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Questions about recording a live drumset.

Discussion in 'Drums' started by kohranus, Dec 20, 2007.

  1. kohranus

    kohranus Guest

    Me and my band Last Souls Alive (http://www.myspace.com/golastsoulsalive)

    We are going to record 2-3 demos 14th of January. Now I have a question about drumrecording.

    We want to have really good recorded drums. Me and everyone in my band thinks that good drumsound is critical for a song. If a song does not have good drum sound it sounds simply $*^t.

    Lots of the new recordings I hear today...the drums are so compromised, I mean that they are somewhere way behind in the "soundpicture" and not "surround sound" or anything.

    I want drums to sound like in Nirvanas "Nevermind", or pink floyd or Red hot chili peppers. They all have the drums way upp high, and the whole drumset is with "surround sound". With surround sound I mean that the whole kit is panned across right and left speaker.

    Now just a few questions...is everything in the drumrecordings paned? I mean that the Hyatt is alittlebit to the left in the speaker etc etc. Is the snare drum RIGHT in the centre or somewhere else? For example in Nirvanas - Smell like teen spirit...Where are all the things PANed?
    Because I dont know how the studio is going to be...they mostly have experience of heavy metal bands which often go with very compromised $*^t drum sound. So I wanna stand over the soundman/producer/whatever and tell him exactly what I want.

    The demos you can find on my webpage; http://www.myspace.com/golastsoulsalive are all done by me in my home. I have an electronic drumset

    Thank you for your help!
  2. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    Cocoa, FL
    Tell the engineer you want them to sound real. Tell him what you just posted, if he's worth his weight he'll know what to do.
  3. You're right on the money: a great drumset sound and a great vocal (in that order) are 90% of a great recording.

    The technical term for the stereophonic representation of sounds (that "surround sound" feel) is pan. Drums are panned anywhere in the full-left to center to full-right quadrants at the engineer's discretion and according to his taste. It's common today to have kick drum and snare drum dead center, stereo microphones over the entire kit in a determinate manner (e.g. whether the listener is facing the front of the kit, or is behind the kit near the drummer), and toms and other pieces panned accordingly. In the case of the drums on Nirvana's Nevermind:

    Kick and snare: center
    Stereo overheads: opposite drummer's perspective -- a crash and hi-hat on the right side, a crash and the ride cymbal on the left side
    Toms and other pieces: panned accordingly

    The exact values of how hard (extreme) things are panned is a matter of taste. If you're in doubt, I find it's better to pan too little than too much, which can sound kitschy. Great recordings have been made where the drums are all entirely monaural (no panning). Keep this in mind.

    Steve Albini, who did Nirvana's Nevermind, is considered by many to be one of the great rock producers of our time. Pair this with Steve's brilliant use of top-rung equipment and Dave Grohl's chops and you'll reach the sunken conclusion that to replicate these sounds is nigh impossible.

    But there's hope yet: a great drumset sound can come about with little recording expertise, a sloppy drummer, and poor equipment. But I wouldn't find it very likely. Respectfully, I think your best option for getting the best drum sounds for your demos is to work with a recording engineer you trust at a studio whose sounds you identify with. Plan to spend at least a full 8-hour day there and make your intentions up front that you wish to take the drum recordings and mix the rest of the instruments at your own personal studio (if you wish to take this avenue). Spend at least an hour getting sounds your whole band can agree upon. Maybe have your bassist track silently with your drummer, because a tight bass is equally hard to get in a budget studio.

    To elucidate on a former point: an engineer you can trust entails one who isn't a slave to his ego or traditions. As a customer paying crazy amounts of money by the hour, you should have the right to hover (within reason) and critique (without criticizing). Say you've worked with the engineer for an hour setting up microphones and suddenly realize it sounds awful, or the microphone setup is affecting your drummer's performance. It's critical than you know your engineer isn't going to pout--or worse, sabotage the new setup--and ruin the atmosphere you've worked to create. Talk to local bands for the engineer's mannerisms and listen to material on the website to make sure he or she is qualified to begin with.
  4. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    Cocoa, FL
    Yeah, what Patrick said.

    BTW, it's a hi-hat.
    Hyatt is a Hotelier.
  5. kohranus

    kohranus Guest

    sorry guys that is what i ment: PAN not Pitch

    thx for reply
  6. I've never had much luck with drum recording but I recently outsourced my drum tracks to http://www.e-studio-drummer.com

    Awesome results! Beautiful sonics, 10 individual untreated mic lines. Really pro. I've recorded many times in large studios and this is the $*^t. The performance we tweaked together and he was really prompt at getting the tracks to me.

    It's a great price point too, I highly recommend it to anyone of any level..

    check out his website, #1 on Google under 'studio drummer"

    www. e-studio-drummer.com
  7. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    Cocoa, FL
    Ignore the spam, fellas!
    We have had a lot of luck recording drums - outsourcing is not the answer, ever!
    That's why we come here, #1 on Google under "Recording"!


    And we know how to correctly enter forum codes, too!
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
  9. drstudio

    drstudio Active Member

    Nov 16, 2007
    Home Page:
    I have a Dr. Rhythm....
    Let me do all your beats with it.... lol
  10. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:

    OK... sorry for coming to the party a bit late, but hanging drywall in stud bays has been occupying my days...

    You need to call the studio and ask for a 1 hour sit down discussion with the tracking engineer. This can be at the time of the session, but that's EXPENSIVE time. Try to do this meeting in the next few days.

    Like has been pointed out, you need to tell the AE what you are looking for. IMHO, you are the producer... not the studio AE. You need to make that clear. But do it in a positive way.

    So, what does a producer do?? Your role is to encourage the other musicians and the studio guys to do their very best. Don't try to micro-manage the project! Instead...MACRO manage.

    Is the room set-up for a good vibe? (If not... it's YOUR duty to make it so) Does the drummer have water? Is the AE needing a cup of coffee, make sure when everyone is supposed to be where, when and not sitting around with thumbs up their tails... that kind of thing. A producer facilitates the creative process.

    Your drummer should be bringing in his own kit, and/or the studio should have at least one or two other kits to work with.

    Have your drummer put new heads on the kit... GOOD heads. Have him do this a day or five before the session and get them tuned!

    Encourage the studio engineer to work on getting the sound you want at the time of tracking. You can't get anything more out of the kit than what is tracked unless you go swapping out the kit for samples... which IMNSHO is a bunch of crap. Track it right from the beginning or why bother... right?

    Spend time getting a good kick and snare, if nothing else gets worked on. Also, if the room is a good sounding room, you will want the OH's or the room mics to sound as good as possible.

    Oh... and for the record (sorry for the pun) if the guy is a real professional, do NOT refer to him as a "soundguy"... He will either be a Tracking Engineer, or Audio Engineer. The guy who will mix your tracks will either be an Audio Engineer or a Mixer.

    If the same guy mixes that tracks... he's often called an AE (Audio Enginner) If it's two guys... one tracking, and one mixing... Tracking Engineer and Mixer are appropriate.

    Again... YOU are the producer... Unless you bring in a professional producer.
  11. Music_Junky

    Music_Junky Active Member

    Nov 1, 2006
    Reykavik Iceland
    Butch Vig Produced and recorded Nevermind and Andy Wallace Mixed it. Steve Albini did "In Utero"

    Other than that I think you are right on the money:)
  12. Suck. You're right, Music_Junky. How embarrassing. I truly meant Butch Vig.
  13. Drewslum

    Drewslum Active Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    Home Page:
    Oh snap, I had one of those years ago!

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