the recording of “drumtape b”

Since a few months ago I enjoy recording instruments directly to tape. Especially drums. I mix them down with a simple mixer and then go back and forth between playing and listening until I like the settings and then record a “tape” of about 20-30 minutes.

For the recording of “drumtape b” I used an experimental recording setup with 4 microphones and a minimal drumkit. In recording these drumtapes, I don’t focus on perfect or correct sound, but instead on color, interesting effects and unique character. I am using these recordings in my own music, sampling them, chopping them, like you would usually do with found samples. Both sound as well as rhythm can be totally out and experimental and will give a fruitful ground for composing.

"drumtape b" recording kit and setup

“drumtape b” recording kit and setup and goodies

Recording equipment

  • mics: Shure SM 57 (snare), DIY sub kick (8“), 2 Octava MK-012 cardioid (hihat, room)
  • preamps: SPL GoldMike (mk1)
  • recording medium: audio cassette, Denon DRM-650S tape recorder (Dolby S NR)

Drumkit

  • pearl masters custom snare (14“)
  • pearl mmx bass drum (22“)
  • sabian hhx evolution hihat (14“)
  • zildjian constantinople low ride (20“)
  • meinl ching ring (on hihat or ride)
  • various tambourines, muffling, bean stick (see picture)

Setup

The mics were setup such that the SM 57 was on the snare, the sub kick on the bass drum (2 cm in front, a little off-center). The first octava was positioned directly above the hihat, tilted away from the snare, the second octava was about 2 meters away from the drumkit on the side or the ride cymbal, looking down on the snare, across the drumkit.

The two octavas were fed into the SPL preamp, with the room mic being boosted way more than the hihat mic. In the mixer, the octavas were panned hard left/right, the snare and kick mics were dead-center. Levels were set such that the kick was loud enough without being boomy, the snare pretty high in volume and the cymbals filling just so that the effect of the close mics was not too prominent.

Playing/Gadgets

In recording this drumtape I put the focus on out-of-tempo and out-of-rhythm breaks, with an emphasis on modded sounds: various toys like tambourines, shirts, percussion objects were placed on top of snare, hihat and ride. Especially the Meinl Ching Ring turned out to be a great tool, giving the ride a really smoky appearance as well as lending the hihat nice jingle effects with foot or hard stick playing.

Here, the snare is muffled with a t-shirt, the ching ring is on the hihat and the ride is being played with broad shaft instead of tip. The hihat is played with foot in a pretty loose way, commenting the whole beat outside of the meter.

Putting the african bean-stick on the hihat and a heart with mini copper (?) jingle bells on the snare lend a pretty funky, crushed sound to nr. 11. Playing on top of the beans without them falling off the hihat was challenging, but worth it! Snappy, funky!

Another nice surprise was the tambourine on snare drum, lending every little ghost note a little sparkle and muffling the snare in a pretty unique fashion.

The ride deserves a special mention on this recording. In order to get a washed-out and undefined stick stroke on the ride, next to the mic setup, I played it with the shaft of the stick, held at the butt, really low and almost parallel to the surface. This gave it a ton of wash and the snare and kick project really well through those kinds of sections. The Meinl Ching ring inhibited the ride from building up too much and added an even more muffled, lo-fi quality to it. Must be sweet with some bitcrushing on it!

Review

In the end, the recording sounds a little too close, the kick having a bit too little attack and too much low-end and the snare suffering a bit from the proximity effect. The hihat was the lucky winner, sounding really crisp and tight. The ride, not being mic’ed directly wins from a really lush and soft sound. All in all an old-school sound, pretty closed in, in need of some reverb and maybe compression. Bringing out the attack of the kick will require quite some work. The room mic was usually too low in level and could have been more prominent, but then it would be lending a pretty off-axis tilt to the kit, especially snare and kick.

On the plus side, the muting of the snare and modding of hihat and ride caused really colorful and unique sounds, which will probably sound pretty sweet with some more room sound.

In another post I’ll be looking at tricks to work with stereo drum tracks, targetting snare, kick or hats separately.

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