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Recording experience ?s

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,333
This is weird for me because I have tons of recording experience, but except for my home studio it is all from the 70s, 80s, 90s.

Last night, my band went to a studio to record a quick three-song demo for club gigs. We chose a studio with a live drum set (figuring it would be pre-set with a great sound).

Now, I was not given any input into choosing the studio because our singer knew a studio owner, and he pushed us in that direction. I agreed because the place had a drum set and looked nice.

When we got to the studio the drums had been set up and miked - with level's and what all (I don't know what they did) done with one of the owners who played drums. That is fine - they then asked out drummer to get on the set, and re-set all the levels

But this is where it got weird...

1) the studio turned out to be primarily a voice-over style studio with some music business. Their platform is Nuendo, not ProTools

2) While our engineer readjusted levels for our drummer he barely had the monitors turned on at all. It was like he was going purely by the meters. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I will assume all the mics were flat and it was just a matter of resetting the levels for our drummer. But why do it without listening? he still took about 30 minutes, and the monitors were turned up to about 30 dB (barely on, conversation would drown them out).

4) I did not like the drum sound. The snare mic was over the top head with no mic below, giving that "thud" with no snare sound. The kick was a "whoof" sound with no crack attack because the front head was an Evans with a pillow inside but no weight. The mic was inside (RE-20 put through a hole in front head - this is a good choice).

There was just one overhead, and it was placed over the snare so the cymbals sounded brash and unbalanced. I really prefer stereo overheads, and can't remember the last time I did a single overhead. The hi-hat mic was OVER the top cymbal (I prefer to pull hat mics back so they capture the sound of cymbals hitting by foot-pedal action alone. My spot is opposite the point where the stick hits the hat).

5) as we left the engineer said he would upload the "raw" wave files to the Internet and send me a link before morning, so far I today have heard nothing. He recorded at 48 kHz, 24-bit.

As far as I know - he should be able to send me consolidated wave files usable with Protools, right? It is just three songs.

Can I get the impressions of some of the experienced engineers working in studios right now on this situation? I mean - this not a BIG deal, I expect we will end up with usable takes although the sounds won't be my ideal, but I personally would have conducted this session differently.

What do you think? When we found out it was Nuendo, considering we planned to do overdubs on my PT 10 rig, is there anything we should have done to prepare. Do you think there may be a compatibility problem and that is the reason why I have not received the files as promised, yet?

Are my opinions on this engineer's drum technique (not listening to the drums while he sets levels) out of date? how about working on a snare sound where you get depth, smack and the sound of the snares? How about a kick drum with a little attack on it. How about using stereo overheads, and pointing them more towards the cymbals (not the snare)
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,312
Some thoughts:

For a 3-song, one session demo, you're not going to get a lot of time to get sounds, especially if they worked for free to set up the drums beforehand. Not sure why he had the volume so low, other than that he had already got the tones he liked and was just tweaking levels. That's a little strange.

No reason to not have stereo OHs, IMHO.

Does anyone actually use a hat mic, at mix time? I like to take it pointing where the stick hits the cymbal - If I use any hat at mix time, it's for that extra definition on a Stewart Copeland/Manu Katche part.

For me, quickest way to get a great kick sound is to get the front head off, throw a sandbag in it, and mic it 2/3 off center, about 3" inside the front rim. pointing at the beater. This is what I do, about 90% of the time. Kind of a moot point nowadays, as you can easily blow a sample in and get any sound you want.

.Wavs are .wavs, they'll import just fine into PT and then you'll have them.

See what it sounds like when you get it on your system, but don't lose sight of the fact that you went really fast, and it's a demo.
 

Rex Anderson

Member
Messages
5,151
Pre-session planning is the key to getting what you want. A bit of time spent with the engineer discussing how YOU wanted the drums (and everything else) miced would have prevented any "after the session is done" complaints. Sounds to me like you should have been more proactive and involved as a producer of your recording project. Doesn't do much good to say how you wanted it done after the session is over.

Lots of ways to mic drums. If I was you, I would have taken time in the control room with the engineer to "produce" while he was resetting levels. You could have gone in to the studio and moved mics. Tell him to turn up the control room monitors so you can hear how things sound. Say you want a second overhead mic . Shouldn't take long to do that.

Taking the time to get sounds before you record is standard operating procedure. Trusting the engineer is only OK if you have worked together before and trust him.

Nuendo or Pro Tools doesn't matter until you get to mixing, using plug-ins etc. Should just be a bunch of wav files at this point. Why 48 kHz instead of 44.1? Are you doing video or CD's? Not a big deal, but silly to use 48 kHz for audio.

Sorry you didn't get what you wanted, but I think with your past experience you would have known to get things right before you start recording.
 

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,333
Loudboy. I agree with everything you just said. Sounds like we are on the same page.

