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Gate drums in the analog domain?
Old 22nd January 2019
  #1
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I.R.Baboon's Avatar
Gate drums in the analog domain?

Hi folks,

I've just started to mess around with drum recording so you're gonna see around here quite a bit!

A question about gating drums:

Do people sometimes use a second mic for only triggering the gate? (like a Drawmer DS201 for example?)

I would imagine if you used some kind of contact mic (so the sound reaches the mic sooner) and filtered out all the lows of this second, trigger chain, you might get more consistent, isolated gate triggering. Because you're free to choose any mic and place it wherever you want, without having to also worry about it sounding good.

Just by way of explanation, I'm trying to get the sound right with analog gear before i even hit my DAW with minimal processing in the 'puter.

Thanks! ......... I.R.
Old 23rd January 2019
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon View Post
I would imagine if you used some kind of contact mic (so the sound reaches the mic sooner) and filtered out all the lows of this second, trigger chain, you might get more consistent, isolated gate triggering. Because you're free to choose any mic and place it wherever you want, without having to also worry about it sounding good.
maybe

or maybe you would get even more false triggering from nearby drums or from the head flopping around. I have contact mics on my drums for MIDI triggering, and it's a constant struggle. The simplest solution to bad gate triggering is to not use gates during recording.

Here's the thing about gating on the way in. There is no undo. Analog or digital, if a gate fails to open, if it stutters, if it behaves weirdly, if it cuts off the beginning of the note, there is nothing on the tape at that spot.

Quote:
I'm trying to get the sound right with analog gear before i even hit my DAW with minimal processing in the 'puter.
Getting the sound right with analog gear before you hit the DAW is a really admirable philosophy. But, IMO, applying this philosophy to gates is taking it too far.

we had a thread a while back in which a few people tried to argue that analog gates had some desirable "mojo" - comparable to the qualities of analog EQs and compressors. I did not buy it then and I won't be buying it now when those people show up to post in this thread.

Of all the things worth going the extra mile to do "analog", I would personally put gating at the very bottom of the list. Dead last. It's not even about analog vs digital. It's about which things should be done "in post". In post, you can do a nice gradual fade-in on the tom mics(so you don't get that obvious "burst" of leakage). You can readjust the kick drum's envelope settings for the chorus. Most importantly of all, you can trigger your gate with an advanced copy of the track - a true look-ahead - which means you never risk cutting off the initial attack.
Old 24th January 2019
  #3
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Drumsound's Avatar
@ joeq is right. There's NO reason to track drums with gates in to a DAW.

Personally I think the drums sound better with tom mics open...
Old 24th January 2019
  #4
The best thing to do is try and achieve a kit sound as a whole. If the toms ring too much or the cymbals are too loud, these are things that can be fixed by the drummer.
Secondly, when people start out recording drums they assume every mic should be a clean feed of the thing it’s recording. But actually all the mics work together to create the kit picture.
It’s normal to have some tom in a snare mic, or some snare buzz on a tom mic.
Gating is using a hammer to crack a nut in the modern age. But some light gating (or more often cutting or muting digital audio in a daw) can be used to achieve the best sounding kit at the mix stage.
In many years of work I’ve never seen anyone use a mic just to trigger a gate. But it’s quite normal to mute tom channels in a daw except for when the toms are actually playing. But only if it sounds better that way.
Old 24th January 2019
  #5
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Many thanks for the words of wisdom so far!

I'm gonna come back on this.

In the meanwhile, if anyone has any more tips, fire away!

The goal is 70's style drum sounds. Harvey Mason, James Gadson, Roy Ayers, disco, soul....natural but also quite dry sounds. But not the tea-towel thing.

I.R.

(Random bonus info: i have a couple of Antelope interfaces (Orion 32+ and Goliath) and i was kinda hoping i could use the gate in that for my drums, but, man does that gate sound god-damned awful. Totally useless. How could they get that so wrong? A limitation of that FPGA tech?!)

Last edited by I.R.Baboon; 25th January 2019 at 04:17 PM..
Old 25th January 2019
  #6
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Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon View Post
Many thanks for the words of wisdom so far!

I'm gonna come back on this.

In the meanwhile, if anyone has any more tips, fire away!

The goal is 70's style drum sounds. Harvey Mason, James Gadson, Roy Ayers, disco, soul....natural but also quite dry sounds. But not the tea-towel thing.

I.R.

(Random bonus info: i have a couple of Antelope interfaces (Orion 32+ and Goliath) and i was kinda hoping i could use the gate in that for my drums, but, man does that gate sound god-damned awful. Totally useless. How could they get that so wrong? A limitation of that FGPA tech?!)
You don't need gates for that type of sound. Put hydraulic heads on the toms, put gobos around the drums, take the front head off the bass drum, use a wallet or zero ring on the snare, don't use room mics.

