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Recording Heavy Metal

Discussion in 'Recording' started by metalmikey, Jul 24, 2004.

  1. metalmikey

    metalmikey Active Member

    Jul 23, 2004
    Home Page:
    What are some good techniques to use when recording heavy metal music? How do you mic the drums to get that punchy new wave of heavy metal sound? How could i get more warmth to my recordings? Im only looking for suggestions. Thanks.
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Distinguished Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    I don't want to sound cryptic, but I've got "a little" experience here...

    Metal is a rough animal to record well - Most people who think their sound is "the $hit" don't have a clue of what actually sounds good. They crank up the gain, crank down the mids and make guitars sound like what they should sound like coming out of a bad stereo system - not a guitar amp.

    The big thing with metal (and most music in general) is to make the core instruments sound the way they should to begin with. There is no shortcut, substitute or quick-fix for this most important (and most often overlooked) step.

    I get asked all the time "how'd you get this or that drum sound" and "what did you do to get that guitar sound" - There's no secret - That's what they sounded like. I just put a micrphone in front of it.

    Good amps, good instruments, fresh strings, new heads, talented musicians. If you've got all that, the rest tends to come along almost by itself as you just guide the way.

    You don't need to spend a bundle - Pearl Export kits sound amazing when someone who actually knows how to tune them gets them into shape. Remo Clear Pinstripes are still my personal favorite. Bottom heads are a must if you want that classic power-metal *THUD*

    On the guitars, start by backing off - way off - on the pregain. You want CRUNCH - not FUZZ. Guitars have midrange - Celebrate it - Don't hide it when recording. You can always back it off a bit during the mix if it's in competition with the vocals.

    The drummer has to hit the drums like Thor - Not like Thumbelina. The guitars need to be played with confidence. The BASSIST needs fresh strings and a nice sounding instrument AND the ability to click with the drummer.

    The recording part is easy - Getting everyone READY to record is the difficult part.
  3. sonixx

    sonixx Guest

    metalmikey, what bands do you listen to?

    John, good advice... but I think your Amp setttings are way to general. Yeah, backing off on the preamp gain will open up the sound, but it also does away with the overtones. Also, there's a ton of different Metal guitar tones, all of which can't be had with too low of a pre-Amp gain structure. The key is to balance the pre-amp (Overtones) with the Post gain (Punch). One problem in getting the punch, is the Post gain needs to be turned up (you've gotta move air), which means the amp gets blasted loud. If you're not willing to turn up the post amp gain, then turning up the preamp gain will only lead to fizz... both need their due... and so does volume

    If you're after a 70- 80's tone, then turn down the pre-amp gain, turn up the post gain... but if you're after a modern tone, then you need to balance the two. Maybe less preamp than you think, but not that much less... and turn up the post amp gain... move some air

    If you're looking for a tone like Godsmack or Mushroomhead, then unfortunately, the amp's going to be loud... loud... loud... move some air. Find a balance between the preamp and post gains to get a $*^t load of overtones (sufficient amounts of preamp gain.)... did I mention, "move some air". But if bands like Seether or Greenday or Thrice (maybe not Metal) are more to your liking, then back down on the preamp gain. In any event, turn up the post amp gain and move some air. Mic with more than one mic, say a 57 and 421 or a 57 and condenser like a 4033. Get the guitar set up... big strings, tune down,... get the amp gain structures balanced, turn up the post amp gain and move some air, get the right speaker/cab loaded with Vintage 30s or the like, and the tone will "speak for itself". All you'll need to do during mixing is probably roll off a little of the hi end above 6-7K and lows below 90-150.
  4. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Distinguished Member

    Oct 7, 2001
    I think Sonixx wants us to move some air??? Hehe... ;)
  5. sonixx

    sonixx Guest

    for best results and to ensure everything is captured, put the mic right up against the fabric...
  6. metalmikey

    metalmikey Active Member

    Jul 23, 2004
    Home Page:

    Bands like Killswitch Engage, Chimaira, Unearth, Mudvayne. Thanks for the feedback so far.
  7. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    guitars like that can be mic'd with a 57....then quadruple the take for thickness and crunch.

