Preparing a drum kit for recording

Advice sought…

As some of you may know I’ve been using Fruity for some time to create my drum tracks having previously used MIDI for many years. At present I’m looking at various other methods of creating tracks such as drum loops and a Yamaha DD-55.

Now I want to have a go at recording my son’s “real” drum kit, and I’m looking at how best to get ready to do this. I’m hoping that some of the more experienced drum experts can give some advice.

First off, I know very little about drums kits other than having stood next to drummers at gigs from many years (yeah, I’m a guitar player). My son has been playing for about two years and has a 5 piece Slingerland kit. We’ve had the kit for a couple of years and it was second hand then so I have no idea how old it is but I suspect it needs a bit of a “make-over” before we start looking at recording it.

The drums are 14" (snare), 12", 13", 16". The heads have “Slingerland” on them so I’m guessing they’ve never been changed. The snare has a “white” head (the coating is wearing off), and the toms are see-through. There is a bottom head on all the drums too.

The cymbals are a Sabian Solar Cymbal Set (14" HH, 16" Crash, 20" Ride), a Paiste splash, and a no-name 12" crash.

So… Let’s start with an easy one. I guess I need to change the heads? All of them? There are so many types out there, what types should I use for basic rock stuff? Anything to avoid? Anything to look out for? Is it easy to change heads? What else whould I be asking?

When we’ve sorted this, I’ll start looking at mics and things.

Help please!

Thanks in advance.


Mark

Generaly, if the ‘white stuff’ starts to come off, it’s time for a change…

I would go for Evans G2’s top heads.

Download the drumtuning bible and studiobuddy.

Take my advice for what it is, as I am also a guitarist.

I just know that you won’t go into a recording without a properly tuned guitar. Same goes for drums.

W

Edit :
Drum tuning bible

Studio Buddy

Ambassadors are a nice oil-filled head. First, you need to seat the new heads. Set the head on the rim on the drum shell and push into the center to stretch the head evenly in all directions.
Turn the drum lugs by hand until they are all hand tight, then use the drum key to give each lug a 1/4 turn in a staggered manner you see in all the diagrams, like tightening wheel lugs on a car tire. Listen to the pitch and repeat until you are happy with the pitch. Every drum has a resonant tone, so you have to look for it.
Once you are in the ballpark of the target pitch, touch your fingertip in the middle of the head, like a guitarist producing a harmonic. Same idea, damp the fundamental and tap beside the individual lugs with your other hand holding a drumstick,as you tune them all to the same pitch. This assures even tension all around.
I start at the highest tom and move down the range;rack toms, floor tom, kick, snare. Rather than looking for specific notes, I look for a sufficient distance (or interval) between the various drums to get a good high to low sound for the whole kit.
Listen closely for any hardware rattles and squeaky pedals and try to silence them before recording. I hope this helps get you started.

Quote (Tom Hicks @ Sep. 28 2005,07:10)
Ambassadors are a nice oil-filled head.

Are you sure you aren’t thinking of Evans Hydrolics which are oil filled? Ambassadors are single ply. Hydrolics will be very dead, where as the Ambassadors will be a very resonant head.

Forget filling the kick drum with stuff too. Minimal padding inside, maybe a single pillow up against the beater skin (loose), front skin on with a hole off center works for me with my atm25.

Quote (Mark A @ Sep. 28 2005,06:54)
So… Let’s start with an easy one. I guess I need to change the heads? All of them? There are so many types out there, what types should I use for basic rock stuff? Anything to avoid? Anything to look out for? Is it easy to change heads? What else whould I be asking?

What kind of sound do you want first off? Music genre, etc? You want to sound like Lars Ulrich, Charlie Watts, Steve Gadd or what?

Thanks for the quick replies chaps.

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What kind of sound do you want first off? Music genre, etc? You want to sound like Lars Ulrich, Charlie Watts, Steve Gadd or what?


I knew someone would ask me that.

I dunno? It’s my son’s kit so I suppose it should sound like he wants it too. He listens to Nirvana, Lost Prophets, Muse… guitar based rock. Stuff I would be recording we be more acoustic based rock.

We both seem to like “tight” sounding snare drums.

Does that help?


