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Bandwidth of My Raw Drum Tracks Seems Narrow

Discussion in 'Drums' started by deanp920, Apr 15, 2004.

  1. deanp920

    deanp920 Guest

    Hi there,

    This happens to me over and over...I tune and mic up my kit as best I can, but the raw tracks in their relative balance seem very puny(lacking top and bottom) compared to the sound of my raw guitar amp(Les Paul/Mesa Tremoverb/SM57) and P- bass DI tracks.

    The latter instruments come across much richer and louder than the drum tracks for a given peak meter reading.

    So, I end up applying lots of EQ to individual drums, rolling out mud in the overheads, and appling compression to the drum mix to avoid eating up so much headroom. Without processing, the drums sound boxy against other instruments.

    This yeilds a sound that's passable for a demo, but can't compare to the rich, mellow, yet razor-sharp tones I hear on commercial CD's. Examples might include SoundGarden's "Superunknown", and Meshuggah's "Nothing". The drum tracks just jump out of the speakers at you, without requiring a lot of headroom to do it, and don't show any signs of being overly or unnaturally processed. Lots of broadband depth and energy withinin a small dynamic range. My sound always seems to end up sort of "closed in" and 'pushed back', even with lots of compression and EQ.

    My kit is a Taye Studio Maple. It has super thin shells and I use single ply ambassadors on everything up top and powerstroke III's on the kick.

    I use Neumann KM184's for overheads, Recorderman style. SM57X2 on the snare and a D112 inside the kick. SM57/MD421 on toms. Presonus Digimax LT preamp clocked from Aardsync II into a MOTU 2408 MKII into Digital Performer. I use the Waves Rennaisance plugins almost exclusively for EQ, Compression and Reverb.

    What I'm trying to detrmine through this topic is where I most likely need to focus my energy on improvements to have a fighting chance at a big drum sound.

    More and better EQ, compression and Reverb?

    Better/Different drums and/or setup/tuning?

    Better mic preamps? Will some API 312 clones or some Neve 1272's solve all my problems? :? :lol:

    Honestly, my overal mixes, including the guitar and bass have an overall small and pushed back feel, but this is most(extremely) apparant on the drum tracks.

  2. noit

    noit Guest

    Maybe you don't like the sound of your room.

    Also drums have harder attacks then other instruments. While the hard hits are peeking, the detail is still at a low volume. Try a little compression to pull everything together. Be careful not to squash it though.
  3. Sebatron

    Sebatron Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Get some noise gates in the path.

    Close mic.

    After the pre , or after you've commited to a raw recorded track,... hook up a gate in the path for at least one of the following
    ... kick and snare.
    You need to expand these out of the picture THEN E.Q and compress.
    Compressing in the raw form will still ^#$% with the leakage from the other drums and cymbals.
    ... then if you can be bothered , set up gates for each tom path( ! ) and compress as well,, and use your overheads carefully .
    Push them up and balance with the expanded ( gated ) sounds.
    Maybe even compress that sub-mix.

    Compression on kick and snare may be up to and including limiting.
    This will give you the in-yer-face consistancy that you may be chasing.

    Of course this isn't good practise for Jazz etc,,.... but neither are any of the quoted artists you've mentioned.

    Those sessions are comprised of some poor ass engineer sitting for hours on sounds , tuning each gate and comp over and over in solo mode.... then waiting for the 2" reel to rewind.

    Get your monitors sorted out ,, and you gotta have good bottom end accuracy otherwise forget it. :?

    I know the best pres for this job. 8)
  4. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    I used to have a motu 2408 II and it sucked- I used to have the same problem with my drum sounds with it, having to eq the hell out of the tracks. I then got a 828 mkii and the sound was getting better but it wasn't until I got good apogee rosetta conversion (and clock!) that my sounds started to be crisp and detailed.

    your mics are more than adequate and I agree with noit about the sound of your room- maybe you should move the drums around untill you find the optimum spot- I agree with seb that your pres could be better, but IMHO I really think your problem is mainly with the 2408. 8ch of apogee rosetta will set you back $3000 but sometimes you can get 8 ch of lucid AD for about $1100 at e-bay which should be adequate for drums - then you could go into the 2408 via lightpipe and totally bypass the 2408 converters, which really suck.

