Cymbals Eat Snare

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Colorblind
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Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by Colorblind » Mon Aug 24, 2020 6:30 pm

I've been battling this recurring issue for quite awhile now, and I'm wondering if anyone here has dealt with the same thing. Snare drum sounds great when played by itself, or when the drummer is playing closed hi-hats or riding the floor tom. Nice and big and open. As soon as he opens up the hats or goes to a cymbal, the snare sounds choked and small. This doesn't happen with all drummers, but a good number, all with varying levels of control, let's say. My room is about 27'L x 16W with 8.5' ceilings. Treated with broadband absorption but not completely dead sounding.

One theory I have is that the open hats and cymbals are filling the room and/or masking the frequencies of the snare drum's decay, but it's odd that it doesn't happen with all drummers in that case. Another possibility is that they're hitting harder on those prechoruses and choruses where the hats open up and or they go to the cymbal, and maybe that's choking the snare a bit? I had a drummer in last weekend and the same thing was happening. He hits pretty consistently, and is able to tone down his cymbal bashing upon request, but it didn't seem to help much in this case. The weird thing is, I used the same kit and same mic setup (torn down between sessions) for the 2 previous drummers, and I didn't seem to have this problem.

In case it's useful, the mic setup was:

Kick in - Audix D6
Kick out - homemade subkick
Snare top - Beyer m201
Snare bottom - Shure SM7b
Rack - Sennheiser 421
Floor - Sennheiser 421
OHs - Dany Bouchard U87 clones
Room - Mojave MA200
Trash mic - Old EV something-or-other

The snare is a 14 x 6.5 black beauty.

Anyone else have similar experiences? Would love to hear any suggestions/workarounds.

C

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markjazzbassist
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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by markjazzbassist » Mon Aug 24, 2020 6:47 pm

are the cymbals super washy? what cymbals/hats are being used? i had a drummer that played these paiste dark energy something or others and they were the washiest cymbals i've ever heard they drowned out everything. i hated them.

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:07 pm

It's either the drummers not hitting the snare hard enough relative to the cymbals, or it's crappy cymbals.

Open hats and riding on a crash will both eat the snare (and everything else in the mix) if not done well, you really need to be pretty gentle with both to have it come out sounding right, especially once the compression gets piled on.

You can definitely choke a snare hitting it too hard, but if they're hitting that hard, they'd have to be wailing equally hard on the hats/cymbals for them to still eat the snare.

If you're having a tough time getting a good sound out of a black beauty I blame the drummers.

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by digitaldrummer » Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:08 pm

is this the snare track solo'ed or happening in the mix? if in the mix, then start checking phase relationship between pairs of mics. or if it really is drummer technique, try different cymbals or a different snare (of course too late now...). or what about adding a snare sample (trigger, drumagog, etc.)?
Last edited by digitaldrummer on Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by losthighway » Mon Aug 24, 2020 8:54 pm

Drummer technique is like 90% of the problem. It really clicks into focus when you record a rock drummer who plays in a bombastic/energetic way but they have the right touch where the snare pops no matter what cymbal they play and they kind of excite the cymbals, they don't bash them.

But we all have to record drummers who aren't ideal and make the best of it. While there isn't a golden ticket fix, there are several things that can add up to help:

* In the recording process *
- Coach the drummer, play some stuff and explain what goes on when they hit the open hats like a ding dong. I usually tell them to try and play the snare medium hard and the hats fairly light. You don't want to coach someone into drumming in a way that messes up their head, but in general slightly lighter drumming, even in aggressive rock music can make everything sound paradoxically more punchy and aggressive.
- Have some dark vintage hats, or at least some less brittle sounding ones on hand
- Reset the clutch so the hats are a little closer together when they're playing

