Super tight drum sound

Discussion in 'Drums' started by jimminy, Aug 18, 2009.

  1. jimminy

    jimminy Active Member

    This is my first post here so first I'll say hi.

    Maybe someone can help me with a drum treatment. I'm trying to get a really tight, I guess dry drum sound, like what I hear on some recordings recently, in particular on recordings by a band called Pinback if you know them. If not try listening to Prog or X.I.Y ( and I think you'll hear it right away even though the quality is so low.

    It sounds to me like regular acoustic drums, but processed somehow differently than I know how to do. Maybe it's all samples pre-processed somehow. Maybe they mic every drum separately, or stuff pillows in every drum shell, I dunno.

    I typically record drums with snare, BD, and overhead mics, or I use a drum sampler with an acoustic sample set. This typically works out for more "live" sounding stuff, but for songs that need a more controlled or refined sound, they just sound too raw. Maybe too much shell ringing, or mic bleed, or maybe too much room coming through. On the Pinback stuff it sounds a bit like they're playing in a really super dead room then adding a little reverb for space.

    I've tried playing around with compression and gating without much luck. I'm curious to know how I can get that sound with what I have to work with, which is a non-dead room, and samples.
  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Scotland, UK
    FWIW; compression will make the drums more ringy rather than less - unless you have a moderate attack and release that's at least 200ms. Not too long or you risk missing the next hit (some compressors won't re-attack while they're releasing, some will).

    The moderate attack should be long enough that it misses the start of the hit, but clamps down afterwards.
  3. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Not compression, gating. But again, you have to be careful not to cut the tail too short otherwise it can sound very unnatural. Gates on the drums. High pass filters on the cymbals. All things in moderation of course.
  4. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Nuremberg, Germany
    Home Page:
    i couldn't listen to the band yet, but my guess would be close micing every drum in a more or less dead room.
    you could also try a combination of compression (with a long release) and transient shaping (spl transient designer, sonnox transmod, logic enveloper...), where you turn down the release of the sounds. this way you can get rid of the natural ambience of the drums.
  5. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    The way the drum is tuned is a massive part of this equation too. And the drummer has to play it with authority too.
  6. jimminy

    jimminy Active Member

    Well the good news is that I got it to where it sounds a bit more "pro" than "garage" sounding, which is actually a big improvement so thanks already for the input.

    It still isn't that really dry poppy sound, but I can live with it. I'm pretty sure you guys that said it's a gate thing are correct, though I'm still having a bit of trouble getting it to shut in a way that doesn't sound clipped.

    What I did is use a sampler with a sample set that is basically just mic'ed and left acoustic sounding as I figured this is easier to experiment with and will be similar to a real kit when I get the chance to try that again with real equipment.

    So, I put the BD, SD, HH, Toms, and overheads each on a separate channel, and gated all but the overheads & hat to close pretty quick, sent all of those to a stereo group channel and then compressed that pretty heavily to get a good pop, and figured the gate would deal with the ringing so the compressor didn't have a chance to add it back.

    It sounds great, but not quite there. I'll work a bit more but maybe I need to try a better gate because the VST in cubase I have maybe pretty low-end.
  7. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Scotland, UK
    (Dead Link Removed)
    Use it to turn down the release. Not too much.
  8. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    If a gate isn't working as well as you like, a downward expander might do the trick. A little tougher to get a hold of though. I don't know of one in Plugin form. Hardware is expensive. Drumagog(drum replacement) is always an easy solution.

    Good directional mics and mic placement are the basis for a good recording.
  9. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Scotland, UK
    This, then.
    The range dial controls the maximum amount of downward expansion (infinite = gating). Or you could use the upward expansion as well.
  10. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    A lot of modern stuff uses drum replacement these days. Not all, but that could be some of what you may be hearing when you mention "pre-processed".

    That said, from my own experience...

    As mentioned, well-tuned, well-played drums. Gotta start there.
    Well chosen, well-placed mics are equally important. SM57s work great on most things, by the way.

