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Tuning Drum Techniques

Discussion in 'Drums' started by audiokid, Feb 7, 2011.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    What do you do for drum tuning , muffling, dampening for the best sound prior to recording?
    • MoonGels
    • Rings
    • Duck tape
    • Pillow
    How do you listen to drums before micing. What do you listen for?
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Wow Chris, that's a pretty generic question.

    First, I have to establish what genre they'll be used for.

    I have to know what kind of style they would like the sound to appear as if they already have a preconceived idea.

    Like underwear, everybody has their favorite heads. I remember this one studio in town would only use the Evans liquid filled & damped heads. They sounded pretty cool but not on any recording I heard. I like the sound of good old-fashioned white REMO Weather King Ambassadors to record with.I like the full musical value of the tone for most drums. This requires precise and even tuning around the full circumference as well. No lopsided tensioning.

    Damping material? I have found that a small full wallet duct taped to a snare drum head & hanging on the rim sounds quite nice. The wallet can be filled with anything like credit cards, money, condoms. As long as it's not empty because that makes it sound flat. I'm not kidding!

    I think most of us generally put some kind of material into the bass drum. I frequently try to add some mass there. Both to stabilize the material & to change the resonance of the bass drum. Frequently I'll use a microphone stand base, sandbags, large multifaceted stones/rocks. It's a classic challenge to record a guy like Max Weinberg. Full bass drum heads front and back. And I wouldn't even begin to try and tune his drums. I never had a chance to ask Buddy Rich how he turned his drums. I got to stand about 20 feet away from him when he went into his 20 minute encore drum solo. I was standing stage right wings at Detroit's large Masonic Auditorium. So I had the chance to carefully listen to what these here contraptions are supposed to sound like. It taught me much at 14, in 1970. I had this opportunity since I had been in charge (yes, in charge at 14 years of age over a bunch of union guys) over the musical entertainment portion of the Miss Detroit Beauty Pageant. That was to be held the following day on Saturday so this was the rehearsal. Petula Clark & Buddy Rich's Big Band was playing next door for a Friday night performance. So I was just able to walk over there. It occurred to me while he was doing his solo that there was nobody else standing in the stage right wings. I started getting nervous about this since I had wondered, near the end of his solo, if there had been something in the rider of his contract not to have any distractions near him while he played?? At that particular moment in time, he wound up the solo, stood up from the drums, through a big wave to the crowd, lit a cigarette and came trucking off stage to stage right. He was coming toward me! I started backing up quickly. He then lunged at me!!! I thought OMG! I'm being attacked! He grabbed my right hand and started shaking it like a madman! Asking me how I liked it? I never got on an autograph but to this day, I've never washed my right hand. What a thrill for a 14-year-old that wasn't allowed to play the drums. The following day, the show went off without a hitch. I had to re-edit this one girl's particular dance routine into a different order of these 4 separate small pieces. I didn't think she was any good and probably wouldn't win? She actually turned out to be Pamela Eldridge who is a former Miss Detroit Pageant Winner and was the reigning Miss America 1970. How was a 14-year-old to know?

    When you're raised with it you stay with it
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Great story, but remind me to only shake hands with you left handed.
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    On the tuning stuff I like all the new gadgets. Moongel is just so easy to move around. If a drummer doesn't like it - off it comes and the drums and cymbals are nice and clean. I like the Evans EQ Pad for a kick pillow. It's easy to adjust to get just the pressure you want and it stays where you put it. No more have to try to figure when the junk in the kick drum shifted all around without you noticing it.
  5. Phunker

    Phunker Active Member

    Folded blanket into the DB floor. Apart from that, try tuning the drums correctly first. Rubbish tuning is the reason for 99,9% of all the humming and cross-talk. Try not to dampen drums if you don't really have to. They need to be able to breathe properly, otherwise they'll sound like tupperware(tm). btw.. Heads which have been battered for several years should be swapped for new ones. Drum sound is a mix of drum technique, the drums themselves, the room, mics and mic placement and so on and so forth. A hell of a lot of variables..
  6. natural

    natural Active Member

    Yeah, the question is a little vague. All these techniques can be used. it's usually the drums that will determine which technique can be used.
    For example, take tuning the Toms, they seem to fall into 3 categories. Either tune to the song, Tune to themselves in some determined intervals, or tuned to whatever they resonate best at. The drums will usually dictate which technique you will be able to use.

