drum advice for 8-track

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bedbug
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drum advice for 8-track

Post by bedbug » Wed May 14, 2003 5:29 pm

This probably belongs in the panning thread, but here goes ...

I've been recording for a while, but have avoided drums for the most part because a lot of the home recorded drums I've heard tend to sound really compressed (not sure if that's the right word) and the cymbals tend to be kinda trashy.

Anyway, I've found myself in a situation where I need to record drums, and I've modeled my technique after a friend of mine's. Mic on the kick, mic on the snare, and two overheads through a four channel mixer (we're not pros, okay?) and onto tracks one and two of an 8-track (panned hard left and right for now).

So, a few nights ago I asked this so-called "friend" (he shall remain nameless) what he thought about getting a drum mix I was happy with, and bouncing those down to one track (I can hear the pro-toolers laughing now). And he said without offering an explanation, that no, you just don't do it that way, it needs to be on two tracks.

My point was that with the equipment we're using (2 Marshall 603s, some 57s, and a Behringer mixer), in all reality, the overall turnout was only going to be so good. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it, I listen to a lot of so-called lo-fi music and have no beef with it. I'm just not expecting to be the next Nigel Godrich. A little off track, but anyway ...

I tend to do a lot of overdubs and stuff, and on 8-track it can be a bit of a challenge. And now I've had to give up one (two total) of my precious tracks to my idiot drummer (really, he's okay), and I'm just wondering if it's worth it. Is it really so important to have two tracks of pretty good sounding drums? There's lots of talk of turd polishing on this board. Will it be a better turd because there's two of them? Again, not that I'm knocking the turd, I like the turd, but aside from panning purposes (and to be honest, both tracks kinda sound the same), do I really need two tracks of it?

And just for a frame of reference, we're hoping for maybe a little better than the Alien Lanes-era GBV sound, maybe more like an Olivia Tremor Control sound. Our main goal is to produce an album that sounds as good as the 2nd and 3rd Dinosaur Jr. albums. We realize they went into a studio to do those, we just think the technologies caught up that we can accomplish something of that sound quality ourselves.

Thoughts?

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Re: drum advice for 8-track

Post by markpar » Wed May 14, 2003 5:36 pm

Bounce the drums to an open track and keep the one you like better. There's no one right way to go about this. The way that sounds the best to you is the right way. :)

-mark

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Re: drum advice for 8-track

Post by biasvoltage » Wed May 14, 2003 5:46 pm

There is no reason not to mix your drums to mono. But you might try starting out with more drum tracks to work with before you get there.

I record on 8 track as well and have been getting more adventurous with my drum tracking. The first project I recorded I did exactly what you did, multiple mics on the kit mixed live to 2 track stereo. It worked fine, and sounds pretty damn good actually. Then I started using 3 mics directly to 3 tracks (this stuff didn't need lots of room for overdubs). I had a kick and a snare and a room mic. The most recent stuff I've been doing has been tracked with a kick mic, a snare mic, 2 overheads and a room mic all to separate channels on the 8 track. One track is used for the scratch guitar (to be replaced) and I mixed the 5 tracks of drums to stereo for 2 songs and to mono for another 2. This gives you the luxury of creating a drum mix over and over again without everyone staring at you; the live to 2 track methond essentially means you have 1 shot at getting it right. You're still not able to mix the individual tracks of drums in the context of all the other instruments, so it will take som experimentation to get a mix that will work with other instruments (that doesn't neccesarily mean that it will sound right on its own, for instance you might need your kick up much higher than sounds natural just listening to the drum submix). You will need a way to get 5 independent signals to their respective channels and then mix/ bounce from there (your 4 ch behringer won't do this, but I assume you've got somehting that can handle 8 channels to mix you 8 track down with).

8 track rules. Mono drums rule. At the risk of being flamed to death here, go listen to "she said, she said" on Revolver. Mono drums that sound great.

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foley
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Re: drum advice for 8-track

Post by foley » Wed May 14, 2003 7:10 pm

Mono can definitely work but I agree with SoftSupply that the more you have to play with BEFORE mixing to mono the better.

For some reason I always think drums are the most important part (and I'm not the drummer), so I will give them three tracks in the mix (kick, snare and overhead). I like to be able to bring them up individually and tweak a little when necessary. I think guitars and vocals often sit better bounced together than drums (or maybe it's just easier for me to find their proper levels before bouncing).

