Drum tracking woes…

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Recording
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Right, this is just a quick one, to let you know we’re still at it…
Last weekend we decided to have another go at some drum tracking. It should have been pretty simple, but we were using my new shells which I hadn’t actually test driven yet, so this was to be their first outing on a recording session. Things didn’t go very well…
It started like a normal session – Eoin came up, set up the kit around himself as usual, and I threw up the usual array of microphones. Then I had him play around the kit for a while so I could set the incoming levels. So far so good. Then we took a quick sample recording to hear what the mics were picking up, and also because I was testing out a couple of different kick mic options. And that’s where the trouble started…
Unfortunately I had made the decision to take the resonant (i.e. front) head off the kick drum, because it wasn’t a proper resonant skin, just a thin crappy plastic sheet with the manufacturer’s name on it and no hole to put a mic through. Now, I’m sure I could have put a mic in front of it and gotten something, but I tend to prefer the sound I get from inside the drum, so off came the head. Trouble is, what I didn’t realise (because this was my first time recording a kick with no reso head) was that the sound of the rest of the kit would bleed in through the front of the kick drum, so the kick mic ended up picking up more level from the snare than from the kick itself (have I mentioned before how insanely loud Eoin’s snare is?)! Which made it impossible to isolate the kick drum hits no matter how much I tried to gate the signal.
First I thought it might have been the mic we were using, but after trying 3 different ones and getting the same results it was obvious that that wasn’t it. Then we threw a thick blanket over the front of the drum hoping to keep the bleed from the other drums down a bit. Still no joy.
At this point it was approaching midnight and we were feeling pretty much defeated, so we called it quits. Looks like I’m gonna have to get a reso head for that drum and hope that keeps the bleed to a minimum, and also causes the actual kick hits to reverberate around inside the drum a bit more giving a hotter signal for the mic…
Cool story, huh? 😛

EDIT 27-07-2011: well, last night I tried a couple of things.
First, I messed around a bit with the sample recordings we’d done the other night to see if they could be made usable, and while the usual mangling that I like to do to kick signals gave a horrible snare sound as a consequence, once this was mixed in with the actual snare mic, the overheads and the room mics, it wasn’t particularly noticeable. So it would be possible to work something out recording this way.
However, the second thing I tried was to put a front skin on the drum (which first involved cutting a hole in it big enough to get the mic through). This made a huge difference to the balance between the kick and the rest of the kit that was being picked up, so I think I’m gonna have to go get a decent reso head now (as well as a new lug – turns out one of them is severely bent, and there’s no nut for it to screw into, and presumably no spring either…)

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Comments
  1. Barrytron says:

    You could experiment with dampening insode the kick….that’s very weird that no resonant skin would case that…surely it shouldn’t make a difference? Maybe try getting the mic right at the inside of the batter skin so that you get a high level of attack or slap or what have you, then compress it etc? Might lose all tone though. Use a different snare or better kick? Grab my yamaha (not Friday I need it) if you want that is a beautiful piece of wood….

    • Yeah, I thought it was strange too – I mean, I’m sure plenty of records have been made with no head on the front, although I think a lot of guys that do this would also build a tunnel out to the front of the kick out of blankets or foam or something.
      Funny thing is I actually had the mic right up at the beater head and it still didn’t help. I’m thinking that all the energy from the hit is being blasted out the front of the drum without being given time to build up inside as it would with a skin on the front, but that’s just a theory… 😛
      I reckon before I go buying a reso head for it, I’m gonna cut a small hole in the one that came with it and stick that back on the front and see if it makes a difference.
      Cheers for the offer of the kick – might take you up on that. Not sure when our next session will be though…
      I’d like to keep Eoin’s snare though – it makes such a lovely noise, and records really well too 😀

  2. noel says:

    How are you gating? On velocity or frequency? Also it might be worth your while sampling eoins kick and using the original track to trigger. you could then blend the existing as “ambient” under the new track.

    • It’s weird – the Cubase gate gives options to gate both with velocity and frequency, but I’m not sure which is given preference. Maybe I should RTFM on that one 😛
      As for triggering a sample, I’d probably have the same problem in that the snare might also trigger it, although now that I think of it, I could high-pass the hell out of it so only the lowest of the low end triggers the sample… good call man 😀
      Cheers for all the help lads.

  3. Just updated the post with last night’s experiments. Thanks again for all the help, guys.

  4. noel says:

    had a very brief listen to the slugbait the other day and i’m really liking the sound of it, esp the snare…
    well done lad…

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