    Perhaps the better question might be what doesn't work?
    - I rarely get a good recording with those 'O' ring dampers on the kick drum. They seem to fine for live maybe, but they always seem to choke the drum too much for recording. If that's the only thing that makes the drum sound useable, I would rather swap out the drum.

    - Recording overly gigantic drums. (popular in the 90's) More often than not, they never sound as big as they look.

    - Cymbals that are positioned 1" above the toms. (the only exception here is for some jazz recordings)

    I'm pretty sure Buddy Rich's DNA has been long gone. Off to the loo with you.
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    We're getting a really quality drum sound right now. The room is controlled a lot because I also use it for a guitar amp room and a large vocal booth. Its not dead, just no extra fundamentals getting loose and fouling up the mix.

    We have a Tama Superstar Maple kit. 20X18 kick w/ Evans Emad batter w/the ring and a thick Remo Powerstroke 3 on the front with a hole in it. The
    thick front head gives us complete control of the overring and allows us to use only a very thin pillow inside...its less than 2" deep and doesnt kill off the inner sq.inches of the kick. It stays open and huge sounding while retaining a controlled and tight thud/klick. We use an ATM25 inside and a 6.5" sub-kick at the outside head. Separate tracks.

    The toms are 10X8, 12X9, & 14X14 w/Evans Genera G2 coated tops and Tama clears on the bottoms. Theres an Aquarian studio ring on the floor and a couple of small bits of folded duck tape on the top heads of the racks.. Audix D2's on the racks and ATM25 on the floor. These are not damped other than the little strategically placed tape pieces, there is very little sympathetic ring with the snares and zero crosstalk with the toms themselves.

    The snare is a 14 X 61/2 Gretsch mahogany monster.It has an Evans EC-1 reverse dot and a Aquarian studio ring which we use on and off depending on how much 'wonk' we want. The Bottom head is an Evans clear snare and the snare strainers are an extrawide set of wires. Audix i5 on top and Audix D1 under. ADK modded A51 model 5's for overheads and an ADK SC-T on the hat with the pad engaged.

    I EQ the overheads a bit. Certainly low cut @100hz and a narrow cut @ 300 and 5K takes some of the room out. I dont compress the drums going in, I tune them. The initial tuning when a new head gets put on is with the DrumDial. After that its tune them to the song or tune them to be as separate from each other as possible while still sounding like a single entity.

    I used to get them as dead as I could and let the room liven them up a little, but this paints your sound into the proverbial corner and now its tune the drums so they all play well with each other, control the room and push the red button when its right.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Sorry for being so vague but I'm basically listening to what everyone's interpretation of tuning and their techniques to get the drums in tune is for them. After the drums are actually tuned, how important is it to listen to the sweet spot of each drum before mic placement? Does anyone do this?

    Thanks for the link on the Evans EQ Pad
  9. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    Wow, I have to tell you that I encountered a problem with my drummer just last night with the resonance coming from the floor tom. I have a Tama Granstar kit in a very similar configuration to Davedog's, with the exception that I'm using a Rogers snare drum. After some groans and whatnot, the drummer unhappily finally tuned the drum and the resonance problem quickly improved. I just sent him the link to this thread so that he can see that my suggestions weren't just bull sh*t on my part.
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Right on! Drummers coming!

    It can go as far... Each drum and cymbal has a certain sweet spot that has the best sound. I'm not talking about general mic position. When micing each drum you don't just place a mic at example: 2" in at 90 degrees and call it a day. There are actual sweet spots around the radius on every drum that will give you a precise (better tone) on the skin that talks louder so, rotating a drum or cymbal (if possible and acceptable to the drummer) or moving the mic to a different spot can improve the sound. You find this by listening to the skins sweet spot after the drums are tuned.
  11. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    They have products for this? I thought I was high tech with some folded toilet paper and some duct tape. Not exactly clean coming off. I used to spend a lot of time on getting the ring out of a snare. After a while I just learned to accept it. Now I listen for it.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    You can find these sweet spots by listening and feeling the vibration generated. The energy coming off the skin or cymbal. When you find that sweet spot, you then do your normal more ambient or tight angle mic placement.

