Who records drums without compression?

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inverseroom
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Who records drums without compression?

Post by inverseroom » Sat Apr 10, 2004 11:28 am

Well, I do, for one. I'm new to recording drums, and tried a bunch of things over the past few weeks--different mics, mic positions, and compression options. I've settled, for now, on C1 on toms, 57 on the snare shell, MK012 as an overhead (I don't use a kick!), with some reverb on the condensors, and no compression at all. I overload the pres a bit to put some hair on the signal, and record cymbals separately (as I mentioned in another thread).

Maybe it's because I've only got an RNC, but I couldn't get it to give me the qualities compression is supposed to give drums (extra snap, midrange crunch, etc.)--the only way I got the sound I wanted was by moving stuff around. I'm certainly glad for that--but what kind of compression effects am I missing out on? Anything I ought to try to find new sounds?

I just ordered an Alesis Smashup, by the way & hope to get some wild shit on the cheap out of it...

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by chris harris » Sat Apr 10, 2004 12:05 pm

if you're overloading the pre's, then you are in a way using compression!

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by joeysimms » Sat Apr 10, 2004 12:09 pm

ya, mine drums are compressed the old fashioned way, i.e., slammed to tape. The room I track in is small and not the greatest sounding, so unless I wanted a special effect, I figure compressing to tape will bring even more of the room into the sound.
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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by mjau » Sat Apr 10, 2004 12:14 pm

I bought a smashup, and used it as a bus compressor for some drums - it can be wicked. Definitely an effect compressor, and cheap at that.
As far as comping goes on drums...I love to hear natural sounding drums. Maybe that's because I've gotten so used to hearing squashed drums for so long, that uncomped drums sound nice and new to me. Everytime my fiancee puts in some Norah Jones, I realize that uncomped, tuned drums in a nice room are one of the most beautiful things to record and listen to.

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by Bear » Sat Apr 10, 2004 12:17 pm

I don't. But I don't compress much of anything beyond bass and the occasional vocal.
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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by cgarges » Sat Apr 10, 2004 1:21 pm

Man, am I glad that there are some people who don't just do this automatically. If a band comes to me and wants their project to sound like "X band" on the radio, I will probably print a bit of compression to tape, because it helps them achieve the sound they're after. Otherwise, I first consider the sound and style of the band, the way the drummer plays in the room, and then, what the kit sounds like in the control room. Only after making decisions based on that do I even patch any compressors in line. Lately, I've been doing lead vocal tracks without compression. Wow, livin' on the edge!

It's funny. After doing a few back-to-back sessions with some reeally great drummers lately, I'm realizing that it really is the better players who benefit most from the way compression SOUNDS. A good drummer, who plays consistently, will make a compressor react the same way with each note. This is when I start hearing the compressor as part of the sound. If a drummer isn't consistent, a compressor can be used to make the dynamic LEVEL more consistent, but the tone often changes more dramatically because of how the envelope of the signal if affected by the onset of compression.

Anyone else notice this, too? I've been sort of fighting this for years but it I've been really giving it some thought as of late.

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by joeysimms » Sat Apr 10, 2004 1:26 pm

That's a brilliant take on this topic Chris! Especially the part about making the compressor react the same way with each note.
It's funny. After doing a few back-to-back sessions with some reeally great drummers lately, I'm realizing that it really is the better players who benefit most from the way compression SOUNDS. A good drummer, who plays consistently, will make a compressor react the same way with each note. This is when I start hearing the compressor as part of the sound. If a drummer isn't consistent, a compressor can be used to make the dynamic LEVEL more consistent, but the tone often changes more dramatically because of how the envelope of the signal if affected by the onset of compression.
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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by cgarges » Sat Apr 10, 2004 1:29 pm

joeysimms wrote:That's a brilliant take on this topic Chris! Especially the part about making the compressor react the same way with each note.
Thanks. It's a topic that is near and dear to my heart. So, I take it that's a "yes" from you?

Chris

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by joel hamilton » Sat Apr 10, 2004 1:31 pm

I wind up with just one mic or a pair of room mics getting compressed to tape, but even that is on a case by case basis. If I am NOT going to be the person that is mixing the project, I will barely lick the OH or the room/s.

If I am going straight to HD, I wind up using a bit more, as nothing "magic" is going to happen between the pre and the converters...

IMHO, if something sounds shitty because of compressing, it is either you or the wrong compressor for the job. Just my opinion.

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by @?,*???&? » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:03 pm

Unless I need to control a snare drum drag beat or something, I'll never track with compression. That said, I'll usually use at least some limiting with a couple 1176s across the room mics. Pay attention to what the snare drum is playing in the song or if there is some cymbal work that might require it. Those are usually your keys as to whether you should be using it as you commit tracks to tape (or hard drive).

Remember too, compression is something you do in small increments at many different stages- and rarely is something you do all at once with one great big smasher of a setting. This ALWAYS yields the best result.

