“Pichley episode may aapney dekha ke Bittu Drummer kis tareekey se Drum Recording ki tayyari kar raha tha. Lagataar practice karke ab woh Gear Problems ke shaitaan ka maqabla karne ke liye ready hai”
If you don’t understand Hindi, don’t bother reading what you’ve just read. Wait, not only is that ironic but it’s also a bit paradoxical. Anyway, in case you haven’t read Chapter I or wish to do a quick recap, here’s the link : http://indiandrummer.com/2012/06/22/drum-tracking-for-drummies-part-1/
Stage 4 : Gear guzzling (Also said ‘Can I be using your good drumz’)
- Please please please do NOT enter the studio with entry level cymbals. Paiste 201s are okay. Apart from a personal preference they actually sound pretty decent on a recording. No other entry level cymbals please !
- No dented/ torn/ used/ abused/ shot/ scratched skins.
- No cracked/ drilled/ warped/ survived-world-war/ been-run-over-by-a-hummer/ used-for-cooking/ damaged shells. Especially the toms, unless you like having your toms sounding like a walrus experiencing labour pains.
- No rusted/ clanky/ dangling/ squeaking/ vibrating/ rotating hardware. The squeaking might actually interfere with the click. Also please oil your pedals so they don’t sound like rats being stepped on.
- Now it’s very easy to say “This guy must be an ‘ameer baap ka ladka’ who has expensive gear”. Apart from the fact that I’ve gone for 3 years with just a pair of Paiste 402 hats, I’ve saved up and bought good gear. If however, you don’t have good gear, please feel free to borrow. I’m sure a friend of your friend’s neighbour’s third cousin’s father-in-law’s nephew will probably have some good equipment that he wouldn’t mind lending for a couple of days.
- If that doesn’t work, approach Keshav or Mohit from Furtados or Eben from Musicians Mall or Ashish from Bhargavas and they’ll help you out.
- Please always buy new skins. My personal preference – Evans EMAD2 on the kick, STDry on the snare and EC2 on the toms.
- Always have some Moongel at your disposal.
- If you can find someone who has a drum dial or tension watch and is willing to lend…great or else don’t bother.
-Your snare can make or break your kit. It’s advisable to have a couple of snare options. Don’t go hunting for another after you realize your “expensive” snare sounds like a “Navratri Dhol”.
- If you think you’re the Hulk and need to smash everything in sight, keep some spare cymbals.
- Lastly, don’t be a cheap ass and use 10 pairs of Chancellor drumsticks cause they cost 120 bucks. Instead, just buy 2-3 pairs of some nice Vic Firths. I don’t know if you know this, but your sticks can alter the sound of your kit. So please buy some good ones.
Here’s a video link of me describing the gear I used at Empire Studio for my Coshish recording :
Here’s a video link of me describing the gear I used at Promethean Studio for my Workshop Recording :
Stage 5 : Gear Collection (No witty substitute header here)
- Don’t leave gear collection for the last minute. I’ve actually got calls where the drummer says “Hey Hamza do you know where I can get a kit on rent. My recording starts in half an hour”. Start the process as soon as your date is confirmed.
- If you want to rent/borrow from Furtados, call at least 2-3 weeks in advance. Just so you know, they have an awesome Mapex Saturn with a Sledgehammer snare that they rent out for high profile gigs and recordings. Pester Mohit for a good deal.
- There’s generally a short supply of Evans drumheads because we cheap err I mean “price sensitive” Indian drummers never graduate from stock heads. Why would you expect Furtados to have the entire range? So when selecting skins, narrow down to two or three options and call Keshav to see if they’re in stock.
- Buy at least 4 pairs of sticks well before the recording date. You don’t want to go to a store to search for sticks while you’re being billed in the studio. And try sticking to a specific type of stick throughout the session. As mentioned earlier, sticks make quite a difference on the sound. Please don’t ever start a song with 2Bs and end it with 7As. Nothing can save that session. (PS I haven’t done most of the stupid things mentioned here. They’re just precautionary over exaggerations.) My recommendation for sticks – Vic Firth Danny Carey Signature Sticks. I hit HARD and I only used 1 pair!
