Getting the Lay of the Land and Q&A
Let's talk about getting the lay of the land, which I think arguably is one of the most important steps. Just doing your homework, talking to the band, the drummer. You figuring out what they want if they want to sound like Led Zeppelin But they come in with 10 12 and a drummer who plays with a tapper. Yeah, that's not gonna happen. You, But you need to know that that's what they want. And, ah, make your game plan according lead to that, Uh And what are you working with? Like, who are these guys and what do they do if, ah, Mark Castillo is coming in to do a session or something like that? I factor in that my drum set is going to be falling apart completely. Like, I factor that it's gonna be snapping in half and we're gonna need more heads than usual. We're gonna need basically to change heads every single song. Uh, I'm gonna need extra hardware. I know that I'm gonna need pads for every single input on my pre answer, because everything is gonna be exploding. It's just the way it goes.
Whereas I know that if I'm recording Shannon. It's gonna be incredibly consistent. Uh, we have a lot more room to work with us. Faras gear goes, um, I think that I know if you were coming in, it would be one of the most relaxed sessions ever did. Probably as far as, ah, being able to pick whatever I wanted. Now I want to go around the room real quick. How would you prep your ah, recording situation based on save you had a super hard hitter versus a super technical hitter? How would you approach that? Uh, sure have that much experience? What different kinds of drummers have you had experience with? Um, they've mostly been, um uh, like indie rock drummers. More or less. So, um, their styles have pretty much been the same. Um, well, that house. Yeah. Yeah. Um, but as faras uh, prepping them, I've just done a few things of what she said. As far as like, asking them what they want to sound like and then asking for, um, examples of tones that they like. And does that change your approach? Yeah. Yeah, because you kind of get an idea of like, OK, is this going to be super compressed, or is there going to be, you know, nice dynamic flow toe what they're looking for, You know, things like that. What about you? Well, first, I would shake the technical drummers hand Say thank you. Um, no, I would take the hard Dermer Sanders Will, um man, you know, I guess just it talking to them and understanding, you know, the kind of Ah, you know, I'm going to Mike's. And things were thinking about the pre amps in the levels of ah e que and compression. And what do they want? The drums in the mix. If they have an idea, just talk with him. I guess I'm not sure. All right. Well, whatever you're not sure about, that's what we're here to talk about. That's why we're doing a whole section on this. What about you? I've mainly just recorded myself playing the drums, so I'm kind of serving both roles. There are Figure this out? Yeah, I've played I've recorded a couple other friends, but it's pretty much always on my drum kit, which is set up there in my house with the mic. So depending on the song, you know some songs I'll play harder. Well, you've got your lay of the land figured out at least part of it, right? Using your own kit? Yes. Your own gear. Right? Most of the time, right? Yeah. Um, so, yeah, it's like it means the same room. Same Mike's for the most part. I mean, I have a couple to pick from, but not a huge selection. Um, so depending on the song, you know, I might adjust mic placement a little bit or something if I'm, you know, playing a really hard song versus a more technical song. But it's still the same drummer, so it doesn't make as much difference, I would imagine. Yeah, I I can tell you that whenever I have to go record drums in a brand new environment that it always throws me for a loop to try to do as much research as I can. About what board is there If is there a board there? What pre amps are their pre amps. I mean, obviously there's some prions, but are they good? Are they crappy? What is going on? So, question, you can go into a little like a specific example that I know for for black Dahlia Forever black. You went to Detroit, right? Yes, yes, we talk about like how, like specifically, what kind of research did you do you know, to prep for that? Well, on ever black I knew that the studio was more of an analog kind of environment than what I'm used to. And I knew that they had a giant awesome AP I board there and tons of analog outboard gear. So I did my homework on all that gear. And luckily I have a bunch of AP I pre amps, which are the same as what's in that board. So is basically a horizontal version of my control room. That's just a lot more expensive with the accused built in. That's how I approached it, tried to basically think about it in a way that would make sense to me. Not just I'm entering some spaceship that, I mean, it looks like a spaceship entering some spaceship that makes no sense and try to figure out how can I best understand the situation I'm walking into? I also did a research on what microphones they had available. That would be really, really terrible if I flew somewhere to record a band, and they had none of the microphones that I'm used to using that are applicable. Like, say, they had no 4 20 ones or something or only had one s and 57 or no, you 80 sevens. It's not that I wouldn't be able