Posted tagged ‘Cymbal’


January 9, 2012

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 45 Mixing Drums

Over the last few weeks we’ve covered the various individual drums and cymbals that make up the drum kit. This week we’ll conclude our look at drums in the mix, by considering the use of the Overheads and Ambience tracks.

Overheads: Spaced Pair.

We’ve mentioned the Overheads a few times and alluded to how useful they can be to pull the overall drum sound together.

The overheads are often set up as a stereo pair, for example X-Y Coincident, Spaced pair or Blumlein. There are other stereo techniques each with their own pros and cons as well as mic setups with one mic in front of the kit and one behind the drummer.

See this blog for more information on recording techniques for overheads and ambience tracks.

In reality, unless you were standing very close to a drum kit, you would hear very little stereo spread. So, how important is it to have a wide stereo picture of the drums in your song? That’s entirely for you to decide. Some songs will suit a wider stereo image than others.

Overheads: X-Y Coincident Pair.

If you do decide to go with stereo drums in your mix, listen to your overhead tracks sooner rather than later. Providing you set up your OHs as a stereo pair with quality mics, you should hear a pretty good drum mix from just these two mics. They will most likely have picked up the cymbals, hi-hat, snare and toms quite well.

By adding in the kick and snare specific mikes, you should be able to produce a drum sound that provides punch and clarity.

With such a wide range of kit components, it might be difficult to apply an EQ setting that works well for everything. Providing you are adding close miked tracks, you could try rolling off a lot of low-end from the OHs, maybe all the way up to 400 Hz. This can sometimes help the close mics poke through more.

If the drums heard in the OHs sound muddy, play around with the 100-200 Hz range of frequencies. If they sound boxy try cutting between 400 Hz-1 kHz.

TML Studio TCM Music Nashville – Showing Overhead Spaced Pair, Kick, Snare, Hi-Hat & Tom Mics.

Just be careful in applying any EQ. What works for cymbals for example, may not make your toms sound great and vice versa. So a compromise needs to be reached. However, don’t dismiss the OHs because of this. With a little effort, these two tracks can provide a great base to build your drum sound on.

Remember, if you recorded the kit using 10 or 20 mics it does not mean you have to use all of them. Only use what is needed to get a great drum sound. And when using more than one mic, there is always the possibility of phase issues. The more mics you use the more the problem gets compounded. So check for mono compatibility whenever you introduce another mic into the mix.

Also consider which way you want to ‘see’ the kit. Do you want the listener POV or the drummer POV? Whichever way you decide to go with, make sure you’re consistent when adding individual drums and cymbals to the OHs.

Kit From Drummer’s POV, Hi-Hat Left.

Kit From Audience POV, Hi-Hat Right.

When panning the OHs left and right, if the OHs have the hi-hat appearing on the right, don’t place the individual hi-hat mic track on the left. Listen carefully to the OHs (solo them) and determine where each kit component is in the stereo field, then add the individual tracks to match the position you hear in the OHs.

Gating the OHs does not work. The OHs are effectively capturing the whole kit. Gating the OHs will do the opposite and result in parts of the kit being cut out. So don’t use this processor to fix your OHs sound. If the OHs don’t sound very good, you may have to re-record them.

Actually, the OH’s often help to mask any gating artifacts from the individually miked drums…..another very good reason to have them as part of your drum sound.

Adding compression to the OHs is debatable…..some engineers do, some don’t. If you recorded your OHs as a stereo pair and do decide to use compression, make sure you use a linked stereo compressor to prevent image shift. If the two sides of the compressor are not linked, every time the crash cymbal is struck, the stereo image will move because the mic that is closest to the crash will compress more than the one that is further away. This is especially true for a Spaced Pair setup.

Best to use light compression in the OHs if at all, and compress the individual drum mikes.

Using A Royer SF-12 Stereo Ribbon Mic To Record Ambience In Kitchen, Drums In Next Room.

Ambient mics can add a unique quality to the sound of your drums (or any instrument). They are usually placed several feet away from the signal source and therefore capture more of the room sound. The position(s) that work will only be discovered by experimentation.