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by cgarges » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:09 pm

Joel Hamilton wrote:IMHO, if something sounds shitty because of compressing, it is either you or the wrong compressor for the job. Just my opinion.
Here's a thought:

A drummer is playing a rock tune. Everyone agrees that an attack-heavy kick drum sound is appropriate. You set level to tape based on peaks. You notice that the drummer's kick drum in say, the verse, is varying between -6 and -18 (we'll use a digital scale for the example). The -6 notes sound great, because the force of the beater hitting the drum is just GIVING away all the attack you're after, between the actual sound of the drum, how the mic's reacting, and how the mic signal is just starting to distort your preamp. ROCK! But, the -18 notes sound wimpy. So, you patch in your favorite kick drum compressor. Now, the meters are reading a shorter scale, but the attack is all over the place and the levels are about the same. Now, it may just be me, but to my ears, that sounds really weird.

So say you're one of the lucky individuals who has access to an LA-22 or a BSS unit or something of the like. So, you patch that in, set it up to bring down the GOBS of 2k now further accentuated by 10dB or so of reduction from your compressor. You then patch in ANOTHER compressor to kind of reign everything in and give it some consistency. You then add back in some 3-5k to give it the attack-heavy sound you were after initially. At this point, you have a MEGA compressed kick drum sound with phase issues because of all the bleed because this light-footed drummer happens to have a love for the washy ride cymbal placed about a foot and a half above his kick drum. So you insert your handy frequency-dependent expander/gate. Your kick drum signal is now few milliseconds later than it was originally, so you have to check your phase relationships again. All this to change the way the instrument sounded in the room.

Once you've done all this (over the course of the band's $1500 budget for the 12 songs they wanted to get done), the drummer sounds like a super-genius and walks away from the project thinking that he played great on it. Some local club owners hear the demo, thinking the band is great, hire them, and then get pissed when everyone leaves their club because of the shitty band the club didn't know they were booking.

It's sort of an extreme example, but just more of the ramblings in my head lately.

And of course, not to get on you Joel, but just some things to think about.

Chris

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by cgarges » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:11 pm

Jeff Robinson wrote:Remember too, compression is something you do in small increments at many different stages- and rarely is something you do all at once with one great big smasher of a setting. This ALWAYS yields the best result.
Ch-Ching!

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by inverseroom » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:22 pm

Joel Hamilton wrote:IMHO, if something sounds shitty because of compressing, it is either you or the wrong compressor for the job. Just my opinion.
Well, sure--I'm a shitty drummer, an inexperienced engineer, and AM using the wrong compressor! But it didn't sound like shit--it just didn't sound like what I was after. The RNC is perfect for transparent level maintenance on vocals or synths, though. If I had an 1176 I'm sure I'd find some good sounds! As it is, I wanted to accentuate what few good things there are about my drumming--energy, lo-fi ambiance, heads tuned the way I like them. A bit of distortion is doing the trick for now. I will, however, fuck things up with the Smashup when it arrives.

Chris and Jeff, thanks a lot. God knows I wouldn't want to use my gadgetry to fool club owners into thinking I could actually play the drums. Or multitracking in general to fool them into thinking I was more than one guy...

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by cgarges » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:47 pm

Sorry for the hijack/detour.
inverseroom wrote:God knows I wouldn't want to use my gadgetry to fool club owners into thinking I could actually play the drums.
I bring this up because I was actually asked about this by a club's booking agent one time at a show by a shitty band. Since then, I've been giving this A LOT of thought.

I've always tried to make recordings that I thought sounded like the band on a good night, but since then, I've sort of made that resolve a bit stronger. Not solely because of that comment, but because of the thoughts it provoked.

Why is it that so many freaking bands all sound the same these days? Maybe it's got something to do with lots of people wanting to follow a "successful formula." This can mean how to write sings, how to perform, what gear to perform on, how to record, what gear to record in on, how to dress, how to market, etc.

People often talk about how much "character" older bands and recordings had. There was a great newspaper article (I think in the Boston Globe) when John Entwhistle died about how no one can really name specific band members anymore. I mean, how many people know who John, Paul, George, and Ringo are? How about Robert, Jimmy, John Paul, and John? How about Sting, Stewart, and Andy? Okay, try this one: Hell, I can't even think of a good example! Name some Clear Channel wonder band that your mother could identify by the members' first names. How many of you know the name of the original bassist for Creed? I sure as hell don't, but I can name a good list of people who were members of but never even commercially recorded with the Beatles and the Police.

The direction I'm going with this is that in this race where everyone's striving to make everything sound almost the same definition of "perfect," everything's coming out just "the same."

Now, I know good and well that there are lots of people out there, hell, even here on this board that make really great and unique-sounding records. Some of these people I know or have heard and some of them I just plain suspect. But overall, I'm a little dismayed by the general goal in the music world right now of trying to make something "perfect" instead of "right."

Sorry, I'll get off the soapbox now. Thanks for listening.

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC
Last edited by cgarges on Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Who records drums without compression?

Post by b3groover » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:50 pm

My current setup is:

MXL 603s - overheads
SP B1 - toms
SP C3 - snare
MXL 56 - hi-hat
AT ATM25 - bass drum

I compress the snare just slightly... just enough to tame any spikes. It's acting more like a limiter, really. But everything else I leave natural. And it sounds like a drum kit played by a musician.

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