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recording live drums

Discussion in 'Production' started by timislegend, Oct 21, 2011.

  1. timislegend

    timislegend Member

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    this is going to sound like a lot of anecdotal rhetoric. don't mistake my rant for nothing more than inspiration. it might also come off as pompous and arrogant... maybe i am naive to the concept of "unfortunate?" :puke:

    obviously! my most common response to most questions; "how do i get my drums to -blank- ?"

    is: "track real drums!"

    yes! it's more difficult in every way to do this! it's more expensive, more time consuming, more frusterating etc etc. but as a budding engineer you can only benefit from it. sure, it's nice to drop $300 on the newest, coolest drum sample library to use in every single production you come accross and even moreso... it's really simple to use, i mean an 8 year old child could program drums into a daw if he/she is shown how to do it once, (true story - my little 8 y/o nephew can program drums after i showed him one time).

    it's not like i am incapable of understanding how difficult it is to gather everything you need then go forth and record drums. i know! :yell:

    but i can assure you, the developmental process of tracking real drums is much easier than it appears to be.

    -acquire a new client
    -buy mics & cables, multichannel audio interface (budget)
    -find a reasonable location (for tracking)
    -setup (close quarters)
    -track drums (then have a coke and a smile)

    without question, there are some benefits to not having to do all these things... but i promise that after doing it a few times, you will have a much better understanding of acoustics, digital audio, signal flow and routing etc etc.

    the reason i have a lot of great equipment and places to track isn't because i sit around clicking my mouse, complaining about not having a place to record the next session... it's because through the years i have made countless networks with fellow engineers who had spaces to record (or whatever), some of them are not even engineers but instead mechanics, real estate agents, business owners etc. i think one time we tracked percussion in a kitchen store during business hours. :oops:

    none of this is because i am more fortunate than anyone... or because i am special, it's because i didn't care about anything at the time! i just wanted to track the drums! :lol: i didn't care if i was breaking sound laws or if i got a complaint ...i just wanted, what i wanted! the greatest thing about all of this is the experience(s). they really shape the type of engineer you will become and when the day comes that a song or album is required to have programmed drums in a production, you will be a ninja at that too. so, don't ever stop learning the digital editing skills because they are also ridiculously important.

    don't get me twisted i dig the struggle! i have been there tons of times. my biggest complaint (if i'm making one at all) is that the purpose of this forum (and other forums like it) is to share production methods that introduce distinctions in the recording industry. as we praise other popular engineers for their outstanding contributions to music we can enjoy or in whatever it is they do we shouldn't forget that they are there to inspire nuance to a generation or creative ideas and more importantly a significant paradigm in individuallity.


    or maybe i'm out of my mind? :cool:


    seacrest out!
     
  2. AllanD

    AllanD boom tap boom-boom tap

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    but how canz I record live drums with only pod?



    JK. I've been recording live drums since I bought all my recording equipment when I was fucking 15. I got a job and saved, there's seriously no excuse to be working a "studio" and not be able to record live drums. There are some really cheap options that will definitely get your foot in the door.



    I agree with everything you posted Tim.
     
  3. Vinny

    Vinny Member

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    THIS.THIS.THIS.THIS.
     
  4. jimwilbourne

    jimwilbourne I try.

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    while I agree with everything you said, lets look at it from a different perspective.
    (and I actually have a spot or 2 that I can record drums for my projects in other studios. so it's not like I'm just trying to be disagreeable here)

    I feel like 70% of the time I end up programming due to the type of clients I have to work with.
    No one emails me saying "I was hoping you could program my drums. I heard you were boss at it"
    Bands come to me because they can't afford to record a demo, EP or album at XXX studio because they're gonna charge them up the ass for something I'm willing to do for 1/2 of the price and the 17-and-barely-have-a-job lifestyle isn't helping them much. So they would rather invest that other 1/2 in post-production, or buying shirts, or drinking beer.
    and I do it for 1/2 the price because, for me, programming drums literally cuts out a good 40% of the work for me. I HATE editing sloppy drums with an extreme passion. so anything that keeps me from banging my head against the wall is worth that to me.
    so if I can do something that is less of a headache, less work, for something that I'm already potentially going to be underpaid for, for a band that isn't that great... hmmm. logic is pointing me elsewhere.