In a home studio setting, one room – your main recording room – may be somewhat acoustically treated. The other rooms are probably not.

Try listening to the drums from different points in the same room as well as different rooms. Bathrooms, kitchens or hallways may provide useful opportunities to place ambient mics that produce interesting results. Whilst the drummer is playing, move around until you hear a sound quality you like (the sweet spot), set up a mic and listen to the result. Providing you have enough tracks, you can always record an ambient track or three then decide in the mix if you want to use them.

If you’re able to borrow a church hall or other large reverberant space, you can capture some amazing ambient sounds which when added to your close mics, can transform the sound of your kit and other instruments.

Incidentally, if you want to hear what a great sounding room can do for your music, search out Beaver & Krause’s ‘Gandharva’. Recorded in 1971, side two of the LP was recorded in San Fransisco’s magnificent Grace Cathedral. Featuring Mike Bloomfield, Gerry Mulligan, Bud Shank and many other stalwart musicians of that era, it’s an amazing mixture of Jazz, Blues, Rock and Gospel – a unique album.

If you use more than one mic at varying distances on a single source, the sound will arrive at the different mics at slightly different times. So delays will be introduced as well as possible phase problems.

The further away a mic is from a source, the less attack will be picked up and there will be less signal to noise. So you may need to EQ out some background noise or rumble. Play around with the panning of ambient mic(s) to see what works best for the song.

Maybe the best advice with drums, is to start off simple – using the Glyn Johns mic technique – using three or four mics or something similar. Then as you become more familiar with your mic collection, acoustics, the recording and mixing processes you’ll feel inclined to experiment with more complex setups.

Getting a great drum sound can be one of the more challenging aspects of the mix stage. But as with everything in life, practice makes perfect. There’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and just doing it. Fortunately in the home studio, the multitrack process allows endless attempts at getting the mix right. Take your time, learn your skills and have fun.

Next week we’ll look at Percussion before moving on to the other instruments in the mix.

All of us at TCM Mastering love music. We’ve all spent most of our lives in this business. So, if you have any questions regarding the blog, mastering or recording in general please drop us a line or contact us here.



January 2, 2012

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 44 Mixing Drums

Happy New Year from all of us at TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group. We hope 2012 will be a great year for all our clients and readers alike.

Drum Kit Showing Hi-Hat & Various Cymbals From The Drummer’s POV – Hi-Hat Left, Lowest Tom Right.

Continuing with our look at drums in the mix, this week it’s the turn of  the Cymbals and the Hi-Hat.

Consider when placing your mics that, the cymbals produce most of their sound above and below the metal plate in a figure-8 pattern (if you were to look edge on). The hi-hat produces lots of high-end transients and most of its sound is generated horizontally.

The height you position cymbals above the toms will alter their sound which in turn affects what is picked up by mics.

There are also cymbals which work better for recording than live work.

Using An AKG 452 Under The Cymbal.

If you have used specific mics for the cymbals (see this blog for tips on recording), you can often get rid of frequencies below the 150-200 Hz range, by using a shelf EQ. This removes rumble picked up by the mics. If the cymbals come across as ‘cheap’ and clunky you may be able to improve their sound by cutting a few dB at 1-2 kHz. To give them that ‘ring’, try adding a shelf EQ above 10 kHz.

We’ll discuss the use of the overheads in the mix next week. But bear in mind these mics (if you used them) will pick up so much of your drum and cymbal sound, you may decide that certain specific mikes are redundant when it comes to determining the overall sound of the kit in the final mix.

Hi-Hat & Snare Miked.

The hi-hat sound is characterised by the ‘ring’ between 7-10 kHz. The stick noise is around 5 kHz and the ‘clang’ between 500 Hz to 1 kHz.

The hi-hat may well be picked up by other mics in the kit, especially the snare mic. But assuming you have used a good quality mic and it was optimally placed, you could use a shelf EQ above 10 kHz to boost the brightness of the hi-hat. To remove rumble picked up by the mic, use a similar EQ setting to the one used for cymbals. To give it that high, crisp ‘tssshh’ use a wide bandwidth (or low Q setting) around 15-16 kHz.

