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Cymbal size in the studio
Old 27th December 2002
  #1
Gear Head
 

Cymbal size in the studio

As a longtime drummer who has started to engineer over the past 2 years, I stumbled upon something last night during practice which intrigued me. Normally my ride cymbals are on the large and thick side. Specifically I have been using UFIP Class and Natural series 22" heavy rides. My crashes tend to be a bit thinner.
I recently built a room about 10x10 feet which I use as my recording room. It's a standard stud, sheetrock, insulation, soundboard, foam construction and while not totally dead, it soaks up a lot of the sound. I have chosen drums and cymbals that are naturally bright to compensate for the loss of high end in the room. FYI, I run a percussion rental business in NYC which supplies drums and percussion to all the major orchestras and many hollywood and classical film recordings. I get paid for my ear at what sounds good and what instrument is right for the chosen application. I feel that the drums I have chosen for my room are perfect for what I am trying to acheive.
Last night, however, I decided to switch out my large, thick rides for smaller, dryer rides. This solved one problem that I was having which was balancing the volume levels between drums and cymbals. When using the larger rides, they were way too overpowering.
I am wondering how this will translate to a recording. Will the cymbals sound smaller, or will I be able to compensate with higher gain settings (because the overall balance between drums and cyms is so even) on my preamps which can make the set sound a little bigger. Basically, I am asking if it is desirable to use smaller cymbals in the studio much like it is better to use smaller guitar amps to acheive huge sounds in the studio? Thanks!!!!!!!
Old 28th December 2002
  #2
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sonic dogg's Avatar
IMHO.....its not necessarily the SIZE of the cymbal but the LENGTH of its sustain time that makes cymbals translate huge.....i have had to gate overheads to compensate for overbearing rides and such and the gates always sound wrong.....quick bright and intense cymbals sound better in the mix to me......
Old 28th December 2002
  #3
Gear Head
 

Thanks for the reply. My only difficulty with your reply is that size of the cymbal dictates the length of sustain. Weight of course plays a large role, but generally the smaller a cymbal is in diameter, the shorter its sustain. If the drummer played with smaller diameter cymbals which were lighter in weight (thickness), I assume that the balance between drums and cymbals would be better and because the cymbals are smaller, they could be hit harder without the extreme volume swell of a larger thicker cymbal. In other words, the drummer could dig in more and because the overall volume is lower, the preamp could be turned up creating a larger, crunchier sound. I'm sure this is well known and I am showing my inexperience on the recording aspect. Anyhow, thanks for the reply!!!!
Old 28th December 2002
  #4
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Knox's Avatar
 

If you do a past search here (I think you can do that at Gearslutz) there was a discussion regarding cymbals in the studio about 3 months ago. To me there are cymbals that are made for live (loud) and some that are great for studio (even). There was good input from the people here.
Old 28th December 2002
  #5
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davemc's Avatar
 

It's also a lot to do with the drummer and the sound you are after. A bad drummer with big cymbals will be all cymbals, larger the cymbal teh more you have to control your playing..
I saw my freinds band the other night with there new drummer, one cymbal continually stood out, I asked him later and he said well it was a new 20" cool huh.
Old 28th December 2002
  #6
Quote:
Originally posted by davemc
It's also a lot to do with the drummer and the sound you are after.
I agree with Dave here. There should be an element of internal balancing going on. I always carry several different rides so I can pick something to achieve the effect that I want on any given song. I carry swishy-undefined rides for those retro rock songs and heavy-defined rides for pop songs where you need to go to the ride on the outro or one of the choruses but don't want to lose the groove you had on the hi hat.
I have to admit I'm not that good at laying off the crashes if the producer says they are overpowering the drums, but you should be able to make more or less any ride sit with the rest of the kit.
- Unless it is a jazz kit with a set of 'rude' cymbals -
Old 28th December 2002
  #7
Gear Head
 

It's all about balance. If a smaller ride with less wash and less volume works well for a song, I'll have the drummer raise it up a bit closer to the overheads. If a large loud washy ride works but gets overbearing, I'll have the drummer lower it, and even suspend a crash between the ride and the overheads.
I'm not talking a change in height measured by feet, but maybe a 6"-8" range, that most good drummers can quickly adjust to.
Same for hats- sometimes the hats need to be higher or lower to balance in the overheads.
All this requires a drummer who maintains a good balance between the elements of the kit, of course- raising/lowering cymbals just fine-tunes the balance imposed by the drummer.
Overall, for pop/rock, smaller lighter cymbals tend to record more easily (I'm fond of the Zildjian A Custom series), but lots of great drum performances used huge cymbals (Porcaro comes to mind).
The room dictates this to a large degree.
For Jazz, anything goes, since the drummers are usually more controlled and the volume is never as high as with pop/rock.
I try to have 3 or more hats and 3 or more rides available when tracking drums, with a selection of crashes ranging from 15" to 20". It's vital that all the cymbals compliment each other- some crashes beat against each other. I've returned cymbals just because they aren't in tune with my other cymbals. Gotten some funny looks at stores, but whatever.
Given your experience, you know most of the above, but I included it for other readers.
Old 28th December 2002
  #8
Gear Head
 