- If you can’t buy an extra set of skins (this is only for you “kit destroyers”), keep an alternative ready, like your old skins for example.
I would strongly recommend you to use/buy one of these for your recording session –
14×7 Black Panther Phatbob 12mm Thick Maple
Product Demo :
14×6.5 Black Panther Sledgehammer 1.2mm Hand-hammered Brass
Product Demo :
Stage 6 : Tuning (Not to be mistaken with “Tun-ing” – the process of getting drunk)
- This is a 2 phase process – Tuning before you leave for the studio and tuning again after our lovely Indian roads mess up your tuning with all the pothole vibrations. I’m serious ! Try doing most of your tuning work at home and leave only minor touch ups for the studio. It’ll save studio time and also help in stretching the skins so they get detuned less frequently.
- Your skins should ideally remain on the shells overnight for the stretching to happen. There are several conflicting views regarding this. I kept them on over-night before the Workshop recording and not before Coshish’s. The toms seemed to get detuned a lot less during the Workshop session.
- Sometimes your kit might sound really nice at home but might not sound as good in the studio. Or it might not sound good in the recording room but might sound awesome in the control room. That’s where the genius of Chinmay Harshe comes in handy. Just hire him and your miking and tuning issues will be sorted.
- The room does make a difference to how your kit sounds. In fact even placing the kit in different parts of the room will make it sound different. Not so surprisingly, the drum mat that you use might also change the sound of the floor toms and the kick for obvious damping reasons.
- Unless your kit is really messed up, the toms won’t go terribly out of tune in between songs. If you take a break while tracking a song (which I would advise against), please come back and check the tuning with your earlier references or takes. In general always check the tuning before you begin tracking a song.
- There are a few ways to eliminate the buzzing of the snare when you hit the toms. The buzzing usually happens when either of the two skins on a tom, are tuned to the same note as either of the two skins on the snare. The extent of the buzz depends on the shells, the skins, the snare tension, the proximity of the notes that the skins are tuned to and also the extent of damping.
- There is no perfect way to eliminate the buzz. It’s all trial and error. You can limit it by tuning the snare and toms in context. Even then, if you have a 4 or 5 tom setup, one tom is bound to cause the snare to buzz. Leave it. It makes the kit sound a little more live. In fact, if you listen carefully, you can hear the buzz on Superior Drummer samples too.
- It can also be fixed or corrected to an extent, by your engineer or producer.
- Obviously the above pointers apply to “accepted levels” of buzzing. If you’re snare buzzes for 10 seconds like those buzzers on game shows, then you have a problem.
- I can’t get into details of how to avoid that, here. I’d suggest fooling around for a bit until you either get it or get frustrated. Then just change the snare and see if the problem persists. Notice how I prepared you for this situation that is considering you read this before and not after your recording debacle. Jokes apart, always keep at least a couple of extra snares.
- If you like your toms sounding deep, phat, lovely, resonant and warm, you might face the “Extended Tom Ring Syndrome”. This is where Moongel comes in handy. Even I love toms that ring forever but for practical purposes and mixing convenience, they shouldn’t. It’s a pain to mix them. So tune them till they sound awesome with a nice long ring, then stick some Moongel on to damp them just a bit. The placement of the Moongel in relation to the mic plays a very important role.
- Now in case you haven’t been using a pillow or an Evans EQ Pad to muffle the kick, you shouldn’t be in the studio to begin with. The extent of muffling depends on your shell construction, the skins, mic position, etc. My recommendation would be the Evans EMAD2 and 2 normal house pillows inside. Again, just tell the engineer what kind of kick you want and he’ll do the rest.
- If you’ve got loads of double kick parts, try tuning the skin to your “Comfort Tension Zone” and work around that to get the sound. If the kick sounds awesome but you can’t play your parts cause there’s no response, what’s the point ?
- E-rings are great for home use. If you want to use E-rings for a recording, buy new ones. If there’s a bend or dent, they’ll rattle. Moongel is a much safer bet.