to make a record, but I would have to change my approach. It is good to know that stuff ahead of time. And as as Faras Black Dahlia goes, I knew that the drums were gonna be tight as hell. So I knew that part was going to be taken care of. I knew that there is nothing to worry about. Musically, All I had to concern myself with was making sure that I understood the technical aspect of the gear. And that was just doing homework in doing a few dry runs in my head of how everything would be routed and seemed to work out Fine. Um, this right here is an interesting situation too. This is not a recording studio. Uh, this gear is all rented. We have no idea what we've what we're working with. We threw it all together and it works. We got a drum tone, but it's not perfect. And we're live on camera. So that is basically a pressure cooker of a situation to be getting drum tones in. And so to prep for this, I knew exactly what gear we were gonna have. What microphone selection was hugely involved in that knew exactly what drums that we were gonna have. What drummer? I mean, if I didn't know any of that stuff, we wouldn't have drum tone right now. Absolutely no way. So that's two different situations that basically required the same process. Etame, which is do your homework. Um, and once you're done doing your homework, you've got a few big decisions to make, and ah, they're not pretty. But you have to make these choices up front. You don't want Teoh record half an album, then realize that one of these things is the matter. So we're gonna record the band's drummer, recession drummer Um, like Sean said people, Or, like I said, based on what Sean said, people don't need to be as prepared these days and because they don't need to be. Therefore, they're not as prepared. We got a lot of drummers in the studio who blow it and just don't do their homework. Don't prepare. And like I said earlier, drums are the foundation for everything. If your drum suck, your record is going to suck, there's no way around it. It's just going to suck. You're wasting your time. Hopefully, you're getting paid really well because you're wasting your time, so you need to decide right then and there. Is it better to cut your losses and have somebody else pretend to be the band's drummer? And if so, you gotta have the talk. I hate the talk, but it is the top man that the talk sucks, but nobody's fault. This just isn't working out between us, you know it's not, you know. Yeah, Look, there's no good guy or bad guy. It's just This isn't working about the vibe, man. And we just on it right. You know, you'll grow from this. We all sucked. Sometimes, you know that's funny. You'll grow from this. That's one of my lines is hopefully you'll take this as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, and this time next year you'll be away better musician and not get replaced back to the D League sex. Um, way I think he would be a great drummer for that local ban. We're laughing about it, but it's actually a pretty traumatic thing. It's It's it's really bad. And, uh, do you do your homework, drummers? Because as uncomfortable as it is, that's what we get paid to do is make tough calls like that, and drummers will get replaced. That's one of the first things toe. That's one of the first choices we make because again, you don't want to go nine songs and then replaced the drummer and re record all nine songs. You want to figure this out of front? It's a big process to record an album so that again get a lay of the land, know who you're recording it. Go on YouTube. Watch this guy play if he can't keep time. If he sounds like a drum set falling down the stairs or shoes in the dryer, just make the call that you're not going to record him. You're gonna get somebody else. Be the bad guy. Yeah, good guys. Either bag, you're the good guy in the end, because six months down the line, the band isn't going to care that the drummer was replaced. They're gonna care that their records sucks or doesn't suck. And that's what you're going to care about as well. So tough. Call number one that yet to make. And, uh, what if there's no session drummer available? That or not in the budget, then, Ah, we call my buddy superior drummer. And sometimes on some records, it's not even that. Sometimes that's just the sound you want is that super consistent sound that you can only get via virtual drums. And that's a decision you gotta make up front, because again, you don't want to record Khalfan album and then realize you're gonna program it all over again. On that also can be the talk. However, I've had drummers say I would rather be programmed, then be replaced by somebody else. So the next ah decision you're gonna have to make is ah, are you use kicks or pads and these air all. Maybe you're catching a theme here, but this is all based on the drummer dropping the ball. The fact that there's even a slide for this should illustrate that this is a really common thing. Drummers drop the ball, and pretty frequently, this guy right here doesn't drop the ball. That's why I asked him to be here and why? Why people worship him. Uh, but that's so rare. That is unbelievably rare. That's not really life. It is for you. But that's not it's not for me. Uh, most of the time, I, uh I experienced Germans dropping the ball. And also, since we have to mix a lot of albums that come in from other places, I know that on