For me, quickest way to get a great kick sound is to get the front head off, throw a sandbag in it, and mic it 2/3 off center, about 3" inside the front rim. pointing at the beater. This is what I do, about 90% of the time. Kind of a moot point nowadays, as you can easily blow a sample in and get any sound you want.
I couldn't agree more, you need the weight on there, and a slightly loose head, to get that "SMACK" sound, but you also definitely want some low end bass freqs, too.

... except maybe the hi-hat mic. The only reason I mic it is that I think it is critical to get the sound of hi-hat foot pedal action, and that is why I set up the mic opposite the sticks, but pointed so it hears the contact being made by the two cymbals (but not so it picks up the air coming out of there - I put it outside the top cymbal upward profile, but pointed down.

More like this: (but NOT with a dynamic mic)



And never like this:

 
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Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,333
Thanks Rex - I agree completely. It was one of those band situations where they have no recording experience and they thought "the engineer" was the "go to" guy even though I have tons of experience myself. I wasn't the only one paying the bill, so I wasn't really in a position to decide to be the producer. The little that I did set the other guys on edge as it was. And actually we hope to use some of the audio with a video, but I do get your point about starting with the CD standard.

Good to know the files will not be an issue. That is what I suspected but I have no experience with Nuendo.
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,312
Loudboy. I agree with everything you just said. Sounds like we are on the same page.

... ecept maybe the hi-hat mic. MY thing is that I think it is critical to get the sound of hi-hat foot action, and that is precisely why I set up a mic opposite the sticks, but pointed so it hears the contact being made by the two cymbals (but not so it picks up the air coming out of there - that is why I put it outside the top cymbal upward profile, but pointed down.

More like this: ( but NOT a dynamic mic)



And never like this:

Understand your point and I see it done that way all the time....

OTOH, I've never made a recording that didn't have enough hat, just from the OH's, the definition is what I normally need.

Usually the issue is too much, due to drummers bringing in hats they use live and whaling the snot out of them.

We had a set of Zildjian New-Beats we'd make 'em use, and that helped a lot.
 

Hendyamps

Member
Messages
34
1. It sounds like your engineer either is inexperienced or is aiming for a different sound than what you are looking for - or both.
2. No idea why levels were so low. I always crank them up and become anal about getting drum sounds to sound the way they should doing into the DAW. The philosophy of "just fix it in the mix" is a terrible strategy in my opinion.
3. Nuendo is fine...close to Cubase which is what I use.
4. WAV file is a WAV file and can be loaded into ProTools with no issue
5. 48k is fine but I prefer 44.1 or 88.2 since everything gets boiled down to 44.1. 48 is more for DVD but with modern DAW's it really doesn't matter that much.
6. I always use a mic under the snare, and often use two mics on the top of the snare (dynamic and SDC taped together)
7. One overhead? No thanks, but then again I'm a fan of a stereo spread and lots of space in a mix. I hate mono sounding drums.
8. Did he use any room mics? Without those you will probably never like the drum sounds to be honest.
9. Hihat mics are more for making a mix spread out a bit. I typically only bring a hat mic up enough (panned hard L or R) to drag the hat sound a bit away from center.
 

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,333
I know what you mean - I don't know what is popular now (drum designs go in stages). I used to love small, thin Paiste hi hats, and I do not like the big 12-inch gong- style hihats that sound way too harsh.

You are right, it is not too hard for a hi-hat to become overwhelming, especially if there is a lot of stick action.
 

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,333
6. I always use a mic under the snare, and often use two mics on the top of the snare (dynamic and SDC taped together)
In the past I rarely needed a mic under the snare, but like I said, trends in drums change. When I was a full-time engineer snares were big and loud and they had really rattly snare mechanisms. I often needed a little tape to dampen them down. I didn't need a bottom mic.

7. One overhead? No thanks, but then again I'm a fan of a stereo spread and lots of space in a mix. I hate mono sounding drums.
8. Did he use any room mics? Without those you will probably never like the drum sounds to be honest.
9. Hihat mics are more for making a mix spread out a bit. I typically only bring a hat mic up enough (panned hard L or R) to drag the hat sound a bit away from center.
No room mics, I also hate mono drums, the excitement of hearing toms move around is what drums are all about. I agree about panning the hihat - but I usually just go a little off-center. I pretty much like to pan my drums like I see them. But I exagerate the hat and usually go about 20-30 degrees off-center.

For the overhead, having just one was bad enough, but it was pointed at the snare like this (this picture is meant for live sound reinforcement - not studio technique).

This meant it was also picking up a lot of the toms and snare from overhead. but that the cymbals sounded gong-like, brash. I want my cymbals to sound like breaking glass.

So, I took the overhead and raised it a bit and oriented it towards the cymbals, not the snare.



I would have been happier with two OH. When I was full-time I would actually mic cymbals more like this (they weren't really overhead mics, but you get a great cymbal sound).