    Hope this helps! :mrgreen:
  5. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    I must first say that I've learned, with great pains, that it is very difficult if not impossible to get that "great" drum sound without "great" sounding drums. Second is the mic pre's. It hardly likely that any of the bands you mention use Digimax pres. Seb does have some killer pre's for drums and killer advise. Third, remember that a big share of the drum sounds these days are often replaced or augmented with samples. And it's not unusual for an engineer or producer to dump the drums into pro tools or Nuendo and spend a week or so editing to get exactly what he/she wants from the tracks.
  6. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    First Dean, don't beat yourself up...but you will never ever get sounds like the drums on SuperUnknown...unless you've access to a bunch of 1081 & 1073 style neves, Or Big API...not just the pre's, but the EQ's too. A LOT of mics, 47fet's, U67's...What was the state of the art. And that's JUST the beginning.

    What you can do though is ..when you record, make sure you at least EQ the kick. Suck out the mids pretty good around 560 and again around 200 if you can't get it loud and phat in your speaker. Also relative balance wise Start with the kick @ or near Zero, and with that the guitars in general should be about on average 10db less. Sources with a lot of constant RMS energy like gtrs, and bass etc. have a greater apparent loudness than transient stuff like Drums...so they need to be a lot louder. Focus on getting the most lo and lo-mid from the drums..minimizing the relative level of the top end compared to the bottom will help make it sound big.

    People may want to disagree but you can't get to the moon in a cesna...you can do some great flying and in one, but even a navy pilot couldn't get you to the moon in one...for that you need NASA and a rocket ship.
  7. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Sorry if this is pretty obvious...

    Drum tracks usually peak somewhere between 3-6dB louder than the rest of the music, if the meters are peaking at the same spot, your drum tracks may be just what you're hearing - too soft relatively.
  8. deanp920

    deanp920 Guest

    Thanks everyone :D

    The suggestions and insights so far are very much appreciated.

    I'll start with the gating and EQ techniques first, because I don't have to buy anything 8) :) . No doubt applying the techniques outlined thus far in this thread will make an improvement. I'll be sure to document what I'm doing differently and report back. I've been trying so hard to get by without EQ that maybe it's time to embrace this stage of the process rather than run away from it.
    My 2408MKII is suspect. However, the Digimax has it's own converters and these problems translate even between my DIY 8 channel tube preamp into the MOTU's converters compared to the Digimax via lightpipe into the 2408MKII. I may still be comparing two substandard recording chains, though. Gotta figure out a cost effective way to sort out that end of things, just so I can hear the difference a high end recording path would make.

    Speaking of that...
    This statement further encourages me to keep working on my DIY projects, so I might get at least a taste of this cost prohibitive gear in my tracks. :)
    Thanks Recorderman. Getting some perspective like this is really helpful.

    Thanks everyone else, too. This is a great group.

  9. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Hi dean,
    Gald you didn't take my commenst the wrong way. Those kind of drum sounds are very multi-miced. Top and bottom on all drums...sometimes two in top and a bottom, amny rroom and ambient mics. More than one kit, variety of snares, big wood rooms...very expensive.

    One. don't use a kit with more that two toms, rack and floor. You can make IT sound bigger than a kit with more toms. The advie on the gates is good, you can do that in the mix though with parallel channles. I wouldn't get when you record. I would EQ though..suck out mids. Add a little top to snare and toms. Really focus on mic palcement and phase...these have to be spot on...then find those mids in the kick to suck out. NS10's are great monitors that don't have bottom, but do allow you to get the bottom right on none the less.

    Happy recording
  10. svart

    svart Active Member

    Jan 30, 2004
    hey a simple *trick* that people tend to forget this day and age of processing is just move the mics away from the drums some more. you get proximity effect(more mud) and more attack with less decaying tone(the mics get washed out) when the mics are right up against the heads. I ended up forgetting tom mics in favor of some modded oktava condensors as overheads(actually in front of the kit about 10 feet at about head level. these pick up every little sound with no washing and no brash cymbal attacks that i hear a lot. moddest compression -15-20 with 2:1 makes everything fit. i also switched from a top and bottom snare mic to a top (about a foot away total: sm57 for body) and an oktava mk012(modded) pointed at the shell (about 7 inches away, for shell ring and crack) light compression, level balancing and almost no eq did wonders for these. I am using Yamaha recording customs with aquarian studioX heads. no padding or detuning.