    I typically do snare (57), kick (52), and OHs (414s). Tom mics are nice if the drummer uses them ALOT. Can do w/o.
    The placement of the OHs brings a lot of the room in. Sometimes bringing them in closer helps for me. Like hueseph said, placement, and directional. A cardioid pattern lessens the room impact, too.

    Another thing to consider is parallel compression.
    That is, creating an aux or fx channel with some heavy compression on it. Send the snare and kick to it in a good amount, less on the OHs. All to taste. Then bring that aux/fx channel up under the drums until you get the desired punch.

    These are all things I would try before gating. It has its uses, but as you've found, getting it to work and sound natural can be tricky.
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    When I want a supertight drum sound, I'll gate all of the drums. I'll even compress and then gate overheads. But it's all a careful balance. Do it wrong and it sounds like Tinker toys being dropped on the floor. Do it right with some tasty EQ & compression and you'll know it's Miller Time.

    I prefer Anheuser-Busch products
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    My favorite gate / expander plug:
  13. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Blacksburg, VA
    Could you say more about this? I've never tried gating overheads. Of course, I've never been looking for a supertight drum sound with the stuff I record, but I might need it on an upcoming song. My plan was to mic the toms individually and gate those, but keep the overheads open.
  14. jimminy

    jimminy Active Member

    I've had pretty good luck with some of these suggestions.

    I had Dominion and all of those Fishphones plugins but never really tried them out a whole lot. Dominion I couldn't get to help me much, but Floorfish worked great and even has some presets for specific drums I never noticed before. It worked a bit better than just the Dynamics VST that comes with Cubase, although that also works pretty well.

    I have to admit that I don't really know what a downward expander does, or how to dial it in, so I didn't get very far using that approach, but I plan to dig into it a little.

    I think the trick with gating is to get the release tweaked just right so it cuts off in a musical way, not too abrupt I guess. I'm really surprised by how this can totally change the sound of the drum! It seems like it would sound the same, but just with a different envelope. It's pretty cool.

    I guess I have to now figure out now how to tune drums or what notes to tune to, real or sampled. I never really thought about it, but I bet I can probably find this online somewhere.
  15. IIRs

    IIRs Well-Known Member

    Think of a downward expander as a gentler type of noise gate.

    There are actually 4 basic types of dynamics processing: what most people refer to as 'compression' is actually 'downwards compression' where the gain is turned down when the signal is above the threshold. You can also have upwards compression, where the gain is turned up when the signal is below the threshold. Both types of compression will reduce the dynamic range, but they do it from opposite directions.

    Upwards expansion turns the gain up when the signal is above the threshold, while downwards expansion turns the gain down when the signal is below the threshold, so both types will increase the dynamic range.

    So actually you could think of a noise gate as a special type of downwards expander: while a downwards expander will apply a variable amount of gain reduction which will depend how far the signal has dropped below the threshold, a gate will apply a fixed amount of gain reduction whenever the signal is below the threshold, and regardless of how far below the threshold the signal has dropped.

    The plug I linked to above can do both types depending on the ratio setting: a low ratio provides downward expansion, while higher ratios start to act more like a gate.
  16. jimminy

    jimminy Active Member

    Oh! I get it. And I see how this works for this application, it''s just about the same as a gate then. As the drum hit tapers off and the level reaches a certain point, it kicks in to further reduce the level, effectively cutting it off. I see how this might be better than a gate because it doesn't just slam shut when it kicks in.

    I'll get the demo for that plug-in and try it out. Thanks for the explanation, I don't think I would have gotten it otherwise and I didn't realize you can do this, I guess I never really understood what an expander was doing exactly.

    This forum is great.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Bob, the times I've gated overheads were when I wanted an over abundance of ambience with a quick decay. This is a good example of when I have had to track drums in acoustically substandard environments. It's one of the ways to take a negative and turn it into a positive. This is where you work the bad acoustics to make it work for you. One of the primary variables is whether you gate before or after your heavy compression. I generally gate after compression. Threshold & release time controls are how you get to change the acoustics. And for some cool stereo effects you can try to use compressors & Gates which are not stereo linked. But that can get Harry and Harry might not like that.

    I don't like to get Harry. When I do I shave my legs.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
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