However ... one word of advice on mono might be to do it sooner rather than later. When i have chosen to go with one track of drums after having had three for the first two or three days of recording I have noticed that the loss of panning effects throws my emotional love of the song off a little, at least for a while. I keep wanting to reach for the kick and bring it up, or whatever. The morale? Do it early and then build on top of it - you will then steer your other tracks into it's world, and can be happy with it the whole time.

Honestly (and here comes the heresy) ANYTHING can sound awesome if you listen to it long enough, and build your song around it. It just grows on you after a while...

mf

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bedbug
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Re: drum advice for 8-track

Post by bedbug » Thu May 15, 2003 5:26 am

SoftSupply wrote:You're still not able to mix the individual tracks of drums in the context of all the other instruments, so it will take som experimentation to get a mix that will work with other instruments (that doesn't neccesarily mean that it will sound right on its own, for instance you might need your kick up much higher than sounds natural just listening to the drum submix).
The first thing I was unhappy with was the snare getting buried. So, now I'm blasting the snare in the initial mixes (I like a loud snare ala White Album to begin with) so I don't lose it after adding guitars. I'm hoping to come back and blow my friend's drum sound out of the water! (Really, he's a great guy)

SoftSupply wrote:At the risk of being flamed to death here, go listen to "she said, she said" on Revolver. Mono drums that sound great.
That's like one of my 3 favorite Beatles songs ever! Great song. Great drum sound.

Thanks for the advice!

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Re: drum advice for 8-track

Post by Verboten » Thu May 15, 2003 5:40 am

I've always done stereo drums - kick, snare, OHs, sometimes spot mics on toms, etc... - but recently, I've realized that drum tracks sometimes suffer from being in stereo - that quite often, mono is the bigger, more focused sound.

I also record on 8 track, so I have to do a lot of pre-planning. When I'm planning out the tracks (how many OD's), and I get a larger picture of an end result, that's when I decide stereo drums or not. I always think of the Beatles - those drums had power and presence and fidelity - and more often than not were in mono.

IMHO, they sounded so right because there was planning and limitations... as stated earlier - the tracks were built upon that. Having said that, I usually will do stereo drums for clients (most are impressed with the sound). When I do mono tracks, I usually use an oktava mc 012 overhead or an mk 219 out in front with a kick mic and just move the mics around until I get a clear picture of everything.

It's amazing how big of a sound I can get with less mics! Though, sometimes I miss the toms panning like Manilow's "Looks Like We Made It"!

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bedbug
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Re: drum advice for 8-track

Post by bedbug » Thu May 15, 2003 6:16 am

Wow. Good to see there's still some 8-trackers out there.
Verboten wrote:I always think of the Beatles - those drums had power
Yeah, but they also had Ringo!
Verboten wrote: When I do mono tracks, I usually use an oktava mc 012 overhead or an mk 219 out in front with a kick mic and just move the mics around until I get a clear picture of everything.
I have 219 that I use for vocals and acoustic guitars, but I've never thought to use it for drums. I'll give it a shot.

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From the Brian Wilson/George Martin school:

Post by takeout » Thu May 15, 2003 7:09 am

Another option: track your drums to their own tracks, plus whatever guitar or bass or whatever will fit on the leftover tracks, then mix down to another machine (DAT/CD/2-track tape/whatever). Bring that mix back to one or two tracks on your multitrack, then continue overdubbing. Repeat as needed. Plan around the resultant tape hiss.

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Re: drum advice for 8-track

Post by dirtdog » Thu May 15, 2003 8:42 am

I have the same issue when recording drums to my 8-track, and I've taken a liking to mono drums, so what I've been doing lately is this: I record my kick and snare to track one. To track two I record one omni overhead and one omni "underhead." I place the overhead a few feet above the drummers head and the other one flat on the floor between the kick drum pedal and the hi-hat pedal. Flip the phase on the "underhead" (it'll be out of phase with everything otherwise). Then I get a mix with those two tracks and bounce to another. Having them seperate at first lets me put off my bounce until after I have a few more tracks recorded and can get a better idea of where cymbals/toms should be relative to the kick and the snare before committing to a mix.
Peace.

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Re: drum advice for 8-track

Post by Kyle » Thu May 15, 2003 1:21 pm

Mono drums are great, esp when working with an eight track. If you are doing a lot of overdubs and moving the tape back and forth a bunch, I would recommend puting the drums on one of the inside tracks. Tracks 1 and 8 are outside tracks and they take the most abuse as the tape runs in the path. I try and save the outside tracks for overdubs. It really sucks when the song falls apart because the drum track gets damaged. Just thought I'd share.
Kyle

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