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Category Archives for "Drums"

74: Interview Episode With Grammy Nominated Producer And Mix Engineer Jacob Hansen

Jacob Hansen
Jacob Hansen

Jacob Hansen Is Joining Us For This Episode!

Jacob has worked with some of the biggest names in metal and alternative music. He's produced and or mixed records for bands like Volbeat, Amaranthe, The Black Dahlia Murder, Heaven Shall Burn, Evergrey, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Primal Fear and many many more. 

We're getting to pick Jacob's brain and talk about

  • DIY recording
  • getting amazing guitar tones
  • mixing records remotely
  • reamping
  • the most common home studio pitfalls
  • guitar tuning
  • workflow and efficiency
  • communication
  • collaboration best practices
  • the future of (home) recording
  • evertune bridges
  • amp sims and Kempers

among many other things.

Enjoy!

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

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.

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The “Boom” And The “Knock”

Daily Blog - June 22nd 2021

The low end of a kick drum can make a song feel big, loose, tight, fast or slow. Finding the right frequency balance is crucial.

The “Boom” And The “Knock”

"Sub bass" vs "mid bass" vs "upper bass"

I'm throwing around a couple of terms here that are neither scientific nor "correct". But they are commonly used and can be helpful for understanding the concept and thinking behind shaping the low frequency content of a kick drum.

So what the heck am I talking about? We're basically dividing the low end (bass) into three parts.

"Sub bass"

The very low part of the frequency spectrum, let's say 80Hz and below (again, there's no rule for this) is what we call "sub bass". This is where the fundamental of your kick drum typically sits, unless you've tuned it very high. A lot of energy in this part of the spectrum typically results in a rather "slow" feel, but it also feels big and adds a pulse and a "rumble" to the song that you can not only hear but feel (on big enough speakers). This is what I call the "BOOM". Can you feel it?

"Mid bass"

"Mid bass" could be the area between 80Hz and 150Hz, for example. This is where you'll find harmonics. Let's say your kick drum fundamental is at 50Hz. The octave of that will be at 100Hz. This part typically feels much more punchy and tight. It makes the song feel faster and more aggressive. A lot of energy here will sound like the drummer hit harder. But it will also sound smaller if you shift the balance from lots of "sub bass" to more "mid bass". Think "more punch, less rumble".

"Upper bass" 

"Upper bass" could mean 150Hz-250Hz. Depending on how you look at it, you could also say this is low midrange. Whatever you want to call it, this is where you'll probably hear a "knock" in the kick drum that will jump out of the mix even on small speakers. This can be cool, especially when combined with a lot of "sub bass", while carving out some "mid bass" to make room for the bass guitar and to keep the kick drum feeling big. But it's also dangerous, as it can clash with lots of other elements, like guitars, bass and even the lower part of the vocals. It can also quickly overload crappy speakers and jump out too much if not controlled properly. The "knock" can also turn into an audible "note", depending on the tuning and dampening of the kick drum. This note can be distracting or simply annoying. 

So, the key is to figure out the right balance for the song 

And this is not only a mixing decision. It all starts with the drum selection, drum head selection, the tuning and the player. Then you need to choose a microphone that features (or hides) certain frequencies just right. While making those decisions it helps immensely to use a frequency analyzer to confirm what you think you're hearing. Judging the low end can be very difficult, especially in less-then-ideal rooms or on headphones with an uneven low end response. Watching the changes on an analyzer as you go helps you learn really quickly. You'll get a feel for the different parts of the low end and learn which tweaks really make a difference.

Two popular examples of kick drum mics with completely different low end characteristics: 

An AKG D112 will give you just enough "sub bass" (you'll probably want more), a very punchy "mid bass" and a lot of "knock" and "wood". It sounds fast and tight, but also "boxy".

An Audix D6 will give you tons of huge "sub bass", just enough punchy "mid bass" to make it audible on smaller speakers and very little "knock". It sounds huge and modern but also slow and "loose".

You can choose or combine. Whatever serves the song. Once you've chosen the right combination of drum selection, drum head selection, tuning and mic to enhance the feel of the song, you need to make those same decisions about the bass and every other low end element in your arrangement.

Yes, getting the low end right is difficult

But it's the key to making people move and making people feel the energy and impact of your song. If you get it right it's magical. Get it wrong and the groove falls apart.