    and I live in Providence, RI. I'm not trying to piss off my neighbors. Everyone in New England is already pissed off that they live here. so banging on drums in my Apt. may not be the best way to keep the peace.
    I'm more afraid of them than the cops. I don't wanna get my shit stolen. haha

    perhaps my day will come when I can afford to pick my clients and I will have a space I own.
    but at the end of the day, I'm just a guy trying to survive and pay my bills. and if programming gets me there, I hope someone on a forum is kind enough to let me know "how do programs drumz with more tact??"

    and hell.
    no one here is posting about how we should just record real guitars instead of asking how to get podfarm to sound better.
    why can't drums be the same?

    but back on Tim's side.
    because I'm actually a hypocrite :p
    if you have ANY means to record drums, DO IT. it's the most fun part after vocals.
    (until you get to editing...)
     
  5. timislegend

    timislegend Member

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    you sir, are correct!

    it's all hard work... hard work that rarely pays off (at the beginning). my initial point was not to avoid doing the daily grind and just go for the gusto. no, by all means make your money however it works. it took me years to figure out how to track down the best equipment (for cheap) then upgrade later on. the thing is, when i first started there were no sample libraries to fall back on. so i was forced to learn the signal flow basics, as well as fundamental acoustics etc. most kids now just buy the bare minimum then call themselves engineers or producers that own "studios."

    that's like leasing a subaru wrx/sti ...then calling yourself a professional rally driver. :guh:

    the fact is, in order for your car to perform like a rally sport, it need's the proper equipment ...and the proper skills. sure, you can fudge some things and get by purely on being a "natural" but those people are few and far between.

    the truth is... no one walks out of the record store humming the name on the console or microphone. so, i understand that those things are really pointless in the context of music. i'm not saying do away with all that is unnatural i am simply imploring the idea to try a lot harder in terms of exploring new ideas an sharing exciting new techniques instead of regurgitating the same old watered down youtube tutorial.

    i appreciate the comments and i'm glad you challenge me (per se). it reminds me why i still give a rats ass about this industry. :)
     
  6. JeffEstrada

    JeffEstrada Ascend Recordings

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    Dude, I live like 5 minutes away from you...
     
  7. jimwilbourne

    jimwilbourne I try.

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    haha!
    where do you live?

    I live in north providence.
     
  8. JeffEstrada

    JeffEstrada Ascend Recordings

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    I live in Pawtucket, like 5 - 10 minutes away from prov
     
  9. JeffEstrada

    JeffEstrada Ascend Recordings

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    Sorry if I derailed the thread a bit. Tim I completely agree with you. You hear a lot of times, "your really lucky, wish I could track drums". Really it has absolutely nothing to do with luck...Im sure you didn't get lucky, won the lottery and bought everything you needed to track drums. It's done through hard work. Then again, I also believe everyone has different circumstances. Some people don't make enough money off of this to be able to reach that point quickly. Which is why the majority of people on this forum can't track drums right now or anytime soon. So telling people, "want great sounds? track real drums" isn't really as helpful as it seems to you. Don't get me wrong, I agree with you, it's the truth and it's great advice but to other people on this forum, unfortunately, it won't do much for them. They pretty much have to do with what they have for now.
     
  10. oroinvictus

    oroinvictus dangert billy

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    Exactly this. Between moving to oregon, paying my bills, paying for school, gas, food, etc. all on part-time wage, I don't have a whole lot of money left. Granted, I'm saving up for a nice interface, a good set of mics and some room treatments, but it all adds up, and at the end of the day I'm a broke ass college student with no room for a full kit in my ~600 sq-ft. home and grumpy neighbors/property management. That said, I would rather record live drums vs. programming 80% of the time, even if the player is mega slop 4000.
     
  11. ahjteam

    ahjteam Anssi Tenhunen

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    Mistakes pointed out with orange color. Never drop your prices because you are doing "less work". You are not. You are just making the band do less work.

    BIG part of making the recording process easier for you and the band is pre-production. Which you clearly haven't done. You may ask "well, what is the use of pre-production?" and I answer:

    Well, does the band suck? Well, make them rehearse goddamn it. Do the songs suck? Well, make the band write better ones and/or fix the problems, or fix it with them. Pre-production is meant exactly for that.

