Kick Drum Phase Flippin
Old 16th March 2011
  #1
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Kick Drum Phase Flippin

I read a tip somewhere about switching the phase on the kick drum. Did it and was pretty surprised at the low end enhancement. For some reason I only every messed with the under snare mic and the overheads. Now I'm flipping everything back and forth. Boom!
Old 16th March 2011
  #2
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Silver Sonya's Avatar
 

Yup.

It's funny, I just said this on Twitter earlier today, although as you can see I oversimplified for dramatic effect.

I master records for a living.

Phase and gain are the two things that musician engineers (as opposed to engineer engineers) tend not to grasp. Both can ruin a mix so easily.

- c
Old 17th March 2011
  #3
Gear Head
 

For what it's worth, I always put a Medium Time Adjuster insert on every drum kit channel before I begin mixing and spend a good 20 minutes getting everything pushing and pulling together. I get better results implementing these various delays on each channel (usually less than about 400 samples) than just using the polarity invert which tends to be a pretty crude solution in my experience, although it's entirely necessary in some cases.

I also don't really see it as a matter of taste, i.e. it's either in phase (so to speak) or it isn't, so I complete this task during the editing stage prior to mixing. Ideally I'd love to get this right during tracking by tweaking the mic positions but this is usually quite difficult with a one-man production.

Last edited by Herschelle Cecil; 17th March 2011 at 01:35 AM.. Reason: Semantics. I don't want to start another Phase vs Polarity debate.
Old 17th March 2011
  #4
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lordward's Avatar
I'm constantly mixing records and more and more of these records are DIY recordings. I spend a lot of time correlating the phase between tracks. This is an issue that seems to have been forgotten, or never learned. Badly, or wrongly, driven preamps are my second dilema.

I can't stress it enough. Solo your tracks together and check phases between them. Not just stereo pairs, but between your kick and snare also for example. You can do soooo much just by moving a damn mic.

DW
Old 17th March 2011
  #5
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Silver Sonya's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordward View Post
This is an issue that seems to have been forgotten, or never learned.
Almost always the latter.

- c
Old 17th March 2011
  #6
I think the OP was talking about just flipping the phase for eq balance, not to fix problems. It is insta-scooped sound.

Before I had good eqs, I used to do this because it saved me adding tons of low end.
Old 17th March 2011
  #7
...but yes, I always end up hunting down phase problems in drum tracks other people send me to mix - and sometimes my own if I am forced to track in a hurry.
Old 18th March 2011
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya View Post
Almost always the latter.

- c
The time spent setting it up right when you record will double the amount you save when it comes to editing and mixing. I would rather spend another 4 hours micing a kit then spending 8 getting the phase perfect down the road.
Old 18th March 2011
  #9
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Okay, I am very curious about this concept. I am not an "engineer" I am a musician,but I would really like to grasp this phase/polarity concept.

I use sample libraries about 95% of the time and I just assumed that these phase issues would be eliminated since they were all done by pros.

So just for fun, I just switched the phase on my kick(Using the phase button in Cubase 5) and I definitely hear a difference. Not better or worse,just different. My kick is mono and panned DEAD center. With the phase off,the kick sounds a bit wider,but a bit mushy. With the phase engaged the kick sounds dead center and a bit more solid. Not a huge difference,but noticable.

So my question is,how do you know when to even check the phase? I am looking at my humble little meters and the correlation does not change at all,well VERY little. I also tried engaging the phase on a stereo gtr buss and it seemed to open up the grp a bit more. So,are there any hard and fast rules about this phase switching to help a non engineer like me know when I am actually doing a good/right thing?

fb
Old 20th March 2011
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by foamboy View Post

So my question is,how do you know when to even check the phase? I am looking at my humble little meters and the correlation does not change at all,well VERY little. I also tried engaging the phase on a stereo gtr buss and it seemed to open up the grp a bit more. So,are there any hard and fast rules about this phase switching to help a non engineer like me know when I am actually doing a good/right thing?

fb
Flipping the phase on a track or bus is not always done to fix a problem. It effects the tonal balance, and sometimes things fit in the mix better one way or another. Beyond that generalization, I think you will find people have different methods and opinions on what is good/right. Personally, I try flipping the phase on lots of things when I'm mixing. Sometimes it is helpful, sometimes not. If I don't have an obvious preference I keep it as is. If you are working from samples, I think you should just do whatever sounds better to you.