- Lastly, the trick to tuning your cymbals is really simple. (This was actually a drummer’s idiot or intelligent test. If you thought ‘oh wow I didn’t know this’ – Idiot. If you thought ‘what rubbish, I’ve never heard of this’ – Intelligent)
Here’s a video link of my Drum Ensemble where I’ve used the toms to create a melody :
Tuning your toms to melodic intervals would really help if you have a lot of jungle grooves in your songs.
Here’s a video link of Aaron Edgar’s explanation of how the placement of Moongel affects the sound :
Here’s a video link showing some room effect, setup and tuning issues :
Stage 7 : Setting-up (Even though this takes a lot of time and effort, it still happens faster than an average woman getting ready for office)
- By now you should’ve got everything in place. You would’ve gone around collecting gear like Income Tax officials collecting returns, scrutinized the equipment, tuned the kit, dumped everything in a car and piled it all up in the recording room.
- Ideally this should all happen on the night before the recording.
- Try convincing the owner of the studio to let you setup and fine tune if possible. If he doesn’t agree, take him out for lunch and make it happen. Trust me, it helps. I set up and tuned my kit on the day of the Coshish recording and by the time we began tracking, I was almost dead. There was a factory dent on the floor tom head, we had tuning issues and all that got me really worked up. I learned from that experience and set everything up on the night before the Workshop recording. The next day we made a few quick turns on a few lugs and we were good for sound check.
- Now it’s a well-known industry fact, that the sound engineer is supposed to work around your setup, but you can make his job easier by keeping some distance between the snare and the hats, the toms and crashes, etc. If your kit is too concise, it might lead to some extra bleeding issues.
- If something is distracting you, get it out of the way.
- Once you’re done with soundcheck, use some Gaffa tape and tape the stands. Tape all of them, including mic stands.
- Just to be safe, click a picture of the kit so you remember the exact mic positions just in case you whack one of them (and you probably will).
- If you’ve got a high end kit, you probably have memory locks so you don’t have to waste time adjusting the hardware. If you don’t, then there’s a very simple technique you can use. Take a fat black (no racist stereotypical pun intended) permanent marker and draw 3 short lines across every joint. You can also do that to the angle clamps and the legs of stand stands. All you have to do is match the lines to get your hardware in place. You can do this to ball joints too.
- Finally, always have someone to help you with setting up your kit. I usually have my awesomistic cousin/drumtech Zain, to help me. When he’s not around, it’s quite a task. There are some awesome buggers like Kalidas Shenoy and Pritesh Prabhune who’ll come to help you out if you ask them politely. This applies to Mumbai Dholaks only. All you other “perkashinnists” need to find some other people to help you so you don’t need them to fill in for you because you have no strength left to play. Wow that was quite a statement.
- 2nd Finally, don’t clutter your kit. I know it feels awesome to have a huge kit and all but really…don’t. Set up only what you are going to use. If you’re using some extra cymbals or instruments in a certain song, track it first or last. Don’t keep adding and removing stuff because it can get a little annoying for the engineer. If you really must, add all the stuff you have, click a pic, upload it on Facebook and then take it all off. Considering uploading pics on Facebook means that much to you.
Here’s a video link showing the difficulties we had while setting up at Empire Studio for the Coshish recording :
Here’s a video link of me warming up at Empire Studio, just before the Coshish recording :
Well that’s all folks. You must’ve noticed that I’m getting deeper into details with each chapter. The aim of this series of articles is to give drummers who’ve never visited a studio, a feel of what the entire recording process is like. Drummers with experience might be able to relate to some of the experiences I’ve shared. It’s obvious that some drummers might have conflicting opinions about my techniques, so I’m open to suggestions/rants/abuses etc.
In the final chapter of “Drum Tracking for Drummies”, I’m going to reveal the secrets to the Holy Grail of Drums. With its powers you will have the potential to be an unstoppable pounding force! Stay tuned.
Thanks again for reading this. Until next time…
Check out Part 1 here : http://indiandrummer.com/2012/06/22/drum-tracking-for-drummies-part-1/
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Weapon of Destruction : Mapex Saturn , Paiste Signatures and Twentys , Vic Firth Danny Carey Signatures
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