Recording Tips

Great Gear Under $400 PT1: Mics & Drums

Great Gear Under $400 PT1: Mics & Drums

 

 

The size of the price tag is not necessarily the way to judge how good a piece of gear will sound. Or if it will do what you actually need it to do.

I pick gear with only 1 thing in mind…..

‘Will this piece of gear do the job I need it to do’.

That’s it.

I have inexpensive gear right next to my expensive gear, and it all works. In PT1 of “Great Gear Under $400” I want to show you a few pieces of gear, that I use all the time, that are under $400. I’m starting with microphones and the drum set.

This is an excerpt from one of the live broadcasts that got a LOT of attention. I know a lot of you are on a budget. That’s why I did this broadcast, to give you some inexpensive options to add to your studio gear.

Enjoy the video and drop me a line to let me know what gear you dig that is under $400!

Happy recording,
Charlie

 

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Make Your Kick Drum Thump!

Make Your Kick Drum Thump!

 

 

It’s time to talk about your bottom….bottom end that is!

The kick and snare sound you record can really define your overall drum sound and getting it right is super important. Not just recording the kick but actually getting a sound that works for the song.

To do that we need to have a good understanding of how a microphone reacts inside the drum. I’m talking about mic placement.

Does your sound need to have more click? Does it need more low end? Does it need to be tight and focused? These are questions you need to answer BEFORE you attempt to capture your perfect kick sound.

By the way when I’m talking about “click” and “low end” I’m not talking about using eq. I’m referring to mic placement and getting that as right as possible and then utilizing eq. If you take the time to get the mic placement to capture the most sound possible then using eq with make that even better.

If you rely on eq to make up for bad mic placement you will often end up with a less than optimal kick drum sound.

Bottom line is it’s best to take some time to experiment with the mics that you own to learn how they capture the kick. I promise you the more you know about your mics the better support your kick drum will be for your music.

Anyway enough of me blabbing! Let’s get to the video.

Happy recording,
Charlie

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Recording Overheads PT3: X/Y

Recording Overheads PT3: X/Y

Up to this point we’ve talked a lot about recording with a mono overhead. In PT3 I want to step into the early 1930’s with a stereo pair of overheads! (here’s a cool link about Alan Blumlein. The man that invented stereo)

I’m starting out with a very popular coincident micing technique called X/Y.

X/Y consists of two, preferably matching, cardioid microphones at a 90° angle with the elements as close together as possible. This doesn’t produce a very wide stereo image but it is accurate, phase coherent, and collapses to mono well. It’s also easy to setup. In most cases you can mount the two microphones on a single stand using stereo bar.

I have a kick and snare mic on the kit as well so you can here how this setup works in context with other microphones.

Happy recording,
Charlie

If you missed parts 1 or 2 you can see them here:

Recording Overheads PT1: Mono
Recording Overheads PT2: Different Mic Types

 

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Recording Overheads PT2: Different Mic Types

Recording Overheads PT2: Different Mic Types

In PT1 of Recording Overheads I talked about using a single, mono, mic to record a great overhead sound. In PT2 I want to demonstrate how you can use different mic types to capture just the sound your music needs.

I picked 3 mics; a large diaphragm condenser (AT4047), small diaphragm condenser (AKG451b), and a ribbon mic (AT4080). Each of these mics have unique characteristics and can be used to manipulate your drum sound to fit your music. Although there are many different mics to be purchased to record drums I highly recommend having a couple options for overhead choices.

Changing the overhead mics can have the single biggest impact on your drum sound.

Sure kick mics will make a difference, snare mics to a lesser degree, and even room mics can have a big effect. None of them come close to capturing as much pure, overall, tone as the overheads. Kick and snare are spot mics and the rooms are effected by, well, the room.

I’m not trying to say the other mics on the kit aren’t important because they are. All I’m saying is that you can completely alter your entire drum sound with different overhead mics and it’s worth having a couple options.

The point of this video is to give you an idea of what 3 common mics types sound like on overheads.

What mics are you using for overheads?