* In the mix *
- Gating. There are a lot of little things you can do to not make gating sound weird. I prefer working with my drawmer hardware gate, but maybe there are plugins that interact similarly. I often like either a parallel gate so you hear some of the hash underneath from the unaffected track, or bringing the floor of the signal up from the hard cut/infinity setting to something moderate maybe minus 10 db. I sometimes like sending a trigger signal that's a copied snare track a few ms before the real one, then I can play with the attack and release and make sure it's ready to fully open up in time for the real snare sound.
- Compression. Sometimes you can do a trick Joel Hamilton shared on here back in the day when all of the cool Brooklyn studio folks were more active around here. This trick is a little easier on a room mic, i.e. something less vital than the snare mic, more complimentary, but it can be a better shade of gray in parallel. Set a compressor to a low ratio, maybe 2:1, set the threshold really stinking low so it's just crushing everything. Then set the attack so it's really slow, like there's no way it would clamp down in time to catch the snare. Then set the release to something kind of medium. Playing with the settings there you can usually get it so the compressor is always doing heavy gain reduction, but isn't fast enough to catch the attack and short decay of a typical snare sound.
- Reamping. Gate the shit out of the snare so it's basically a pulse of the attack. Eq it dark, cut out any extra cymbal garbage you can. Send it through a PA speaker, or a guitar amp pointed into the top head of a snare, or snares. Play around with placing the mic as a room mic, or mid distance, or pretty close. I usually like to point it towards the shell of the drum so it's not getting much of the amped sound. Typically the reamped snare doesn't sound so much like a whole new snare track played by hand, but an added mid distance mic, or often more of the sound of the under snare mic. This can take all, or some of the place of a bottom mic, but now minus any hi hat swish. It's always a bit of a journey as the eq of what you send to the amp, the settings on the gate, the placement of the mic, the blend in the mix, the phase relationship.... it's a ton of variables. But it often adds another layer of snare color and volume that doesn't have all the hi hat crap on it and can bring the presence somewhere else.

None of this eliminates the problem, but a lot of it can mitigate it significantly. The problem I find is once I hate someone's hi hats in a mix, my ear still focuses on them even when they're not much of a problem anymore. When you A/B mixes you're never going to get a magic wand, "Ah, the hi hats are barely there now and everything sounds perfect," kind of satisfaction. More "I've been listening to this too long, but it seems to have a better balance."

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by Colorblind » Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:17 am

markjazzbassist wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 6:47 pm
are the cymbals super washy? what cymbals/hats are being used? i had a drummer that played these paiste dark energy something or others and they were the washiest cymbals i've ever heard they drowned out everything. i hated them.
The cymbals did seem pretty washy, yeah. 14" Zildjian new beat hats, some kind of 20" or 21" crash (about which I remember commenting that it sounded like a machine shop), and a 20" or 22" zildjian K ride.
MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:07 pm
It's either the drummers not hitting the snare hard enough relative to the cymbals, or it's crappy cymbals.

Open hats and riding on a crash will both eat the snare (and everything else in the mix) if not done well, you really need to be pretty gentle with both to have it come out sounding right, especially once the compression gets piled on.

You can definitely choke a snare hitting it too hard, but if they're hitting that hard, they'd have to be wailing equally hard on the hats/cymbals for them to still eat the snare.

If you're having a tough time getting a good sound out of a black beauty I blame the drummers.
The drummer from the week before had a much lighter touch, and the snare sounded great. I did have to coach him to hit the toms a little harder, but it worked out. The drummer last week plays rim shots on the snare almost exclusively. That alone was choking the snare, even without playing anything else, so we lowered it a couple of inches and had him just focus on consistently hitting the center of the drum. That worked until he opened the hats/went to the cymbal.
digitaldrummer wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:08 pm
is this the snare track solo'ed or happening in the mix? if in the mix, then start checking phase relationship between pairs of mics.


Pretty much only in the mix. Forgot to mention I had a transient designer on the snare top mic, to try and give it a bit more life. Phase seems pretty good in general, but if it were a phase issue wouldn't it be apparent consistently throughout the track, not just in certain sections?
losthighway wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 8:54 pm
Drummer technique is like 90% of the problem. It really clicks into focus when you record a rock drummer who plays in a bombastic/energetic way but they have the right touch where the snare pops no matter what cymbal they play and they kind of excite the cymbals, they don't bash them.