The quality and sound of cymbals and hi-hats can vary enormously from different manufacturers and price ranges. So the application of EQ should be approached carefully in isolation of the cymbal sound and in comparison with the whole kit submix and all the other instruments, especially the rhythm section.

It’s essential to listen to instruments in the setting of the overall mix. As all the instruments are interdependent upon each other.

Toms Panned From Just Right Of Centre (Highest Pitch) Over To The Left (Lowest Pitch). Hi-Hat Panned Right Or Centre, Cymbals Right & Left. The Kick And Snare Are Normally Down The Middle. Centre Double Kicks, Or You Could Try Splitting The Kicks Evenly Off Centre Left & Right Slightly.

With regards to panning the cymbals, there are two perspectives used. Either from the point of view of the drummer or the POV of the listener. So as we mentioned last week, if we were to take the listener’s POV, the toms would be panned with the highest pitched just right of centre, moving left as we go down in pitch to the biggest floor tom. Cymbals can be placed right and left depending on the spread width and effect you want. The hi-hat is usually panned right or centre, depending on the genre of music.

Alternatively, if you intend to use the overheads in the drum submix, you will want the individually miked components to be placed in the same position in the stereo field as you hear in the OHs. For example, solo the OHs and listen to where the hi-hat appears. Let’s say it sounds like it’s at 2 on the clock. Match the hi-hat close mic track to the same position in the OH’s stereo picture.

The cymbals and hi-hat rarely, if ever, benefit from gating. Cymbals especially, have such a relatively long decay that it’s impossible to gate them effectively. Far better to clean up the cymbal and hi-hat track in the editing stage if necessary.

Many DAWs Offer A Non-Destructive ‘Strip Silence’ Option. Setup The Parameters So That Only Unwanted Audio (Below A Specified Level) Is Removed.

One method is to use the non-destructive ‘Strip Silence’ feature offered in many DAWs. But you have to be very careful in setting up the parameters so that you don’t strip away any of the sound you want to keep. If you do remove wanted material accidentally, you can hit ‘Undo’ and try again.

Or better still, simply edit out unwanted drum sounds from the cymbals and hi-hat tracks and apply fades in and out, so that the sounds you do want to keep don’t jump out at the listener. This method will give more control than a global gate setting any day.

If you do end up gating cymbals (not recommended, unless for a special effect), a little reverb added can restore the decay sound that inevitably gets cut off by the gate.

Pro Tools Automation.

You could also use automation to clean up tracks, but this will use up processing power in your computer’s CPU.

With any clean up procedure, you should always do a before and after comparison though, to make sure you’re actually improving the sound.

Spill from one drum mic to another is unavoidable with a multiple mic setup and is often the very thing that gives drums that real sound. So gating the hi-hat is really best reserved for ‘fixing’ the sound e.g. making it tighter.

If you notice serious problems with your drum sound in the mix stage… may have to re-record them…..not an easy or popular option.

However, if the session is finished and the drummer is no longer available, you may have no choice but to resort to some or all of the above suggestions to get your tracks in shape.

Tama Rock Kit With 14” Hi-Hat, 16” Crash & 20” Ride.

It’s therefore vital that you get the best drum sound you can, the first time. As trying to make a badly recorded drum kit sound good is always going to be an uphill struggle. So, take the time to tune and set up the drums and cymbals properly; place the best mics correctly and get the drummer to play the kit for you prior to hitting the record button, so that you can make sure everything is as good as can be.

If you only have a few problems with a specific cymbal and/or drum in the mix stage, you could always try triggering a sample to replace the offending hit(s). Or alternatively, record a wild hit then place it at the right sync point in the track.

I think it’s always worth sampling all the individual drums and cymbals from a kit, separately, just before you start recording the kit as a whole, for ‘backup’ purposes. You never know when you’ll need a clean snare, tom or crash cymbal hit. Make sure you label each drum and cymbal sample as accurately as possible, including size and make. Then add them to your music library for future use.

Check out our drum posts starting with tuning, by clicking here.

As I said in an earlier blog, if you can achieve a great recording of the drum kit, it usually yields an easy mix.

