Join Ryan Hewitt for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing drums and cymbals within the context of the song, part of Drum Setup and Mic'ing in the Studio.
- Getting great drum sounds starts with having a great drum kit. So how do you pick that drum kit? How do you pick the kick and the snare so that it's appropriate to the song? If you're doing, you know, a Chili Peppers style rock track, you want that sort of snare sound. What is that snare sound? If you're doing a ballad, what is the proper kick and snare sound. A funk track, a rock track, a modern track, versus a vintage-sounding track. There's all these variables in the song that will call for different types of drums. And that's where Ross's knowledge of all these different sounds comes from.
And he can help us, you know, pick the correct drum and the correct vibe for our song. - Right, so for example, they sent me over a sample of the song that they were gonna want to record today, and I picked this kit. The song had a R&B-Rock vibe to it. I thought it needed a bigger bass drum, so I picked the 24 inch kick. It's an older 1930's kick drum so it has a nice character to it. The toms go well with that.
Because it's a 24 inch kick I chose a 13 and a 16 inch rack tom and floor tom. And then this snare is an 8x14. So this would be good for the fatter sounds. For like the ballad songs, or the slower songs, or anything they want a really beefy sound on. So these all sound pretty good together. (plays drums) So if we do a quicker tune, I'd probably put up a different snare drum.
The rule of thumb is, sort of, the faster the track, the smaller the snare drum. - Right. - Right? So it sounds more aggressive. It speaks well when it's being played fast. - And it speaks quickly, which you need to get out of the way of the tempo of the song, right? - Right. - But if you have like a "ballady" thing, you can have a bigger, fatter, slower sounding drum. - Right. With more sustain and more decay. - And also, it gives you that low-end "thing" that you kind of want in that sort of track, right? - Right, and I also picked the darker cymbals because I think you'll be able to hear the drums better through the overheads.
So that way we won't have to EQ the overheads to compensate for the brightness of the cymbals. So these are all pretty dark. These are all hand-hammered Turkish cymbals. (strikes cymbals) - So now, not everyone has access to, you know, the Ross Garfield library of drums. So say they have one snare and one kick drum.
How can they achieve different tones and tambers out of that single set of drums to be more appropriate for whatever they're recording? - Right, so if you need a bigger sounding kick drum, and you have a smaller kick drum it's all about the heads, the tuning of the heads, and your muffling. That's where the art comes in. So what I would recommend is, probably starting with a thicker head on the kick drum. I like the Powerstroke 3 by Remo for the kick drums.
Either the clear if it's gonna be more rock, and the coated if it's gonna be more vintage. And at that point I tune the head pretty loose, and bring it down, it gives you a little bit more low-end on the kick drum. And then I'd probably put a blanket or a small pillow inside touching both the heads as a starting point. And that way you'll get a lower note out of the kick drum. And you know, you have to experiment a little bit. But you might be able to get what you're looking for. Same thing with the snare. If you have a standard snare that came with your drum set, you want to pick the right head for the track and then tune it appropriately.
If you want to make the drums sound deeper, obviously you're gonna loosen it down. And as you loosen it down, you're probably gonna have to muffle the head. So that will give you a lower snare drum sound with not too much ring. Because a lot of times when you loosen the head up, if you don't put some muffling on there you're gonna get some nasty ring as well. - Right, and in the cymbal department, it seems like a lot of people, you know, will record their live cymbals that are bright, and have kind of harsh overtones sometimes.
Is there anything you can do about that besides obviously picking thinner cymbals? - Well, if you're really stuck with cymbals that are too bright you can put duct tape on the cymbals as well. You can actually put a little bit of tape on each cymbal, and it will take some of the harshness away. It'll dry it up a little bit. - And in mic-ing, if you have these extra bright cymbals that are... that can be a little harsh, you use a little darker microphone and that will offset that problem to a certain degree.
- Working with a drum technician
- Choosing drums, cymbals, and heads
- Tuning drums
- Mic'ing the kick, snare, toms, and cymbals
- Placing room mics
- Creating a special sound with stunt mics