Happy recording,
Charlie

 

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Recording Overheads PT1: Mono

Recording Overheads PT1: Mono

If you’ve followed my recording videos then you know I’m a HUGE proponent of using overhead mics to capture the majority (or at least a large part) of your drum sound. I talk about it all the time…..and now I’m going to talk about it more! 🙂

Over the next couple of weeks I will cover 3 or 4 different techniques for recording overheads starting with mono!

I think using a mono overhead mic gets overlooked all too often. It’s such an effective way to capture a good drum sound. Plus there are other ways to capture a stereo image…but that’s for another video.

In this video we’ll take a look at how the height and placement of the microphone effects your sound.

Check back soon for PT2!

Happy recording,
Charlie

 

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Recording the Perfect Track w/Tim Pedersen

Recording the Perfect Track w/Tim Pedersen

 

 

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of Tim Pedersen joining me on the Recording Ninja Workshop Live Broadcast. Tim has been one of my musical mentors since I moved to LA. Recently I had the opportunity to work with him on mixing and a little re-recording on an EP for another great friend of mine Tita Hutchison.

We covered a lot of great info about how we recorded the drums AFTER we had a mix finished. This video is a 10 minute excerpt from that broadcast.

Drums are usually the first instrument to be tracked…and usually quite quickly. Then all the other instruments get to take their time building their parts and sounds on top of the drum tracks.

Every once in a while that process gets flipped around and the drums go on last.

That’s exactly what happened for Tita Hutchison’s song “Frost” off of her debut EP “Hello Love“.

We were already deep in the mixing process when we decided that “Frost” needed drums. The song just didn’t feel quite finished and lacked some movement in it’s current arrangement. Since our mix was pretty much done it allowed up to really take some time designing a drum sound that would help move the song along.

Tim and I spent a total of about 12 days mixing (all in a row!) and took an entire day to track just drums. It was a really fantastic time. Tim had the idea of giving the drums an old school, vintage vibe. Which is exactly what the song needed.

After spending most of the day experimenting with sounds, mic placement, eq, and compression, we landed on something that we were really proud of. It’s a sound that we really felt fit the song and helped move it along.

Anyway enough of me talking about it. Enjoy this excerpt from our Recording Ninja Workshop Live Broadcast.

Happy recording!
Charlie

 

Enjoy some photos!

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Minimal Micing Concepts: Recorderman

Minimal Micing Concepts: Recorderman

 

 

A good minimal micing setup can help you achieve fantastic results with only a few channels. It can also capture a wonderful, organic, sound no matter how many channels you have. There are quite a few minimal micing setups and, depending on your situation, all of them are useful. Today I would like to cover the very effective Recorderman setup.

The Recorderman setup uses only 2 microphones. One directly over the snare,aimed directly at the snare, and another over the should of the drummer also aimed at the center of the snare. Each mic should be roughly 2 drumstick lengths away from the snare. Of course the height can be adjusted to accommodate the drummer. I have also added a kick drum mic to help capture a good solid bottom end for our simple setup.

Personally I find the Recorderman a little uncomfortable as a player. It’s a very intrusive configuration so once we demonstrate the basic setup we move the mics a little higher to see if the sound changes at all.

Enjoy this setup. Next month we’ll look at another minimal micing configuration.

Happy recording!
Charlie

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Compressing Your Room Mics

Compressing Your Room Mics

 

 

Compression has a lot of uses but arguably none more fun than drum room mics. Adding subtle compression to your room mics can add just a touch of excitement while adding tons of compression can completely take your overall drum sound to the next level.

In this excerpt from the stereo room Live Broadcast Seminar a few weeks ago I want to demonstrate just how compression can effect your overall drum sound. I’m doing it with hardware but you can do it with a plugin in your DAW too.

The big thing to remember is there is no one way to do this. You’ll need to experiment but above all LISTEN TO YOUR MUSIC and do what it requires. Using compression is a ton of fun but it is easy to overdue it.

Happy recording!

Charlie


Watch part 1 of this series: Recording Rooms with the Blumlein Configuration

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Stereo Room Micing Techniques: Blumlein

Stereo Room Micing Techniques: Blumlein

 

 

There are a lot of ways to capture drum room sounds but none more effective than the Blumlein configuration.