    Pre-production is a major part of my production cycle and the best part is that it's 90% work for the band and 10% work for me. And personally like that, and I tend to keep it that way thru out the whole recording process: I rather book 5 extra days for recording than 5 extra days for editing. More takes means more work for them, less work for me. Just the way I like it. With my production style, the band usually can only blame themselves if their recording sucks.

    That is also why it usually takes 3-4 times more time for the pre-production than the actual production, and I usually start the pre-production process like 3-6 months prior recording.

    Usually I do the first pre-pro sessions for free, and bands usually like that. But they must have a band rehearsal at that day. This is for four reasons: 1) you get to know the band 2) you hear the songs 3) you hear how well they play them 4) you get to drink coffee. or beer. whatevs.

    In the first session I drink a cup of coffee and just talk with the band, talk about what and how many songs we will record, what they are going to do with the CD etc. Then either on the same or the next session I will record their rehearsals and send that to them. The quality of the recording doesn't really matter. I have recorded several rehearsals with just the built-in microphone on my laptop. It's usually decent enough quality to figure out what the band is playing and if they or the songs suck or not.

    Usually at this point, if the band or the songs sucks, you will hear that they suck and they will most likely too. You and they may not hear it in the rehearsals, but when played back, you will. Also at this point you can usually clearly say to them if they are ready to record or not and if you want to record with them or not. Judging by your description, they are not ready, but you might want to record with them. If you do, sign contracts and book studiotime with them and talk about rates.

    If they are clearly not ready, say to them that you won't record them until they have rehearsed the songs fucking tight and schedule a new pre-production session 1-2 months from there. Then go and re-record the rehearsals and listen how much progress they have done, and if there is clearly some weak link in there, say it.

    If they have done any home recordings of the songs, ask them to send them to you and make them the click tracks to rehearse the songs to. As a general rule of thumb, before the studio the band must rehearse 2 hours a day for 2-3 weeks, only the songs that you will record.

    In general if the band is well rehearsed I book the time like this:
    - 1 day for drum setup
    - 3 songs per day for drum tracking
    - 1 day for drum editing (after the drums I do comp-editing on the fly)
    - 1 day for bass and guitar setup
    - 4 songs per day for bass (unless the bass player is fucking awesome, then less)
    - 3 songs per day per guitarist + 1 extra day for solos if more than 4 solos
    - 2-3 songs per day per vocalists
    - 1 day for vocal tuning
    - 1 song per day for mixing
    - outsourced mastering

    General rule of thumb for recording that I do max 8-12 hours a day and I DON'T KEEP BAD TAKES. Just delete them right away.

    Real life example: If you compare to the band I'm currently mixing, these are their previous demos about 7 months earlier sounded like this and our goal was to make the new demo sound better than the previous ones. We actually recorded that same song as on the 7 months ago demo, the unmixed version is here. Listen to the quality of just the performance. MAJOR difference. We ironed out the bad stuff, like huge tempo changes, I had some private vocal coaching sessions with the screaming vocalist to make him suck less (and once again, big part of this was to record him and hear how he sucked, point it out, point him the right direction to go and tell him to fix it in his private time) and then I just made them rehearse in general. Plain and simple.

    PS: With bands on labels this kind of pre-production is not always possible due to their production cycle being touring-recording-touring-recording-repeat-EndOfBand, but with unsigned bands it's 100% possible.




    But yeah, I agree. Record real drums instead of programming them.
     
  12. Joey.coldweather

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    I don't understand the I don't have a place(or can't afford) to track drums argument. If a band approaches you to record a demo or something do they not have a practice space? Its how I record drums a lot of the time, in fact I go out of my way to record in their practice space if they can't afford to pay for studio time. If that's not an option do you not have friends or someone that can loan you a room for a day or 2 as you record drums? Its really not hard to find a place to record at all so why everyone has this "I can't" sentiment suck in their heads is a pure mystery to me.
     
  13. AllanD

    AllanD boom tap boom-boom tap

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    Agreed. I've only recorded drums at bands practice spaces/living rooms/garages/whatever.
     
  14. jimwilbourne

    jimwilbourne I try.

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    okay. let's re-look at this.
    because I guess some don't get it.

