#73: The 5 Key Ingredients Of A Big And Punchy Drum Sound

#73: The 5 Key Ingredients Of A Big And Punchy Drum Sound

In this episode we talk about the critical five things you need to get right if you want your drum sound to be "professional". 

And by "professional" we mean exactly spot on for your project. The way your favorite records sound.

Whether you want massive, modern rock drums or tight, dry 70s drums, you need to get these 5 things right. No matter what. And they are much more important than mics, preamps, etc.


This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.

Brace Yourself, Here's Malcom And His "Location Sound Sun Hat":

This has nothing to do with drum sound - Brace Yourself, Here's Malcom And His "Location Sound Sun Hat"

(Thank you for that, Thomas!) 

The Picture We Mention In The Episode When We Talk About Room Acoustics:

An example of how to treat a room to get a big, open, yet controlled drum sound

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 73 - The 5 Key Ingredients Of A Big And Punchy Drum Sound

[00:00:00] Benedikt: [00:00:00] You can't really get away with Chile drums. If the drums suck, they just suck. So good. Drum production is such a big part of a great overall production quality that, yeah, it's just one of the most important things. This is the self recording band podcast. The show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are.

DIY style. Let's go.

Hello. The self recording band podcast. I am your host Benedict tine, and I'm here with my friend and cohost Malcolm Owen flood. How are you, Malcolm? How was your weekend? Hey, 

Malcom: [00:00:39] Benny. I'm good, man. I got incredibly sunburned. My, the back of my kneecaps are, I guess, I don't know something unique caps. The back of your knees.

My knees are like the color of like, uh, The medium rare steak. It's

like literally the same color. I like to cook my meat, [00:01:00] but it, my niece do 

Benedikt: [00:01:01] the, like the pressure test or whatever, like 

Malcom: [00:01:04] how soft it is. It's good. It's good to go.

Benedikt: [00:01:09] Yeah. It can happen, especially when you work in, right. It was not, it's not like just to people. No, it's not because Malcolm was laying on the beach all week. 

Malcom: [00:01:18] No, if it was me standing on a boat. Yeah. It was fun to me. It was fun. Yeah. It was a blast. I was working on a documentary. I don't know how much I'm allowed to talk about it.

So I just kind of say that I was on a boat. Um, but in the position of being the sound guy on the, on a film set. Sometimes can't move. Like for like an hour, you're standing there holding a microphone in place, like, and you literally just can't take a step. So it's just the, sun's just hitting you reflected off the water and you can just feel it start to smoke.

Benedikt: [00:01:51] Oh shit. Yeah. You need one, you need one. You do you know these hats with the umbrella 

Malcom: [00:01:55] top? Like yeah, totally. No, I have a sun hat, but yeah, I can't wear [00:02:00] like headphones with it, right? Oh shit. Now on the way back, I was like, there's gotta be a solution. So I started Googling, but other locations sound people do to deal with the sun and needing to wear headphones.

And there's this super torquey hat. That's a sun hat with holes cut in the side where headphones go really? And it looks hilarious, highly suggest to Google, just type in that location. Sound mixer, sun hat. You'll find that. 

Benedikt: [00:02:29] It's awesome. Yep. And are you good? 

Malcom: [00:02:32] Oh, yeah, for sure. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:02:34] Okay. Cool. All right.

Awesome. Before we get to today's episode, I wanted to let you, you know, that I have a free 10 step guide for you. The 10 step guide to successful DIY recording. If you go to the set of recording band.com/ten step guide, you can download that completely for free. It walks you through the whole process from like writing, arranging, setting up everything, buying the gear all the way through production.

Recording mixing [00:03:00] mastering. Like it just, the whole process is right in front of you. If you download that and it's free. So the surf recording, pant.com/ten step guide. And I, yeah, let me know if you find that. All right. Um, what are we talking about today? 

Malcom: [00:03:15] Today? We are talking about the five key ingredients of a big and punchy drum sound.

All right. This is all you need. This is all you need. Exactly. Like 

Benedikt: [00:03:26] literally the trunks are so important to me. That's why I love these episodes. You can always get away. I think I said that before on the podcast, you can always kind of get away with a weird guitar tone. You can always say that's on purpose.

That's the vibe or whatever, but you can't really get away with shitty drums. If the drums suck, they just suck. So I think good drum production is such a big part of a great overall production quality that they, yeah, it's just one of the most important things. And one of the easiest things to mess. I agree.

Malcom: [00:03:55] It is a, as we've said many times, it's probably one of the harder things to learn how [00:04:00] to engineer. Well, um, there's so much that goes into. Learning to engineer, drums and experimenting those things. The mic placement, there's the phase. There's, you know, all these reflection, things and bleed and stuff.

