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Recording drums in a not so good room

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Pointbreakd, Aug 17, 2005.

  1. Pointbreakd

    Pointbreakd Member

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    I need to record a drumset in a room that is less than perfect. I have SM57s (tons) and octavias for overheads I also have a GT vocal mic (not sure if I can use this). What's the best approach?

    We are having a drum tech come in to tune the drums, but I'm still worried. They sounded like **** the first time we recorded.

    Using PT digi 002 and a mac Allen and Heath Board for Pres.

    Suggestions?

    I love the Alter Bridge drum sound as well as the Gov't Mule from Off the deep end
     
  2. Pointbreakd

    Pointbreakd Member

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    there are tons of articles online...

    reccomend a good one (please)
     
  3. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Speaking from experience, if the room isn't good, you won't get the ideal drum sound. That's just an inescapable fact of life. A good drum room is a special thing, and the ambient sounds it creates are picked up by the mics, especially the overheads or room mics.

    So...assuming that you want to go ahead and record there anyway, here are a few thoughts:

    1. Use bass traps and absorption (usually foam or fiberglass filled wall mounted things) to balance out the sound of the room. Experiment a lot.

    2. Don't bother with ambient mics (except weird ones), but do use overheads. Move the overheads a little closer to the kit than normal. This will help them pick up more kit, and less room sound.

    3. Position the kit in the room so that the kick drum mic picks up a good sound. Some positions will not allow the kick drum to fully breathe or sound deep; some will. Experimentation is key. Do use a kick drum mic for this application, a 57 is ok in a pinch but won't give you what you're looking for. You can get something like the ATM25 Audio Technica for $125. It's a good mic, and there are others as well.

    4. Mic the kick and snare and overheads. That's it. Too many mics will complicate the closer positioning of the overheads. The hat will be picked up by the overheads.

    5. Buy a pad for the kick drum mic if your console doesn't have a pad switch. They're cheap.

    6. Use a good reverb when you mix.

    But the bottom line is: don't overthink this. No matter what you do, if the room sounds bad, you're compromising, and you're going to have to use compression, eq, and reverb creatively to make it sound decent.
     
  4. Pointbreakd

    Pointbreakd Member

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    Very interesting.

    Thanks for the info.

    What would you say to recording in a garage? Its a 2 car and pretty damn big.

    I'm realizing experimentation is the way to go, so that's what I'm gonan do for now.

    If we do opt for a real studio for drums, what do you think the price would be simply to lay down the drums?
     
  5. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    I recorded Dennis Chambers in a one-car garage.

    1. Use packing blankets on boom stands to kill nasty ambiences.

    2. Use good pres for the OH's. I used a spaced pair.

    3. I would definitely close mic the toms and hat.

    4. Get a good set, w/new heads and make sure they're tuned.

    5. Most importantly, get someone as good as Dennis to play them. <g>

    Loudboy
     
  6. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I should disclose that I rarely close mic the toms no matter where I record, and rarely keep the separate hi hat track, though I often record one.

    Just a personal sound preference. No right or wrong to this stuff - create the sound YOU want to hear.
     
  7. g-nem

    g-nem Member

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    I just finished mixing a jazz project with everyone in the same room- the gtr, sax and drum bleed was not fun. And the overall drum sound was only so-so. The drums were miced on the snare, bass and overhead pair. One thing I tried on that session was putting the overheads closer to the kit to get less bleed, but found that doing that caused the cymbal and tom sound to be pretty uneven, where some cymbals were louder than others, and the toms weren't pciked up in proportion to the cymbals. So I'd be careful about putting the overheads too close to the kit- or at least sure you experiment and really tweak the location.

    I've learned the more close micing you use the easier it is to control the sound- especially in a bad sounding room. Essentially, the closer the mic the less room sound it picks up. But obviously you can't disguise the room sound completely.

    Good luck!
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    >>So I'd be careful about putting the overheads too close to the kit- or at least sure you experiment and really tweak the location<<

    Yes, you do have to set the mics up very carefully or you will not get a good sound - but this of course is true about any setup.

