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Drum tuning for modern metal ala Breaking Benjamin, Story of the year Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 15th January 2009
  #1
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magibatalla's Avatar
 

Drum tuning for modern metal ala Breaking Benjamin, Story of the year

Hi there!

I became aware of the vital importance of drum tuning on my last recording and, for the next one, I've been carefully reading the Drum Tuning Bible to learn the most about that subject. I've also watched that Bob Gatzen DVD.

I've learnt lots of things already, but I'm a bit lost among the maaaaany tuning options you have (I've been trying with a cheap drum kit I have available). I can see I will settle that knowledge from trial and error on diferent recordings, but I would thank some suggestions for my next project.

I know I must rely on samples for the sound I'm going for, but I want to try getting the best sounds without them, or record the samples myself from the actual kit.

I'm looking for suggestions about wether I should go for a dry-punchy sound or big-resonant instead or anything in between and how to get it, batter/resonant head relationship (which higher, which lower?) and tuning intervals related to the key of the songs.

Some data about the actual situation:
- Almost every song is in D minor key
- Drumset consists of 22"BD (maybe 20, can't remember), 14" SD, 12" RT, 16" FT
- Evans EMAD on kick drum (batter and resonant)
- Remo Emperor clear as batter head for both toms, Ambassador clear as resonant
- Remo Emperor Controlled Sound snare top, Ambassador resonant.

I will mess with mics and preamps once I get tuning right.

James Meeker, LucTellier, can you chime in?

Really appreciated!
Old 15th January 2009
  #2
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msquared's Avatar
 

While combing for info online is a great idea, you seem like you are suffering from too many options and too much information without adequate frame of reference. What you need is not more information, but an example.

Call a local drum shop (not Guitar Center) and ask if they teach lessons and do drum tuning. Explain to them that you are not a drummer but you do a lot of recording and that you have a kit that you'd like tuned to sound like the bands you mention. Ask them to set up a time when you can take a single drum lesson focused entirely on tuning and setting a kit up for the recording process. Be ready to take notes. It will be money well spent.
Old 15th January 2009
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustinAiken View Post
I just have to say that Breaking Benjamin and Story of the Year are NOT metal. Not even modern metal. Emo or pop punk maybe, but NOT metal.
Thanx for your contribution, but this doesn't help me at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by msquared View Post
While combing for info online is a great idea, you seem like you are suffering from too many options and too much information without adequate frame of reference. What you need is not more information, but an example.

Call a local drum shop (not Guitar Center) and ask if they teach lessons and do drum tuning. Explain to them that you are not a drummer but you do a lot of recording and that you have a kit that you'd like tuned to sound like the bands you mention. Ask them to set up a time when you can take a single drum lesson focused entirely on tuning and setting a kit up for the recording process. Be ready to take notes. It will be money well spent.
Thanks, msquared. This is a good idea I have thought about before. In fact I know a drummer guy who recorded with Silvia Massey and who knows quite a bit about drums. I'll make him a call.

Anyway I'd like to read some examples from you so I can give that guy some input and have a better understanding of what he's doing. You know, there aren't many stellar records in that genre recorded here in Spain, so I really think my best source of information is Gearslutz...

Keep suggestions coming, please!
Old 15th January 2009
  #4
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Tuning is the place to start, But the processing is 1/2 the sound.
My method =
Kick = tuned low (just before head wrinkle state) Dual miced
Snare = Tuned High, I like crisp snare. Dual mic
Toms = I like a more resonate tuning, but for metal mirroring the kick method works well.

I close mic everything + overheads.
Mixing is involved.
To keep this post simple i will say the SSL style channel compressor is a metal drummers best friend.
pure snappy punch.

Being a Drummer i stay away from samples most of the time. I enjoy mixing my kit & being able to say its sample-less. But sometimes sampled kicks can be what is needed. (death/grindcore stuff?)

Old 15th January 2009
  #5
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The higher tuned the toms are, the more they will cut through in the mix. Even though they are higher pitched, they will be heard more and sound a lot more full than they would tuned down.
Old 17th January 2009
  #6
Okay, for a Breaking Benjamin/Story of the Year type of sound you need to focus on the snare first and foremost. They are very similar, to the extent that I'm fairly certain the same Steven Slate drum sample is in there, as well as similar tuning and processing.

If you listen to a track like "The Diary of Jane" you can hear what sounds like the naked snare, without sample at the start of the track--once the guitar kick in it sounds like the sample is there with it. It's this fairly isolated snare that's out "in the open" that we'd start the analysis.