But we all have to record drummers who aren't ideal and make the best of it. While there isn't a golden ticket fix, there are several things that can add up to help:

* In the recording process *
- Coach the drummer, play some stuff and explain what goes on when they hit the open hats like a ding dong. I usually tell them to try and play the snare medium hard and the hats fairly light. You don't want to coach someone into drumming in a way that messes up their head, but in general slightly lighter drumming, even in aggressive rock music can make everything sound paradoxically more punchy and aggressive.
- Have some dark vintage hats, or at least some less brittle sounding ones on hand
- Reset the clutch so the hats are a little closer together when they're playing

* In the mix *
- Gating. There are a lot of little things you can do to not make gating sound weird. I prefer working with my drawmer hardware gate, but maybe there are plugins that interact similarly. I often like either a parallel gate so you hear some of the hash underneath from the unaffected track, or bringing the floor of the signal up from the hard cut/infinity setting to something moderate maybe minus 10 db. I sometimes like sending a trigger signal that's a copied snare track a few ms before the real one, then I can play with the attack and release and make sure it's ready to fully open up in time for the real snare sound.
- Compression. Sometimes you can do a trick Joel Hamilton shared on here back in the day when all of the cool Brooklyn studio folks were more active around here. This trick is a little easier on a room mic, i.e. something less vital than the snare mic, more complimentary, but it can be a better shade of gray in parallel. Set a compressor to a low ratio, maybe 2:1, set the threshold really stinking low so it's just crushing everything. Then set the attack so it's really slow, like there's no way it would clamp down in time to catch the snare. Then set the release to something kind of medium. Playing with the settings there you can usually get it so the compressor is always doing heavy gain reduction, but isn't fast enough to catch the attack and short decay of a typical snare sound.
- Reamping. Gate the shit out of the snare so it's basically a pulse of the attack. Eq it dark, cut out any extra cymbal garbage you can. Send it through a PA speaker, or a guitar amp pointed into the top head of a snare, or snares. Play around with placing the mic as a room mic, or mid distance, or pretty close. I usually like to point it towards the shell of the drum so it's not getting much of the amped sound. Typically the reamped snare doesn't sound so much like a whole new snare track played by hand, but an added mid distance mic, or often more of the sound of the under snare mic. This can take all, or some of the place of a bottom mic, but now minus any hi hat swish. It's always a bit of a journey as the eq of what you send to the amp, the settings on the gate, the placement of the mic, the blend in the mix, the phase relationship.... it's a ton of variables. But it often adds another layer of snare color and volume that doesn't have all the hi hat crap on it and can bring the presence somewhere else.

None of this eliminates the problem, but a lot of it can mitigate it significantly. The problem I find is once I hate someone's hi hats in a mix, my ear still focuses on them even when they're not much of a problem anymore. When you A/B mixes you're never going to get a magic wand, "Ah, the hi hats are barely there now and everything sounds perfect," kind of satisfaction. More "I've been listening to this too long, but it seems to have a better balance."
Lots of great stuff for me to try here. I totally know what you mean about getting to a point where it starts to mess with the drummer's head. That snare reamp trick sounds interesting - really gotta try that one too.

Thanks y'all.

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by digitaldrummer » Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:28 am

phase is phase, but amplitude is a factor. if you have 2 signals 180 deg out of phase they won't really effectively cancel each other out unless they are the same amplitude (volume). so I would check the problem areas first. solo a pair of mics and flip phase on one (the snare for example) and if you end up finding something that sounds better, then check the other (non bashing) parts - you may not notice the difference there as much. and it may be totally drummer technique and this may not help at all, but worth checking I think.
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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by floid » Tue Aug 25, 2020 7:18 am

Stick choice can help - assuming you can convince the drummer.
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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by Calaverasgrande » Tue Aug 25, 2020 8:09 am

Some drummers just whack the cymbals too damn hard. And honestly it is hard to advise a drummer to not do this because it can end up monkeying with their timing, making them sound hesitant or wooden.
What I did a lot when recording punk rock or metal drummers is just throw away the idea of overheads and just mic the ride.
So much damn cymbal wash will be getting reflected off the toms and snare into the mics that adding more cymbals with overheads will make it an uphill battle.
I'd also give the snare a low mid, or mid bass bump to get it to poke through consistently. And maybe mic the high hat with something atypical like an M201 or ATM63 just to get a midrange kind of chik that is lower than the peak on the snare.
I'm surprised that the 201 isn't giving you enough of a deep pocket snare sound. That is one of my favorite all time dynamics and it has excellent side rejection.
It also occurs to me that drum tuning could be the criminal here.
It is not uncommon for even very talented drummers to have shit ideas about drum tuning.
Guy I was in a band with for years tuned his drums for feel, not tone. Most of the time when we recorded the guy would suggest he try another snare.
IT really makes a difference going from that awful piccolo snare sound that thin snare drums get to a deeper beefier snare sound. Though thin snares do cut more in a live setting.