other recordings done by other people, drummers dropped the ball. So producers make the call up front that you're not gonna let that happen to your recordings be be the good guy to the big picture. So what if you have a situation where the drummers hands are pretty good, but his feet are on another planet or something? Uh, you use a kick pad, and that's a good Ah, that's a good halfway point between completely replacing the drummer and, uh, you know, tracking someone that sucks. And then also, you contract really good drummers at the kick bed, and there's a bunch of reasons to do it. It's not cheating at all. Uh, you use that pad the role in kick pad. I'm sure there's other ones or triggers to replace a physical kick drum. And, ah, there's a bunch of pros and cons to it. And I'd say that it's really cool that sometimes the German doesn't have to worry about playing the kicks. Now I'm probably laughing, but I guess inside. But when you're talking about 16th notes at 2 50 BPM for an entire song that's on actual issue because don't forget, we edit everything. So let me backtrack a second. A drummer that whose performance is not edited is a rarity. We edit just about everybody, and we edit them to the end degree. And it's not exactly an artistic thing that I would like, But that's the sound that's popular these days. And you have Teoh, you have to make records according to the time period that you live in. And these days the edited sound is what's in, Um, so we add it just about everything and editing is quite a process, and if you have a bunch of kick drums that don't correspond with your room, Mike's in your overheads at extremely high speeds. Editing is gonna be an absolute nightmare, and it's gonna take way longer than it needs to take. So that's one reason for using a kick bad. You have no no kick drums in your over heads of rooms. It's way easier to add it. No kick bleed. Conversely, it throws off some drummers cause they're not feeling a kick drum. Uh, same reason that it's good. It's bad. Uh, no kick bleed is also a problem. Sometimes, if you want your kick in the rooms, you want to do cool stuff. Cool rock sounding stuff for Zeppelin E sounding stuff is not gonna happen with the kick bed because the bass drum is a big part of that tone. So you got to make this choice up front. It's going to affect everything and ah, the there's really no turning back. Once you're five songs and six songs in, what are you going to do? Asked the band to book three or four or five more days. That's they're not gonna have the money for that, or you're not gonna have the money for that or the time for that. So make the tough calls up front. You will thank yourself later. With all that said, want to rephrase the question I asked you earlier, which is, uh, who's your favorite drummer and what do you think your challenges would be? Recording them based on everything we just talked about? Um, I'm a big fan of the John bottom sound. Um, the, um and I man, I've never thought about what the challenges would be recording him. Well, he's dead. That's probably that's probably the kicker right there. Yeah. Um but, uh, yeah, I I'm not sure if I could answer that. Well, I think that Mike Distances would be a big issue with someone that hits that hard. And drums that air that size are really hard to tune. So there's two challenges right there. Very serious challenges. Cause Mike's if you your mikes are too far away, things will sound distant. If there's that close to something that's putting off SPL's that air that high, you have the potential of seriously actually damaging some microphones. But just getting way too much proximity effect, which is a low and build up, or just literally air pulses in the mic that make it sound like garbage and distorted. So you're miking is a big, big thing. You have to consider with the drummer that hits that hard and again tuning tuning is downright close to impossible with a guy that hits that hard in that low. So there you go, that's That's the homework I would dio and I suppose, knowing that they like a lot of our in John Bottoms recordings. There's a lot of room tone. It actually were. Mike's to sound right, and getting the room to sound right would be a challenge. I think that if you have the right room, it's not that hard, cause you just find the spot where it sounds good and you put a the proper mike. I mean, easier said than done. The hard part is finding the right room, I think, because a good room can cost up to seven figures toe have designed and constructed the for instance, the room at Audio Hammer is a complete luck of the draw situation. We couldn't afford to build a room that's that good. That kind of stuff just doesn't happen and it's super expensive. So I would say that would be the biggest challenge in getting a good room tone once you have a room like that, like I said. You just set it up. Good to go. Drummer sounds like the drummer. You've got a drummer. Who's that good. He will make the kids sound like that. So what about you? Who's your favorite jarring? What do you think would be the hard part about recording them as a kid? I would always watch Ringo and going. I tried to play along with them. Um, so I guess that's my favorite drummer. I guess, uh, the difficulties might be finding that that range, whereas dynamics show through is not necessarily like a loud drummer, at least in the mix. Um, you