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What got me thinking about this was an article assignment. I realized I've developed several ways to bring out the best in drums (at least I think so, but those who have listened to my recent albums can be the judge of that, LOL).

What do YOU do to drums, to make them behave the way you want them to behave?

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I beat them, then they will do as I wish! :- D

If nothing else, mixing on metapop got me thinking about things in a different way. There is some competition there to make unusual and hopefully unique sounds.
That has over time, given me possibilities to ponder. The DAW itself is a powerful audio sculpting tool if one sets aside some of the rules, regulations and standards that we've all learned to please people.
And I LOVE doing that, the pleasing people thing! A room full of happy people brings me joy, we will all get our share of sadness so the good times carry value.
The break has been productive but I do miss the smiles and the fun that comes with entertaining.

Which does not mean I don't have my perverse "Those aren't my rules so I can't even break them if they aren't there." inclinations. Currently have a new way and reason for stretching and shrinking audio tracks. It shifts the pitch, that's mostly what makes it fun but the transient envelope is also changed if only elongated and at a lower pitch or vice versa. Blending specific multiples of loop length can be "interesting" if you find a good spot.

I do like to start with the the kick and decide if kick or bass carries the low end. I will keep an eye on this thread, I hope it grows.


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On further thought, a bit of harmonic distortion can really "pop" a snare and fatten toms/kick. Many ways to do that, I've used guitar amp plugins and purpose made stuff like NI Saturator.
A little goes a long ways and EQ is your friend. I prefer to dupe the track and add saturation to a separate track, more real time blending options available.

In a perfect world, the kick, snare and the rest of the kit would all be separate, at a minimum. Metapop remixes rarely offer that option, usually drum stems are already "mixed". Still worth a shot for "popping" drums, mixed or no.

Pitch shifting, either an octave down or an octave up depending and again, blended using parallel tracks - another way to add just a bit of low end or clarity to a track. Can be a bit "glitchy" sometimes so...

I've found Eventide Physion useful for getting just the right mix of snap and body, have not used it in a mix but ran some experiments on snare and kick to learn what can be done. It's useful on vocals, guitars, pretty much everything, one of my favorite plugins since it is not immediately recognizable as being there at all but can work wonders.


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My go-tos are a Pultec emulation on the kick and an API 550 on snare. Parallel compression can help, depending on how aggressive I need the drums to be and how compressed the samples I'm using might already be.


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1. find an inspiring VST drum kit. Currently using Addictive Drums Vintage Dry kit a lot.

2. tweak the drum kit a bit - I often retune the kick a bit, EQ the cymbals and hihat, distort the snare a tad.

3. when tracking, I first create a groove to use as timekeeper. Usually hihat or ride, kick, and snare, little else.

4. I always have some level of swing in the timekeeper track. Even if the song itself does not seem to swing much, I find having a bit of swing brings life to the rhythms and accents. Early rock 'n roll has this a lot - the drummers tended to have jazz backgrounds, but the rest of the band often played totally folk or C&W style straight beats. My old drummer friend calls this mismatch a "rub" that loosens up and livens up things - I totally agree. It don't mean a thing, etc....

5. I plot out the drums, and in certain places in the song, some hit or roll or fill or crash, etc., is key to the phrasing, so I capture those first.

6. if my own MIDI drum playing (via keyboard and direct entry) just doesn't have enough life, I'll scan through MIDI grooves from real drummers and restart the rythmic stuff from scratch with an imported MIDI groove. From there, I alter the imported MIDI stuff to fit my needs. I ain't a drummer and I ain't proud!

7. I don't process drums much - the VST kits are typically half-processed to begin with and only need a bit of EQ, reverb, and a hint of compression to sand down the edges and make it all snug and glued tight.

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I'm probably the simpleton among all responders. I am guessing that what I say here will be old hat for most of you. I barely have enough tracks available to capture all tracks for our covers band live, so I only have 3 tracks available for the kit. 1 is on the kick, and then I use 2 condenser overheads. I use subtractive EQ on each overhead to apply steep negative EQ spikes on the tracks for those overheads. Usually I apply 1 or 2 of these to each overhead track. I find the right frequency by moving a steep high positive EQ spike from low to high, noting where this brings out a really ugly sound. This tells me where the "crap" is, where applying a tall and narrow negative EQ spike will "remove the crap". I apply the same method to the kick track.

