug, the less clearly you will hear the sub-harmonics (bonus: if the drumhead is a Pinstripe, hit it just inside the stripe)
    4. Listen to the resonance of the hit (the sound after the stick has hit the drum, not the sound of the hit itself)
    5. De-tune that lug to below the reference pitch
    6. Tap, and tune up until you hit that pitch (note: with this step, you are not blatantly turning by 1/4 turn, you are slowly and continuously turning the drum key until you are satisfied (like guitarist/bassist when they are almost at the right note)..many methods here, you can tap away continuously, you can tap then tune. I find with floor toms, tap and tune works better, because it is easier to tune based on harmonics due to the low frequencies involved
    7. Rinse, repeat for all other lugs

    Now, I can't say how long it will take for "fine-tuning" depends on ear, experience, drum, but assume it will take a decent amount of time (20 mins-1 hour)

    Here is from the pro:
    SLIPKNOT1 Drum Tuning

    I'm not disagreeing with anything here, but just to set the record straight... Drum head tuning is all about attack versus sustain, as you tighten the head, if one goes up, the other goes down...until you hit the next tuning range, so...

    Thick heads will dampen the sound over all, (more muted, or less attack, less resonance).

    Tight heads will provide more attack, and less sustain (Jazz folks like tighter heads, rock folks like looser heads).

    Taking the bottom heads off will reduce sustain b/c the displaced air has a farther spaced, less resonant material to reflect back on (floor, or nothing, instead of a piece of plastic). Many folks will say it produces a "dry" sound

    As for MOONGEL...just say no.... It does the job, and I realize that the studio may not have the time, and/or is not responsible for the drummer's lack of tuning knowledge....but it's akin to taking a wonderful mouth-watering piece of dry-aged steak, pouring ketchup on it and calling it a hamburger. If there is an annoying squeal out of the drum, fix it by tightening/loosening lugs. Essentially, you are deadening (meaning cutting off) the sound by using Moongel, nylons, felt, tape, or anything else placed on a drum head. Do you tell the guitarist/bassist that you will only record them only if they make sure to palm-mute the strings ever so slightly during the entire session??

    If you have any more specific questions about the murky realm of drum tuning, since I did sort of gloss over the basics (for a drummer, not a recording guy), let me know, I'll be happy to help
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I am not a drummer though I have been paid to be one..... I have owned at least 10 whole sets and partial pieces of 5 or 6 more. I usually have at least 3 snares though right now I only own 2. I've spent hundreds of hours....literally....tuning drum kits and have had the pleasure to record several very high caliber players in my time behind the knobs. I am a bass player first and formost so I hear everything that goes on in the low end support of a track.

    All of my suggestions are based on the OP needing to tame very LARGE floor toms. Personally, I like really small floor toms in the studio although if they have a the proper tuned LENGTH they are easier to deal with. Yeah yeah....I hear all the time from drummers who want that long lasting fundamental and the ring in the snare.

    The problem with adding a fundamental that has an initial impact enough to excite a bus limiter, is , if its not the fundamental of the song where does that effect your mix of other melodic instruments?

    I love having a drum have a note. A clear and clean representation of a beautifully placed accent....mostly what toms are for....?? I just want it to only last for as long as necessary. AND I want to do this in the physical world simply because the path to righteous sound should be the shortest one you can take without adding stages of repair.

    Dry? You betcha. With TONE and control.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Here's something else that has not been really talked about. 2 microphones on the floor Tom, top & bottom. You do that with snare drums when you want them to be fatter sounding. It also requires that you invert the phase of the bottom microphone. With the two microphones then working together, you can capture more of the tonal characteristic of the drum. The tuning is the key to better sounding drums or whatever key you want to be in.

    One of the other mistakes made with "amateur" drum tuning is only randomly tightening or loosening of each tuning lug. I will utilize a drumstick to make sure that the tuning at each tuning lug position, is at the same pitch. You can have one tuning lug pitched higher than the next or lower. That's no good, you don't get an even resonant ring that way you get a dissonant ring. I just used the same technique that I use to tension an EMT plate. I want my instruments along with my recording devices to all be in tune, harmoniously together! We had to tune tape recorders back in the day. We would tune our consoles for just the sound we wanted whether it was playing with an equalizer or swapping out for different brands of input or output Transformers. Adjusting our gain staging to tune the Operational Amplifiers, in our consoles, to work in certain areas of linearity or nonlinearity. You don't rely on factory tuning for your guitar. For instance, if I purchased a new guitar and it didn't sound right, you'd return it to the store? Wouldn't you? I mean if you take it out of its case, when it's brand-new, and it doesn't sound right? I'd return it. But I don't play guitar, so maybe that's the reason why it doesn't sound right? You have to tune a photograph otherwise they are out of focus and you can't listen to a photograph that way.