know, finding that that pop. I know he was notorious for early fine tuning this drum. So maybe giving him some limitations on time, like all right, you know, to really or were working with them. Now question. I don't know if you get this deep into that stuff, but is your favorite drummer, Ringo or Paul? Because Paul played most of their stuff. The reason I ask is because, uh, there's one guy that hit super hard who just got turned down in the mix. And one guy that hits, like like a like a sissy. basically, uh, and the reason I'm bringing that up is not to play rock n roll trivia, but to say that I would do my homework if I was recording Abandoned. Know that the bassist is actually the drummer and he hits way harder than the actual drummer is a far superior musician, and that's the dude I'm gonna be dealing with. And that's a whole like we said with Bonham Ah, hard hitter is will present you with a whole other set of challenges that a light hitter won't light hitter that can barely keep time is a whole different beast. That's, uh, obviously back in the sixties, editing was not a thing, but, ah, hard, consistent hitter. You're not going to need to edit as much, But you have to do a lot more work up front to make sure that all the tuning and the the mikes were right with with more of a worse of what else you're gonna what else you're gonna call him with more of a worse coming in with those seven A's nylon tips? Seven A's. Yeah. Hey, I'm just shy of a seven A. So I'm partial, with some playing a five, you hit like a beast, though, um, you will know that with a dryer that hits like a worse and place it was There's not much you can do up front. There's only so far you're gonna be able to get the natural drums, so you're going to do a lot of work after the fact. And so I would plan for that. That's so go about it about you, I think probably my favorite drummer toe listen to is the He played for the band within temptation. Um, he's got a Dutch name that I don't know exactly how you pronounce that his first name, Stephen. But he was also recently replaced. He, um he quit the band to do something else, and so they got a new drummer that I don't like as much. But, um, yeah, I really liked the stuff that he did with that band. I think as far as challenges recording him, I think I need a lot more Mike's than then I use. Right now, he he tends to have more drums and Cymbals in his kit than I'm used to dealing with. So and for that style of music, you want to close, Mike, everything, uh, for more of a technical metal thing, you can't get away with four mikes. I mean, you can try, but I'm just not gonna happen. That's being that. That's what we do. I can tell you that under 20 mikes, really? Your you're pushing it averages about 25 and it's because you're miking every single little piece. So if I know that I'm gonna be making a metal record, my prep is to know exactly how many pieces I'm gonna be wanting to control after the fact and then approaching it like that. It's kind of what I tried to do with this, but we don't have enough inputs or Mike's to go with it. But the original approach was to Mike everything and to take the room out of this equation, but not exactly possible. And I've even lately my thing is double making the Tom's mother, you know, getting that extra low in and resonance from the bottom time. So add another. How many times you have had more Mike's there. Yeah, we we do that almost every time. Uh, under the Tom over the Tom to Mike's on top of the snare under the snare, every single symbol by itself. In addition to regular room Mike's. I mean, in addition, toe regular overheads and then rooms, multiple rooms, stereo behind the kits, stereo mid stereo far lots of combination you can use. Yeah, and honestly, we end up trashing some of them, of course, but it's good to have the options. What's up? Do they, um, in a live setting would use a similar number of Mike's to get on equivalent sound to it was on the record or where they typically use fewer mike's. They generally won't have that many inputs alive, so they have to use fear. See you holding the mic? Yeah, I'm gonna I'm gonna say Josh, freeze. Oh, yeah. Um one. He's a total Punisher when he plays, but I think really a good way. Yeah, and you could play in place. He's played on so such a broad spectrum of albums, But I guess the biggest challenge would be as an engineer or producer toe. You know, you have someone with that much experience to come in and who has been on records that have sounded amazing. So I guess the biggest challenge would be How do you hold up or improve on that as an engineer when it comes to getting that drum some. So I guess that's a question for you. I would be more concerned with keeping up with them rather than which, which is awesome. My philosophy towards music has always been surround myself with people better than me, and any time that I've done that stuff has gone well. Whereas anytime I haven't done that, it's gone badly. Very simple equation. But it works. Ah, surround yourself with people better than you. So let's talk about key takeaways real quick. This is where you make all your big upfront decisions if you're going to be the bad guy, and now is the time to just jump right in and do it. If you got to replace the drummer, replace the drummer. If you don't cool, choose your gear. Uh, at least start to choose your gear. You might change