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Recording drums under less than ideal situations, please help.

Discussion in 'Drums' started by JohnTodd, Dec 12, 2013.

  1. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Hi! I'm going to be recording a drummer to tracks already done. He's an excellent drummer with excellent gear, including mics.

    I've got 2 choices - record in a reverberant garage (American style, 2-car, sheet rock, high ceiling, and pullup door), or record outside. It's in the country so outside noises won't be a problem.

    I figure outside won't have reflections/phasing to contend with. But, baby, its cold outside.

    It's warm inside, but it's an untreated room. How to make it better in there with no proper panels? I'm so ghetto sometimes.

    What to do? No other choices are available. Of course, I'm not above drum replacement, either. But I'd rather not.

  2. pcrecord

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

    You could use any stuff that can absorb sound to reduce the problems (if any) of the garage. Put out some blankets and stuffed animal!! ;)

    In an uncontroled live environement, close mic is your choice. The closer you get to the source the less room you get. But depending on the style of music, drums often like a bit of room sound that makes them alive. Don't discredit the room before tracking in it, it might sound amazing and you'll never know it before you try. You need to listen carefully to the tracks and if you hear problems try to fix them with fabrics and materials you have on hand. You'd be surprised how good a bookshelve can do as a diffuser. Also pick the spot to install the drum by tapping hands, if you hear pingpong delay ; wrong spot.. ;)
  3. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Excellent. I'd thought about old couches and stuff. It will help some, and some is better than none.

    Love the bookshelf trick. That's a form of a quadratic diffusor, eh? I'll look up the "book pattern" for best results.

    What about keeping the garage door up during tracking?
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    go to home depot or harbor freight and pick up some moving blankets. u haul has them also.

    staple the blankets to the wakk an across the garage door. you ca place some on the ceiling as well. this won't do anything to control bass but it will do something to control reflections above 500 hZ. the garage should be large enough to make for a room without serious bass anomalies.

    maybe throw some ply wood on the floor to put the drums on

    throw one or two mics up as overheads and put a mic on the snare and one on the kick.
  5. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    @ Kurt
    Great idea! The guys are looking into this right now.

  6. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Uhhh... your choice is to track the drums, right??

    So... uhhhh... track the drums.

    I really don't understand some of the issues guys create out of nothing... I'm not ranting on you... but I am.

    Your job is to track the drums... so track the damn drums... I fail to see what the issue is.

    Too reverberant of a room? stick a few blankets up here and there. (although I seriously doubt the reverberation time in a garage is going to be too much for many styles of music.... Which, if that's the case, you're close micing anyway... just don't track rooms mic's and keep the OH's real close to the kit. There's no issue really...

    Room isn't reverberant enough? Delay the room tracks or add on a bit more verb/delay... again, no issue.

    Your job is to work with the artist to give them a product that they're happy with.

    If you aren't capable of listening to your recording environment and knowing what you need to do modify that situation to get the desired results... then maybe you're not the guy for the gig.

    The bottom line is this... a room is a room is a room... every environment has it's own sonic signature. You're either going to use that sonic signature as a feature, or you aren't. If you aren't, you need to tend to that need by altering your mic selection/technique, and/or the acoustic environment. That can be dealt with in many ways; drum tuning, damping/resonance, positioning from surfaces in the environment, and/or adding absorptive/reflective surfaces and/or isolation as Kurt has alluded to.

    Unfortunately, unless you provide a good bit more detail about the "issue", no one can really tell you a reasonable path to follow to get what your artists vision is.
  7. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    i'm sorry if you already know this facet of drum recording, but Phase coherency is a must. out of phase drum tracks have that thin, weird, drums in a 'sh*tty room sound'. you can use mic placement and or polarity reverse on a pre/interface, or if you have to, a pluggin. the downside to the pluggin is it won't be audible during tracking. it amazes me, that i've read hundreds of magazines, and at least a dozen books, and not one of them, ever outlined a process for checking phase on a kit, no matter how basic the article is. but yet it was the first thing i was shown, on my first drum session. i start w. the primary kick mic, the 2nd one (if there is one) then each OH, and check the rest of the kit against the OH's. what ever sounds deeper, lower, fuller, is what listening for

    you can also mount the blankets on mic stands too, w/ some zip ties, or tape, or just drape them, so you can put them closer to the kit, if thats your bag.
  8. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Jeez Max ... that is entirely the issue here. My novice skills may not be sufficient. But they want them tracked there in that room. I'm simply trying to do the best I can with what I have, both mentally (skills) and physically (the room).

    Now go back to your very nice studio and track some drums. We'll see who gets the better result. I've got a feel we already know who will.

    Thanks! Phasing is very important.
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    often less can be more. try one mic oh and a kick and snare. use a tape measure to place all the mics the same distance from each other following the 3 to one rule. place the kick and snare in the middle and pan the oh slightly to the right. then place another mic by the lo ride and floor tom again following the 3 to one rule and pan that left. that should really be all you need, especially if the drums are in the room all by themselves with no bleed. keep it simple.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Also, as a followup to Kurt's post, make sure to check the mix in mono. If you hear things disappearing, then there are phase issues to contend with.

    The more mics you use, the more probability you will have of potential issues. I'm not saying that you shouldn't individually mic each drum, but you'd be amazed at how good a 4 mic array can sound on a nice sounding, well tuned drum kit that is being played by a good drummer who knows their kit and how to play it.

    1 mic on kick, 1 on snare, and two condenser OH's in an XY (or ORTF if you're hip to it) stereo array above the kit... and you may be surprised at just how good this can sound.