Next week we’ll conclude our look at mixing drums by considering the use of the Overheads and Ambience tracks.

TCM Music Group have access to many great session musicians, including Troy Luccketta (drummer with Tesla). If you’re interested in finding out more about our recording packages, or simply have a question about recording, mixing or mastering – please click here.


December 26, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 43 Mixing Drums

As we are in the middle of the Holidays and many of you, I’m sure, will be spending time with family and friends, I’ve decided to put out the next few blogs in smaller, more easily digestible chunks.

Last week we considered the kick and snare drums and how best to treat them in the mix. Today, we’ll continue by looking at Toms. Next week, the first Monday of 2012, we’ll discuss Cymbals and Hi-hat in the mix. Then, we’ll finish our look at drums by considering the use of the Overheads and Ambience tracks. Check out this blog for more information on recording toms, cymbals, hi-hat, overheads and ambience tracks.

A Typical Drum Setup For Legendary Mixer Bruce Swedien – Note The Use Of Neumann U87s On The Toms.

As we mentioned (in this blog), you don’t have to record dozens of tracks to get a great drum sound. Three or four mics, well placed, can produce an amazing sound. The greater number of mics you use and tracks you record, the more difficult it will be to isolate specific drums. There will be spill from one drum mic to another and possible phase issues to address.

In addition, if you recorded the drums with the rest of the band playing at the same time, the other instruments may well be present in some of the drum tracks too. However, if you are prepared to accept all these challenges then more mics can certainly give you more options in your mix.

Remember, the recorded sound can be altered dramatically by using a different mic, altering the mic’s position, replacing the drum’s head, the use of acoustic panels etc. In other words, try to get as close to the sound you want from your drums in the recording stage.

The kick and snare are the two most important drums in most kit setups. But drums would be quite boring without the other components to add colour, syncopation and interest to the rhythm track.

A Basic Kit Showing Three Toms – Two Mounted On The Kick And One Floor Tom On The Left.

A common configuration for the toms is to have 3 – high, mid and low – a couple mounted (often on top of the kick) and one floor, but many drummers use more. For the purposes of our discussion, we’ll assume you have gone some ways to record them with specific mic’s.

Toms come in a huge range of sizes and therefore pitches. The larger the tom, the deeper the tone. To give more depth to mounted toms, try adding a few dB around 200-250 Hz. To reduce any boxiness, you could try cutting in the 600 Hz to 1 kHz range. By adding some 3-5 kHz, you can increase the stick’s attack. Whilst the 5-8 kHz range will boost the presence.

Top: Floor Tom Miked From Above, Below: Mounted Toms Miked From Above And Inside.

Floor toms might need a slightly different EQ. Between 40-125 Hz, try boosting to increase richness or fullness. Try cutting a little between 400-800 Hz to get rid of boxiness. And to get more attack, boost between 2-5 kHz.

To make it easier to find the exact EQ frequency that needs adjusting, try using extreme cut or boost, whilst employing a very high Q or narrow bandwidth setting as you sweep through the frequencies. Once you’ve found the frequency that works best, moderate the cut or boost dB levels and widen the bandwidth a little.

Uniquely Shaped Staccato Drums.

Also consider whether you want to EQ before compressing or vice versa. Consider this guideline…..if the drum needs drastic EQ then compress before EQ. If the drum needs serious compression then EQ before compression. Ultimately, it’s down to what sounds best, so try both and see which you prefer. Click here for more information on compressing and the other forms of dynamic processing.

If you want powerful sounding toms try using a compression ratio of 4, 5 or 6:1. Don’t use too high a ratio, this might result in the compressor giving a sucking effect to the audio. Set the threshold to act on the highest transients and use a fast to medium attack time. Remember, you are compressing the toms. You don’t want the compressor to noticeably raise the levels of the other drums or cymbals.

Compression and a good short reverb can combine to produce a great, big sound on the toms. Try a small room or a short plate reverb setting. Of course it depends on your song…..if the toms are being used sparingly a longer reverb might work. If the toms are featured a lot, a long reverb could muddy the mix.

A Tama Kit With Double Kick, Five Toms & Hi-Hat On The Right.