While there are microphones specifically designed to be in a Blumlein configuration you can easily create this setup with 2 Figure 8 microphones. In this video I’m using two Studio Projects CS5 multi-pattern microphones, set to Figure 8, and placed right on top of each other.

The Blumlein configuration captures a very nice stereo image and works well in any size room, small to large. Give this great setup a try and let me know how it works for you!

Happy recording!
Charlie

Check out the USI Music Production Page for much more great info!

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Recording Drums w/Dynamic, Condenser, & Ribbon Microphones

Recording Drums w/Dynamic, Condenser, & Ribbon Microphones

 

 

The first step in your signal chain is the instrument, the next step is the player, and the third step is the microphone. It’s in this step that we can start to alter, or mold, our sound.

Although there are hundreds of mics on the market there are only really 3 basic types; Dynamic, Condenser, and Ribbons. There are also tube mics but in the video I’m only covering the 3 main types we use on a regular basis. The video is meant to give you a simple, side by side, demonstration of how the different mic types sound on drums. The mics are placed side by side about 5 feet in front of the kit.

I think you’ll get a good idea of how the 3 different mic types sound. The better you understand the differences the more you can take advantage of these mics to mold your sound.

Below is a bit more in-depth explanation of dynamic, condenser, and ribbon mics.

Happy recording!
Charlie

Dynamic Microphones

The dynamic is the most common and robust type of microphone. Popular examples include the Electro Voice RE20, the AKG D112, and the ubiquitous Shure SM-57. The durability, form factor, and inherent directionality of the dynamic make it ideal for live applications.

At the heart of every dynamic microphone is an electromagnetic coil attached to a diaphragm. Sound pressure hits the diaphragm, which moves the coil relative to a static magnet, producing a voltage. This configuration is inherently more directional and less sensitive than other types, making dynamic microphones ideal for close miking – especially of loud sources like drums and amplifiers.

Dynamic microphones are inherently cardioid or hypercardioid and most can handle even the loudest sources. Dynmanic microphones also tend to have narrower frequency response than other types (less low end and high end sensitivity). Some models designed for specific purposes (ie: kick drums) can have wildly nonlinear response curves.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones offer greater sensitivity and wider frequency response than most dynamics. This is one reason they are favored as overhead microphones as well as hi-hats and rides cymbals. The increased sensitivity can make some condensers unsuitable for some high SPL applications like drums. Some condensers will feature a switchable pad to reduce sensitivity for high SPL situations but this may not always be adequate.

Condensers can also feature a variety of polar patterns, or may have multiple, switchable patterns. Often they will also feature a switchable high pass filter to eliminate unwanted lower frequencies. Common examples include the AKG 414, Shure SM81, and the Neumann U87.

A condenser element consists of a thin metallic diaphragm oriented parallel to a larger metal plate. When charged with an electric current, these two pieces act as a capacitor. As sound pressure moves the diaphragm, the capacitance fluctuates. This fluctuation creates a current that is converted to the output signal by circuitry within the microphone.

This circuitry and the need to charge the element require all condensers to be powered by either external phantom power or an internal battery. The wide frequency response, variety of polar patterns, and robustness of modern condenser microphones allows for an enormous variety of microphones to suit almost every application.

Ribbon Microphones

The oldest common microphone type is the ribbon. A thin metal strip – the “ribbon” – is suspended between two magnets. Sound pressure moves the ribbon through the magnetic field, creating a voltage between contacts at each end of the ribbon. This offers better high-end response than a dynamic element, but the design’s inherent figure eight pickup pattern limits their usefulness in situations where isolation or feedback is an issue. Many vintage ribbon microphones, such as the RCA 77, are highly prized for their smooth top end and robust bottom.

There are also many modern ribbon microphones, such as the Royer 122, that offer the classic ribbon sound while maintaining performance on par with other modern types. When connecting a ribbon microphone, be careful not to expose it to phantom power. Some older designs may be damaged by its presence. Most contemporary ribbon microphones have protection built in – some even have preamps requiring phantom power, but the safest option is always to keep ribbon microphones isolated from phantom power entirely.

For drums, the ribbon microphone’s figure eight pickup pattern limits its usefulness for most close-up applications. However, the smooth top end and full bottom of many ribbon microphones can be ideal for overheads and especially room miking.

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