Tag Archives for " drum sound "

Don’t Let Phase Cancellation Destroy Your Drum Sound

Checking phaseOne of the most important and overlooked aspects of drum miking is making sure that the mics are all in-phase. This is really important because with only one out-of-phase mic, the whole kit will never sound as big as it should, and if not corrected before all the drums are mixed together, might not be able to be fixed later. Here’s an excerpt from The Drum Recording Handbook 2nd edition (written with Dennis Moody) that looks at an important part of this issue.

“So just what is phase anyway? Without getting into a heavy explanation, it just means that all the microphones are pushing and pulling together. If one mic is pushing while another is pulling, they cancel each other out at certain frequencies.

There are two types of phasing problems that can happen – electronic and acoustic. An acoustic phasing problem occurs when two mics are close together and pick up the same signal at the same time, only one is picking it up a little later than the first because it’s a little farther away. That said, electronic phasing of the mics is just as important.

Why would there be an electronic phase problem? Most of the time it’s because a mic cable was mis-wired (either repaired incorrectly or originally wired incorrectly from the factory), or the microphone itself is sending a signal that’s out-of-phase from the other mics that your using. In other words, one mic is outputting a positive voltage on pin 2 of the XLR connector when the other mics are outputing negative on pin 2. This is something that was more prevalent in the days before XLR connections were standardized, so it’s not much of a problem now unless you’re using an old vintage mic.

Regardless of how it happens, there are two ways to check the electronic phase.

Checking Phase The Easy Way
There’s a very easy way to check mic phase. After you get a mix balance of the kit together, flip the phase selector (this is more accurately a “polarity” switch) on each mic channel one at a time either on your console or in the DAW. Leave it on the position that delivers the most low end. Do this on every mic in the kit (select the overhead and room mics in a pair, but check the left mic against the right as well).

Checking Phase The Slightly More Difficult Way
This method takes a bit more work, but you’ll know for sure if you have a mic cable that’s wired backwards. Also, you really have to have another person with you to make this work. It’s a two-man operation.

First you have to pick a mic and make it your “reference.” Any mic on the kit will do, but it’s easier to pick a mic that can easily come off the stand.

Now take your reference mic and put it next to another mic on the kit, say the kick drum mic, as in the graphic on the left. Make sure that each mic is at the exact same volume level (this is important!). Now have someone talk into the mic while you switch the phase selector on either the console or DAW. Again, choose the selection that sounds the fullest.

Do this to each microphone. Any channel that has it’s phase selector different from all the others has a mis-wired cable. Make sure you mark it so you don’t have the same problem again!”

You can read more from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

7 Tips For Improving Your Drum Sound

7 tips for improving your drum soundWhen it comes to your drum sound, sometimes the smallest details can make a big difference when you consider that there are usually multiple mics involved. Changing one thing can sometimes make a difference, but sometimes it’s the fact that many small adjustments have a cumulative effective on the overall sound. Here are 7 tips culled from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook 3rd edition that can individually or together improve your recorded drum sound.

1. Microphones aimed at the center of the drum will provide the most attack. For more body or ring, aim it more towards the rim.

2. The best way to hear exactly what the drum sounds like when doing a mic check is to have the drummer hit the drum about once per second so there’s enough time between hits to hear how long the ring is.

3. Try to keep any mics underneath the drums at a 90 degree angle to the mic on top to keep the acoustic phase shift to a minimum.

4. Most mics placed underneath the drums will be out of phase with the tops mics. Switch the polarity on your preamp, console or DAW and choose the position that has the most bottom end.

5. Try to keep all mics as parallel as possible to keep the acoustic phase shift to a minimum.

6. The main thing about mic placement on the drums is to place the mics in such a way where the drummer never has to be concerned about hitting them.

7. The ambient sound of the room is a big part of the drum sound. Don’t overlook using room mics where possible.

The above tips can generally apply to just about any drum miking setup, but remember to listen carefully after each adjustment to note the difference, if any, that occurs, then make sure it fits with the track.

You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

A Look At The Sound City Drum Sound

Sound City Drum SoundThere are some studios that have that magic sound for tracking drums, and the famed Sound City in Van Nuys, California was one. Every great sounding tracking room that I’ve ever been in has been a product of luck rather than design, and Sound City (which ha since closed) was no exception. The combination of a smooth reverb decay, a tailored frequency response, and finding just the right spot in the room makes all the difference.

Here’s an excerpt from Dave Grohl’s excellent Sound City film that talks specifically about the drum sound of the room. It features luminaries like Lindsay BuckinghamMick Fleetwood, Rick Rubin, Jim Keltner, and Keith Ohlsson, among others.

We can talk about microphone placement, mics and preamps all day, but in the end, it still all starts with the basics – a great drummer, good sounding drums, and a great room.

If you haven’t seen the Sound City movie, you’re really missing out. It’s one of the best music films going.