Mark

Well, for a Muse sort of sound, that is a pretty “fattish” drum without being too 80s metal sounding. Perhaps a double ply clear head like the Evans G2 or Remo Emperor would fit the bill on toms. Clear will give you a little more attack where as coated is a little more “round”. As for tight snares, do you want any ring? Or a very dry sound? Either way, a single ply head may be the way to go. You can get heads like the Remo Powerstrokes or Evans Generas which have muffling rings in them to make the snare dryer. To make the snare dryer yet, take an old snare head. Cut the hopp off and the center out so that it is a ring roughly 1.5 - 2 inches wide and goes around the edge of the drum head. Then just set that on the head. You can buy commercial rings for this purpose, but you might as well save a few bucks.

Do any of the fartones things sound similar to what you are looking for? If so I can give some insight to how each set was done. Almost all are different in some ways, and some ways are drastically different, including the micing, which can go just as far as tuning sometimes, and some songs are totally different sets. (I’ve got something brand new that is very old school - I can PM the link.)

White coated Remo Ambassadors will be more old school on the toms while clear will be more like what I think you are looking for, ambassadors for both sides of the toms. I’d still suggest white ambassador on the snare top, with diplomat snare bottom.

Muse sounds like white or clear ambassadors to me, with a lot of limiting, and sounds like white ambassadors on both sides of a largish kick (24" at least and maybe larger), with little to no muffling and limiting again.

Bad ringing can be controlled by a LITTLE bit of cloth attached so it lays near the edge of the head - more cloth more control. I use clip-on mics for the toms and slip a piece of towel under the clip. This can give a more controlled sound. I stall say don’t get rid of the ring unless it’s really obvious in the mix.

One thing to remember when turning is that it’s easy to muffle. It’s impossible to un-muffle. Start on the live end and work backwards. Don’t muffle too much until you hear it in the mix. A lot of it will be masked, but masking will make a dead drum sound even deader.

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(I’ve got something brand new that is very old school - I can PM the link.)


That would be cool. Thanks

Of the Fartones stuff there’s a tremendous variation of drum sounds.

My fave is: “Never in my life”, although “Kiddies” and “Just for you” are interesting too. “Rocking” and “Bulldog’s” snares are a little too “fat” for my tastes. But I’m a guitar player and I don’t really know what I want…


Mark

Quote (Bubbagump @ Sep. 28 2005,08:45)
Quote (Tom Hicks @ Sep. 28 2005,07:10)
Ambassadors are a nice oil-filled head.

Are you sure you aren’t thinking of Evans Hydrolics which are oil filled? Ambassadors are single ply. Hydrolics will be very dead, where as the Ambassadors will be a very resonant head.

yes my bad.

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Of the Fartones stuff there’s a tremendous variation of drum sounds.

My fave is: “Never in my life”, although “Kiddies” and “Just for you” are interesting too. “Rocking” and “Bulldog’s” snares are a little too “fat” for my tastes. But I’m a guitar player and I don’t really know what I want…

The snare on all except two for the songs are the same snare. It’s a 14*5 1968 Ludwig Super Sensitive with the SS strainer replaced with the more typical strainer. The rims were replaced with case rims. White coated Remo Amb batter and Dip bottom. The differences in the songs is tuning the top head up or down for the song and adjusting the snares to the just right spot. Bottom head is pretty loose - one of the lugs is actually missing on the bottom. Only Just For You has any muffling on the snare. Bulldog is tuned down the most of the songs that use the Ludwig. There is a lot of range in that drum, which is why I like it so much.

The snare on Rocking and Panic is a 6.5" maple Tama with a Remo Renaissance head. It’s a big fat thing with not nearly as much range as the Ludwig. When tuned up just a little it can be made to sound almost just like John Bonham’s snare in the early stuff – in the room when played JUST RIGHT. So far I haven’t figure out how to capture that in a recording. This is my snare of choice when playing live.

The toms on Never in My Life and ELO Kiddies are Tama with Remo pinstripe. The drums were recorded years ago. They needed a lot of EQ and fiddling and gating. I’m not too thrilled with the sound, but you should have heard the original tracks…NO WAY. I did destructive edits to them so they don’t exist any more in the original state. These were the very first drums I ever did with n-Tracks. Oh…the kick back then was a 20" with a black dot and lots of padding and no front head. What you hear is manufactured by using plug-ins (MDA Sub Synth), reverb, and and lots of EQ and gating. I could have used one of those apps to replace sounds - it would have been easier.

Over heads were PZM taped to the wall on those two early songs. Later I started using Behringer LD for overhead and never looked back, though I still love PZMs.

