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Drum Tracking
Old 21st July 2016
  #1
Drum Tracking

Reading back, you said that you change heads VERY frequently. How are you doing it so often? I saw you said that you were switching between takes on some sessions! I'd think that switching it that often would lead to tuning problems because the acclamation of stretching the head.

Also, you said you'll sum the snare top and bottom. Do you usually compress the two individually before summing?
Old 22nd July 2016
  #2
Radiant Being
 
SylviaMassy's Avatar
Drum Nuggets

Previously, I wrote about my routine for miking and recording drums. I talk a bit about tuning and drum heads here:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/q-sy...-drum-kit.html

"If you want your drum recordings to sound good, learn how to tune drums! Have fresh heads available during tracking and change often if you want crisp attack on the snare and toms. During the Tool sessions we changed tom and snare heads between each TAKE!!!! Hydraulic heads sound good live, but often sound thuddy and lifeless in the studio. I usually use Remo Ambassador single-ply coated on the snare top, and clear on the tom tops."

_______________________

There were several tom-heavy passages in Tool songs on both "Opiate" and "Undertow" and drummer Danny Carey hit the toms so hard that the drum heads were cratered and lost their sparkle after each take. It was necessary to take the time to replace the heads and tune them up. Again and again. We could have extended the life of the toms by using thicker heads, like Emperors, but they would not recorded with such crispness and clarity.

One way to get the tom head tuning to settle in quickly is to replace the head and tighten down the tension rods, then set the drum on the floor and press your knee into the top, stretching the head out. Then tighten down all the tension rods again. Do this a couple times. With the Remo Ambassador heads, this will usually get them warmed up and ready to play quickly. It is necessary to keep checking the tuning though. Especially if you are using older drums with looser tension rods.

As I described in the "Recording Unhinged" book, I like to tune the toms into the key of the song being recorded. To do that, after stretching out the drum head, I'll take the drum over to a piano and detail the tuning. On Tool's "Undertow" we paid close attention to make sure all the toms were tuned into the key of each song. Lot's of toms on Danny's kit = lots of tuning time.

Also, while recording drums I will sum the top and bottom heads of the snare and toms, but usually do not use compression. I will, however, use compression on drum rooms and sometimes the overheads. Typically just a "touch" of compression on the main pair of drum room mics, and heavy compression on at least one mono room mic. This mic is usually placed right in front of the drum kit, about chin height. This came about because so many of my sessions had a scratch vocal mic, which had a good amount of compression, left open during a drum take, and the track turned out to be the best drum room sound ever!

If the song we are recording has a lot of "space" in the drums, I will use some compression on the overhead mics because it extends the decay of cymbal crashes, and it brings out more of the color and harmonics of the cymbals. This really only works when the drummer is not crashing on the ride cymbals or playing an obnoxious open hat all the time.
Old 22nd July 2016
  #3
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
I'm curious, with that amount of down time, how did you keep the band "fresh" and ready for takes?

Also, did you need to recheck for phase and levels if you were moving mics to take toms off stands to change heads?
Old 25th July 2016
  #4
Radiant Being
 
SylviaMassy's Avatar
Keeping the Drummer "Fresh"

The songs were long and Danny was hitting the hell out of those drums during the Tool sessions, so a little break between song takes was actually welcome. I try to act fast and get the drums retuned as quickly as possible. Yes, checking phase is essential, especially because I would expect to be cutting between takes. For that reason also, I would have to make sure the new snare tuning matched to tuning on the previous takes. Agh... it is a lot of work and tedious detail. But the results are well worth it!
Old 25th July 2016
  #5
What do you do to keep consistent tuning?
Old 25th July 2016
  #6
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Thanks! I realized after I asked that I may have come off as rude or judgy, and that was not my intention. Apologies if it seemed that way.
Old 2nd August 2016
  #7
Radiant Being
 