First off, the snare hasn't been dampened much and there is a bit of ring to it. The top head sounds pretty well cranked almost (but not quite) as high as it can go. In real life I'm guessing the head would be taut, tight and with a lot of stick bounce to it. The bottom head sounds detuned, and a bit lower than the top. Snare sounds like a 14x7--a little bigger than normal but not "80's hair metal band" sized. I'm going to guess that there's a 30 wire strainer on there because of the snap.

A big part about this type of snare sound is going to be the compression, and probably a touch of limiting on there as well. This is a classic example of the modern rock snare kind of sound, which means you want a FET style compressor at the ready--EL8 Distressor if you have it, but a Urei 1176LN will work. Slower attack than normal (nominally around "5" on 1176) and fast release (try around "6" on the 1176). You want a good measure of the front transient to get through, and then level off the rest. Nailing the input level is going to be the "clincher" because this sets threshold--chances are you are gonna be somewhere around the dots to the left and right of 24 on most sources. Set output to "unity." 4:1 or 8:1 ratio works best... typically 4:1 is the 'curve' I tend to believe it's set at. You're going to want to put a lot of low-mids in here--centering around 160-250hz, and a decent amount of 1.2-1.6 khz for 'banginess'; consequently, you're going to be pulling out a narrow notch around 600-800hz--but not too much. A little 6.2-7 khz may have to go on there, but not too much; most of the 'treble' of this type of sound is coming from the tuning of the top head.

Like I said, there's about a 99% chance there's a sample in there. If it's not one of Steven's I'd be shocked.

Chances are there's a dark room reverb on the snare, around 1.2 seconds, moderate diffusion. I think that this turns off or lowers in volume during the verses in "Diary of Jane"--something minor definitely gets tweaked to make the snare less ringy and tighter during the verse by just a little bit....

Moving on to kick drum--fairly bright, fairly fat modern kick sound. I'd start with a 20" with the beater side fairly tight and dampened, with a lower tuned resonant head that has far less dampening. A lot of the front end 'punch' is going to be a sample.

This type of kick always seems very "SSL" to me; tight gate, kind of dry, fast pristine compressor clamping down on it, lots of 4-10k on the kick. So I'd gate it a bit, suck out the lower mids (but not too much), focus on the 80-100hz range for a sharp boost, and make sure to get the 4k and 10k in there solid--that's the 'stick-it' punch to this kind of kick; just make sure you don't get Lars Ulrich clanky... which tends to live more around 2 and 6k. You may end up HP filtering around 35hz to make it 'tight' and make room for the low end boosts on the bass guitar which would come later.

On the compression side of the kick, the attack is going to be fast 3-8 ms, release time going to be around 20-40ms, ratio is going to be 8:1 or more. I'd probably run a few db's of a limiter in front of the compressor to level stuff out a bit as well.

Overheads seem to have a bit o' the old automation on them as well, jumping in and out for some crashes. Not much, just a bit. I'd reckon the OH's are high with a fast attack/release compressor around a 3:1 ratio--transparent, but leveling things out without getting splatty. I'd venture to say there's a lot of HP filtering going on the OH's--probably around 400hz. It's a little early in the morning for me to be pulling out my headphones and carefully listening (haven't had my coffee yet and kids are already bouncing around the house) but you can gauge it by listening to where the cymbals/hat are getting 'cut off' around 250-500 hz. Probably not too much EQ on the OH's... possibly some 12 khz to brighten things up a few db. Possibly a little cut around 3.5 khz but maybe I'm just imagining things... for these types of sounds that's not a bad place to cut the OH's though--less high hat in the OH's that can clash with the snare close mic in a critical range. Or maybe it's just early.

Room mics sound moderately limited, but underneath the OH's most of the time. Mainly it seems to be bringing out stuff in the midrange and the low meat of the snare. I'm guessing ribbon mics, or LP filtering on condensers... either way it's a dark room sound. Possibly Distressors on 'Brit Mode' and stereo link. There's definitely a touch of distortion on here, but it is low order.

Toms are fairly dead, with a bit of 3K and more likely than not 10k due to the clickiness. Probably dampened. I don't think they were sample replaced, which is why they sound a bit lackluster compared to the other main drums. With these not being a huge factor in these types of drum sounds I'm not going to get too indepth because I'm lazy, I haven't had my first smoke of the morning and I've been typing this for too long, and there's nothing really cool going on with the toms.

I'd like to note that having an SPL Transient Designer (or equivalent) is god send for doing these types of drum sounds. It certainly isn't going to hurt.