it out later, but you've got to get going. So no, what's what's available and what you think you're gonna use. And ah, just because you choose something now doesn't mean you can't go and change it later. But there are some things that will be really horrible to change later, like the drummer, or like the kick drum. So just, ah, make those tough choices. Now I'm gonna open up the floor to questions. Awesome. Do we have any questions from anyone here in the audience? Hi. Hi. Real quick. I know we've talked about this in the past, but can you discussing Sean, if you could adding exits on both sides. But can you discuss how important it is to really understand, as an engineer or producer, the mental aspect of the drummer and give me an example? You know, you have a new drummer who haven't worked for before or worked with before, and he he's pretty nervous is probably one of his first or not many times working with Younis. He spent the last three months learning every song perfectly and then as us the producer, you know, halfway through song, saying, Hey, we're gonna need to change this part. You need to play something different. And here's this guy who super nervous, who's learned it like the back of his hand. And now he has to change something. How do you as a producer or an engineer adapt to how the drummer Rex mentally well, attracting upfront I. But I will ask bands to book more than last time and explain to them that it's not that I'm trying to get more money out of them is that they actually need more time. And the way that I approach drummers being nervous is I just make them play drums because usually within an hour of playing a song, they're chilled out. They got the jitters out of their system, and I think that's that's really what it's about is getting the jitters out of their system. And I like to equate it to playing a live show. Somewhere around the third song, people chill, just they just chill the hell out and start playing better. Eso, however, I'm going to get them to that point. That's the goal and usually just looping the songs over and over and over, or the the part in question, just moving it and looping and looping it, and you have to be really, really patient. Uh, I realized that if a dude's been working on a part for three months, changing, it might not be really high up on his to do list. But that's why I'm hired to produce the record. And the drummer isn't, um, I should have the bird's eye view, so I will. I will voice my concern about the part, and then I will coach them as much they need to and take a long as needed. I have worked about the maximum has been 11 hours on one part with a drummer trying to get to change something. But that's what it takes sometimes. So I think the identifying factor two is Are you producer or are you just dude recording? According, like do? Does the band value your opinion? Absolutely. You gotta ask yourself that, or you just like hands off, all right. You know, like, I'm not even going to get into this business. But I know for me as a drummer early in my career. And of course, this is my the session drummer Or is this my band? Am I gonna stand my ground and say no this on? You know, this is my part. Um, I've learned to not take that personally, and I've learned that, you know, sitting behind the drums and playing them and hearing them from here is completely different than hearing it against the song behind the glass where you know you're not caught up in the physical nature of it on. But I think you know, changing something, especially if you are prepared. You spent all this time rehearsing it. It's in your bones like muscle memory. It can throw some people off. I've learned to kind of embrace that challenge and look at it as, oh, we're doing something new now. It's like, who knows? And you could be pleasantly surprised. I think from the drummers perspective, you need to be open to that or you're just going to be that guy. That's no, I'm standing my ground. I'm right. I'm the drummer, You know what I mean? So the person's person that you kind of have to gauge the personality and and where you are in that role, you know, I will definitely say that there's some drummers where I decide that I'm going to step out of the way because like I keep saying this. But I was recording Sean. If I wanted him to change apart, I'd bring it up. If he didn't want to change apart. I let it go. And the story. That's it. Um, but I also think that if I wanted to change apart, it wouldn't take him hours or even two hours over in one hour to change. It would probably take probably immediate, or take a few run throughs and be done. And that's probably why psychologically, he's not so traumatized by the experience of changing things done. His homework is a drummer. I think that the dude who is that resistant to change just hasn't done what we talked about earlier, which is doing being uncle in the studio, doing it so many times you're calling okay, this is it's kind of a second all night, so intimidating because there's so much stuff going on, you know what I mean? So I mean someone who it's their first or second, you know, recording session might just be overwhelmed with just regurgitating the part. They already know. You know what I mean? Much less my God, I got to do something new. So it's, you know, those are definitely factors Teoh contend with. Yeah, it's totally, uh, situational dependent