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Recording with electronic drums in a business

Discussion in 'Drums' started by conman013, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. conman013

    conman013 Member

    Mar 16, 2013
    Saskatchewan, Canada
    I am starting a mobile recording studio business in my area. I am getting a custom trailer built that is 8'x24'x7.5'. My original plan was to build a 8'x14' live room and record real drums, but after doing some reading it seems like it might be difficult to get a good drum sound in such a small room. So I am wondering if it would be better to just instead invest in a top end electronic kit (i.e. Roland TD-30KV) and superior drummer 2.0, to record the drums, and leave the live room to vocals, amps, etc. What are your thoughts. You think drummers would be ok with recording and paying to record with an electronic kit if it meant more convenience (the mobile studio coming to you), and better sound (compared to real drums in a small room)?

    I offer block rates so when they pay to record they dont just pay to track, but also for me to mix, master, and the option for CD duplication and packaging, and web design.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Prince George, BC
    Home Page:
    Some will be cool with it and others will not. I also don't think it will be easy to educate or convince anyone either. When it comes to your instrument, nothing will replace what you are used to.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Moderator (Distinguished Member) Resource Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    speaking as an engineer who also happens to be a session drummer/vocalist, I can tell you that I wouldn't be happy with an electronic kit.

    All the studios that I work at as a hired gun engineer or session cat have their own studio kit set up and miked, ready to go.

    Electric drums, while convenient, would probably be a secondary choice - and by secondary I mean wayyy down the list of preferences - for most engineers and drummers, who will almost always prefer a decent, well-tuned acoustic kit with good mics over the nicest digital kit available.

    I'm only speaking for myself, of course. YMMV, and, it's also going to be largely based on the style(s) being recorded.

    Those that are tracking rap or HH are probably going to be using a drum machine or a soft synth-based drum plug.

    Those that are tracking rock, jazz, metal, blues, country are going to want a real kit 99% of the time.

    You may find an interest in those that are tracking dance music, though.

    IMHO of course.

  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    drummers are strange animals. they take great pride in their drum sets and and are very insulted when asked to play anything else.

    i would also have issues with doing anything audio in such a small space. 8 feet is just not enough. the smallest dimension for a room to do audio in is 16 feet. usually that is the height width would be like 20 feet and length would be like 24 feet. i don't care what anyone else says, that is the absolute smallest anything serious could be done.

    a lot of shysters who sell bass traps and room treatments will try to convince you differently but if you read between the lines they always say things like, "an improvement" or "more useable" and never "optimal".

    these are simple physics ... and yes people have attained decent results with less but in that case it's a learning curve and knowing what the problems are and mixing / recording around those issues to get mix's that travel.

    the best scenario for a mobile is to build a studio in a rack and use the rooms where the bands record. hopefully these rooms will be large enough to be able to make good decisions.

    good luck
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    I might as well add my two cents worth since that's about all I own today.

    It is not completely uncommon for a number of projects studios to have been built with old sea/flatbed truck containers a.k.a. seatainers. Or on the other side of that, just used semi truck trailers still on their tires. Now some of those are actually not all that bad. Some feature ceiling heights of greater than 10 feet. And your room is 40 feet deep. And some of those studios don't sound bad at all. They are not however necessarily being towed anywhere.

    When it came to my truck, which I call my Home , my intended design criteria offered up the possibility of actually making some recordings right inside the truck. Within this 24 foot box I have 3 discrete rooms that include solid core doors albeit no airlocks. The middle room is rather small being only 6 x 8 x 7. And that's large enough for a stand full of electronic keyboards. More than one vocalist. Acoustic guitar/electric guitar. Drums not so much so as there is no actual room for that. That is, not until you are in the rear room/entryway. Since the 24 track Ampex was released from its solitary confinement, I had barely enough room for a small drum set. There were no nasty reflections as there is lots of diffusion. Kind of sounds like a drum booth which I've never been excited to record drums in. Not unless it was for disco because that was the sound you wanted for disco. Remember? Before you were born? I guess you don't remember much back then? LOL and I don't know what came first? The s_perm or the egg? My memory is a little dark because, well... it was dark in there.

    Nevertheless, most percussionists like playing their own instruments. Some will play on other drums but still bring their own cymbals with them or, their own snare drum, bass drum pedals. And in my situation, if I was to concentrate on what your plan is, I would definitely have the convenience all sugar oriented electronic drum set by folks like Roland on hand. You always know what you're going to get out of those samples. And they pack away very nicely without taking up much room when not needed. For all others... there's MasterCard. Include an extra charge in your fee for acoustic drums setups.