You've got to worry about there. The editing itself is a whole other thing because you've got multi-track editing going on. And, uh, there's a lot of margin for error, I guess. Um, so we're not really talking about the nitty gritty techniques in this at all. Actually, we're talking about the ingredients that come before that and when you put them together, These should give you a good result.

In fact, if you get these together, Overpower some of those technical problems. 

Benedikt: [00:04:40] Yes. I think these are, we did a minimum requirements episode at some points, or like it was two or three episodes actually. Um, but, and you'll find the links to those in the show notes. By the way, if you go to the surf recording band.com/ 73, you'll find the show notes to this episode and you'll find the links to those minimum requirements episodes as well.

And this [00:05:00] episode is sort of an extension of that, or in addition to that, because these are. Um, the minimum requirements in a way, or these are the five things you absolutely don't want to mess up. These are the five things you need to get. Right. And if you do the bulk of the, of the work is sort of done, like, of course you still need, there's a couple more things because drums are so complex, but these five things you really need to get those, right.

If you don't, you'll have a problem later in the, in the process. Definitely. 

Malcom: [00:05:28] We have a list and it's kind of an order, but it's not necessarily an order. So I wanted to explain what I mean by that before we jump in. And I think what I mean is that there's like a minimum tolerance of air kind of thing. Um, and if something on the line.

Is below that tolerance. It starts moving up the list in priority. Um, so I'm, I'm sure we'll give some examples as we go. So this isn't, uh, I tried and true strict list, um, or order I should say, but [00:06:00] you'll, you'll get the. 

Benedikt: [00:06:01] Yeah, absolutely agree. Absolutely agree. Okay. So let's start, I guess we both agree that the most important thing is the drummer.

Not even the kit, not the nothing technical, not the mix, no equipment. It's the drummer. 

Malcom: [00:06:15] Yeah. Okay. An example that comes to mind and I'm sorry, I don't know the drummer off the top of my head, but there's a huge song called stay high by Britney Howard. I'm sure a lot of our listeners have heard it, but it is.

Like a big drum kit. Like I actually, I heard that it was a snare drum used as a kick, but the fact is it sounds unbelievable. And you know, that there's a great drummer on the other side of that, like the, the drummer's going to decide the vast majority of the result without a doubt, 

Benedikt: [00:06:43] like the way you hit a drum and the way you that good drummers, just get a feel for the kit.

They learn how it reacts pretty quickly and they know how to hit it so that it sounds. Um, appropriate for the song and the way you hit a drum, how hard you hit it, where exactly you hit it, the angle. Um, [00:07:00] and of course the groove, the pocket, like all of that is so, so, so important. And it's not just the timing, the groove, it's literally the sound like.

Th there is a different sound to each drummer and you can, you can easily make that experiment yourself. If you set up a kit in a room and you let two different people play it, it will sound drastically different. Especially if one of them is a really good drummer and the other is not, there will be a night and day difference and you can put a really good drummer on a pretty shitty kit.

And it will, you can still tell that's a great drummer and it was still sort of sound cool because he'll just, or she just hit it right. 

Malcom: [00:07:35] Definitely. Uh, we've, you know, you've probably seen it with guitars as well. If you'd like guitar sounds great. Now, if somebody else is playing it, why doesn't it sound the same?

Benny. And I, we see this more than most because we've produced a lot of records in our time and we've got to Trump tech in and they're hitting the drum and it sounds unbelievable. And we're like, yes. Okay. Let's get the drummer in there to play now. And it's like, what? Huh? [00:08:00] Totally. Where did it go? Like the magic is.

Totally left the room with our drum tech and know that's not always the case. Sometimes it's the other way around and, you know, vice versa, but drunk texts tend to have a very good ability to make a drum sound off. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:08:17] absolutely. And another, another. Um, for you that this, that you, so that you see that this is really true, is that when people make sample libraries, they, you would think that a producer, if they would make a sample library, they could just hit the drums themselves.

Like anyone can do that. I could set up a drum kit and I could just hit record, go in there, hit all the drums, record the samples, but most producers. Uh, hire studio drummers or just great drummers. They know from bands they've worked with, to come to the studio to record the samples for them. It's just individual hits most of the time.

Sometimes they record groups as well, but even if it's just individual hits, they hire an awesome drummer for that, because it just sounds different because they know how to hit the drum so that it sounds the best. [00:09:00] Um, they, you would think that you could put anyone in there and let's just have, have them hit the drums, but you don't, it's not the same.

Malcom: [00:09:07] Yeah. I remember, uh, the drummer in my band, Marcus, um, who also causes my other podcast. He spent a lot of time in and learning how to hit a drum. The snare drum hit great town. Just the moment we started jamming those, like the first thing I was immediately excited about was like, oh my God, you sound amazing.