Hope this helps, not sure if this is what you wanted,
Old 17th January 2009
  #7
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Just had a listen to Diary of Jane by Breaking Benjamin.

Snare sound changes for different sections but overall seems to be based on a Steel snare drum with a thick head cranked up and with different samples brought out at different parts in the arrangement. Definately has a distressor on it and that popping thing going on. Compression city!

I like the bass end of the mix with the bass guitar and kick drum sounding tight and complimentary. Kick gives a very solid thud rather than a splatty sound. Maybe Emad will be the right choice of head for you OP. But don't go el nutso with the dampening. In truth most cheap kicks can't pull off an amazing deep kick sound. Make sure the drummer chooses the right beater and if he/she plays double kick make sure that the beaters never rest on the head (done by some drummer to maintain their balance) as it chokes the drum out.

Tuning drums requires some practice. It takes a while to learn to hear what's going on and in fact some times the Bob Gatzen DVD is deceptive as small tweaks of the drum key can make a world of difference at times. The best results I get are when I tune in place. Tuning to the room, especially with toms. I normally tune to the resonant head, tuning the batter head last and as a starting place I tune the batter head to the reso head and take things from their. Tuning a drum mechanically as Bob does on his drum tuning simplified section of the DVD works best for the kick followed by the snare. Toms I always tune to the room and I mirror the attack and decay characteristics from my favourite sounding tom on the kit. Sometimes I tune kick and toms to the same characteristic.

peace,
cortisol
Old 17th January 2009
  #8
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Story of the Year did a lot of their drums at our place... (I didn't do them... I believe the engineer was named Alan. Maybe he is on here and will chime in?) One thing I remember is that they changed the snare head every couple takes. OK... Maybe not that much but a whole lot. At LEAST a new one for every song.

Also, after they would change it the drummer would stand on it to loosen it up.

They also built a wall of curtains in our live room. A big live room and the drummer is playing in a little part sectioned off by curtains.

Anyway... I don't remember much more.

Just thought I'd chime in.
Old 17th January 2009
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by magibatalla View Post
Thanx for your contribution, but this doesn't help me at all.
Actually dude its the biggest help first and foremost. How can you be an efficient recording engineer if you dont know the differences in genres and/or bands?
Old 18th January 2009
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Meeker View Post
It's a little early in the morning for me to be pulling out my headphones and carefully listening (haven't had my coffee yet and kids are already bouncing around the house)
You really made my day, James. What the... you made my week! You gave me food for thought for a serious amount of time! In fact that was more than I was asking for, but I thank that being that way, for sure. I'm probably PM'ing you regarding some details, if you don't mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cortisol View Post
Snare sound changes for different sections but overall seems to be based on a Steel snare drum with a thick head cranked up and with different samples brought out at different parts in the arrangement. Definately has a distressor on it and that popping thing going on. Compression city!

I like the bass end of the mix with the bass guitar and kick drum sounding tight and complimentary. Kick gives a very solid thud rather than a splatty sound. Maybe Emad will be the right choice of head for you OP. But don't go el nutso with the dampening. In truth most cheap kicks can't pull off an amazing deep kick sound. Make sure the drummer chooses the right beater and if he/she plays double kick make sure that the beaters never rest on the head (done by some drummer to maintain their balance) as it chokes the drum out.

Tuning drums requires some practice.
Thanx cortisol for your valuable input. For your words, I think I'm going in the right direction with head choices. Tuning drums is a though task when you are not a drummer so you haven't spent that time in front of the kit. Even though, with some time focusing into it, I think I know more about the subject than most of the drummers I know. That's weird... I guess most drum teachers forget completelly about that... I was taught to tune my guitar heh

Quote:
Originally Posted by Makinithappen View Post
Story of the Year did a lot of their drums at our place... (I didn't do them... I believe the engineer was named Alan. Maybe he is on here and will chime in?) One thing I remember is that they changed the snare head every couple takes. OK... Maybe not that much but a whole lot. At LEAST a new one for every song.
I'm recording in a budget for these guys, they looked scared at me when I told them to replace every head in the kit, so I will have to overlook this thing heh Anyway it's really nice knowing real facts of mainstream recordings. Thanx, man! Would be great if that "Alan" joined this thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by somsto75 View Post
Actually dude its the biggest help first and foremost. How can you be an efficient recording engineer if you dont know the differences in genres and/or bands?
Thanx, dude, but don't insist on that. If I had writen "emo" or whatever someone would have said "Nah! that's pop/hardcore/punk/polka". It's not that I don't know genres, I simply put a broad label and narrowed the thing refering to a couple of bands...
Old 18th January 2009
  #11
This is kind of a personal preference thing, but in my experience new drum heads are essential to great drum tone. Remo Ambassador or Emporers are really the only ways to go, they outshine any head in a recording environment. They don't really last very long, but while they do they sound fantastic.
Old 19th January 2009
  #12
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Well, here I go again. Last time I was writing from a friend's computer.