    The microphones will be close a.k.a. tight. You'll still have the overheads. You'll gate the snare drum. You'll gave the bass drum. You'll get the tom-toms. And then you might likely compress the crap out of the overheads. All while dialing up your room simulations available by the thousands, in software. And it will work out great. Having some diffusion and some foamy absorption and/or carpet, blanket stuff around will help you get a killer drums sound, in a space that shouldn't provide for a killer drums sound. But that's really up to you and not your equipment and not the acoustical environment. That just comes from hard-nosed engineering technique based upon experience, creativity and maybe even some intelligence, if that were only possible?

    Let's face it, those guys with the 24 inch bass drums and double floor tom-toms almost as large, ain't going to make it. We're talking small straightahead classic jazz style a.k.a. high school drum set. That means the floor tom-tom about the size of what you would find as the small rack, tom-tom on a heavy metal set. That means an 18 or 20 inch bass drum. And then everything will sound fabulous. Any larger and you'll never get it right. It will just be too much sound in that environment. And I don't know too many rock and rollers that don't have 22 & 24 inch bass drums. They do seem to have brains the size of peas? I guess? No offense Donny. I mean after so many years of sitting directly behind the explosions, how else are drummers brains suppose to work?

    Nevertheless well I might consider it doable it's not what I would call practical. The biggest problem we experienced was with the control room at the front of the box and the drums at the rear were the only entrance way in or out existed, the other guys wanted to whiz into my wire trough due to the sheer near impossibility to get past the drum set once the microphones and everything was in place. Sort of like all those waking up together in the drunk tank with no way out LOL. I can't even remember that party? And lucky me... the wooden wire trough doesn't smell funny and the cables aren't sticky.

    So based on prior experiences, if I was going to concentrate on using your trailer as both the studio and the control room, stick the drummer in the front where he can't get out and you can. Just make sure you have one of those empty plastic jugs of drinking water so that he can refill it. Otherwise the microphones will keep getting screwed up. And you might want to put a round vent duct in, back here near the drummer. You run a piece of flexible air duct, with the fan at the end. This way it sucks air out without making any internal noise. And the drummer can pass as much gas as he needs to. And no one will have to run through a poison gas obstacle filled just to go relieve themselves.

    You're also not going to do well with any of those typical roof mounted air conditioner/heat pumps. Those make a good deal of noise. So you're going to have to remotely locate your air conditioning on something shock mounted and ducted via a flexible docs into the body of the box. And you really want that to be opposite where the powered exhaust fan vent does. So ya have to get a bit creative with that. Because if you think you're going to turn it off while cutting some tracks you are sadly mistake making, a.k.a. mistaking. On a hot summer day that's good for about 5-10 minutes. If you're lucky? And that's another reason why God created noise gates and downward expanders. Those also help to modify bad acoustics and reflections, electronically. I haven't been able to live without those things since 1978. And so it really helps in those kinds of not so ideal recording condition scenarios. Easy to do in software. Even plug-ins are available today that mimic my old KEPEX 1's, sitting in my rack, all eight and a spare. Other analog and digital mixers allow for that built into every input, every track.

    So when you learn how to use those effectively, none of your friends will be able to understand how you get such an incredible and bombastic sounding drum recording in such a lousy place and space? And ya can laugh at them and tell them it was an old secret recipe ya got from an old timer. And don't tell them what you did. Because every buddy and his brother with a piece of software will also figure it out, cutting down on your potential clientele. And that's what helps to separate the engineers from the noise. Noise he microphone preamplifiers? Not enough gain? Too much hiss? Not when you learn how to use 'em. Hollywood has used these things since day one on dialogue tracks. When they were still recording to optical film soundtracks. So those things are little more than quite effective, they're absolutely necessary. And few people can appreciate what they do because they are a bit tricky to dial in correctly. They are absolutely easiest to dial incorrectly. And then they chatter and you start losing words and notes and down beats, gated reverb you didn't want in the most unflattering way LOL. So no beginner's and only a few portion of the professionals that I know use them in the recording industry religiously. And your problems in that smalll space will be answered when you master that technique. And you might likely find out it's no big whoop and works out great? Because it's really all down here technique putting that final mix together.