 

hellbender

Senior Member
Messages
23,786
3 song demo is not the place to be tweaking the snare and kick sounds. I know you want it to sound good but they could get so bogged down in nuance that bands would drive them crazy. This is actually the A #1 cause of studio owner/operator suicides.

So they just don't go there, in the interest of getting the band in and out while they are fresh.
 

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,333
3 song demo is not the place to be tweaking the snare and kick sounds. I know you want it to sound good but they could get so bogged down in nuance that bands would drive them crazy. So they just don't go there, in the interest of getting the band in and out while they are fresh.
Yeah, in this case our goal was just to get a great drum sound so we could take the tracks to MY home studio and do the overdubs and mix - so getting the right drum sound really was the whole point of the session. We were not even planning to keep the rhythm guitars unless they were good, if they weren't good, we were going to do them over at my studio. Unfortunately, I don't think our singer communicated that to the studio very well when he set it up, and they thought what you are saying above.

But - it was within the first hour that I told the engineer "tonight is just about getting the drums - the rest will be overdubbed at my own studio" If I was the engineer on that session, I would have done a full drum check and asked the clients (us) what we thought.

We banged out three takes of the first song - one of the second, and two of the third. Only two 2-bar punch-ins were done the whole night. End of night. They only charged us for two hours. I would have HAPPILY paid for another two hours just to get the drums right, but when I asked the engineer how long it would take to put up another OH mic he said, "listen, I was told this was just supposed to be a live sounding demo" and he didn't want to do it, so the rest of the band just wee-weed off and said "that's OK, don't worry about it."

So, it wasn't just the engineer. The singer got it wrong when he told the studio what we wanted to do. And the band was also not demanding in what we wanted to accomplish. It's like cancelling rehearsals for petty reasons. Just typical band stuff that ends up making your band mediocre instead of exceptional.
 

Greazygeo

Member
Messages
1,181
Last night, my band went to a studio to record a quick three-song demo for club gigs.
When I read this, I think the drum mics were set up ok. This is actually a good way to go for a demo to get gigs.

We made the mistake of multi tracking one demo for a cover band. It turned out fantastic. The problem was the tunes sounded so much like the originals, we kept getting club owners thinking it wasn't really us.

We ended up shooting some video at a club gig and making a nice promo kit to go with it.

The mor elive sounding the demo, the better imo.
 

Hendyamps

Member
Messages
34
3 song demo is not the place to be tweaking the snare and kick sounds. I know you want it to sound good but they could get so bogged down in nuance that bands would drive them crazy. This is actually the A #1 cause of studio owner/operator suicides.

So they just don't go there, in the interest of getting the band in and out while they are fresh.
Experienced engineers should be able to get good drum sounds very quickly even on three song demos. In fact, getting good snare/kick sounds doesn't typically take more than one or two trips from the control room to the drums. I can have drums mic'd up and ready to go with good results in a very short amount of time and I'm not nearly as experienced as some of the really good engineers out there.
 

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,333
When I read this, I think the drum mics were set up ok. This is actually a good way to go for a demo to get gigs.

We made the mistake of multi tracking one demo for a cover band. It turned out fantastic. The problem was the tunes sounded so much like the originals, we kept getting club owners thinking it wasn't really us.

We ended up shooting some video at a club gig and making a nice promo kit to go with it.

The mor elive sounding the demo, the better imo.
I think you have a point, but we are finding here in AZ that the bookers don't know the difference between "studio" talent and "live" talent. Most of them are saying they want a CD of us playing. We have TONS of great live recordings on YouTube but the bookers don;t care about them. They want a standard promo kit: 8 x 10s and CD recordings with a BIO and song list.

I also agree that getting a good snare and kick sound is not that hard. Give me 10 minutes and I have both nailed (especially kick), The snare might require a few trips back 'n forth, but that's it. That is if you have good equipment to start with.

I am really tired of being with a band that doesn't have a clue and doesn't believe in "caring" what happens. Everything is just "whatever" or "I'm good"....
 

Monotremata

Member
Messages
1,338
As for his volume level.. That's actually how low of a level a good majority of mixing engineers mix at. Although if I'm tracking I'd at least turn it up to so the band can really get into it.

If he's already got the mics aimed where he wants, all he's got left is to adjust the levels and balance for the guy actually playing the kit instead of the owner who set it up. No need to wear out your ears if all you're doing is balancing levels, in fact high volume can hinder it. When it comes to hearing the low low end I'll crank up MOTUs main knob to -12 db (I have my monitors set to hit ~85db here at listening position) but for the most part I work between -32 to -24db. Sometimes lower and late at night I've done pretty well all the way down to -50 on the dial.

Ive spent, and still spend, enough time in front of a JCM800 half stack and an AC15 over the years. Gotta save what little is left for the critical stuff like recording haha.
 






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