Um, but he was really. And, and he was having problems with that. And I remember he was like, I've been practicing getting the same sound on my drum without playing as loud. And it was like a technique he was learning so that he could specifically have a great sounded scenario. He didn't wanna lose that, but he needed it to be some like quieter so that it balanced with different people he played with.

And it's like, that's a whole different way of thinking about it that I think most drummers would probably never considered. How can they make the drum sound good? We'll be in quieter. Like that's a skill that you might need for a certain live show. There's certain meds. Certain 

Benedikt: [00:09:59] room. Yes, [00:10:00] totally. And it's, it's really tricky because most of the time, if people play quieter, like the shells, then it also starts to sound worse.

Uh, so I'm very hesitant to recommend playing a quieter. I'd rather find a solution to make the loud snail work instead, like don't tell people, just pit the snare lighter or anything like that, but some people can't do that. We'll sound loud while actually being quiet. Yeah. Sorry. I 

Malcom: [00:10:23] specifically meant for, he was learning that as a technique to use in live situations in the studio.

We almost always want that snare Poppins. Yeah. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:10:30] absolutely. I can totally see that. Yeah. It's just, yeah. You got to hear it. If, if any, I think everyone who heard a great drummer knows what we're talking about. Dick. It gets clear immediately. Once you hear that, it's it's magic. Really? So yeah. The drummer refine your ticket.

Um, and they honestly, it's one of those things where if you really want to make a great record and you are, you have a drummer in the band that is not the best fit for [00:11:00] that song or that record, it might be the best decision to program it or to hire a studio. It's one of those things. I know how difficult it can be because every, we all have egos and we all want to be part of the record.

But especially with drummers, it's often not the best decision to have the drummer of the band play the parts. And I know that some people will hate that statement and it's like a polar polarizing thing to say, but it's true. And with many big records, that's the case. Farmers have been replaced often on a record and in the end, the listener doesn't.

You know, so it's up to you to decide that. I mean, I totally respect if you make the decision that whoever's in the band plays the parts, but just know that it might not be the best decision for the record, depending on who the drummer is. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:11:43] It's definitely worth the conversation. All right. Um, I think that brings us to number two on our list, which is the tuning and drum heads.

Um, I, I guess we kind of mean tuning heads and drums. For me, it's that order it's it's tuning is like my number [00:12:00] one heads is my number two and then three would be the show. 

Benedikt: [00:12:05] Yeah, I agree. I agree. Yeah, I agree. Absolutely. Um, th yeah, totally. There is no question actually, like tuning is the most important thing.

You can get an amazing sounding tunes out of pretty any kit, if you're tune it. Right. I was kind of torn between like the heads and the tuning, because with very old heads, you can't really tune them anymore. So, but on the other end on the other side, if you, um, the other thing is if you buy a new house, And you don't tune them.

Well, it's like also not really good. So those two go together sort of, but I agree. The first thing is the tuning men, the head choice, and the fact that you're using new heads. And then, uh, um, the, the shells, the shells are less important than you think many people when they buy a drum kit or choose one for the recording, they over obsess about the shell materials, different types of wood and metal.

And. Different types of bearing edges, which are important of course, and like manufacturers and all of that, and everything is sort of [00:13:00] important or everything. Um, has an impact on the sound, but none of these things are nearly as important as the drum heads. Like the majority of the whole drum tone comes from the head that the mic is pretty close to the head and whatever the drum had does, however it moves and reacts to how you hit it.

That's what the mic will pick up. The rest is on top of that. But the drum head is the one major thing. Like you can also hear that if you. If you just remove a resonant head from a Tom, for example, it drastically changes the sound of the whole drum, the same shell, same material, but one has, is removed. It drastically changes it.

If you obviously, if you tune it up or turn it down very low, it's different. But also if you swap out a coded versus a clear head or a single ply wrist, Double-Play it just drastically changes everything. Whereas if you would just change, it would just switch to a different type of word, but you put the same, um, drum hands-on and you kept the tuning sort of the same.

Pretty similar, at least more similar than changing hats 

[00:14:00] Malcom: [00:13:59] told me. Oh, I showed up my buddy Lucas, McKinnon who owns silverside sound studio down the road from me. Um, he is a great Trump tech and I use them all the time and he has like, you know, four kids over there or something. And we went and grabbed all of his rack Toms and gave them all a whack.

And they were tuned to like, to the exact note. It was so funny. They were, and he didn't even mean to, they were just all the exact same note and. Probably the same. They could have been swapped out between all of the kits and nobody would ever know. And I've seen drummers kind of be like, oh, like we're gonna use a different time on the kit like that.

That's not part of. This kit and like, it doesn't matter at all. If you got a good skin and good tuning on there, nobody will. It's, it's just not an issue. It's kind of like electric guitar bodies are really not that important. Um, like the pickups and, and, and good strings and, and your game pretty much 

Benedikt: [00:14:56] are it?