    I wrote and recorded a national ad for Ford Trucks a couple of months back on last minute notice, and had to use my own recording booth, which sounds fine for everything but drums.

    I used the technique I described and got a terrific sound. But remember, my idea of a terrific sound and your idea of a terrific sound could be two different things.

    It helped that I had a terrific drummer (the often-recorded Dave Taylor) on the session! ;)
     
  9. E-Rock

    E-Rock Member

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    "Good" drums sounds are very subjective. Just listen to the Brown Album by Primus. Those drums are f----- up!!! But they sound KILLER!
    I have a weird tip. If you have a small, kinda dead room, dampen your drums. (O-rings, moongel, big leather wallet taped to the snare. Muffled toms ect..). Lean more heavy on the close mics. This seems to make the drums sit better.
    Of course, if you go for the garage, then go for big and live. No muffling. More room mic, maybe compressed hard.
    These are just some suggestions. Some of the best drums I have ever heard have been "Wrong" from a traditional recording standpoint.
    Good luck, and remember to have fun!

    :dude
     
  10. jokerjkny

    jokerjkny Member

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    you did not!!! :eek:
     
  11. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    Did too.

    Loudboy
     
  12. Mondoslug

    Mondoslug Supporting Member

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    Did not. Just kiddin', Details!

    Hey really good thread y'all.
     
  13. justicetones

    justicetones Member

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    Hey you already have some great tips from other members including LSchefman. I also like AKG D112 for the kick. They will give you a nice beater sound in a bad room that you don't want to emphasize later through eq. The less phase shift that you introduce later the better. Also, If you have the tracks I would record the toms and hat just in case. You can always edit the toms manually in Protools later if you need more tom or want more verb on the toms and not the overheads. Just edit them tight. They will sound funny when soloed but help with punch if you need to poke them through the mix. I rarely use the hat mic when I mix although as previously stated I record it just in case.

    As for the miking I have always had good luck using a X-Y miking technique in a bad room, But again experimentation is the key. No two crappy or good rooms are created equal.

    Chris:)
     
  14. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I just recorded a Sonor kit in a great sounding room with a band that included a major asshole, so even though we got a great sound for the drums, I hated the experience of producing this session.

    If I keep my promise to myself, I will never go into the studio again. It's not worth the aggravation.

    It ain't about the room. ;)
     
  15. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    + a lot.

    Hell, even close miking was once wrong from that standpoint.
     
  16. NuSkoolTone

    NuSkoolTone Member

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    First I would Heed the advice from lschefman and loudboy. Great advice: new drums heads(TUNING!!!), placement of kit, bass traps and hung packing blankets (Sometimes). I'd also add getting those drums off the floor if you have the height. I've read that drums right on concrete floors tend to suck the life out of them. This is hearsay though for me.

    As for my own experience, I have recently gone through this myself. As far as ALterbridge, Govt' Mule. Forget it, it's not gonna happen. That sound is not just the room but great outboard gear as well. The best advice I can give is to assess what you have and work to get what sounds best out of it rather than trying to emulate something.

    Personally I've liked the audix D6 for kick, as it seems Eq'd already for the typical kick sound. The D112 is a great standard but can get like a basketball to me. 57 for meat in the snare, and use a bottom snare mic (Reverse the phase!) to get the snap out of it without having to EQ the hell out of the top mic, some people love it, some hate it. You have to see what works for you.

    Overheads The big thing is to get them in phase. I can't stress this enough. Go to one speaker mono for this, it IS your friend! Solo the OV's and then bring the Kick in and out and see if it thins out or reinforces the sound. If it thins it out it is out of phase, if it reinforces, it's in. Do this with the snare as well. Typically there is no ideal placement for BOTH kick and snare IME. Find the best compromise.