    hope that helps

  11. mardyk

    mardyk Guest

    I would start by checking that everything is in phase. If you room sounds good you should be able to get a good sound with the mics and pres you have. I'm 100% sure that your MOTU 2408 is not a problem. It's a good box. Unless it's malfunctioning, of course.
    Also I find that heavy eqing and compressing can destroy all life in drumtracks. Especially the Rencomp which is definately to mushy for drums IMO. Gating can also be a nightmare. Bleed is your friend. It can give your tracks depth.
    It's also not fair to compare yourself to Meshuggah. Those guys are aliens. If you listen to Superunknown the guitars and bass actually aren't that huge. This makes the drums sound bigger than they really are. The Led Zeppelin syndrome.
    You could always use samples to enhance the kick and snare. It's a bit tricky, but it can work sometimes.
  12. deanp920

    deanp920 Guest

    Hi mardyk,
    Heres the thing; my room is small with low ceilings, but is fairly well treated with slats and absorbtion. More of a neutral room leaning on the dead side with a carpeted floor. When I sit at my drums and play, they sound good to my ears...loud as f**k..but good. When I stand out in front of the kit with another person playing, it REALLY sounds amazing, the kick is very thick with a sharp attack. Exactly the sound I'd like to hear on the final recording.

    Well, If I put a single microphone in either of these spots, the resulting sound on the monitors is comparatively dismal...thin, weak and colored in a crappy sort of way with all the resonance cocentrated in the mids, mostly.

    So, does that mean my room sounds bad, or does it mean that the room sounds good and that I'm not using the correct recording technique and/or equipment?

  13. sneak

    sneak Active Member

    Apr 27, 2004
    I think you will have to do more with microphone placement, just replace them over and over till you get a nice sound. And use room mics if it sounds good in the room.
  14. mardyk

    mardyk Guest

    It's unrealistic to expect a single d112 stuck inside the kick to sound the way the kick sounds in the room. It always sounds dismal IMO. I've heard some good things about the Audix D6.Try adding a LDC type mike in front of the kick aswell. carefully check phase and blend to taste. Maybe try scooping out a bit of the mud around 500ish. remember that most of the sound comes from the OH.
  15. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    the key to that mic in my experiance is to scoop out 560ish as well as some 200.
  16. radioliver

    radioliver Guest

    Speaking of bass drum mics...how does the shure beta 52 compare to the D112. Also, when you say suck out the mids, are you talking about -20db or more around -4/-5? thanks for your help guys
  17. svart

    svart Active Member

    Jan 30, 2004
    suck out as much as needed.

    someone said it before but it sounds to me like your room absorbs TOO much low and high leaving all the reflections as mids. Try making absorbers for mids and take out the slats and other absorbers.

    on a side note, our ears use tiny little bones that acutally form a kind of mechanical compressor, thus we can hear a mouse fart or a jet plane with almost the same clarity so what you hear won't be the same as what the microphone "hears" because it has no "compressor" between the membrane and the wire like the ear does. What mics are you using again? cheapo mics tend to have harsher and louder mids.

  18. I would spend two days on the following learning project:
    Day 1: start with the infamous 3 mic method and get it as good-sounding as you can. Get a feel for the phase relationship issue by moving the mics around and checking them in mono. When you have a feel for phase, start messing with eq, comps, and gates to get a feel for them. Next try a tighter config where you mic all the drums, paying close attention to phase. Add in the eqs, etc and play some more.
    Day 2: Rent/demo some nice gear- pres, comps, converters, mics (whatever you can swing- sounds like your mics aren't the problem though). Applying all your new knowledge, A/B the rented gear against your current set-up. See if you can identify any weak links in the chain.
    Here is my off-the cuff list of what determines good/bad drum sound, in order of importance:
    1. Drummer/performance/song/arrangement
    2. Tuning/heads
    3. Room
    4. Mics
    5. Recording chain

    Obviously a poor quality at one point can be offset by a good quality at another (ex: close miking can offset a bad room sound to a certain degree).
  19. TomMaag

    TomMaag Guest

    I used to have this same exact problem. My biggest help was taking my drums out of my live room. I took the bass drum and went around the room looking for the spot it sounded the best. I bought some of ethan's bass traps. I found an area that made an incredible difference in the drum's fullness. Set the drumset up right there. Made a HUGE difference.

    Also, don't be afraid that compression will suck the life out of your drumset. Just be sure to use it right. A fast attack time will destroy your transients. That will hide them in the back if they are not too loud. So watch for that. But if you have a slower attack time, a mediumish release, and get 4 db or so of compression, you can keep your drums loud and punchy so they cut through the mix.

    Also, your overhead mics are small diaphram mics. The larger ones will pick up more drum sound. I've found that this helps for a bigger sound. Especially helpful if not using room mics IMO.

    I think your biggest problem though is probably the location of drums in your room and possibly phase cancellation.
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