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Tue Aug 25, 2020 9:29 am

Colorblind wrote:
Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:17 am
The drummer last week plays rim shots on the snare almost exclusively. That alone was choking the snare
Yeah, they're doing it wrong. Either hitting way too hard or leaving the stick on the head after the strike, or both.

Lots of good advice in losthighway's post!

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by Magnetic Services » Tue Aug 25, 2020 10:03 am

Sidechain? Or, next time you track, choose cymbals and a snare that complement each other.

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by Colorblind » Tue Aug 25, 2020 10:05 am

Yep, lots of great stuff here. Upon further investigation and checking phase, I'm pretty sure it was a lack of consistency when he was hitting the snare. Hitting it harder when the hats open up, etc. It's not as noticeable on the snare top mic, probably because the transient designer was smoothing things out there. I definitely expect some variance in how hard the drum gets hit, but I guess I'm just surprised at how unforgiving the snare seems to be in that regard. Unless, as MSE suggested, maybe he was just hitting too hard or resting the stick on the drum afterwards.

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Tue Aug 25, 2020 10:27 am

Assuming it's tuned right, a black beauty oughta be all sorts of forgiving for a very wide dynamic range.

A good drummer who knows how to play in the studio will hit the snare really consistently and it won't matter what their other hand is doing, the kit will still sound balanced, the snare will still cut through.

It's easy to blame the drummers but to be fair, this is something that needs to be learned and practiced. It's not really reasonable to expect a young drummer who's never recorded before to know this, and if you're not used to hitting the hats/cymbals 1/10th as hard as you're hitting the snare, your hands aren't going to magically start doing this cause the engineer suggested it.

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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by digitaldrummer » Tue Aug 25, 2020 11:16 am

:^: what MSE said... playing a "gig" and playing in the studio are not always the same (but depends on the music of course). and not every drummer can do both well. And maybe as suggested, more mics, or atypical mics could help in a situation like this too (some people like 57's on the hihat too. never understood it, but...)
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Re: Cymbals Eat Snare

Post by roscoenyc » Tue Aug 25, 2020 3:02 pm

My buddy the late Lou Whitney (interviewed in issue 98 of Tape Op by Vance Powell) had a studio in Springfield, MO
and he had to pretty much take everybody that came in so in addition to working with a lot of national bands (Wilco, Dave Alvin, Robbie Fulks) he
recorded a whole lot of local bands too. https://tapeop.com/interviews/98/lou-whitney/

He had one thing that he'd do with a drummer who probably hadn't done a lot of sessions.
He'd ask the guy to bring in his favorite sort of mainstream record.
Before they listened he'd ask the guy how many times the drummer hit a crash.
Then he'd give the drummer a legal pad and a pencil and have him make a hash mark every time the guy on the record hit a crash.
It was almost universally an eye opener when the drummer realized his favorite drummer on his favorite record hit the crash cymbals about one third as much as he had thought.

Someone above mentioned 'stick choice'.
That's huge too. Listen to the difference between nylon tips and wood sticks sometime. That's drastic. Nylon might work for a gig but the guy needs to know he's in the studio and he's gonna be "hooked up".

One time I was recording a drummer with those multi rod things and I was amazed at how big the kick and snare sounded.
I realized it was more about the fact that there was way less volume coming from the cymbals.
Of course you most likely don't want somebody playing rods on a rock and roll track but some lighter sticks will
definitely bring down the volume of the cymbals. Keep some light 'jazz sticks' on hand.

One more thing on the "hooked up" side.
If you have time to show the drummer what his kit will sound like After He's Hooked Up in the mix (compression and all that) that can
help a guy understand what you are trying to do and show him how he may not need to bash that stuff for it to come through on the record.

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