Update 1: Pre-Production – Drum Test Recording

Over the extended Christmas break our group has made a conscious effort to utilise extra time that we have to go further with our pre-production. We have gathered both in and out of the studio experimenting with different recording techniques and tones. Drums are to be a big point of experimenting with sounds for this project and we were lucky enough to a very good drummer on board with an equally good drum kit.

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We booked the NEVE studio over the holidays to come in and set up every weird room and overhead technique that we could think of. The main sounds we are looking for are roomy and reverberant than a traditional pop or rock drum kit sound. So whilst we did still close mic objects, the main focus of the session was to experiment with room mics and stereo overheads.

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We drew inspiration from bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky for their roomy drum sounds…

Mogwai – Take me somewhere nice

Explosions in the Sky – Your hand in mine

Our drummer owned a Pearl Masters MCX kit, and there were of course weird things going on with some of the sounds, as most kits usually have their own little tonal traits. It was a 6 piece kit but we kept it to a 4 piece for simplicities sake. The kick drum actually had a resonant head with no kick hole, I would have liked the option of having a kick whole to get more sound from the beaters. We used a Beta 52 and a Beyer Dynamic M88, I drove the preamps on the NEVE pretty hard to make them sound a bit hairier, but neither of the two mics got much of the snappy transients, or much high end. The sound was very fat and flabby. We have decided that we will probably remove the resonant kick head for the next recording session to get more snap, however it depends on the sound for the individual song. It’s likely that we will supplement with samples as well.

The snare was quite ringy, there were a lot of overtones going on, so we hung the drummers wallet over the side of the snare, this stopped the worst of the ringing and tightened up the sound in general. For next session I would like to use something with a little less dead weight, potentially just gaffer tape. We used an SM57 and a Sennheiser MD421 on the top, with another SM57 on the bottom of the snare, and again I drove the pre’s fairly hard to get the signature NEVE warmth and bite. The SM57’s sounded brighter than the 421, however even the top SM57 with a blend of the bottom SM57, sounded like it needed more top end. I feel like this was the chunky wallet dampening the snare too much.

For the toms we used Sennheiser MD421’s, the rack tom sounded quite nice and tight. We took out a fair amount of 400 Hz from each of the toms. I don’t usually make this many changes to the EQ’s on the desk, however I can quite happily take out that frequency from the toms as I will never ever need it there. The floor tom sounded very ringy, it had a lot of intense overtones and resonance. Josh our drummer re-tuned the head, however it helped only slightly. Looking back I feel like it needed a lot of dampening to kill the resonance, and the resonant head needed a re-tune, which would probably clean out the overtones.

We moved a lot of the rooms and overheads around, experimenting with placements and how they reacted in those spots. The U87’s we had set as a stereo pair, with the peluso, KM184 and SM7B being our room mics. Here is a visual breakdown of the different tests that we did.

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Each one had its own curious sound and we experimented further with simply blending them in different ways, trying to find cool, unique sounds. We even went as far as having room mics only to get a very distant and ambient sound, this gave us a solid grounding for potential drum sounds for the project.

This session definitely went to plan, we were able to fit a fair amount of experimentation into 6 hours, despite the fact that we only had Pro Tools working for about 4 of those 6 hours. From previous sessions, I learnt that it actually takes a long time to pull a good drum sound, and that you cannot simply just mic up a drum kit and start tracking straight away. That is why I’m glad we put more time into testing mics, changing their positions and their gain levels and processing on the desk.

We’ll be back soon with another update on the project.

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