Most people (drummers included) are right-handed, so the kit is usually setup with the hi-hat off to the right…..if you’re viewing the kit from the perspective of the audience. Last week we mentioned the usual position to place the kick and snare is straight down the middle of the stereo field.

The toms can be placed as you would see them – the highest pitched slightly off to the right, across to the left for the lowest pitched. You will need to listen to the toms as they are being played back to position them accurately within the stereo image. And if you are adding reverb or delay match the effect position in the stero image, with that of the tom you are applying the effect to.

Drum Kit With Multiple Mics, Including Overheads.

If you have used several microphones to record your drums, as you add more and more drum tracks into the mix, you will realise that the same components are represented on many different tracks. The Overheads especially, will pick up cymbals, toms, snare and more.

So once you have sorted out the kick and the snare, you could try adding the overheads panning them hard left and right. You may find that they provide enough of the remaining components to fill out the drum sound. We’ll discuss the overheads in greater detail in 2 weeks time.

Note: If you intend to use the overheads in the drum submix, you will most likely want the individually miked components to be placed in the same position in the stereo field as you hear in the OHs.

Next week we’ll take a look at the Cymbals and Hi-hat in the mix. Followed by the Overheads and Ambience the following Monday.

All of us at TCM hope you had a fantastic Christmas and Holiday break and wish all our readers a Happy New Year. If you have a music project coming up in 2012, why not get in touch with us to see what we can do for you. TCM Music Group and TCM Mastering have been providing production, recording, mixing and mastering services to musicians and the music industry for decades. For more information about TCM Music Group and the various services they can provide, please contact us by clicking here.


July 4, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 18 Tuning Drums

This week we’ll discuss preparing and tuning drums for a recording session. Tuning drums is an extensive subject in itself and if you’ve never done it before, it will probably take a bit of practice to get it right. Even if you intend to get someone in to tune the drums for you before a session, it’s useful to know the basic process – which is what we will discuss here. For further information on tuning, see the video at the bottom of this blog.

Next week we’ll get into the various microphone techniques for recording drums.

As part of their recording packages, TCM offer the services of professional session musicians. Troy Luccketta, drummer with Tesla is available through TCM Music Group and is also a Producer partner.

As Drum Kits Go – Recording Engineer’s Hell!

Recording drums in many Home Studios is not going to be the easiest task. For starters a full kit takes some time to tune and set up properly. Second it takes up a fair amount of space if it’s set up all the time. Third, they’re rich in transients and they’re not the quietest of instruments. So keeping the sound in your room and not annoying neighbours is something you may need to consider…..check out this blog which discusses ‘Your Room’.

At this point, many home musicians decide to use samples or a drum machine because it’s less hassle.

Two Drumming Legends – Jeff Porcaro and Steve Gadd…..Who Haven’t These Guys Played With???!!!

Over the years I’ve used real kits, drum machines and samples. Unless you’re really good at programming a machine/samples or can get a real drummer to do it for you, the resultant drum track can very easily sound….uninspiring.

With a little care and effort you can capture a great drum sound played by a real drummer, which can make an enormous difference to a recording.

TML Studio TCM Music Nashville – Drums and Mics Set Up.

Just remember the type of song should determine the drum sound, not the other way round, so don’t be afraid to try things out. There are probably more differing opinions on how to record drums than any other instrument. So you will come across plenty of contradictory advice.

Not all drums are created equal and when it comes to recording them, the choice can become even more confusing. There is a vast range of drum heads, cymbals and sticks and the resultant recorded sound is dependant on all of these as well as the microphone set up, room acoustics and most importantly the player.

Drum Kits…..£259 to £959.

Things to remember…..

  • If you’re looking for that big drum sound, don’t assume you need a big kit. Oddly enough smaller drums can sound bigger when recorded.
  • The heads that come with the kit aren’t necessarily the best ones for recording. If you can, spend a little time experimenting with a variety of heads.
  • Keep in mind the most expensive – don’t always yield the best recording results.
  • Cymbals that sound great for live stage work, won’t necessarily sound the best for recording. If you have the choice, go for cymbals that have a fast attack and a short decay.
  • Stage cymbals which have a long decay can cause problems bleeding into the tom-tom mics, causing endless frustration when it comes to mixdown.
  • Suggest to your drummer to play the cymbals quieter than normal. This will help in the overall mix.