Listen to the Sara Quah record in my signature. No gates, but a very 70s drum sound.
Old 25th January 2019
  #7
You need a small, dead space.
Not a fan of hydraulic heads. Ambassador or Emperor with plenty of dampening will do just fine.
Still.....I say only gate/edit out audio once the drums are recorded.
Old 25th January 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
You need a small, dead space.
Not a fan of hydraulic heads. Ambassador or Emperor with plenty of dampening will do just fine.
Still.....I say only gate/edit out audio once the drums are recorded.
Dampening Ambassadors and Emperors also works.

There something about those hydraulic heads, the way they sound and feel just puts you in a certain mindset. Its not unlike having a ringy metal snare makes you want to play reggae type fills.
Old 26th January 2019
  #9
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i like hitting my tracks with a pretty much 'finished' sound so i'm using dynamics on the way in: never ever any gates though, i'm using expanders...

can't think of any expander (or gate) being worth staying in or even going back to the analog domain though... - i liked the klark dn5xx series back in the days, much better than most of the drawmer or bss gear.
Old 26th January 2019
  #10
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There's a great demo of hydraulic heads on the Udo Masshof DVD. They sound super fat / nice................but perhaps toooooo nice! . Was that tech available in the 70's?

So after messing around for a few hours, i already got nice snare sounds, so that's gonna be no problem.

Toms seems to be a bit more tricky. I have some Vic Firth iso-headphones (i mean, they are also actual headphones) and was using them to try different tom mic placements. Finding the right balance between attack and body. Hmmmmm, work in progress.

And then there's that kick sound. It can't be that hard because you hear it on a million different records.

Can you tell me what is wrong with this: remove front head, tune batter head to 50 hz, damp to taste? I didn't try it yet, but that's my plan. Or does 50hz free ringing not translate to 50hz resonance when struck by the beater?
Old 26th January 2019
  #11
I only tune drums by ear, can't get my head across Hz.
Bass drum should be super simple. Lowish tensioning, insert pillow, front head off (optional), D12 or 421 mic.

I question how many drummers used Hydraulic heads in the 70's. They have become the icon of funk and disco drum sounds, but I actually think the basic Remo white coated heads (Ambassador and Emperor) were far wider used.
I find Hydraulics introduce a thickish note, whereas Remo coated heads are more neutral, smacky.
Old 26th January 2019
  #12
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Great stuff, i checked out your website, obviously you know what you're talking about.

And then of course there's the elephant in the room: the simple that every single record i'm talking about was tracked to tape. So those pesky transients were dealt with from the get-go.

EDIT: via some googling, apparently Evans introduced hydraulic heads in 1974
Old 26th January 2019
  #13
There are very good tape plug-ins.
Personally I never bake anything into drums as they are recorded.
Dynamics (compression) is either an effect or to fix a problem. As a pro drummer my goal is to deliver a problem free drum performance. You don't need to compress any part of my kit to get a consistent sound.
As an effect? Sure. Compress room mics or crush a single mic close to the kit for an effect. But I would always have clean versions in case I didn't like the effect later in the record making process.
You can do all of this AFTER the drums are tracked. Gate anything, edit out any annoying buzzes and rings on channels in your DAW. Compress any mic. Process the drums through tape machine plug-ins.
Doing things afterwards means you can change your mind at any stage. What you can't do is repeat an excellent drum take. Therefore always record it as cleanly and neutrally as you can. Then screw it up as much as you like after the fact.
Old 26th January 2019
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon View Post
...And then of course there's the elephant in the room: the simple that every single record i'm talking about was tracked to tape. So those pesky transients were dealt with from the get-go...
not really: plenty of drums recorded back in the analog days have distortion...
Old 26th January 2019
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
not really: plenty of drums recorded back in the analog days have distortion...
I don't quite follow.....do you mean that back in the day, the pre-tape distortion was so much that any transients were clipped off before it hit tape, making the tape "effect" irrelevant?
Old 26th January 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon View Post
I don't quite follow.....do you mean that back in the day, the pre-tape distortion was so much that any transients were clipped off before it hit tape, making the tape "effect" irrelevant?
no, it's about metering: not all engineers did or do know how to interpret data, especially not when dealing with transients and vu meters: tape does not magically smoothen everything out...
Old 26th January 2019
  #17
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@ chrisso : i think in a modern / commercial context your comments are spot on, but i'm gonna play devil's advocate for a moment:

If i'm saying that the sounds (albums of the 70's) i like and want to emulate were all made without the use of DAWs, plugins, lookahead etc., then isn't it a bit perverse to use all these techniques?