Absolutely. I've seen a lot of like Frank and kids, [00:15:00] sort of where people put together like five different drugs. And it totally works. Many big producers do that. I I've seen tons of pictures of sessions where there's yeah, there's a drum kit from that kit. And then there's, there might be some vintage, whatever Slingerland Tom or I don't know, like all these, there are these specific things that just work the same as like a snare drum is always chosen for the song.

Basically it's, it's rarely the snare drum that comes with the kit when you buy it. If, if it, if there's a snare drum in the kit, you always choose it and you can do the same with the rest of the kit. Like some. Yeah. As I said, like big vintage Toms, others, like the really like, um, shallow ones or like, um, like you can combine it, I dunno, 24 inch kick drum with rather small times, like whatever fits the song can be different manufacturers.

Just make sure you're tune it while you put the right skins on and it can totally totally work. And it's actually worth experimenting with that. I don't think that just using one kid, just because that's the easiest thing to do. [00:16:00] Is necessarily the best decision. It can be pretty cheap to just rent a kit for a couple of days and see if that works better or you can combine, um, elements of it.


Malcom: [00:16:10] totally. Okay. Um, up next, we've got phase now this is the most technical of them, because this is like the, you have to learn how to engineer and do a good job. Um, and we have episodes where we talk about drunk days and actually, I think one of our first was that. Big deep dive into phase. Yeah. Um, so if you haven't checked that out, you should absolutely head back there.

I wonder if we should eventually do a refresher on, on drum phase just because we've, I think we've gotten better at, I think too, 

Benedikt: [00:16:42] I actually thought we should do some of the. A couple of the early episodes we should maybe, um, listen to again ourselves and then maybe do an update, but I assume the content is still true and relevant.

Uh, but it could be presented better maybe, but [00:17:00] yeah, go to that episode, listen to that because it really covers it really well. And I don't want to explain that whole concept again, because it's a horrible thing to explain in a podcast. Just know that you need to, we'll learn about it. There's no way around it.

You need to learn about phase and I don't know, Malcolm, what is art? There may be some quick tips or some things you need to, to definitely check some things. We can't explain other podcasts that are a must. Um, and should be on every like yeah. Checklist basically. 

Malcom: [00:17:28] I mean, you have to check your bottom snare against your top and you have to check your overheads against everything else.

Like if you do those two and you get them right. That's, that's fantastic. This is the reason. The top of the list is because a good mixer is going to check your face. Now you can still screw it up, but a good mixer is going to check it. Um, so that you're, you're not totally screwed hopefully. And, uh, and that's another reason to hire a good mixer by the way is cause they're [00:18:00] going to check your engineering.

Uh, and then the other reason I didn't think it should go to higher on the list is that a lot of interfaces don't even have phase switches. Um, so. Aren't able to really do it on the way in without understanding their doc further. 

Benedikt: [00:18:15] Um, I agree. I agree with one exception. That is, I think you got to get the overheads, right?

The overhead balance, because not the overheads to the rest of the kid and not like the 100, like the 180, um, face flip. Like if you can't do that, that's fine. You can, we can do that in the mix. But if you have a stereo pair of overheads and they are placed in a way that whatever you do, it just doesn't sound right.

You're kind of screwed if they're like, your hands are tied because. The symbols will sound like cheap MP3s. If you do it wrong, there will be like, you can maybe find a position in the mix later, you can align the tracks so that the symbol sound better, but then the snare might be out of phase or all the way to the left or right.

The kit. The [00:19:00] kick might not be in the center. Um, Maybe you can filter it out, maybe not. So there's, you really got to make sure, I think that whatever you do like that in most cases, at least that the kick and snare are in the center of the image and that the S that you don't have any major, uh, cancellations between the two mikes so that the kick and snare have all the punch, the shells as a whole, basically.

And that the symbols sound clear. And separate enough, like depends, depends on the, on the setup you're using how separate you want them or how wide you want. But they need to sound clear and not like these weird, I don't know how else to say this, this weird washy, cheap MP3 thing at the top end that you get when you have phasing issues and conflict with the symbol.

So I think we can fix a lot of things, but the overhead balance is really, really important and it's phase or polarity, which is the correct way to say it if it's not 180 degree, but yeah, it just needs to learn about the [00:20:00] concept. You just need to be aware of the fact that soundtrack. And it takes time and it doesn't arrive at the same time at every mic and everything that influences everything and changes everything.

So you gotta be aware of that fact. It's just, you got to make sure that it all lines up well, 

Malcom: [00:20:16] yes. Yeah, we, we can't move your mic. Um, in the vaccine phase, that's just is where we are stuck. We just can't change where you placed them. Um, and, and those overheads are pulled the crucial you're right? 