A surprising amount of kick gets into the overheads. The kick mic is much closer to where the beater hits that drum, than the overheads. Sound moves about 1 feet per 1 thousandth of a second. So I reverse the phase of the kick track and delay it 3 thousands of a second, to remove phase interference between the kick sound from the kick mic and in the overheads. This makes the kick much more present in the final mix. This is especially important in my case, because I don't have an extra line available to close-mic the snare, so I have to turn the overhead tracks way up in order to get enough snare in the final mix - this brings a lot of the kick from the overheads into the final fix. And I don't know how to remove kick from my overheads without emasculating the snare sound.

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Where are the overheads placed in relation to the kit?

And you're definitely NOT a simpleton, you're doing what all good engineers do - try something, see if there are issues, see if they can fix those issues.

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Originally Posted by harmonizer
I'm probably the simpleton among all responders. I am guessing that what I say here will be old hat for most of you. I barely have enough tracks available to capture all tracks for our covers band live, so I only have 3 tracks available for the kit. 1 is on the kick, and then I use 2 condenser overheads. I use subtractive EQ on each overhead to apply steep negative EQ spikes on the tracks for those overheads. Usually I apply 1 or 2 of these to each overhead track. I find the right frequency by moving a steep high positive EQ spike from low to high, noting where this brings out a really ugly sound. This tells me where the "crap" is, where applying a tall and narrow negative EQ spike will "remove the crap". I apply the same method to the kick track.

A surprising amount of kick gets into the overheads. The kick mic is much closer to where the beater hits that drum, than the overheads. Sound moves about 1 feet per 1 thousandth of a second. So I reverse the phase of the kick track and delay it 3 thousands of a second, to remove phase interference between the kick sound from the kick mic and in the overheads. This makes the kick much more present in the final mix. This is especially important in my case, because I don't have an extra line available to close-mic the snare, so I have to turn the overhead tracks way up in order to get enough snare in the final mix - this brings a lot of the kick from the overheads into the final fix. And I don't know how to remove kick from my overheads without emasculating the snare sound.

You are doing what I would love to do, working with real drums and a real drummer. Without being there, in the space where you are recording and seeing everything that goes on - I don't have much to offer.
If your results are good then there wouldn't be much that needs said anyway. Tweaking like you mention is not a "simpleton" method by any means, especially solving your phasing issue so the kick stays fat. Kudos, Kuru


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Originally Posted by Anderton
Where are the overheads placed in relation to the kit? .....

Both overheads are usually about 2 and 2/3 drum stick lengths away from the center of the snare. Both are pointed straight down. One is pointed roughly at the spot between the high hat and snare. The other is pointed over the toms, perhaps about 2 feet away from the snare (on the drummer's right side of the snare). My thought is to try to get the overhead mics as low as possible without the drummer hitting them with his stick (and I do hear occasional stick hits on the overhead mics in the recordings I mix).

We have a 7 person covers band, 6 of whom sing at various times, including our drummer. Our most common venue has little space from front to back, so the stage monitors are not far from the drum overhead mics, and the bleed of the entire band into those overheads is prominent. I capture 12 tracks at once on a Korg D3200. It does this very well, like a 10-year old car that runs perfectly, so I am reluctant to pull the trigger on newer gear from Zoom or Teac which could capture 16 tracks. The D3200 is supposed to be able to capture 2 more tracks using an external preamp via digital connection, but that option is problematic so I have been avoiding it. So for now I cannot close-mic the snare, and I need to turn the gain way up on the overheads when I do a post-gig mix, and live with the bleed. If I were given one more line by the fairy godmother of audio capture, I would actually put it on the hat. Our recordings don't fully reflect how good our drummer is without this.

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harmonizer, I'll just note in passing that I've gotten remarkably good sounding live recordings setting up a Tascam DR40 on a tripod about 25 feet back from the stage with the mics set A/B.
If the FOH sound is good the recording will be good. Yes, crowd noise. Not always a bad thing.