There are more hard and fast rules about phase problems - but that is with multi-tracked sources, like a drum kit or amp with more than one mic. My personal shortcut is that if there is a noticeable volume difference with the phase flipped, then I need to move some mics (or nudge some tracks) because there is some phase cancellation going on.

Hope that helps.
Old 20th March 2011
  #11
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lordward's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by foamboy View Post
.

So my question is,how do you know when to even check the phase? I am looking at my humble little meters and the correlation does not change at all,well VERY little. I also tried engaging the phase on a stereo gtr buss and it seemed to open up the grp a bit more. So,are there any hard and fast rules about this phase switching to help a non engineer like me know when I am actually doing a good/right thing?

fb
First of all correlation meters only work when you are comparing your left and right signals of your stereo field. At best don't even look at them. This is just my opinion. I have the same opinion about frequency analyzers.dfegad

Anyway, the concept is easy: You have two signals from the same sound source, for example 2 mics on a guitar box at equal or different distances from the source. Set the volume of both signals to about the same level. Flip the phase on one an and it will either sound a) better or b) worse or c) little to no change in which case there is probably something wrong, like being at a 90 degree phase in which case you should probably just choose one of the 2 signals to be used. Same with say overhead mics and the snare top mic. Solo them both, flip the phase of the snare mic. Does it sound bigger, smaller, or no difference? Might not be a great example because if your Overheads are not in phase with each other than you are pretty much screwed. Then you might have to do some track nudging in which case it gets ugly and is no fun if you are mixing a complete album and always have to remember to do this on each song(been there). Other things to check are like the phase correlation between a drum room mono or stereo pair with the overheads or rooms far and rooms near. There are so many things to get wrong in the recording process it's unbelievable really. These days I'm doing more "fixing" than mixing but what the hell, I'm getting paid for my time.

This concept also works when you are using, say, 3 mics on one guitar cabinet. Match 2 signals and when they fit match the 3rd to the pair. And check again 3 to 2 and 3 to 1 as well. It can get dirty.

Back to the topic though, you can also use this concept to make interesting eqing - like mid scooping. Say you have a signal that is rather linear (seems to cover the full spectrum) and one that has a lot of midrange, you can add this signal and, if it's in phase, reverse the phase so that the similar frequencies cancel out thus resulting in a "scoop". Can indeed be very interesting but not exactly my favorite way to make sounds. But worth a try!

There are simply so many things that can be done with phase tricks but you need to first know when it's doing something undesirable before you try to implement it as a "trick".

I had a mix once where the overheads were out of phase with each other and, once I got them in phase, the snare needed to be flip at which point I realized the kick drum was at about 90 phase and made it sound like poop. I ended up triggering it with a kick drum sound that was so far away from the original that nothing could go wrong. Not fun.

DW
Old 20th March 2011
  #12
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Andy Hamm's Avatar
 

If you are micing front and back (the beater and the hole as I like to call it), then one should be phase inverted. Same as snare top and bottom.
Old 21st March 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lobsterinn View Post
Flipping the phase on a track or bus is not always done to fix a problem. It effects the tonal balance, and sometimes things fit in the mix better one way or another. Beyond that generalization, I think you will find people have different methods and opinions on what is good/right. Personally, I try flipping the phase on lots of things when I'm mixing. Sometimes it is helpful, sometimes not. If I don't have an obvious preference I keep it as is. If you are working from samples, I think you should just do whatever sounds better to you.