Benedikt: [00:20:29] Yeah. So yeah.

Drummer, tuning, hands and phase now, number four, 

Malcom: [00:20:35] the room. Yeah. Now this one I think is really actually easier to get right than most people think. Um, like you've got to experiment with where you put the drum kit in the room, you know, you can rig up some cheap DIY treatment. Um, we have a great episode on treatment, um, with the ESCO Lohan, you gotta check that out.

It's amazing. Like [00:21:00] everybody should listen to that. Um, but you know, If you don't want to listen to that, grab blankets, pillows, mattresses, whatever you need to do, if you're having reflection issues. Um, and, but drums don't even mind reflections. Sometimes they can sound cool. You know, so like rooms are really important, but also really easy to get.

But if you get it wrong, it is just terrible. In fact, if you get it wrong enough, it starts moving up the priority of this list really quick. This is kind of that tolerance thing I was talking about. Um, if like, for example, your ceilings are really, really, really low. Everything is going to be dancing around that room in such a way that all of your mics are hearing the same information.

Again at different times. And that's when we started getting comb filtering and your entire drum kit now sounds like an MP3 that has been be coded for like the first iPod now. Yeah, 

Benedikt: [00:21:55] exactly. Totally. Okay. So my rule of thumb is [00:22:00] I would try to. Eliminate as much of the early reflections as possible. So I would go like you can leave the room open and capture some of these reflections as you sat in.

Our reflections are not a bad thing per se, but the closest surfaces to the drum kit, like the wall right behind the drum kit or the ceiling right above the drum kit, I would treat them, I would put whatever we have mattresses blankets, um, in the, the, like the best case would be some absorbents that you've built a bot that really worked.

But anyway, Um, that can they, yeah. Team those early reflections around the kit. I would do that first. I would get rid of those as much as possible so that you can have a clear, direct sound and all the close mikes that you've got a great stereo image. There is no weird reflections from the ceiling because those are what costs, the confidence or effect in the, in the symbols often it's partly it's the overhead placement, but the part of it is also what comes back from the ceiling.

So. I definitely want to treat that. [00:23:00] Uh, and, and then the opposite side of the room, let's say you have to drunk it against one wall, the opposite side of the room. If the room is big enough, you can leave that open and put a room mic wherever you want. Like there's no hard rules and most drums sound pretty cool if there's ambience in the room, even if it's not a really good.

But I would, I would avoid the early reflections unless you really know what you do, because those are what, what caused the problems. If the reflections are far enough away, that our brain can decode it as rebarb like that, we can separate it from the direct, punchy, close max out then it's good. If it's so close that it's happening at the same time, we just hear a weird.

Drum kit. Exactly. So, yeah, there's one trick with early reflections that you can try and do an AB and see if you like it. Because I really enjoyed sometimes, especially with roamers who don't hit the snail loud enough. Try if the drum kit is probably sitting on a carpet or some thing on the floor, some soft surface, probably so that it doesn't move.

Now, [00:24:00] if you put a piece of wood or a high head symbol or anything like that, right underneath the snare drum, so that you get some reflections from the floor. It can work. It depends on the distance. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes you don't really notice the difference, but I've had it where the snare really got a little longer, a little more punchy, a little louder, and it's just a cool effect.

So I saw, I saw this, I saw a couple of producers do this and I just tried it at some point and I really. I believe it makes a difference. And I had some extreme examples where we clearly could tell the AB so that might be one exception. But other than that, I would try to keep the early reflections out of the mix.

Malcom: [00:24:39] Yeah, I think that's right. When you said the general rule of thumb, I have. Yes. To get rid of early reflections. It's like, that's such a great rule. That's really all our listeners need to know, just try and treat the early ones and it's probably going to work out great. Again, the room's not that hard.

Benedikt: [00:24:55] That's why you've seen in other studios pictures, and I think you would post it. Or I [00:25:00] posted one of you, a couple of episodes back where you were at this beautiful, big, um, live room with the really high ceiling and everything. Uh, that's why you've seen pictures like that, that people often use gobos around the drum kit to make it a little tighter and keep the close mics cleaner and more separate.

And then, but it's still in the speaker room. So any ambience Mike, or even the overheads you put up there, we'll still have all the room and you can really mix it with the clothes max and you have full control versus not having those global. The, when you don't do that, like the room is an every mic and you have less control over everything.

So that's why you see these pictures with the gobos. And I think in your picture, that was something like this as well. Yeah, exactly. 

Malcom: [00:25:39] Yeah. There's often like a, it's almost like a horseshoe of treatment around the back of the drummer and the reasons behind the back of the drummers, because they're normally that's the walls that are closest, right.

