My current drum tracking room is on the smaller side. While its modest dimensions provide certain sonic benefits (tons of attack, very focused etc), it can also make it difficult to naturally get the big and wet, Hit Factory Studio 1 type vibe on my drum tracks.
This is when I often turn to my good friend, the space designer. With a few tweaks of the decay time and EQ (the presets can be a little much), this plugin instantly transforms my 12’x12′ drum room into anything from a cathedral to a warehouse. Used sparingly, it allows me to leverage the punchiness of my tracking room while mixing in a hint of MSG.
I know you were hoping for a Livin’ on a Prayer-type loop when you saw the title of my post. So sorry to disappoint. My can of Aqua Net ran out just as I was getting ready for the session. Instead I give you a two bar loop that’s low on chlorofluorocarbons and big on reverb.
This all changed last weekend. While perusing my local drum shop, a certain blonde snare drum caught my eye. With its beautifully lacquered maple finish and it’s fine, handcrafted construction, this 6″ x 14″ Pork Pie drum beckoned to me as I walked up to the snare section.
Nicknamed “Curly” (after the type of maple used for the shell), it was soon apparent that it sounded just as good as it looked. Tuned up high, it provided a “crack” that sounded like a .357 Mangnum and then, with a few counter-clockwise turns with a drum key, it produced a deep, round “thunk” that even Russ Kunkel would find satisfying.
After playing the snare for a few minutes, I realized I wasn’t going to be leaving the drum shop alone. Twenty minutes later I was back in my studio with my new “main” snare drum firmly placed between my legs.
After all of this talk about how great my new snare sounds, do you think I’d let you actually hear what it truly sounds like? Of course not. Today’s loop takes a bit of syncopation, a nice amount of space, and a ton of AutoFilter to make a funk groove into something just a bit different.
I prefer recording my drums in small to medium sized rooms. There’s something about the attack and tightness you get when you’re not bouncing the sound off of 30′ ceilings. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the chance to record in the “big” rooms at The Hit Factory (RIP) and Avatar in NYC and while the drums sounded HUGE and bigger than life, it was almost too much. If you’re tracking drums for Whitesnake, this might be the sound you’re looking for… but often it can be hard to reign it in and fit in a mix.
On the flip side, when you record in a smaller room, sometimes you need to make things sound bigger than the natural acoustics can provide. One trick to making this happen (without reaching for the dreaded reverb insert) is to place a microphone in the hallway outside of the drum room. This is a technique I stole from one of my favorite producers and engineers, Tchad Blake. This mic placement often gives you something that’s a few notches beyond your typical room mic, and can sound great both on it’s own and mixed in with the full drum track.
Today’s loop is based on the “hallway mic’ing” technique. The first 8 bars is just the single mic (SM57) placed outside of the drum room about 10″ and positioned in the “sweet spot” (the second step). The next 8 bar phrase is the full drum mix along with the hallway mic. I attribute the fine-tuned ambient characteristics to the acoustically treated carpet that lines the basement of my house. The combination of ground in cat hair and Dorito crumbs seems to cancel out all unwanted bass frequencies.