-Benedikt

PS: If you're looking for an amazing community to get feedback from and provide your own expertise for, check out The Self-Recording Band Community. It's 100% free and can be the growth accelerator you've been missing all the time.

PPS: Downloading one of our free guides and joining our email list is also a great way to connect with your peers, as we will invite you to events and keep you in the loop about what's going on in our community. We just had an amazing video meetup last weekend and together we helped 5 people improve their recordings, arrangements and mixes by listening and giving collective feedback live on the call. Join us now!

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Presets & “Fully Mixed” Sample Packs

Daily Blog - June 14th 2021

In our podcast and other places I've said a couple of times that you have to be careful with certain processed and widely used drum sample packs if you want a unique sound. After thinking about it for a bit during the last couple of days, I need to clarify and apologize. It's not that there's anything wrong with certain sample libraries or companies and I didn't want it to come across that way.

Presets & “Fully Mixed” Sample Packs

It's not about what you use, it's how you use it.

Many of today's virtual drums or guitar amps truly sound amazing. We all have to agree on that and I've been a fan of these tools for a long time. Most of them can give you impressive results pretty quickly. That's cool and makes writing so much fun! But that's also why I say "be careful".

I've made hundreds of records and I've witnessed dozens of sessions and mixes done by others. This includes everything from local bands to major label artists. One thing I never do and never see others do (there's always the rare exception, of course) is just load up a preset in some virtual instrument or amp sim and use that on the record, as it is.

Why? Because a "fully mixed" preset or sample pack can never be "fully mixed" without context. In fact, you don't mix a guitar or a drum kit. You mix a song. 

What might sound amazing on its own or in the context that it's been made in will probably not work with the tempo, key, tuning, vibe, energy and arrangement of your song.

And it doesn't start with the mix. You have to make production decisions and define your sound from the beginning.

That's why most producers use those tools, but they

  • tweak them to fit the song
  • blend them with other samples or "real" instruments/amps/cabinets
  • create their own samples/IRs and load them into those tools
  • create their own presets and templates for certain situations or genres (as starting points!)
  • do whatever serves the song to create a unique sonic landscape that carries the emotion and energy in the best way possible

Can you choose a couple of tools that you really like, use them for quick demos and to accelerate the writing process, but then only view them as starting points and take it from there?

You don't want to sound like everyone else. You want to define your sound. You want the sonics of your record to fit the musical content and lyrics. You want your record to have a unique, recognizable vibe, not recognizable samples.

Keep using the tools. We all use them. Just try putting more effort into it and make them yours. 

-Benedikt

PS: I love to use raw, unprocessed drum samples for all those reasons above. I still use presets for writing and demos, but in my mixes and productions I usually go raw. My favorite sample packs that can do both, and that give me tons of unique features and options that I can blend (if I want to) are made by Room Sound Drums. I use many of the others, as well, but Room Sound samples tend to work most of the time without giving away which library I used.

PPS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

As Few Mics As Possible

Daily Blog - May 26th 2021

I love a great challenge. And one of the best challenges you can try for yourself is to record a complex instrument, like a drum kit, with as few mics as possible.

Please note: The following advice is a great challenge and exercise for any genre. However, if your genre is modern metal, any kind of fast and technical heavy music, "radio rock", pop punk or any "polished" sounding rock genre then you probably need more mics (or programmed drums) in your final recording, in order to get all the detail and the punch required for that. Anything organic, dirty, noisy and even a lot of pretty heavy rock stuff will benefit most from the minimalistic approach described in this post.
As Few Mics As Possible

Limiting yourself to as few mics as possible forces you to listen more carefully and really learn your instruments, room and gear.