It's not just because the kid's facing that direction. It's because of the reflections. Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah. Okay. Yeah. I think that makes sense, right. That's 

Benedikt: [00:25:59] rooms, [00:26:00] I think. And it's one of those things. You put it in the notes here that the room can really quickly move to the top of the list. Like if you, if you screw up, because there are, I really, really like worst case scenarios that yeah.

You can't really solve them in the mix. Like we both, I think we both had to deal with drunk kids who were recorded in such bad. That you just don't know where to start and how to deal with it. It's like really, it can really destroy things and yeah. 

Malcom: [00:26:27] Yeah. So actually I think maybe we could touch on that.

The there's almost two scenarios where this happens. There is too small and you're getting too many early reflections causing all this common filtering, which we've covered, but there's also. Echo-y to live too big, even, um, where it's just so out of control that there's like, we have such little ability to change it and a surprising amount of songs don't need a job.

Reverb time, um, sound right. Like where it might, it sounds really great when you listen to [00:27:00] just drums, but it gets messy. Um, in certain songs, especially if it's like faster, it's almost those extremes are where things get really bad. Um, and again, a little treatment goes a long way. Uh, a big room can be awesome.

If you can get a title. Capture of the close shit close mix, for example, just like Benny 

Benedikt: [00:27:18] described. Yeah. Or the room next to your room. Like as I, the, the, the, the setup that I have in my, in my studio where I have my life room, that's really small and it's treated so, because I don't want any of those reflections in therapy, but, um, I can open the door and there's a room next to it.

That's pretty open and live sounding and tall ceiling and everything. And if I open that room and let some of the ambience in the room itself sounds different and I can also put room mikes out there and I have full control over the. Versus the open big room. And that is pretty cool in the mix because you can create different scenes textures, and you can just blend it for the whole song, whatever you want.

But if you want it really tight, you can have it really tight, or you can have it really [00:28:00] explosive in the long decay. So maybe you have something like that. Maybe you can just leave the door open and put Mike's in the bathroom or whatever it can. You know, stuff like that. So, but when in doubt, I would say make it dry and avoid the reflections.

We can always add a little ambiance is much easier than having to remove the ambience from the giant ballroom that you rented to recruit drums in. 

Malcom: [00:28:23] Yeah. That is such a good call for DIY recording bands. It's um, it's much easier to solve the, not big enough drum sound than it is the other way around. 

Benedikt: [00:28:32] Yep.

All right. Cool. All right, let's move on to the next step. And number five 

Malcom: [00:28:38] symbols, symbols. So symbols, symbols are really important. Like it's, it seems weird that it's at the bottom of our list, but I think it makes sense most of the time. I love having good symbols on the kit. Uh, and you'll, you'll start as you're recording to figure out what you like.

And don't like, [00:29:00] um, I think maybe the reason that symbols is lower on the list is that they're circumstantial, you know, a bad symbol can occasionally be the perfect symbol. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:29:10] Um, 

Malcom: [00:29:12] now, uh, symbols are really cheap to rent in Canada. So, uh, like I don't really think there's a good excuse to not have this figure.

Um, but just be aware of that. Like some of them just sounds so awful that they will eat all of the space in your, in your song and guitars will never have a chance and your vocals will be miserable. 

Benedikt: [00:29:35] Absolutely. So I think to me, I wrote those five things down without an order in mind because there's somehow they are all really important to me, but yes, I agree that they are probably number five just as you sat because you can with a good drummer and a good room, you can sort of get away with a not absolutely ideal set of symbols, but the real trashy ones, as [00:30:00] you described the real thick, cheap ones.

They are horrible. And symbols is one of the rare things where I really believe that expensive is better. It's not always the case with music equipment. Oftentimes you can get really good stuff for not a lot of money, but with simple. There is this tendency that cheap symbols just don't sound as great.

And the good ones are all more expensive with the exceptions of like effects symbols. There are cheap China's or stacks or whatever you can like, stuff like that. That's supposed to sound trashy. I've had success with cheap ones there, but crashes hi-hats ride symbols. The cheap ones just suck most of the time.

It's like, and also there is this weird thing with drummers by. The thick, loud symbols, because for some reason they think they needed to, because otherwise it doesn't cut through the mix or the live sound or whatever. And when in reality, symbols are almost never too quiet. They are always the thing that hurts your ears in a small club, or even on a big stage, but then you have overhead [00:31:00] so you can boost them if they're too quiet.

So symbols are just never really too quiet or very rarely. People buy these fake things because Hey, they think they cut through more and B they think they last longer, they are afraid that they have to buy symbols again and again. And when they break and symbols are expensive, so they buy the thick ones or they see something like rock crash, um, or whatever.

And then they think that's the one, the thing to buy. And most of the time, these are thick and loud. And the funny thing is they don't last any longer. They often break earlier because the material is. That it just doesn't give. If you hit it hard and you hit it wrong at the wrong angle, they just immediately crack.