Toms on Panic are Fiberskyn (1968 Ludwig). Never and Kiddies are pinstripe (Tama). Rockin, Just for You and Bulldog are clear (Ludwig). All the rest are Ludwig with white coated, including all new unfinished private stuff.

Panic is 4 mics - the old classic 4 mic technique. All others have the toms miced. There’s a dip in virtually all the toms at 400hz, except the new private stuff (no tom EQ). Snare is a Peavey dynamic in all cases. Kick is either a Senn 421 or Peavey 520i.

Thanks Phoo. I have a lot to take in and consider.


Mark

An update…

Thanks for all the info and input folks.

We bought some new heads and spent the w/e fitting them. I’m not sure I’ve quite got my head around the subtleties of tuning but were getting there.

Struggling with the kick a bit after taking (nearly) all the padding (duvets, pillows etc) out, but we’ll keep trying. Seems to be all “boom” and no “click” or “doooph”.

Phoo, from what you’ve said above and in your PMs, do you routinely change your drum tuning or heads to suit the style of the song?


Mark

Quote (Mark A @ Oct. 10 2005,02:45)
Struggling with the kick a bit after taking (nearly) all the padding (duvets, pillows etc) out, but we'll keep trying. Seems to be all "boom" and no "click" or "doooph".

What sort of head did you put on the kick? Do you have a front head on the kick? If so, what kind?

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Phoo, from what you’ve said above and in your PMs, do you routinely change your drum tuning or heads to suit the style of the song?

Not as much as it seems. It’s more of putting down on the song what I’m currently playing. That said did do tuning and snare selection to fit the song. I did changes heads on the toms used in Panic In Detroit to FyberSkyns and to Clear Ambassadors for Just For You. (I did do some specific tuning and drum selection for some future to be released songs – we ain’t done yet.)

Some of the Dr Phoo Studio pics are the Just For You set. The kick used on that is a 1967 22" Ludwig. It’s a Remo pinstripe on the batter (no felt) and a FyberSkyn on the resonant side with felt and a small pillow on the outside of the resonant head just touching the bottom (not in the pictures). (Ginger Baker uses the outside pillow muffling technique in the new Cream DVD.)

Also, in Just For You there is a large diaphragm condenser miking the whole set from the center of the set. It’s visible in the Dr Phoo pictures. It’s facing down at the beater. That track wasn’t needed utimately. I added a very hard brick wall limiter to that track, switched it to playback as stereo, and ran it through MDA Stereo. It was brought up in the mix just to the point that it added a little room ambiance. None of the other fartones songs have that. Just For You was sparse enough that it worked. The other songs are too full. I may use it again later, depending on the song. I did it this way to keep the cymbals down in that track. It usually works better when doing real stereo and the mics are backed away, but you do get a lot more cymbals.

Usually if there is boom and little definition the kick is probably too deep (could be tuning or EQ). Try rolling off everything below 70hz to 90hz. There’s usually a point in there that the mud goes away and there’s still good depth left. If there doesn’t seem to be then the kick may be muffled too much. Don’t be afraid to add some limiting to the dry kick track.

Quote (Bubbagump @ Oct. 10 2005,15:08)
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[quote=Mark A,Oct. 10 2005,02:45]Struggling with the kick a bit after taking (nearly) all the padding (duvets, pillows etc) out, but we’ll keep trying. Seems to be all “boom” and no “click” or “doooph”.

What sort of head did you put on the kick? Do you have a front head on the kick? If so, what kind?


Well that may be part of the problem… I haven’t changed the kick heads yet, just the snare and toms batter heads.

On the front of the bass drum is a solid (ie no hole) black head, and on the rear is a transparent head.

When we got the kit it had a load of padding in in (three large pillows). I’ve taken all but one small one out.



Mark

You might want to take off the front head and loosen the batter head. A loose batter head on a kick gives you slap combined with no front head. You probably have too much resonance from the front head.

OK Part two…

Assuming I’ve got the kit all tuned up, no rattles etc, next comes trying to record it.

I have the following mics to hand and I can only record 4 tracks at a time:

2 x SM58
1 x MXL 990
1 x AT 2020
1 x AT MB2000

So that’s three dynamics and two condensors. Am I wasting my time with these?

I’ll be recording in a 15" x 15" carpeted room in my house.

Any thoughts?

TIA

Mark