Just tossing it out there, maybe a band member has one you can try out for that purpose. I've never used it as a potential part of a mix and the phase may need shifted to bring the lows back (sounds like you are very good at that trick).
Hard to say if it's worth the bother without trying it but it's really easy to set up and take down and there isn't much of a weight or size factor..

Aiming your mics down seems like a good strategy to reduce direct bleed in to the mics. Obviously there will be sound reflected off the ceiling. It's not a perfect situation so you do what works and call it good.

My primary purpose for recording our band is that we don't have much time or inclination to practice. Giving somebody a recording allows them to hear what they are playing and adjust accordingly, no egos involved at any level since recordings can only tell the truth. It's helped all of us improve. For one thing, it makes you very aware of "dead air" and mic bleed regarding comments that should not be made. Cheers, Kuru


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Don't let anything else have fast upper mid transients.


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After enough band mixes the last ten years I've sorted out my toolbox for drum processing. This is all OTB.

Kick: Drawmer DL231. Especially for live recordings with stage noise bleeding into the kick mic (like loud guitar players). The DL231 signal chain is downward expander into a RMS compressor with log detector into limiter. I found that a log detector is very effective on percussion. The downward expander is a simplified gate (which Drawmer is famous for) that works quite well for live recordings. The limiter was handy for taming really hot signals to prevent clipping at the channel.

Snare: Drawmer DL231 or UREI LA-22. Drawmer DL231 (being a dual channel unit) works equally well on snare, latest project I got a nice pop using this processor. UREI LA-22 has two features that are useful: frequency selective processing (handy for certain snare sounds) and an expansion mode (versus compression). I had a song with marching snare rudiments that REALLY came out when using expansion.

Digital reverb: hard to beat the Eventide 2016. Something about this box just loves percussion. I go for short room ambience, the 2016 has a special talent that lifts percussion out of the mix without turning them up. It is especially effective on snare, I'll sometime pipe some kick through it.

Toms: My recent project is a live recording with my band, and the venue had a sweet reverb with the toms especially the floor tom. Booooom. I tend to avoid digital reverb on toms as it tends to ring too much. But I decided to try and emulate that reverb from that show and I succeeded using the old Lexicon Model 200 digital reverb - without the ringing problem. Besides the big room sound, it did very well for making the toms pop and be heard over everything without turning them up. The Lex 200 is my go-to box for long reverbs, plus it has a great interface for editing. Hard to make a bad sound on either the Lex or the 2016.

My usual processor for toms is a Korg SDD-1200 stereo digital delay. I set it up as a modulated delay and rolled off the high end to eliminate the echo of stick hits. I also have some ping-pong cross-modulation set up using the rear panel. I found this more effective than digital reverb for adding some life to toms.

I only gate anything with problems with leakage. Drawmer all the way. DS404 for simple gating, DS201 is reserved for the real problematic gating tasks.

The only processing on overheads is rolling off everything below 2K. This cuts out everything but the cymbals and eliminates phasing issues with close mic'd toms/snare/kick (also eliminates bleed from stage noise). Same with HiHat mic. A big part of a good overhead is the mic. I prefer the Sennheiser MD-441 because the dynamic element sounds more natural to my ears, condenser mics can be too dynamic.

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Originally Posted by Chip McDonald
Don't let anything else have fast upper mid transients.

Are you suggesting that any quick-transient noises coming from anything other than the drums, in the upper mid transient frequency range, will hurt how the drum kit sounds?

I am thinking about two scenarios: (1) my normal case is recording our 7-person covers band live, where I don't have enough lines to close-mic anything on the kit except the kick, and I get tons of bleed into the condenser overheads, and (2) An isolated band recording of an old Chicago song, for which soon I will go to our drummer's house to record just his kit alone. For this second case I will be able to close-mic things, and l have borrowed a decent pair of Shure SM81-LC mics which I plan to use as the overheads, and then demote one of my Nady condensers for the high hat.

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Originally Posted by harmonizer
Originally Posted by Chip McDonald
Don't let anything else have fast upper mid transients.

Are you suggesting that any quick-transient noises coming from anything other than the drums, in the upper mid transient frequency range, will hurt how the drum kit sounds?