They immediately break. And with thinner, better sounding symbols that you, where you have more control over, they just give a little more. They bend a little and they tend to last longer. Actually they are a little more expensive, but they sound awesome. I th I think they last longer, and also with a lot of manufacturers of symbols, you get [00:32:00] actually a guarantee, like, depending on how they break, if they break, you might even get a replacement for free, but some of the big manufacturers do that.

So I don't think it's worth, uh, playing a shitty thick symbol. Um, yeah, I, I just don't think there's any benefit to that. And I don't know why drum companies market those things as like rock symbols. There are these weird things that are pretty, um, yeah. Popular for some reason, but every engineer knows that they suck.

Malcom: [00:32:28] It's okay. Here's, here's a little pro tip for you. It's actually the opposite with heavy music and the more guitar just dwells the guitars are in there that you actually want higher pitched symbols. Usually not, not exclusively, usually because you want them to sit above that stuff, right? Like there's often, like you're trying to find a different frequency range for these.

Um, where ironically, the times that I want really dark thick symbols is on like open, vintage sounding country stuff, whether it's like an acoustic guitar [00:33:00] and like there's there's room for this kind of thing and all of that mud. Um, so I mean, that's not, not a rule, but I agree. I think the marketing's almost 

Benedikt: [00:33:10] backwards.

Yeah. It's funny because I viewed a little differently because I actually liked dark symbols and I think that some of the thin ones. Um, sounds like it depends on the size of the symbol as well. Okay. So this is a little, there's so many moving parts, so many components, but I like big symbols, like yes. You know, um, 20 inch, sorry, 

Malcom: [00:33:33] physically large.

Yeah. And 

Benedikt: [00:33:35] then, but thin symbols. They will be explosive. They will be very quick in their response. You have a lot of control over them. You can play them quietly, but if they're big enough and depending on the material they're made of, they can be dark. And I sort of liked that. What I don't like is the thicker symbol.

And if they are large too, then that's the worst, because then you're just crazy loud and dark and full and like occupied the whole spectrum. [00:34:00] But like, I don't have anything against dark symbols necessarily if they are thin enough. So they, they still have the clear top end because then you can filter out the mud if you don't need it.

And you still have the clear, fast, quick top end stuff, but they want sound harsh. So there's this. Thank, but I basically agree with everything with everything you said, because you'd take a thick symbol and you filter out the mud you're left with is a very harsh top end and not nothing really fine, clear, expensive sounding.

So you almost need them the model of the mid range of those symbols to make them sound like anything, basically. And you can't really filter it out where with the high-quality thin symbols, you can filter out the mud if needed, and you're still left with the expensive sounding. Cool. 

Malcom: [00:34:43] Yeah. I think the takeaway of our little nerd out right there, that just happened that we're trying to choose symbols intentionally, right?

They're they're being choosing chosen based on where we want our guitars and our vocals. Um, and, [00:35:00] and actually I read like a little thing about when corn was starting to record again and they had, I can't remember the producer, but he's very good. It sounded awesome. But he was like, oh, we got to like, really figure this out because your guitars are like octaves below where they're usually are like the normal thing won't work.

Right. We have to consider this. And I was like, yes, of course. That's and it sounded good. 

Benedikt: [00:35:19] Yeah. Yeah. And it's totally depends on the song. And sometimes even though I just said all that, sometimes I choose various. I would choose very small crash symbols because I want them up high and I don't want any mid range basically, or I want them really explosive.

So it's just totally depends on the song. My personal preference tends to go towards bigger, darker symbols, but thin ones, but can be the complete opposite if it's appropriate for them. 

Malcom: [00:35:46] Yeah, I think I fully agree with you. I think, and it wasn't describing myself very well. Cause it is it's that top end is nice and pretty on those symbols.

We like where they are dark, but the top end is much more [00:36:00] pleasant and that sits where I want, um, Yeah. If there's anything to have options, it's symbols and snares. But, uh, but like if you rent nice symbols, bring your crap ones along too. You definitely want to have them there. I always want the more options, the better, because you'll just switch to another key and all of a sudden your ride is totally not working.

And you got to throw on your piece of crap one, and it just is better, you 

Benedikt: [00:36:25] know, like better is better. Absolutely. I. I bought, um, I had a studio kit or I still have the studio kit, but the first thing I really invested more money in, um, to get really high end stuff was studio cymbals and snares for that reason, because as you said, that's what you want to have.

Right. But still, if a band was like, okay, so we don't have to bring our symbols because you have great symbols out that the same thing that you just suggested. I said, no, bring them, I want to hear them. Maybe it's right. For some part or some effect, or I just want to hear how they sound when you play.