    Now from this point, if you have a high pass/low cut on the OV's I would engage that if you are close miking everything. I would actually recommend that since this is guerilla recording(I've found pointing all the close mics on toms towards the snare helps with phasing a bit). You can always mute the tracks out later if you don't dig them. Let's not foget, if you have everything close mic'd if the sounds still need help, it gives you the option of drum replacement. To me in this situation the OV's are more for cymbals and high mid detail. Of course if you record full bandwidth on the OV's, you can always high pass them later. I've tried both and liked just High passing to begin with better YMMV of course.

    High-hat mic: Hmm I usually end up using this to play with stereo image low in the mix, but not much else. Optional IMO. I've found high passing this mic essential or it unintentionally can pan the snare.

    For the vocal Mic on drums...I would use it either in front of the kick to get that low LOW pillow going on behind the beater mic snap, or as someone esle suggested a well place room mic (IN PHASE) and compress the hell out of it. If you have the option, do both. I'm all for using as many mics as you want for recording. The trick is having the will power to turn ones you don't need off!

    One last thing, use compression SPARINGLY! I would say just enough to keep the overs at a minimum. You can alway compress more later assuming you have the gear/plugs. Nothing sucks the life out of a track like over compressed drums going in. Speaking of overs, If you're recording 24bit, you should have NO overs. You can get away with slightly lower levels than you would have recording 16 bit like in the old days. Really, it's ok! :)

    So in the end, be well planned, and try to have as many kinks worked out before your band members show up. In fact, maybe get the drums 95% there the day before you record with a final check on record day. Nothing is worse than a stressed band trying to make a cut becuase it took so long to get sounds up. If it starts to get that way, fix what you can in 15 minutes and just go. Remember this is supposed to be fun!


    Good luck.
     
  17. partytrain

    partytrain Member

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    Just finished recording Drums for my band's next album in a "less than desireable" room. Don't have too much advice for you since I'm still trying to piece everything together. It sounds like our setups are very similar, digi 002 into the mac.

    The only advice I can give is to use everything you have. Every mic, every input. You will have a lot of options later, and can mute anything you don't like. For my setup I close mic'd everything (mostly 57s), had 3 overheads (used my vocal mic as an mono overhead positioned behind the drummer). Had 2 mics on the kick (one inside, one outside) and used 2 room mics. While mixing, I found that the outside kick sounds like crap, and the stereo overheads didn't do too great either. But the combination of the 2 room mics, and that mono overhead really did wonders. It is just a good idea to do everything possible, then get rid of what you don't need later.

    Incidentally, can someone explain why you suggest to use a lot of compression on the room mic(s)? I haven't tried it, but it sounds intriguing.
     
  18. justicetones

    justicetones Member

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    The compression on the room mics just makes them sound rude, dirty, and they really sit in the mix nice if it is done right. Try it. In protools to start try the Bomb Factory 1176 to start and compress to taste. I have used light to ridiculously heavy depending on what the project calls for.

    Chris
     
  19. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    This was my thought... that the best you can hope for is to minimize the room reflections as much as possible (Les' suggestions are excellent), then add a fake studio ambience. Maybe add that first, then use your normal drum reverb.

    However, with proper room treatment you may be able to get better results than you first thought possible. The Stones once tracked Charlie Watts in a stairwell. Frank Filipetti tracked a kit in James Taylor's living room, I think. Maybe not.

    FWIW the reason I don't track drum kits in my home studio is that I really don't have a good acoustic space for it, period. IMO it is well worth the money to get thee to a studio. Assuming you have the budget for it, of course.
     
  20. E-Rock

    E-Rock Member

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    Compressing the room mic will put more "room" on everything.
    Something that works great if you are recording in a "less than ideal"
    space, put your room mic in another room, away from a direct line of sight to the drums. This will give you more reflections.
    Then, compress that room mic so it slams down the attack, and time the release so it "fills in" behind the close mics. With a little tweaking, you can get this to sound REALLY live and full.
    Also, mess around with time aligning the room to the close mics.
    You can also delay the room mic for a different sound, or run the room mic off to a reverb.
    Fun :D
     

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