SylviaMassy's Avatar
Keeping the Tuning Consistent

I'll find the key of the song first, then tune the toms and snare to that key. I usually use a piano to find the right notes. Then when changing heads, go back to the piano and match the drum tuning of the previous take. I will sometimes use my trusty little Jaymar toy piano for note reference, it is a very handy studio tool! If a piano or the Jaymar is not available, I will use a guitar or other instrument for note reference.
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Old 2nd August 2016
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
AJCruz's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SylviaMassy View Post
I'll find the key of the song first, then tune the toms and snare to that key. I usually use a piano to find the right notes. Then when changing heads, go back to the piano and match the drum tuning of the previous take. I will sometimes use my trusty little Jaymar toy piano for note reference, it is a very handy studio tool! If a piano or the Jaymar is not available, I will use a guitar or other instrument for note reference.
Hi Sylvia, Thank you for being so kind to answer all our questions. When tuning a snare to a note do you tune it so the note is heard from the overtones i.e. near the lugs? I notice that if I tune a snare by tapping near the lugs the overtone ring is often a different note than if I just strike the center of the drum with the snares not engaged.
Old 3rd August 2016
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by SylviaMassy View Post
I'll find the key of the song first, then tune the toms and snare to that key. I usually use a piano to find the right notes. Then when changing heads, go back to the piano and match the drum tuning of the previous take. I will sometimes use my trusty little Jaymar toy piano for note reference, it is a very handy studio tool! If a piano or the Jaymar is not available, I will use a guitar or other instrument for note reference.
Could you give us some examples of "right notes" with relation to a key of a song, size of tom, snare etc.?
Any tricks for a snare tuning? Any standard tuning which works fine right from the beginning?
What about kick drum? Do you try to find specific note?
Old 3rd August 2016
  #10
Here for the gear
 

Hi Sylvia! I want to say that you are a magician! Tool is by far my favorite band of all time! Drums sound like a million bucks and my goal is to reproduce as much as I can the sound of Danny's drums.

My question is concerning the kick actually. Although you go by note tuning, I use a Drum Dial for tuning my kit so what do you think would be the sweet spot on the tuning? Also, what would you use for a mic(s) on the kick in order to get the perfect sound? Any special tricks?

Thank you!
Old 4th August 2016
  #11
Gear Addict
 

I just have to ask: has the Jaymar toy piano wound up on any tracks?
Old 5th August 2016
  #12
Radiant Being
 
SylviaMassy's Avatar
A Few More Drum Tuning Notes

When I tune drums, I pick notes in the song's key that are closest to the natural timbre of the drum. So if the song is in D, the drum could be tuned to D, E, F#, G, A, B or C#. Most of the time an E or A will work. I'll try hard to get the pitch accurate, because it is surprising how bad a slightly flat tom or snare will sound in a song. It becomes very distracting. At least for me.

The best way to hear the pitch while tuning a drum is to lightly press a finger into the middle of the head as you tap it near the tension rod. Match the pitch of that tension rod to a note in the key, then go around to all the drum's tension rods one by one and do the same. With snare drum tunings, you'll want to throw off the snare wires until you have finished. By lightly pressing a finger on the head, you are damping the drum so you wont hear the overtones. Just the pure tone. That is the note I listen for while tuning. I don't usually use the Drum Dial. It is a pretty cool device, but does not help with finding pitch. I can pretty much match all the tension rod pitches by ear.

Kick drum is also nice to match to the key of the song, but I find my ear more forgiving on the bass drum notes. I usually use one of two tunings on a kick: either a lower, open boom - or a higher, tight, punchy tone. Actual notes seem less important, but matching the pressure on each tension rod will make it sound better.

I have one of those little Jaymar toy pianos in every studio. I use them to work out melody and harmony parts, tune vocals and tune drums. And the sound of the Jaymar has made it on dozens of my recordings. It can be super creepy, especially when you slow the recording down to half speed. Sounds like church bells from hell.
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