Maybe they are the right toys. If we have them, why not try them? [00:37:00] And sometimes funny things happen. Sometimes we combined the symbols. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't work at all, but sometimes it can work. Um, and sometimes we did things like I remember one production, right? They had very bright, clear, high hats.

That's not a cool, but a little too, in that case, almost too thin, like very precise. And like, we want it more like the trashy grid and mid range thing that they played a lot of open hats as well. And we wanted to, to yeah. To hear, yeah. So the groove and the overall vibe is more important than the fine details, but then there were some parts in songs where they actually played like 16th, 16th notes, and we wanted to hear all the stick detail.

So it was this, we were like in between what we should use because they had this clear set of symbols and I had very dark sounding cool vibey hats that I really like. And we tried, we thought like, okay, we can maybe record one part with this and then another part with this, but that really didn't blend really well.

It was a real weird transition. So we just ended up [00:38:00] combining the Hyatts. We use the top of one set of Hyatts and the bottom of the other, and that was exactly what we needed. So I think we use the darker bottom that made it a little louder and fuller and grittier, but we used the final. Um, more expensive sounding top part of it, because that gave us the detail and the stick attacks and all that.

So sometimes right. You know, those things happen. Yeah, absolutely. 

Malcom: [00:38:22] That's fantastic. Um, so I guess quickly to recap, there was the drummer, there was the tuning slash drum heads. There was the phase and getting that right. And then there was the room and, you know, your reflections and then it was symbols. So 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Now, I think this isn't on our outline, but I think it's worth noting what isn't on there.

We didn't mention your, uh, microphones. Yeah. We didn't mention any open board compressors or EQs or fancy hardware or preamps or interface. No tape [00:39:00] machine was included in this. Nope. Nope. You don't have to have a Neve console in front of you. Nope. No runner delivering coffee, although that does help. That would be an easy six.


Benedikt: [00:39:13] that helps. 

Malcom: [00:39:16] Um, but uh, you know, just drawing attention to that, like those, everything we mentioned comes vastly before the gear. 

Benedikt: [00:39:23] Absolutely. Totally. And I think you can take some of what you learned today and apply it to other instruments as well, because obviously like dumped drum heads and tuning will not apply to anything else, but yeah, the drummer, well, or sorry, 

Malcom: [00:39:37] tuning does 

Benedikt: [00:39:38] tuning tuning does all right.

Yeah. Tuning absolutely does. But the drums. Um, it's the same thing with a guitar player and Nick, you can't really swap out the vocalists most of the time. So you're kind of stuck there. That's the bad part, but, um, yeah, but all the other instruments. If like, if it's just worth [00:40:00] thinking about who's gonna play it, have they practiced enough?

Do you have maybe a little more time to go back and practice a little more? Like, I don't say you have to swap out people all the time, but just make sure you're prepared. And, um, you can apply things that we said today to other instruments as well. The tuning is very important. The person playing the instrument is very important.

The room is very important. Allowed face. Tar am still important in right in front of an untreated wall can be a nightmare as well. It's the same thing. St. Vocals really suffer from a bad room. So the same principles apply. We, whatever we said about the early reflections and, and keeping the opposite side of the room open, you can apply that to almost any instrument.

So, yeah, it's just a court rooms. I think you could get something out of this episode. 

Malcom: [00:40:45] Definitely. Yeah, this was very much a like, it all starts at the source episode. We pretty much, we broke down what we're talking about and that equals that's the source. The source has to say. How 

Benedikt: [00:40:55] we want it. Totally, totally.

And what I would recommend to [00:41:00] wrap this up, um, I would recommend if you have a good rum VST, a virtual drum instrument, I would recommend programming all of your parts and then recording the real kid and trying to match. W what the VST sounds like if you like that sound or not match, but just try to just compare and learn from that.

Just analyze what the good sample sound like, because they've been done very carefully, usually with great kids, great drummers and a great room. Great tuning, great mix grade, everything. And you, if you analyze those virtual drum kits, if you just load a mini loop and like one that's well programmed and you listen to that and you solo the individual channels and you see what the overheads sound like, how they're balanced, how they're panned, what the room sounds like with the close max sound like all of that.

If you analyze that and compare it to your drum record. Um, you can learn a lot from that. And I would recommend using, uh, samples that are unprocessed the natural so that you have fair comparison, but that is a, an [00:42:00] exercise that I really enjoy doing. And that I learned a lot of, because yeah, it can be frustrating at first, but there comes a point where it's really fun to switch to the virtual kit and be like, Hm.

Mine is pretty good as well. It's like not that much better. And that's very cool if you get to that point. Definitely. 

Malcom: [00:42:17] Definitely. Awesome. 

Benedikt: [00:42:18] That's it. Thank you for listening. So you enjoyed that. See you next week. Bye.

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