All very interesting. I never thought to move the cyms up or down because I figured it would affect the striking of the cymbals and hence the sound, but it is a good idea. Cymbals definately are very important and probably very underlooked when tracking. All cymbals have a fairly easy to discern pitch and should be matched properly to the tune being recorded. The effect is subtle but definately noticable subconsciously. Thanks all!!!
Old 28th December 2002
  #9
Gear Head
 

I failed to mention that I position my overheads 1.5-3' over the crashes, due to my relatively low ceilings, so the slight (6-8") differences in cymbal height really makes a noticeable difference.
If you're tracking in really big rooms, and the overheads are way over the cymbals, slight differences won't sound much different (but if you have the budget for big rooms, you have the budget to rent a lot of cymbals to choose from- I have a nice selection but it's limited, so I make what I have work).

The height differences I suggest really are minor and don't force the drummer to make radical changes in their playing style- the cymbals will still be in their comfort zone.

I play drums, and while setup is a very individual thing, there is a margin within which each player will be comfortable. But if you have a guy who sets up like Buddy Rich (everything low and flat), you don't want him to change to a Vinnie Colaiuta setup (everything high and angled). That will throw off his performance, no matter that it might be easier to record.
Old 29th December 2002
  #10
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
I can't add too much to what's already been said. But, for the most part I try to pick cymbals that sound good within the set and aren't overbearing in volume or decay. It's not uncommon to switch them out for different songs depending on how things start fitting together. I also have no problem telling players to move the cymbals up so I can fit mics in where I need them. Usually someone will have a crash right over the rack tom and I can't fit the mic and cable in there without them getting whacked by the swing of the cymbal, so it'll move up a few inches to allow clearance. Usually the higher the cymbals are over the toms the better the kit sounds. If I really need to I'll put a spot mic on the ride but most of the time I can get enough by getting the overheads in the right spot. I think it was Dave Weckle who said he plays with his ride high so the overheads get it. Concering cymbal pitch, I look for them to be matched to each other rather then the song.
Old 30th December 2002
  #11
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davemc's Avatar
 

For the drummer who will not move his cymbals I have a couple of AKG C418's, they are not bad sounding and small. I have had to use them for snare mic now and them with the drummer who surrounds his snare with toms...I have thought of getting those little beta98's.
Old 30th December 2002
  #12
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
The room is integral part of the sound. Especially with acoustic instruments. When recording one should always start with the source. That said, pick the cymbals that sound best in the room with the drum-set being used for the song being recorded.

Generally speaking small/thin cymbals tend to record well. The exceptions in my opinion are 13" hi-hats. I've not experienced a set of 13s that sound musical in context. I can usually pick out 13s on a recording, even when I'm not listening for them. That to me is a bad thing. I don't think the hi-hat should be noticed unless it's filling a hole. Of course there are exceptions.
Old 30th December 2002
  #13
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davemc's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Drumsound
Generally speaking small/thin cymbals tend to record well. The exceptions in my opinion are 13" hi-hats. I've not experienced a set of 13s that sound musical in context. I can usually pick out 13s on a recording, even when I'm not listening for them. That to me is a bad thing. I don't think the hi-hat should be noticed unless it's filling a hole. Of course there are exceptions.
I actually like my little Paiste 13" Dark Crisp Hats, did not sound as thin as others I tried
Old 30th December 2002
  #14
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
I use MD504's on tight spaces, if it's even tighter I can use those MCA Chinese condensors but the rear rejection is a bit wonky. If I can't fit either of those mics in the cymbals are too freakin' low and need to go up a bit anyway. My favorite is when the drummer has the ride cymbal covering half of the floor tom and I can't put any mic on it.

