studio gurus - how did they get that sound

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ray R, Jun 27, 2001.

  1. Ray R

    Ray R Stunt Coordinator

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    I was enjoying the latest from Tool and was wondering how they got that kick ass drum sound. They have a fullness that makes them sound big and fat. How did they do it; EQ, compression, effects. I've read about using two mics for each drum and processing each channel differently and them mixing them back together to get a specific sound. Might this be what they did?
     
  2. Jay Cutler

    Jay Cutler Auditioning

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    Ray,
    It would be impossible to tell what techniques they used to create that sound as there are many, many ways to acheive different sounds. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to recording instruments. There are some techniques that will offer a fuller drum sound like placing one mic near the top head of the drum and another near the bottom head, and combining them in the mix. But it really depends on what the drum kit sounds like to begin with, and what you want the end result to be. Things like EQ, Gating, Compression, Reverb (or other effects), and of course the microphone itself can play a big part in achieving a certain sound too, but you need to start with a good source (Good, well tuned kit), to have the ability to attain the sound you're looking for.
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  3. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Ray,
    There really are no special "tricks" or tried and true shortcuts- otherwise every album would have excellent drum sounds.
    Some basic ideas are:
    1) Microphone selection. Having a knowledgable engineer with an encylopedic knowledge of microphone characteristics and uses- as well as having access to all possible microphones desired.
    2) Drum doctoring. Nothing is more important than having a good drum tech who can tune and set-up drums well. If the kit doesn't sound great at the source, it simply won't sound great on the tape.
    3) Microphone placement. Again, an under-appreciated and misunderstood science and art. Even on budget recordings I usually spend 4+ hours on mic'ing a drum set to get what I want.
    4) Nice sounding room to record in. Some production techniques use all kinds of sonic trickery to create the sound of a good drummer in a nice sounding room- I find it's much easier to put a good drummer in a nice sounding room.
    But, the Tool album certainly didn't employ any new space aged techniques- heck most recording technique is, at its core, the same as it was 20-30 years ago.
    And to be honest- I actually disliked the Tool drum sound on this record (dislike is a strong word, it simply didn't excite me)- a little too produced in my estimation- excessive use of effects on what is probably an excellent sounding dry kit. Decent tone, but a lot of the low and low mid is a bit trumped up (wouldn't be suprised to find out they doubled the toms with triggered samples).
    There is certainly a mild use of compression (either it was a very conservative use or the compressors are just damn good cause the compression SOUNDS subtle), gating, quite a bit of EQ (but this is not a rarity- every drum on every album you've ever heard was Eq'd- it's just a question of how well) and there is a not-so-subtle application of effects (mostly verb, which probably came off of a lexicon unit and is IMHO excessive).
    I'm a big fan of engineers rather than producers. Although neither job really has a clear description anymore- I see the engineering trade as one of trying to "capture" a sound of an instrument and a performance- while the production aspect more attempts to "create" a specific sound or performance.
    In this case, the record was "produced". Nothing really wrong with that- especially considering how "produced" the songwriting and even the packaging is. Call me old fashioned, but I'm still a sucker for a great, to the point song, recorded in a way to "capture" the sound of a band performing. I can do without 10 minute rock songs (with 7 minutes of filler), sonic segues, endless background whisper tracks, 34 guitar tracks and 3 phase holographic artwork. Guess that's why I still find Undertow the best tool album.
    Sylvia Massey recorded many of the drums on Undertow with $60 SM57s, and I still think it serves the band and the record well.
    -Vince
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  4. Ray R

    Ray R Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the info. I've recently started working the sound for a garage band and I'm starting to notice the little things a lot more.
    Vince,
    No 10 minute songs with 7 minutes of filler. [​IMG]
    The album is definately "produced", but Tool has some credability with me since they can pull off acceptable live versions of their songs. Since there seems to be a lot of dynamics still left in most of the songs, am I correct in assuming that compression on entire songs was used more sparingly than is typically used now days?
     
  5. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    quote: No 10 minute songs with 7 minutes of filler.[/quote]
    Certainly this was just my opinion. Tool takes many many "words" to illustrate a point. Case in point, rotations in tools songs (let's say they go 8 measues and then repeat; that would be a rotation)- they have a recent tendency to execute 10-20 rotations of a part that could have easily been 4 and illustrated the same musical point.
    The worst part is that a lot of the "extra rotations" are probably pro tools cut and paste jobs- so the band didn't even really nail the roatation 10 times, rather once or twice and then repeated with technology.
    A fine axample of, in my opinion, wasted space is the ending of Parabola. Parabola is probably the best song on the record- yet after a tight and well executed performance for the first 4-5 minutes, it degenerates into distorted bass noise for another 2-3.
    This type of thing appeals to some, I imagine, but just not myself. I've never been a fan of "prog rock", and tool creeps closer and closer to prog rock with each release. Bloated and unpassionate wank fests tend to be the end result- complexity for complexity sake.
    I believe it was Rene Decartes who once prefaced a letter to a friend by saying something along the lines of "I apologize for the excessive length of this letter, if I would have had more time- it would have surely been shorter."
    That's the way I feel about this type of thing- refinement is a very important step. We have an unfortunate attitude that "more is always better"- more is up. This is not always true, sometimes elegance and restraint are more powerful virtues.
    quote: Since there seems to be a lot of dynamics still left in most of the songs, am I correct in assuming that compression on entire songs was used more sparingly than is typically used now days?[/quote]
    Dynamics is, of course, a relative term. Tool certainly isn't as bad with the limiting as many other artists- but when the average song is actually into the "song" portion (as oppose to some sound effects intro or segue) it pretty much has about a 6-8db dynamic range. Hardly a giant range, but certainly not as bad as it could be. If you were to rip a tool song and play it back an monitor the vu meter- you'd find that they very very rarely drop below -6db- so some use of post limiting was certainly used.
    -Vince
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    http://www.musicianassist.com
    AIM: VinceMaskeeper
    "If you want everything to be cheap then you're in the wrong hobby." -Rob Gillespie
    "we are phallus of the musical genitalia" Face Whores by GT3K . This is the best song I have ever heard- Download it RIGHT NOW!
     
  6. FredHD

    FredHD Stunt Coordinator

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    Ray said:
     
  7. Elliott Willschick

    Elliott Willschick Second Unit

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    I would have to disagree on the fact that a CD should represent the sound a band produces live. IMHO the studio is also an instrument which should be used however the band sees fit. A perfect example is Nine Inch Nails. Most of the songs cannot be done live but rather "interpretations" of them are played. Why limit yourself to the sounds of a certain instrument when you can use the studio to change it? I would understand if the producer used the studio to arrange the songs in a fashion similar to pan and scan versus widescreen but this is different.
     
  8. John_Bonner

    John_Bonner Supporting Actor

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    As far as recording drums, Neil Peart of Rush has microphones taped to his body to get tracks of what the drums sound like from his perspective. I've always liked Neil's drum "sound" even when he switches drum companies (Tama, Ludwig, etc).
    Carter Beauford of Dave Matthews Band also has an excellent drum sound.
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