There are more hard and fast rules about phase problems - but that is with multi-tracked sources, like a drum kit or amp with more than one mic. My personal shortcut is that if there is a noticeable volume difference with the phase flipped, then I need to move some mics (or nudge some tracks) because there is some phase cancellation going on.

Hope that helps.
Thanks for the tips!

fb
Old 21st March 2011
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordward View Post
First of all correlation meters only work when you are comparing your left and right signals of your stereo field. At best don't even look at them. This is just my opinion. I have the same opinion about frequency analyzers.dfegad

Anyway, the concept is easy: You have two signals from the same sound source, for example 2 mics on a guitar box at equal or different distances from the source. Set the volume of both signals to about the same level. Flip the phase on one an and it will either sound a) better or b) worse or c) little to no change in which case there is probably something wrong, like being at a 90 degree phase in which case you should probably just choose one of the 2 signals to be used. Same with say overhead mics and the snare top mic. Solo them both, flip the phase of the snare mic. Does it sound bigger, smaller, or no difference? Might not be a great example because if your Overheads are not in phase with each other than you are pretty much screwed. Then you might have to do some track nudging in which case it gets ugly and is no fun if you are mixing a complete album and always have to remember to do this on each song(been there). Other things to check are like the phase correlation between a drum room mono or stereo pair with the overheads or rooms far and rooms near. There are so many things to get wrong in the recording process it's unbelievable really. These days I'm doing more "fixing" than mixing but what the hell, I'm getting paid for my time.

This concept also works when you are using, say, 3 mics on one guitar cabinet. Match 2 signals and when they fit match the 3rd to the pair. And check again 3 to 2 and 3 to 1 as well. It can get dirty.

Back to the topic though, you can also use this concept to make interesting eqing - like mid scooping. Say you have a signal that is rather linear (seems to cover the full spectrum) and one that has a lot of midrange, you can add this signal and, if it's in phase, reverse the phase so that the similar frequencies cancel out thus resulting in a "scoop". Can indeed be very interesting but not exactly my favorite way to make sounds. But worth a try!

There are simply so many things that can be done with phase tricks but you need to first know when it's doing something undesirable before you try to implement it as a "trick".

I had a mix once where the overheads were out of phase with each other and, once I got them in phase, the snare needed to be flip at which point I realized the kick drum was at about 90 phase and made it sound like poop. I ended up triggering it with a kick drum sound that was so far away from the original that nothing could go wrong. Not fun.

DW
Thanks to you as well!

fb
Old 21st March 2011
  #15
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lordward's Avatar
My pleasure!

DW
Old 25th March 2011
  #16
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Silver Sonya's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Hamm View Post
If you are micing front and back (the beater and the hole as I like to call it), then one should be phase inverted. Same as snare top and bottom.
Nope, you have to listen. Not always true. Quite often not.

- c
Old 26th March 2011
  #17
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lordward's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya View Post
Nope, you have to listen. Not always true. Quite often not.

- c
Yeah, I don't know how many studios have cables and mics "hotwired" wrongly as well. Listen first! But rule of thumb is on a drum, when using a mic top and bottom, front and back, the velocity of sound is indeed inverted going into the second mic. However there are still instances when it just works. No rulz!thumbsup
DW
Old 26th March 2011
  #18
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NF Audio's Avatar
Inverting polarity on different elements of a drum kit can be the difference between a great drum sound and a pretty lame one. I'm always astounded when a manufacturer DOESN'T put a polarity inverse switch on a preamp. The SSL Alpha VHD pres for example don't have one. I find the polarity flip switches so important that I built a rack panel of 4 polarity switches that I racked underneath the SSL.
Old 26th March 2011
  #19
I'm mixing a song now where the engineer that tracked this song didn't pay attention to phase, the snare is out of phase with kit, so are the bass drums. uugh
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