    My reasons behind why this works is my extensive background in doing location recording. From peoples basements, to their garages where you are in competition with their lawn mowers and trash cans, to your commercial rental storage garages at Public Storage, has all yielded great sounding rock 'n roll recordings. And it has because of the compromised acoustics and the unique sonic signature you can extract from that. Don't try to avoid it. Instead, embrace it and work it. Just so you can also prove to others that when it comes to pop music, acoustics really don't matter. Now don't try this stick the violin section of your local Symphony Orchestra in there, to record the Symphony Orchestra, partial section by partial section. That will take a little more skill. The end result will sound like many of those orchestral and operatic broadcasts from the huge venues that are primarily outdoors. We're every violin, every viola, every oboe and all them y'all's have individual microphones and are being mixed on a 120 input mixer. And all of the lovely acoustics are coming from 15-$50,000 worth of digital processors. Chris likes that Bruschetta M-7 and I say three or four of those would do the trick. So around $30,000 to make it sound right for the recording and the broadcast. It doesn't really help to have audience microphones in those situations because the delays of the primary sounds returning to the microphones are too long and delayed.Unless, of course, you want to advance those tracks into sample accurate sync lock with say a snare drum shot? Of which would only be possible in non-real-time within software, after the fact. You could still accomplish it live but then you're looking at another whole can of worms if there is video involved. And as a remote guy, you may very well be faced with some of these possible situations and scenarios. I mean what are you going to do if you find a video truck that one of your gigs and they want to give you SMPTE timecode? Where are ya going to stick that? Will you record that or will you slave your multitrack to their timecode? And if you are hired to make a CD and video is also being shot, should you record of 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz? And is that SMPTE timecode 30 frames in non-drop or drop? Or is it 29.97 drop or non-drop? How about some black burst into your master clock? You do have everything in your control room timed from a master clock don't you? No? LOL... that's OK neither do I. But I will record that track. And that should allow them to lock their video or locked their audio to their video, through their synchronization system. Some won't even bother. Because our current digital recording technologies will hold synchronization, when synchronization is obtained. It'll rarely drift a frame or two that is closely related to the way that outboard analog recorders were crystal synchronized, without the need for a cable, to the camera. And it wasn't timecode.

    It's important to note that because when you are cutting tracks, it's quite likely someone might be rolling a camcorder and you might have a couple of tiny, quick Mart style surveillance cameras inside, all running to USB-based video capture devices on old computers sitting around the house? Where all of that footage, once extracted from the hard drives, synchronized in the software, gives you a multi-camera video shoot, of the days recording events. All of which can be used later to build a music video with additional, second unit photography footage to mix in. And all you need is a CD of your tracks playing back to lip sync with. And voilĂ  a fascinating music video made both during tracking recording, mixing and traveling around town and other interesting places like getting busted for DUI on your way home from the recording session. Isn't that why y'all have video cameras in your cell phones today? You could even disguise it in some toilet paper, creating a little hole for the extremely small inconspicuous lens. And if you're careful, you can put it in the ladies bathroom on the floor in one of the stalls and leave. Come back for the toilet paper on the floor, a few minutes later. You'll get these great shots for your music video. Just no faces please. Remember, no person in their right mind, would pick up toilet paper off the floor of a public bathroom. Just get there before the cleaning lady does. I mean whatever your girlfriend did to lose your phone after you let her use it, isn't your responsibility. Even if ya don't have a girlfriend. You might have to rent one? But that's usually not a problem for a guy that owns a mobile studio. And you can make money with YouTube if you want to be famous so you want it to go viral. And that would likely do it? You might want to be running a secondary solid-state audio recorder right outside the door so that when some ladies child picks up the abuse of toilet paper you are likely to hear and record a most incredible scream? And that would even be more better for your rock 'n roll recording. By the way that would also be your cue to leave quickly. And you should have a solid alibi ready. Now I'm not endorsing this kind of behavior mind you. It's all in the pursuit of art for art's sake. Right? Right.

    So give it a whirl. The only thing ya stand to lose... is your freedom for a little while. And then you can pursue music again instead.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Resource Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    I'm a drummer too.

    I'd say, give them the choice of using their own drum (and pay the time for the setup, tunning, time set the mics and make a monitor mix) or use the electronic drum.
    What is it, 1 or 2 hours ? or more.. to setup a kit.. :)
    You also have to let them hear a few well played samples (with some ghosts notes and nuances) and hear a variety of drum samples. I don't know if I'd risk talking about quantising and other manipulations.

    Don't limit yourself with only superior drummer, give Addictive Drums a try or many others. They all have a kind of signature acoustic depending where the samples have been recorded. You might gain the trust of a drummer if he knows not all your projects sound the same.. BTW BFD is great but needs a lot of mixing time.

    Great project !

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