And the best part is: If done right, it can even sound better than a giant multichannel setup! Here are three reasons why:

  • The more mics, the more phase issues you'll have
  • The more mics, the more bleed will come from all the different channels, messing with the image and clarity. 
  • Less mics give you a more realistic, organic sound


An example of what this could look like for drums:

  1. Choose a great sounding room. It all starts there.
    Find a room, that's as lively and ambient, as you want it to be, that sounds balanced, not boomy or harsh and then find the perfect spot for the kit in that room.
  2. Set up a mono room mic.
    Drums are actually pretty mono. If you're standing in a room, listening to a kit, it all pretty much comes from the same direction. It's not one tom 30 feet to the left and the other 50 feet to the right. 
  3. Find the perfect spot for it that gives you a great balance between shells, cymbals and room ambience.
  4. Add something to capture the low end energy.
    A "front of kit" mic on the floor, a couple of feet away from the kit, for example. This will capture the low end of the kick drum and maybe some additional tone and body from the toms.
  5. Listen again, find a good balance, make sure the phase is right between the two mics before you move on and then add whatever is still lacking.
  6. If you're missing stick attack detail and transient clarity, add an overhead mic.
    Maybe over the shoulder of the drummer, pointing at the kit as a whole. Or right above the snare drum, pointing straight down. Find a position and angle that captures a good balance between the snare and toms.
  7. Listen again, get the phase right between the three mics, rebalance and then move on.
  8. If you want more cymbal clarity and separation, add a pair of overheads.
    Try XY, ORTF, or a spaced pair. This will give you a stereo image and all the shiny top end from the cymbals.
  9. Listen again, get the phase right between the five mics, rebalance and then move on.
  10. If you now want that same image in the ambience and a wider overall picture, add a second room mic (XY in the exact position of the first one), or an additional pair of room mics somewhere else in the room.
    Remember: Keep it simple and natural sounding! 
  11. Listen again, get the phase right between the 6-7 mics, rebalance and then move on.
  12. And finally, if you really need more transients, attack, punch, etc. from the shells, add a kick, snare or tom mic wherever you need it.
    Blend it with what you already have. Never forget that with this approach your main sound is the room mic, followed by everything above. You're just enhancing whats lacking, not relying heavily on the close mics. The whole point of the challenge is to get as far as possible without any close mics. 
  13. Listen again, get the phase right between all your mics, rebalance, pan and enjoy your minimalistic, yet exciting, organic and huge sounding drum kit.
    Make notes of everything you've discovered along the way, so you can use that knowledge next time you set up a kit. This will help you make better decisions, even in more detailed, bigger setups for modern, punchier genres.


Stop and ignore the rest of the steps, as soon as you think it sounds amazing! You don't need all of those! That's the whole point. You should end up with anything between one and maybe 10-12 mics max. Depending on your needs and goals.


I love exercises like that. There's so much to learn from this challenge and it works just as well with any other complex instruments or groups of instruments.

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

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Distort Everything

Distort Everything
Daily Blog - May 19th 2021

I received this amazing sticker from Scott Evans (antisleep.com) and it's right in front of me everyday. My daily reminder to have fun with the audio I'm working on and to constantly try and find ways to destroy sounds in a musical way.

My Love-Hate Relationship With Stem Mastering

Distort Everything. Seriously. It tends to make things better.

A little bit of harmonic distortion, a little drive, a subtle push, some extra density and overtones. It rarely hurts. It usually makes things better. It means you need less compression. And it makes things interesting, exciting and unique.

You gotta be very careful (and tasteful), especially during recording. But you can literally distort everything if you try hard enough and find pleasing ways to do so. 

And of course, you can always completely mess things up and create the most obnoxious, nasty tones ever if that's what you like (I often do!). No rules.

Have fun. Distort everything. I live by it. Thanks Scott.

-Benedikt

PS: I often post videos to these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

Drum Room Mics And Low End – The Fine Line Between “Huge” and “Muddy”

Daily Blog - May 6th 2021

If a song is fast, technical and supposed to be tight, the low end in drum room mics often is the enemy. It will muddy up the mix, make the song feel slow and mess with the interaction between bass, kick drum, snare drum and guitar fundamentals.

Drum Room Mics And Low End – The Fine Line Between “Huge” and “Muddy”

If the song and the arrangement allow for it, though, low end in room mics can be absolutely beautiful and the key to making drums sound HUGE!

No matter how fat your kick drum sounds in the close mic, no matter how much low end you boost there, nothing will make it sound as big and full as a properly recorded (pair of) room mic(s) (or a great room mic sample).

So don't listen to general advice telling you to always filter out low end in room mics (or overheads). Do whatever serves the song and whatever makes the low end feel just right.