I really thank those processing suggestions, which are a big part of this type of sound, but I want to go a little deeper into the drum setup/tuning issue, which is what I will have to fight with first

Regarding snare setup. I take note about wide strainer and cranked upper head. Listening to B.Benjamin, I've noticed the snare seems to be tuned to the song, hitting the perfect 5th (F# for their songs in B minor key). If the band I'm recording mostly plays in D minor, the snare should be tuned to A to keep that relationship. I've heard many times about the importance of the snare being tuned to the song. How should I approach that?

Toms now. I think I must go for a sound with not much sustain. Sustain wouldn't make much sense through a wall of guitars. Right? How would you tune both batter and resonant heads to be more effective? Which one higher/lower? And what about pitch relationship to the song and every other drum in the kit? In B.Benjamin I think I hear the rack tom hitting the b7 or maybe the root of the key (B minor), so it's a 3rd - 4th upper than the snare. I cannot discern that floor tom's pitch, so I assume it's pitched quite low. Suggestions?

James mentioned automation on OH tracks. Besides that, I think I'm hearing the ride cymbal was mic'ed individually. You can hear those bell figures really clear while crashes playing at the same time seem to be lower and further away. I have never put a mic on ride cymbal. What's the common technique/s? How should I prevent phase issues?

And don't worry, I did get the kids to replace their drum heads, I just won't be able to replace them again between takes

Keep suggestions coming! Thanks!
Old 19th January 2009
  #13
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Str1ker's Avatar
 

Quote:
I'm fairly certain the same Steven Slate drum sample is in there,
which one would you guess james??
Old 19th January 2009
  #14
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Sorry to hijack, but If my band (guitars) play in Drop C.
Should the snare be tuned like an A?

and for example, if tuned in standard E, snare=C# ?

Thanks
Mixbuster
Old 19th January 2009
  #15
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Hey, some quick advice on tuning...

Tune the top head (batter) lower than the bottom head...the bottom head can be up to a 5th higher...i.e if the top head is a C the bottom can be a G...but in saying that I wouldnt worry about pitch this is an easy way to make your drums sound good. Change your heads to Remo pinstripe or better yet ( for that style) remo emporers....remo make the best drum heads hands down and they always have....if you can use Senn 421s on Toms and make sure you have the snare mic'd from top and bottom with the bottom under the snare strainer ( the spring)....

tune you drums low so they sound good with the above and should be all good..there arnt too many drummers who tune to pitch....DW makes drums that are supposed to be pitch specific but this is more of a marketing gimic than anything else


peace
Old 19th January 2009
  #16
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double posted with 30 minutes between, dunno how it happened? :S

Last edited by Mixbuster; 19th January 2009 at 02:39 PM.. Reason: double posted with 30 minutes between, dunno how it happened? :S
Old 19th January 2009
  #17
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magibatalla's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mixbuster View Post
Sorry to hijack, but If my band (guitars) play in Drop C.
Should the snare be tuned like an A?

and for example, if tuned in standard E, snare=C# ?

Thanks
Mixbuster
You're counting a major 6th there. A perfect 5th will be a better fit, harmonically at least. So for tunes in C key (I bet they are, but even though you tune to drop C, your tunes might not necessarilly be in the key of C), I would tune to G.
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, in fact I'm asking to confirm this subject.

Quote:
Originally Posted by usefullidiot View Post
Tune the top head (batter) lower than the bottom head...
tune you drums low so they sound good with the above and should be all good..there arnt too many drummers who tune to pitch....DW makes drums that are supposed to be pitch specific but this is more of a marketing gimic than anything else
It was strange there wasn't a post contradicting the previous ones yet heh
On snare drum, I think you must be careful with bottom head tension as long as there's where snares are supposed to vibrate.

I play with a drummer who owns a DW kit, and yes, their resonance pitch is labelled on the wood. You're not supposed to tune them to that pitch, though. It's only the point of resonance for that particular drum size (physics, not marketing).
Old 19th January 2009
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Str1ker View Post
which one would you guess james??
I think it's called Snare3.

Don't quote me on that though, I'm going off memory. PM Bang and he'll tell you.
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