I'm not a gea®slut in the sense that i think i need to only use vintage mics or drum kits or whatever, because i don't think that's a prerequisite or even very important, but IMO there's something about the 70s (and before) process / mindset that has some intrinsic magic to it!
Old 26th January 2019
  #18
No it's not perverse.
It's progress and saves you from a lot of f**k ups.
Even by the 80's consoles had gates and dynamics on mix down.
I started tracking drums in 1980 and no one I knew gated drums on the way to tape, or even compressed them. Light EQ and great mic placement were the key.
Old 26th January 2019
  #19
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OK!

I should have mentioned before: the gating thing was more in relation to experimental type recording. I was wondering, if, for example, it might be possible to get a drum kit sounding like J Dilla or Madlib before it hits the A/D converter.

If you could, you could feed that back into the other musicians headphones, which would then effect what everyone plays.

The thing is, in my day job (mastering), i'm using the computer all the time.

So if i'm doing some recording / music making (which is purely for fun), i don't want to be looking at the damn computer! Or at least as little as possible!
Old 26th January 2019
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
no, it's about metering: not all engineers did or do know how to interpret data, especially not when dealing with transients and vu meters: tape does not magically smoothen everything out...
Not magically, but physically, right?

It's actually quite funny / sad!: in the 70's, jazz artists that wanted to go funky often ended up with quite an anemic sound. Because the jazz engineers that recorded them were too good. They understood all that metering stuff, so knew how to get stuff on tape in the technically correct fashion. But the resulting records lacked a certain "bump" and saturation that you'd hear in, for example a James Brown record, where a more cavalier approach was the order of the day!
Old 26th January 2019
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon View Post

The goal is 70's style drum sounds. Harvey Mason, James Gadson, Roy Ayers, disco, soul....natural but also quite dry sounds.
How is that experimental?
You seem set on your idea, so why ask for advice other than to seek validation for your approach?
Back in the heyday of drum loops (90's) I spent a year recording drums in many different studios, looking to recreate 60's and 70's drum sounds, as well as some experimental sounds.
I found recording the drums clean was the best approach. Afterwards you could radically change the sounds and get some interesting results just feeding each channel out to outboard. We even used modular synths to process drums, as well as vintage fx (delays, phasers, spring reverbs etc)
We also used strange mic combinations in some studios.

Having done it, I don't really see any positives in baking it into the sound so you can never change it. You can do a massive amount after the fact, either with classic outboard hardware, or plug-ins.
Old 26th January 2019
  #22
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OK man, i seem to have offended you somehow, never mind.
Old 26th January 2019
  #23
Not offended at all.
You asked a question about gating drums at the time of recording. At least two very experienced studio drummers answered by advising you not to.
You then cited some classic drummers from the 70's.
Having grown up during that period, and worked with many 70's era heroes when I started in the 80's, I'm telling you, it was mostly about superb playing. the drummers didn't need gating or compressing. The sound was in the way they set up the drums and played them. Any gating or compression would be done at mix down, just to personal taste.
The first couple of times I tracked drums in cheap studios with novice engineers, they gated my drums going to tape. The drum sound was horrible. Glitchy audio and missing dynamics where the gate didn't open properly or quickly enough.
Everyone I've worked with since, especially some Grammy awarded engineers who cut their teeth in the 70's, recorded my drums basically flat, with just a touch of EQ here and there. This gives you the best blank canvas to have fun going mad with afterwards.

If you keep coming back and saying you don't want any of this advice, I'm just wondering why you asked the question in the first place.
Old 26th January 2019
  #24
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OK!

So just to be clear, i'm open minded and am taking all info and advice on board, and thank all for their time in sharing their knowledge!
Old 26th January 2019
  #25
Old 26th January 2019
  #26
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p.s. regarding gates:

forgot to mention that if i ever use(d) some, it is/was either to tighten kick and bass via sidechain or to get midi from contact/trigger mics...
Old 26th January 2019
  #27
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon View Post
There's a great demo of hydraulic heads on the Udo Masshof DVD. They sound super fat / nice................but perhaps toooooo nice! . Was that tech available in the 70's?

So after messing around for a few hours, i already got nice snare sounds, so that's gonna be no problem.

Toms seems to be a bit more tricky. I have some Vic Firth iso-headphones (i mean, they are also actual headphones) and was using them to try different tom mic placements. Finding the right balance between attack and body. Hmmmmm, work in progress.

And then there's that kick sound. It can't be that hard because you hear it on a million different records.