    Like John said....it's more about the performers than the mic techniques.

    As for pre's....getting good level comes with experience. If it don't sound good....turn down the pre...if that don't work get a new guitarist.
  8. dustbro

    dustbro Guest

    Re: .

    I'm very familiar with Killswitch and Chimaira being label-mates with a few bands I work with. (I did the radio mix for "end of heartache" with producer David Bendeth).
    Overall, the natural drum sounds were not impressive at all. They were recorded with the intention of using drum samples. Very tight sounding room, and everything was close miked. Usually I'll use the overhead mics for the whole "atmosphere" of the kit, but the KSE overheads were cymbals only.
    Vocals were track with (i think) a Neumann tml193 thru a neve mic pre and being double compressed with an 1176 and dbx160 nothing special going on there.
    Guitars were tracked with 2 cabs at once. One was a 5150, and the other was (I think) a marshall JCM800, but I could be wrong on the latter. They got great tones right from the amp, and it really shows in the overall tone. Not sure on the mic pre or compressors for tracking.
    I have no info on the bass other than it was pretty compressed. Probably the same chain as the vocal for both DI and amp signals.
  9. metalmikey

    metalmikey Active Member

    Jul 23, 2004
    Home Page:

    Wow. thanks guys for the responses.
  10. Johnjm22

    Johnjm22 Guest

    Re: .

    The drums on the Killswitch CD sound great. Are all the drums on that album replaced with samples? Except for the overheads overcourse.

    Was anything done to the samples to make them sound that great, or did they already sound that good to begin with?

    Where do these samples come from? Are these just from a collection the engineer has, or do they actually purchase these?

    One last question:

    Whenever I replace my toms with samples I always find it difficult to make them sound natural. They always sound a bit stiff, and it seems difficult to get them to sit in the mix. Got any advice on this?
    How do you go about replacing tom hits?
  11. dustbro

    dustbro Guest

    Re: .

    The samples on the record seem to be very "sound designed". Probably a mixture of a real drum hit and something else (like a good smack to a woodblock) to get that sound.
    I never actually heard the drum samples from the record... and there is a good story behind it.
    Lets put it this way... Drum samples are very sacred to engineers. It's the sound that sets them apart from the others. We actually had to move our re-mix date for the single back a day becuase the guy who mixed the record didn't want to send us a hard drive with "his samples" on it. Seriously... he spent a whole day stripping them from the hard drive before he sent it down to me.
    Engineers will collect them over the years from sessions they have done and by trading with other engineers. I know that every time I do a session with a different producer, I "borrow" their sample library when no one is looking.
    If you only have one sample, then you have to use a mixture of the original tom sound and the sample itself (usually pitch shifting it to match the tone of the one you are replacing) Or if you have a good sample library, you will have "dynamic" samples (multiple hits of each drum) which you alternate from when pasting them in.
  12. Johnjm22

    Johnjm22 Guest

    Got any recomondations for a good sample library with dynamic samples. I'm mainly looking for toms.

    And once again let me say thanks for all the info. I would greatly appreciate a mix critique. If you would be so kind.


    It's only a rough mix and I haven't put vocals on it yet, but any advice would be greatly appreciated.
  13. dustbro

    dustbro Guest


    You can strip the samples from this plugin. They sound excellent... but not for EVERY project. It's a good start, but you'll have to start building your own library of sounds you like.

    I'll give your song a listen as soon as I get a free second!
  14. Johnjm22

    Johnjm22 Guest

    That would be awsome! Thanks so very much.

    But go easy on me, I'm still a rook.
  15. Farview

    Farview Active Member

    Jul 20, 2004
    Home Page:
    Try drumagog, It does all the multi sampling for you. There are people making sample libraries for it. ( you can also make your own)

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