    After tuning, this improves zoning in for the the most optimized tone of the skin.
  13. thegrobinson

    thegrobinson Active Member

    Favorite Kick Head.

    From reading your question I thought I'd share with you my favorite kick head. I started using an Evans Emad2 kick head a few years ago after I heard it on a friend's kit. I love the head for its focused sound that has a natural decay and feels punchy on its own before a lot of processing.

    I feel this head is well suited for a lot of today's modern genres where the kick is "punchy". The head has a plastic ring around the outside that lets you change out dampening rings for different decay speeds.

    I don't mean to sound like I'm pitching a product here. I guess the point I'm trying to make is it's a lot easier to get a good sound when your instruments sound good.
  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Emads are great, and for all the reasons you've mentioned. They're very natural sounding but great control.

    The last part of your statement is rule #1. Source, source, source. When its right its pretty easy to capture sound.....When its not its work.
  15. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Gaffer tape - Never use duct tape in the studio. Unless you are McGyver and have to construct a bomb to defeat some villians.
  16. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I've had good luck w/ remo weather kings on a recent project. I was also told the other day by the guy who mixed 'hanging tough' that he loves tune the bottom head a minor third Higher than the top head. we use a drum pillow, i think it's an evans, it's got two peices that velcro together, so you can ajdust it to any depth. The guy said he likes to use cotton balls inside toms, that just lay on the bottom head. said they don't make noise, they're cotton. Sorry to just repeat stuff, i don't have enough experience yet to have a 'technique'
    One thing i've found is that since every drum kit different one of the hardest parts of miking, is actually squeezing the mics in the nooks and crannies available. this often has ended up in some 'less than ideal places'.
    The other thing that helps,although not a tuning issue per say, is to remove any extra drums, cymbals, coffee cans ect. that the drummer barley, if ever hits. especcially in metal, these kids bring like 8 toms, and don't even use half of them, if the do, sure they should stay. also, it can help people to be a bit more creative with their patterns.
  17. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    This is funny and true. Over the years I have done a lot of young hair bands with their 27 piece kits. Some have heeded the advice and some rebelled. Those that heeded are all pretty good studio drummers now.

    When we set up for a new band, we would allow the drummer to bring it all since we had a stage and plexi above and around....Used to put a pair of Crown PZM's on the hanging plexis over....but I digress.....We'd set up all the mics for the kit. SM81's on toms, Beyer 201's on the snare, D12's or Md409s on the kick/kicks, usually a pair of 87's for overheads with the pzm's......then we'd let em all go to rehearse their songs and set the drum sounds. The first song, we'd allways ask for the most elaborate and complete drumming song...."Now this is the one where you hit all 19 cymbals right???" "Yeah.....man its cool...." "Okay Hercules, lets hear it...."

    Usually it wound up being only 3 or 4 cymbals, a couple of toms, both kicks and the studio snare.......other times they'd get their deposit back, go somewhere else for a month and then be back with a wagging tail.

    Another trick was to invite a couple of our hotshot real drummer friends over for the basics.... someone who's band the kids really liked. "Dude, I haveta have all my drums to play" "Really, How bout our buddy here will show you what your drums sound like" "Okay"......So he goes in and plays all the stuff the kid just played on the snare one kick and a cymbal or two...."Sounds good dont it"......"Yeah, how'd he do that?"

    So the pro goes in, we spend $50 bucks getting him to give some tips, the kid gets a lesson the tracks go easy and the band sounds better for it.
  18. strings1

    strings1 Active Member

    Yeah I remember this guy who when he would over it was all we could do to keep him off of the drums. He would start in the pocket and then 4 to 6 measures later he would tear heads and break cymbals. He would complain that there weren't enough drums to make the sounds he wanted and this is why he was breaking stuff.

    As I was reading the comment about the need for unnecessary drums i was thinking of John Bonham who could use the minimal with great enthusiasm. Then Neil Peart who could make a song out of his set. It just goes to show that it's not the size, rather how it is being used.
  19. ThirdBird

    ThirdBird Active Member

    A whole thread can be created just to discuss tuning, let alone the type of heads that could be used.

    It really depends on the style and how lively the drums are. There are different tunings and heads for different styles. Knowing what is for what can definitely help point in whatever direction is needed.

    Is there any particular question on this subject, because I could elaborate further if necessary.

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