Can you tell me what is wrong with this: remove front head, tune batter head to 50 hz, damp to taste? I didn't try it yet, but that's my plan. Or does 50hz free ringing not translate to 50hz resonance when struck by the beater?
The hydraulic heads are a very immediate throw back tone. When you play them or record them, you know instantly what's going on, sonically. They are super specific, but a great way to get the specific sound. Its a short, thuddy sound. There won't be a ton of sustain, because there is a lot of mass (comparitibly) to the head.

On the BD, I doubt many people tuned to a specific pitch, then or now. They did using more muffling than now, and often didn't have a front head. I LOVE old beat up down pillows for BDs. For the 70s thing, one or two of those with a brick on top gets you there quite easily.


Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I only tune drums by ear, can't get my head across Hz.
Bass drum should be super simple. Lowish tensioning, insert pillow, front head off (optional), D12 or 421 mic.

I question how many drummers used Hydraulic heads in the 70's. They have become the icon of funk and disco drum sounds, but I actually think the basic Remo white coated heads (Ambassador and Emperor) were far wider used.
I find Hydraulics introduce a thickish note, whereas Remo coated heads are more neutral, smacky.
Agree TOTALLY on bass drum.

I also wonder what percentage of drummers of that time were using the hydraulic to get their tone. Listening, for example, to Steely Dan's Aja, there are several drummers. Its the height of 70s drum sounds, dry, compact, whatever other adjectives you like. You can hear that general thing happening in the drums, but also a good variation from drummer to drummer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon View Post
Great stuff, i checked out your website, obviously you know what you're talking about.

And then of course there's the elephant in the room: the simple that every single record i'm talking about was tracked to tape. So those pesky transients were dealt with from the get-go.

EDIT: via some googling, apparently Evans introduced hydraulic heads in 1974
Tape and transformers are part of the equation for sure. But so are playing style, tuning, and dry physical spaces.
Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon View Post
@ chrisso : i think in a modern / commercial context your comments are spot on, but i'm gonna play devil's advocate for a moment:

If i'm saying that the sounds (albums of the 70's) i like and want to emulate were all made without the use of DAWs, plugins, lookahead etc., then isn't it a bit perverse to use all these techniques?

I'm not a gea®slut in the sense that i think i need to only use vintage mics or drum kits or whatever, because i don't think that's a prerequisite or even very important, but IMO there's something about the 70s (and before) process / mindset that has some intrinsic magic to it!
The capture of sounds is very important.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
How is that experimental?
You seem set on your idea, so why ask for advice other than to seek validation for your approach?
Back in the heyday of drum loops (90's) I spent a year recording drums in many different studios, looking to recreate 60's and 70's drum sounds, as well as some experimental sounds.
I found recording the drums clean was the best approach. Afterwards you could radically change the sounds and get some interesting results just feeding each channel out to outboard. We even used modular synths to process drums, as well as vintage fx (delays, phasers, spring reverbs etc)
We also used strange mic combinations in some studios.

Having done it, I don't really see any positives in baking it into the sound so you can never change it. You can do a massive amount after the fact, either with classic outboard hardware, or plug-ins.
I get what you're saying, and believe it is good advice.

What I'm saying here is kind of "devil's advocate," not to challenge your statements.

Thinking as a producer, I like to [sometimes] commit to certain things in tracking. The reason for that, is that I then make future production decisions that work with the sound I committed to. So things like compression on BD or SD for tone helps define the sound of the record. Not unlike specific tuning, or cymbal selection.

That said, there are plenty of times where your concept of "make a really solid, simple, great sounding track that can easily be screwed with 16 ways to Sunday" (i hope you don't mind my paraphrasing ) is the absolute best way to approach tracking.

ETA: GATING IN TRACKING IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA!!!!!!
Old 30th January 2019
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
@ joeq is right. There's NO reason to track drums with gates in to a DAW.

Personally I think the drums sound better with tom mics open...
Unless you're trying to go for that sound, but yeah, you can always do that later nowadays, so unless it's a live situation... and even then...
Old 30th January 2019
  #29
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Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
Unless you're trying to go for that sound, but yeah, you can always do that later nowadays, so unless it's a live situation... and even then...
If you mean live sound, a little gate chatter comes and goes, the FOH engineer make an adjustment and the night doe one. You get that on a tracking date and you are now forced to do any number of things...
Old 30th January 2019
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
If you mean live sound, a little gate chatter comes and goes, the FOH engineer make an adjustment and the night doe one. You get that on a tracking date and you are now forced to do any number of things...
That's what I meant by "even then". Nobody will remember that the gate was too short on rack tom #2 in the opening drum fill.
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