I'm not saying it will "hurt" it, it's a generalization in response to a general question of "how to make drums "pop"".

"Drum sounds" by nature are percussive - the attack IS the "pop". If you let the guitar pick attack jump through, the fricatives of the vocal, throw in a slap-pop bass player the drums won't "pop" - unless you control the first 100ms of each sound source carefully.

It's why 2 bus compression fouls up people, and why drum sounds have evolved into clicks. When tape and slower electronics were used it was less of a problem. When tape was happening transients varied depending on how they hit the tape and came back into the board; now everything has full-speed transients at all levels all the time.

Quote
I am thinking about two scenarios: (1) my normal case is recording our 7-person covers band live, where I don't have enough lines to close-mic anything on the kit except the kick, and I get tons of bleed into the condenser overheads, and (2) An isolated band recording of an old Chicago song, for which soon I will go to our drummer's house to record just his kit alone. For this second case I will be able to close-mic things, and l have borrowed a decent pair of Shure SM81-LC mics which I plan to use as the overheads, and then demote one of my Nady condensers for the high hat.

In the first scenario you simply don't have the resources to control transients separately, so it doesn't matter.

In the second scenario, you have the situation where you've got to prioritize what gets the transient upper hand. For some recordings (GRP comes to mind) horn sections are allowed to be brash, transient. On some jazz recordings, the drums are "slow", dark, and the horn gets to have the transient dominance. In metal you'll hear the kicks have transient dominance, the snare and the guitar will be "slower", or narrower (hence some prog bands trending back towards late 90's piccolo snare sound).

Chicago: listen to 25 or 6 to 4: *can you even really hear the kick drum*?

Another philosophy would be a phenomenon whereby - whether a producer/engineer knows it or not, the 2 mix compressor is going to let a transient through on quarter notes, or eighth notes (or in metal) 16ths. You don't want to think about this too much, because it will ruin you when you start listening to recordings from a mix compression standpoint; the "drummer" is the mix compression sometimes.

Uhm... yeah, listen to "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" the remastered version versus the original. Something I care for on "remasters" - it's louder, but you'll note the fricatives on "Say" and "Sorry" are almost as loud/attention grabbing as the "snare", but on the original it's the snare that comes forward and the vocal doesn't "compete" for your attention as much. The compression has a swing to it as well I think.

Then listen to "If You Leave Me Now" the vocals get to have more of the transients, shared with the pedaled hat - until the guitar solo, that gets to have a lot of transients (and the beautiful string gliss as it finishes). The transients on this get shared because - there effectively is no drum kit.


(hmm.. it just occurred to me how the arrangement of the middle 8 in Toto's "I Won't Hold You Back" is reminiscent of "Hard to Say I'm Sorry"?)


Hmm. If I only had a pair of 81s and a LD, or 3 mics, and I was doing a Chicago style band.. I wouldn't do stereo drums because you'll get more payoff from having the horns in stereo and the drums laying back. I'd put one out in front of the kick, one directly overhead, and... the weird part... an 81 on
the hat, because chances are with a Chicago type song the "percussion" aspect of the high hat might carry a recording farther than anything else, and an 81 on hats will come off as the most "polished"/pro sound you'll be able to get - so if it's ("un-traditionally") up front the overall effect might be better. If you listen to the old Chicago recordings, the hat and ride will have as much transient attack as the drums. Regardless, stereo horns will be better than stereo drums. In fact, burying mono drums given your resources might be the best thing to do, since 81s on horns should work fairly well IMO.

But in the inimitable words of Miles Copeland I'm just a peasant, you shouldn't listen to me!


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Thanks a lot for the detailed feedback. Your suggestion to put one of the Shure SM81s on the high hat is persuasive. I know the SM81s are much better than my Nady condensers because I used the SM81s once to capture a small kit used in a jazz combo at our church. The kit capture from the SM81s made me seem like a much better recording engineer than I am. For this "isolated" recording, I will only be capturing the kit while I'm at the drummer's house. The horns will be recorded much later at my home - my son plays trumpet and trombone, and I play sax. We'll need to get the bass track and keys done after the kit, but before the horns and vocals. I'm gonna take some time all your suggestions.


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