If there is space for the decay between the hits and space in between the notes/chords of the guitars and bass, let that low-end-bloom unfold and enjoy the massive, uncontrolled mess that captures the energy perfectly. 

As always, it depends. And it's a fine line.

-Benedikt

PS: You'll also find these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

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1 Faders As EQ

Daily Blog - April 29th 2021

While I believe you should be able to get great tones from using just one mic on any mono source (guitar cabs, snare drums, etc.), there is an approach that I absolutely love which involves two mics. Next time you record a guitar cab, for example, try picking two mics that sound drastically different. Pick one very dark and one very bright mic. A ribbon and a dynamic mic, for example. Then increase the difference even further by putting the bright mic in a very bright spot (close to the center of the speaker cone) and the dark might in a very dark spot (close to the edge/outside of the cone). 

Faders As EQ

Why would you do that and what about the "faders as EQ" thing?

Make sure you align the capsules, so you won't run into phase issues, record the two mics to separate channels and you'll end up with a "dark" and a "bright" fader that you can balance against each other.

Now the beauty of this is that you can completely change the tone of your guitar recording without ever touching an EQ. Just by moving the faders. This means that the harmonic balance and general character of your tone stay the same, which isn't the case when using EQ, because EQ leaves parts of the signal untouched but changes the volume of others. The relationship between fundamentals and overtones changes and certain chords or notes will get louder or quieter. With this "extreme fader" technique you don't get these unwanted side-effects of EQing guitars as much. 

And now, throughout the song, you can easily and quickly create "scene" changes without having to automate an EQ, all while keeping the basic harmonic character the same. 

You can also adjust for different parts that need a different tonal balance. For example you might want to turn up the "high" fader during a palm mute part or low chords that need some extra definition, pick attack and clarity. But then after that you might have a part with high chords or a quick single note lick that needs a rounder, warmer tone to not sound harsh. No problem, just change the balance, turn the "high" fader down and the "dark" fader up and... aaaah, so smooth.

This also works for snare drums, for example. You could have one dynamic mic and one condenser mic very close to each other with the capsules aligned to not mess with the phase. Now you have a fader for the aggressive midrange "crack" and ring (dynamic) and one for a more open top end, the stick attack details and also body and low end of the drum (condenser). Depending on the part you can slightly change the balance and bring out ghost notes and details with the condenser, or turn up the ring/crack and make the snare cut more with the dynamic. 

Have fun experimenting!

-Benedikt

PS: You'll also find these daily blog posts in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

Create Your Own Drum Samples For A Unique, Authentic Drum Sound

Daily Blog - April 26th 2021

If you want authentic, "real" sounding drums but your recording needs a little help to sound consistent, punchy and professional (very common, especially with DIY-productions), you should record your own drum samples in the beginning of the session.

Create Your Own Drum Samples For A Unique, Authentic Drum Sound

Here's how:

Once the kit is tuned and ready, record multiple soft, medium and hard hits, rimshots, flams, different articulations etc. (whatever you use in the song) of every piece of the kit, using all of the mics (including overheads, room mics, etc).

Those serve as a tuning reference throughout the recording process, you can replace weird hits in an otherwise great take and you can create your own dynamic, multi-velocity samples that you can reinforce your recording with instead of using sample packs that might sound fake and might not blend well.

I found Slate Trigger + their included Instrument Editor to be the best tools for that. 

Follow These Steps:

  1. Cut out a couple of soft to hard hits (trim the beginning as close to the hit as possible)
  2. Do it for top & bottom mic (snare), in & out mics (kick), overhead & room mic pairs separately, so you have more control later
  3. Drag and drop them into Slate Instrument Editor. Use multiple samples per velocity layer for ultimate realism.
  4. Create and export one tci file per mic/pair
  5. Put Slate Trigger on (an) Aux track(s)
  6. Load your tci(s) in Trigger
  7. Send signal to trigger that you want to reinforce (or for foll control generate MIDI and send that to Trigger)
  8. Blend to taste and enjoy your own samples that will match the kit perfectly and sound 100% unique and authentic


-Benedikt


PS: You'll also find these quick tips in my Instagram Stories: @benedikthain

learn how to transform your DIY recordings from basement demos to Releases That Connect And Resonate With Your Audience

Get the free Ultimate 10-Step guide To Successful DIY-Recording

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