    I've been trying to tune my belly button for years...
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. Signature Sound

    Signature Sound Active Member

    A lot of good advice has already been given here, so I'll just reconfirm the importance of a lot of what has already been said:

    Tuning affects resonance - The tuning will affect the resonance and resonance is really what will create that "big" sound that you are after in your floor toms. Of course, like someone mentioned, how big do you really want this sound? You don't want it to overpower your guitars and the entire composition.

    Double Miking - Double miking every tom will allow you to better mold your tom sound. In a recent session we did here, we used AKG 414s on the top of both floor toms, a D112 under the lowest floor tom, and a D6 on the bottom of the other floor tom. The AKG 414s on the top were angled 45 degrees pointed halfway between the rim and the center. Of course, move/angle the mics depending on the sound that you are going for, so listen (w/ headphones) while your drummer strikes the tom heads.

    Also, if you are using overhead mics, or ever start using them, check the phase of your toms (and everything) against your overheads. Being out of phase will also give you a thin sound.

    Plus, the clamps can affect the resonance as well, because they add mass to the drum ring. So try to use mic stands if you can.
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Hey SignatureSound, you have a beautiful rig of your own so I know you know what I know since you already know. He's got an API 1608 and a bunch of Neve 1073/1081 thingies lying around as well. I basically have the inverse of that a big old transistorized 24/36 input Neve with a few API 3124 & 312 gizmos. And when we record drums those high quality transformers have a tendency to saturate a bit even before we throw our electronics into the edge of nonlinearity with greater open loop gains and all that blah blah stuff. This is not always the case with affordable hardware that actually has better specifications as it lacks the distortion producing elements inherent in our rigs. So if you're looking for that fatter than fat drums sound, IC chip in combination with transformer less electronics is perhaps not the sound you want your stuff to be? And it gets mighty expensive mighty quick to purchase enough API 312/512 or Neve preamps to mic up an entire drum set just to get " THAT SOUND". Sometimes you have to figure out what kind of sound that excels that your equipment can produce. This may help to guide you to a sound that you find both pleasing & exciting to listen to. It might not be the sound that you have in your head. Both I & Signature, most obviously know what kind of sound we want and what we're going for given our tools that we have selected for their particular sonic signature. Our stuff doesn't sound like it's coming from an SSL 4000 because it ain't. But that's what Bob Clearmountain likes the sound of. In fact he likes the series E as opposed to the series G but he manages just fine on G series desks. And he likes away their microphone preamps sounds. He told me once he couldn't make a good recording with an API (although he has when he had to even though it wasn't the sound he wanted). So you see, there are so many options here that can cause one to go through certain kinds of neurotic episodes when one can't get what they are working so hard to obtain. It's infuriating I know. We all know. But I'm confident that you're going to find something that you like the sound of with your current tools. You already know the kind of sound that's ringing in your head. But if somebody tells you the Transformers are bad, run don't walk in the opposite direction.

    Signature and I are hanging out with an Iron Core
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. Signature Sound

    Signature Sound Active Member

    Good call, RemyRAD! If you don't have the equipment to produce the sound you want, you're not going to get that sound. That's not to say that good sounds aren't possible, the sound just needs to be tailored to what's possible.

    As for the tom problem, I'd like to add one more suggestion which is distance. Toms sometimes need some room to breath to build up their boom -- maybe you're getting too much stick noise/attack? Try distancing the mic from the drum a little more, you might be pleasantly surprised.
  14. Lee@theLab

    Lee@theLab Active Member

    Ok, so I recorded the drums again Saturday, I couldn't get a sound out of the 18x18 that I liked so I convinced them to back burner it for a while. I re-tuned the 16" drum, lifted the mic up about 6" from the top head and added a bottom mic. It really sounded pretty good. RemyRAD was right, it's not exactly the sound I like to hear on my favorite CDs but for a mid level Poplar shelled kit with these mics and stock pre's on my Behringer mixer it sounded pretty good. Thanks again for all of your help.
  15. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Thanks Disononva and Davedog this is good read!

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