    I have a day job because my recording clients aren't a constant flow. if you're working with a band who can only afford x amount for their project and it costs x+2x to really do it as well as you'd really like, you're put in a corner.
    And from a business standpoint, I get less bands bailing out on me when I charge them less than anyone else's prices. so in the end I get more practice in with different material and make more money.
    no offense Anssi, but I don't know what you do with your day. but I can't afford a day off to do prepro for free. I do wayyyy too much between work, my own band & handling other things that life calls for.
    so true prepro can't be done 100% of the time. I honestly don't have time for it if they don't have the money for it. I have to take time off work to do this. doing just 3 songs would easily run a band $1100 USD going by your method. and that's assuming that I'm already charging a lot less than most producers.

    and quite honestly the programming drums part makes the sessions instantly easier to track guitars & bass. and I can focus the extra time in beating the guitarists with weak fingers & vocalists (which is what 80-90% if a bands worth comes from) into shape.
    As Tim pointed out. anyone can program drums. so while I'm working on other things, I have someone else in the band programming stuff and editing arrangements when things need to be changed. so in a way. I do get some prepro done. just in a completely different way.

    I often get into recording a song (or set of songs) and the band wants to change a couple of things. since I can't afford to sit around and do prepro for free and they can't afford to pay for it, it'd take 3x longer to record drums. especially when they decide to change something after they see how it sounds after guitars.
    with programming it's cake.

    spending 7 months on the same set of songs just makes me mix it so much worse because I'm just way too close to the band's music at that point and I'm hearing it a completely different way.
    I spend 2-3 months start to end max. and usually only about 5-10 days of that is actually what's being recorded.

    I'm sorry, but for some people/bands recording real drums is not at all the most practical approach.
    at least not if I want a tighter production with the most flexibility.
    my job isn't to hold the band's hand and make sure they practice.
    my job is to make sure they have a set of songs that sound good enough to sell. I'm no baby-sitter. bands need to do their own footwork.

    and once again.
    don't get me wrong.
    I love tracking drums. I hate editing them, but I love tracking them.
    if a band can afford it, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm gonna be tracking them and spending the time I need to get them edited correctly.
     
  15. OneDaySky

    OneDaySky Clint

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    Great Post Tim! I agree fully. The few times ive tracked real drum (real kit) i find the cymbals to be were all the magic's at. But my advice is be there during tracking. Ive had bands record drums at other studios and bring it to me to track the rest of the music. And the drums sound crap because the producer doesn't know their sound or the room is too dead etc. I usually end up programming em anyway after that.
     
  16. ahjteam

    ahjteam Anssi Tenhunen

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    What I do with my day? Not two jobs, that's for sure.

    if you can't schedule one day off from your normal routine, your monthly routine sucks or your rates are too low, because you work too much and you will burn out sooner or later. I've seen this happen too many times. And you clearly didn't read my message all the way... The band does 90% of the work on the pre-production, not you. You don't necessarily need to even hear the songs during the pre-production period more than few times.

    PS: 3 songs, that would be roughly 5-6 days for recording and 3 days for mixing + 1-2 days for mix revisions. Doing it with me $1100 wouldn't be nearly enough.
     
  17. Tommy Evans

    Tommy Evans Member

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    $1100 for three songs is not enough?!?!?! What kind if Beverly Hills Hollywood Super Manasion town do you live in where $1100 'isnt nearly enough' for only working 10-12 days?

    Am I alone here or are most people charging around this price?
     
  18. ahjteam

    ahjteam Anssi Tenhunen

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    No, it's not. And why not? Let's break it down.

    $1100
    12 days
    12 hours a day
    12 days * 12 hours a day = 144 hours
    $1100 / 144 hours = $7,63 per hour

    Federal minimum wage is $7,25 in the States.
    If I wanted to work for that, I'd go work at McDonalds. At least I would be more sure that I'd get paid monthly that way.
     
  19. Tommy Evans

    Tommy Evans Member

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    Good point! Guess I'm not used to taking 3-4 days to mix a song :/
     
  20. jimwilbourne

    jimwilbourne I try.

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    my monthly routine does suck.
    I can't argue that. but it's what I have to deal with.
    I did read it fully. and I understand what your method is.

    but yeah. like I said. 1100 USD minimum is what we're looking at for 3 songs with all the needed steps.
     

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