Regarding 13" hats... for some things they can be perfect. On this last project the guitar player and I went out for a new kick batter head (and grub) which left the drummer and the bass player to figure out what drums and cymbals they liked. They liked the drummers 13" Sabian hats and we tracked one song with them and they sounded ok but on the next song they were too overbearing. At that point I dug out my 70's Zildjian top hat and New Beat bottom and it was declared 1000% better. It also fit with the rest of the cymbals better.
Old 30th December 2002
  #15
A truck load of cymbals is essential.
I'm an endorsee of a make of cymbals. I carry 4 bags full to every session. Even before they get into my bag they have been hand picked by me and the cymbal rep.
Every studio drummer should be an endorser IMO. To be fair the cymbal companies seem to pick kids up fairly young and the companies have huge long lists of drummers. I couldn't bare the thought of going to a store and paying for cymbals. Stores have limited stock, it's often hard to decide if a cymbal sounds good or not and cymbals are expensive:eek:
I usually change cymbals for every song depending on the vibe I want to achieve. What cymbals I choose doesn't really matter a whole lot. There are obvious no no's: very short bright cymbals often don't work for alt rock and big long cymbals don't often work for r&b or funk. Obviously there are exceptions - use common sense.
As for cymbal height, at a very early stage of my career I positioned my cymbals (and the rest of the drums for that matter) in such a way that enabled good studio micing.
Cymbals too low and you are killing the toms, too high and that's all the over heads hear. The over heads are often the key to the kit sound so I take my cymbal height lead from the recording engineer.
I only ever use 13" hats. I believe it is down to taste and an individuals style. Whenever I try 14" the producer oftens says it's either too loud or mushy or both. Again, it depends on the song. 13" isn't so great for hard rock or for anything swishy (retro-Beatles). I actually prefer the sound of 14".
Old 30th December 2002
  #16
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by chrisso

I usually change cymbals for every song depending on the vibe I want to achieve. What cymbals I choose doesn't really matter a whole lot.
Well, all the guys who work here are endorsers of one cymbal company or another, but I need to question this - the sound of the cymbals is in large part the sound of the drummer. While my guys will regularly put up a special for a given song (a splash, a china, or a second ride - whatever seems appropriate), the basic set of cymbals pretty much goes up at the start of the session and stays there. If we're doing a rock day, a diferent set will come out than if we're doing a country day, but there's a consistency to the cymbals the guys use.

After all, cymbals aren't used in isolation - they need to sound good in relation to the other cymbals. Does this make sense?
Old 30th December 2002
  #17
Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Martin
I need to question this - the sound of the cymbals is in large part the sound of the drummer. the basic set of cymbals pretty much goes up at the start of the session and stays there.
Dave,
If you are saying that cymbal choice is like a drummers trademark I disagree. But if you're saying that drummers often have a sound of their own and the cymbals they choose are often within that pallette, I think you are right.
No matter how many times I change cymbals, neither producer or engineer ever seem to notice. Unless it's a combo that sounds horrible that is.
I have a personal dislike of the drums sounding the same on every cut of a record. Therefore I usually change at least a couple of the crashes and the snare for each song. I'd change kit if there were time! I always carry 8-10 snares and lots of cymbals.
I usually start the day with my favourite snare and cymbal set up and it just develops from their.
BTW, my favourite set up might not be appropriate for the first song so I usually discuss the different options with the producer.
Old 30th December 2002
  #18
Moderator emeritus
 

Quote:
Originally posted by chrisso
Dave,
If you are saying that cymbal choice is like a drummers trademark I disagree. But if you're saying that drummers often have a sound of their own and the cymbals they choose are often within that pallette, I think you are right.
No matter how many times I change cymbals, neither producer or engineer ever seem to notice. Unless it's a combo that sounds horrible that is.
I have a personal dislike of the drums sounding the same on every cut of a record. Therefore I usually change at least a couple of the crashes and the snare for each song. I'd change kit if there were time! I always carry 8-10 snares and lots of cymbals.
Well, I could also argue that the count off is the single most trademark sound of any drummer... But since snares kicks, and toms can fairly easily replaced in a DAW, the only things that really remain as inchangeable on a drummers kit are the cymbals and hat. For that matter, no matter what snare you put up, the engineer can make it sound like all the others...

I admit that I do the same thing with basses - I'll take 4-8 basses to a session, and play the one that seems most appropriate to me. But I also know that unless I pick up a fretless or an upright, the prodcer probaly won't heard the difference. So you know, as a session player, that you're doing those things for yourself, NOT for the producer.

But back to the original subject - this morning, as I was doing keyboard overdubs, the piano player asked who the drummer was. And this was before the drummer was playing a full kit - he was playing cymbals only.

So yeah, I really thing that cymbals (and tghe way that they are hit) are part of the trademark sound of a drummer, along with the placement of the snare in relation to the click, and the hat.
Old 30th December 2002
  #19
Gear Head
 

Recently I switched over to 13" HiHats and I think it makes a huge difference. They are much more controllable and lower in volume than 14's. I did this maily for my recording rig, but I switched to 13's for live for the same reason and they work well there as well. Of course, it matters what weight they are and alloy formula. I personally use Istanbul 13's on the thick side, but they still are much lower in volume than my 14" 2002 Sound edges. BTW, my company is called Kettles and Company and we endorse Zildjians and pretty much only send zildjians out for rental, but we are mainly dealing with orchestral cymbals like the new "old" K's. Thanks!!!!
Old 1st January 2003
  #20
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Steve Smith's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jay Kahrs
I think it was Dave Weckle who said he plays with his ride high so the overheads get it. Concering cymbal pitch, I look for them to be matched to each other rather then the song.
I know Steve gadd does this as well.
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