    As far as opening up the door, putting down carpets, adding mass to the room in the form of couches, pillows, etc., truthfully, no one can really tell you exactly what to do, John.... because we aren't there.

    Your space may sound just fine as is without any alteration, or it may need some help. Only you can really determine what you need to adjust, add, or subtract. And don't be shy about moving mics around a bit... sometimes it helps to have an assistant to move mics at your direction while the drummer is playing, so you can determine what you need to do in finding those "sweet spots", if there are any to find.. You'd be surprised at how much tonal difference ( both good and bad) there can be by simply moving a mic an inch or two in any given direction.

    Good luck, let us know how it works out.
  11. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Thanks, guys! It'll be in the future, so I've got some think time to devote to it.

    Will keep you updated.

    Thanks again!
  12. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    You asked this question when it was going to be a drum kit in a bedroom. The same basic concept applies here. Treat the room with what you've got, put a "cloud" over the drummer..."rattle-proof" the garage in advance, too.
  13. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I know. I get nervous sometimes. Thanks for all the help, everybody!

  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    So many mixes that come through here have phase from exactly this. And its even worst when people are doing the infamous "round trip". There is so much phase in music today, I often think people are actually liking it because it masks the clarity of everything from pitch, talent, bad tracking, bad rooms etc. The word glue is starting to disturb me lol.
    I know, everyone is thinking, not my mix. Well surprise, that's the difference between good, better, best.. The more you play with it, the more you introduce.

    No wonder the old days sounded so good. In a real kind of way. None of this round trip and latency crap going on. All these plug-ins and processing issues that are doing something to the live sound/ performance. Not to mention, everyone that has a room and computer is recording now.

    Clean that up and the truth is reveled but not an easy pill to swallow. We continue buying gear and software, thinking, HOPING, the next thing is going to "glue" the music. Its a circle. That's how I'm hearing it all.

    Even if we don't have good monitoring, you can see bad alignment on the wave files. One of the best things about digital audio, you can at least see that. But, it can get too clear for comfort and thats when we decide to introduce "glue".
    The first thing I do is check high hats for alignment between OV, Room, and all the drums (L/R) including vocal bleed. Once you get all that sorted, the bass and center focus tightens up. Its really easy to mix, and add the space back in a mix when its in phase and things are aligned. Thats how I hear it. Anyone else?

    Dynamic mics are choice for you, forget condensers and simulate space after. Kill that bad room as much as you can because it will always be there and make your mix small and boxy.
    Worst case scenario, drum replacement.

    Also, if you want, I would be happy to use a few Bricasti's for your room replacement effect ( no charge) if it comes down to that.
    Get it all done, send me the drum tracks and I'll try to help. Maybe it will be better, maybe not. Your choice. :)
    Live performance is always choice but more than not, (depending on the style in today's standards) rooms are never as good as the Bricasti's.

    I'm not suggesting we all go out and buy one, but since its relevant to the room, some reading this may find it interesting.
    FWIW, one of the best things about the Bricasti M7 is how you can add reverb bass!
    Bad bass tracked can be rolled off in the mix and re added via an M7. I'm not saying I would do that to every mix but , just saying. Up until I got an M7, I always cut more (HPF,LPF) top and bottom.
  15. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Now that I've picked my chin up off the floor...thank you so much! I'd love to hear what a real engineer can do for less-than-stellar raw tracks.

  16. bouldersound

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

    There's always a ton of phase mismatch of a transient sort, but very little of that matters when the signals are uncorrelated. It does matter when there are two versions of the same source/signal that have taken different routes to the recording system, and which are close enough in level. Inverting polarity may make phase error sound less bad but it cannot actually correct it. Time aligning might be the better option.

    Time aligning drums is something I like to at least try, but you can really only do it with a coincident pair as overheads, otherwise you have two differing reference points. You can't align a close mic to two overheads at different distances, and if you don't align it to both there's really no point doing it. Generally I slide the overheads back to the kick first, since that's the biggest distance, and then align all the other close mics to the overheads. Nothing gets moved more than about 5ms. It's essential to check polarity as well while aligning. It's also not a bad idea to slide the whole kit to the right within that 5ms window to see if it locks up with the other instruments better. And if it doesn't sound better than the unaligned drums undo it all.
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I wouldn't call me a real engineer as much as I am a real musician, like you, John!
    I'm still learning like the rest of us. I'm fortunate to have a few things that I wish we all had.

    Sent from my iPhone
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    That's interesting. I love this topic. Can you explain that a bit more?
    Am I understanding you correctly:
    As mentioned, you have the drums where you want them, then take the entire kit, group together (?) and shift the kit to the right within 5ms to the timeline of the song?
  19. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Me thinks you didn't quite get the gist of what I was saying....

    I do remote work in some pretty "lousy" sounding rooms, and still get good drum tracks. Why?!?

    Because I take the time to find out what the artist vision is, and I do my best to optimize what I do on my end to get them what they want.

    Again, everyone's going all wonk over thinking your garage is going to be a "nasty" room sound.

    I'll argue that point all day long... in that (once again) every single space you record in has a sonic signature. Even a dead space that has very little air column volume.

    If they're wanting any reverberant space at all, throw a pair of room mic's up and point them away from the kit... maybe towards the corners... put em' low to the ground and pointing away from the kit or even 90 degrees from the kit..

    What's important here, is to use your ears... including using phase issues to your advantage. Sometimes, using slightly out of phase signals can nullify problem frequencies. Granted, this more often applies to instruments other than drums, but it can (and does) happen... but it's all subjective, and generally, it's particular to each environment.

    Check this video out for more insight: the Wikidrummer - YouTube

    Sean G likes this.
  20. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Wow! THat video rocks. Thanks for the insights!

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