Hand Tuning A Drum Head.

So the first thing that needs addressing is – TUNING. If you attempt to record drums that are not tuned, you will be battling to get a good sound. Having said that, no two drummers will likely tune their drums exactly the same way! So there lies the confusion and contradiction I mentioned earlier.

Consider that thick, heavy (drum) heads will sound louder, duller and decay quicker than thin heads which will also have a sharper attack.

Tune each drum separately, away from the rest of the kit. This will eliminate vibrations from the other drums making it easier to concentrate on the drum in hand. The aim is to keep the tension as even as possible around the head. So start by unwinding all the tension keys around the drum, then tighten them finger tight.

Showing The Order Of Tightening For Different Lug Numbers.

With a drum key adjust each rod on opposite sides of the head, tightening a whole, half, then quarter turn at a time as the head gets more tensioned. The four diagrams above show the pattern order for tightening different lug numbered heads.

After you’ve increased the tension, apply pressure to the middle of the head by pressing very firmly down with the palm of your hand. Do this by placing the drum on a carpeted floor. If necessary, bounce up and down on the head. This will ensure that it is stretched and seated properly on the bearing edge.

Applying Pressure To The Centre Of The Head.

Continue to tighten with the drum key and tap the head about an inch or so in from the edge near the lug that is being tightened. Any wrinkles on the head should be gone at this stage. The head should now be producing an audible tone when struck. As you go round the head try to maintain a constant, uniform pitch. Proceed until the desired pitch is achieved all the way round. If you’re using double-headed drums repeat the process for the other head. Some drummers tune the bottom head first, others tune the top first.

Pearl Drum Kit With Three Toms And Kick – Approx. £2500.

If you have a set of three different sized toms, you will find each one has an ideal/preferred tone. When you play them there should be a natural descending pitch from high to low for the smallest to the largest tom.

A tight, well tuned beater head gives the kick drum a defined, full-bodied sound. A tight beater head also gives the kick plenty of attack. With bass/kick drums and toms most drummers prefer the top and bottom heads to be of similar pitches.

Premier Resonator Drum – £225 – Bottom View.

The snare tends to be different. The bottom head is often thinner than the top (batter) head and generally sounds better, tighter – giving a nice crisp effect. Many jazz drummers favour this sound. Whilst tuning the bottom looser than the top (not surprisingly) gives a lower, heavier tone – more rock ‘n roll.

The snare is also probably the source of most unwanted rattles in the drum kit. As a rule of thumb before recording, you should always go round the entire kit checking for any loose fittings and rattles. Separate stands that are touching each other. Loose hardware can be usually silenced with masking tape. And a can of WD40 comes in handy for getting rid of squeaks.

Coins, Kleenex, Cardboard – Can All Be Used For Dampening.

With regards to the use of duct tape and dampeners on drum heads – there are two opposing views. Some drummers will say that if you start off with a good quality drum and the head is tuned properly, there should be no need for dampening. But in a real life Home Recording situation, things are rarely perfect. So you may feel the need to try and apply some dampening on a drum head. Just be careful – too much dampening can deaden a drum to the point that they’ll sound like cardboard boxes.

Forums are sometimes good places to pick up useful tips. Here’s one for drums.

Using Coffee Filters For Dampening Cymbals and Drums.

When it comes to cymbals, radial strips of masking tape can prove effective for dampening the ring if deemed necessary. But as you can see from the picture above – coffee filters can also be put to good use.

They say a picture paints a thousand words and moving pictures can be even better. There are numerous videos on You Tube which explain drum maintenance and tuning. If you’d like more information, the video below is a good place to start. Ryan Stohs demonstrates how to tune a drum (at around 3’55”). He also walks you through the pre-tuning process along with some basic maintenance tips.

Next week I’ll continue with our drum theme by discussing the various microphone techniques that are favoured by musicians and engineers.