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Drum Tracking

Lesson 10 from: Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou

Kurt Ballou

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Lesson Info

10. Drum Tracking

Lesson Info

Drum Tracking

Drum tracking so you want to determine at the beginning of a project depending on who's in the band what the budget of the band is, what sort of space were going working in what kind of equipment that you're working with, whether you want to track the ban in the traditional way where the band is playing live together or whether you want teo track the drummer playing by themselves with maybe either a scratch guitar and or bass playing along with them or some in case of some bands they might have like the last man that recorder, for example they were you know, they have some recordings kill themselves and it actually de maling their whole record on a click track and they came into me with scratch tracks of the guitars already recorded and click tracks and vocals and bass and everything are the recording, which is kind of need it didn't it didn't allow me to have my two cents is much because it was already sort of set what the song was going to be that I but it was great for the drummer b...

ecause he had been rehearsing too the same exact performances that he was recording teo so went along pretty quickly so that's ah if you're doing scratch tracks that's that's one thing that you can asked the band to do if they have the time and the know how in the case of of live recording in my particular studio where it's kind of small and not able to really easily isolate the amplifiers from the drum set, and so I end up recording everybody in the same room together like it's, a band practice, and I will, uh, you know, just bleed into everything, so if one person messes up pretty much, you got to start over more punch in or something like that sometimes it takes together, but for the most part, what you see is what you get the nice thing about that live tracking is that as your engineering it while you have a whole lot more stuff to manage and think about as your recording, and maybe some of the details slip through, you also met much better understanding of what the big picture is, and I think you can actually be a little bit more aggressive in your queue and compression choices when you're tracking because you really understand how the drums and guitar and bass and maybe maybe the vocals that they're doing live vocals are going to work together. And, of course, the drawback is that you can't put his much attention on any one sound or anyone performance, and if there's if the band isn't super well rehearsed than you know. You know, the problem I always get is the bass player's playing something on the fourth threatened the guitar players on the third fret and she's like no that's o, you showed it to me and, you know, you can't always pick up that stuff when you're when you're doing life tracking and like you can when you're doing scratched guitar track along with the drum set. Um, and then, you know, the other thing is just the acoustic space that you're working in, you know? So like I said in my studio, but I'm recording a band live, and I don't really have a place to put amps so everything's bleeding into everything else, and I can't, you know, have a dedicated room, like on the guitar because it's guitar is gonna bleed into the drums. I can't really do a whole lot of remarking on the drums because the guitar and bass just sort of take over the room sounds so it's really gotta nail the close mikes and the overheads on the drum set and get the majority of my tone from that. If I want to get a roomy drum tone, I'm gonna be using some sort of artificial reverb, but that's kind of ok for a lot of projects, and, you know, if if the feel of the interaction between the players is more important to making a great record in this case than the tones and being meticulous about their performances than that can be the way to go. The majority of the records that I do are some sort of scratch instrument along with the drum set but I've been just is happy with live recordings that have been with more meticulous studio recordings and the other advantage to a live recording especially if a band is on a tight budget is that just all those quite a bit faster there's less you can do with it so there's less that you do with it so you just kind of get get through it all faster you're our kind of building your mix as your tracking so it's it goes it goes really quickly so I enjoy recording that way a lot I hope you know someday I hope to maybe uh move to a larger studio that I could do more live tracking easily. Um so the next thing teo to think about is whether or not you're any use a click track I feel as though click tracks or getting mohr and mohr common in music and I find I very rarely request that man use a click track I will occasionally request that they were hearst to a click track in advance of of coming into the session but very rarely will ask them to do it if they're not already comfortable with it but a lot of ants now come in asking me for a click track sometimes they even come in with like many files of of tempo math that they've made themselves because they know that they want to do that and there's a lot to be said for using one if you know maintaining a steady tempo is really important to the song it's cool or if you have ah a drummer that easily gets the lets the temple get away from them sometimes you want to, you want to reel them in a little bit and the click track could be beneficial but quite a few downsides of click track I'll tell you a couple of them and also how to get her some work arounds to that. So the big downside for me is if a drummer's not comfortable playing on the click track, they start playing very conservatively you know they go from being a hard hitter to alight hitter or medium hitter on dh they go from being sort of adventurous with their fills two very conservative with their fails because they're afraid they're going to lose the click. So getting a great headphone next for them where they can hear themselves here the other musicians and hear the click track well but also so there's not too much click bleeding into the flight, the overheads and the room mikes eyes crucial personally, I love the feel of natural drummer fluctuation like fluctuations in temple involvement stuff is what gets me excited about music, but I hate the feel of a drummer compensating for having got off a click so you know, you might be at a certain temple, the drummers rocking out and then like, you know, a triplet phil comes out, every drummer slows down, triple it feels so all of a sudden now you're like thirty second note behind the beat, which I don't care if they flood on that phil, but now the beat following that fill the need to speed back up to compensate for the fact that they fell off that on that phil and I hate hearing that so the two ways to get around that are either spend some time building a kind of a complicated temple map of the song we're like okay, this here's the triplet phil and I know the number is going to slow down five ppm here, so let's drop the tempo and then bring it back up the tempo and beat it following to fill and we want to add a little excitement to the chorus so let's kick it up a couple bpm and then the bridge couple bpm or maybe the last verse just as a result of all that stuff isn't a couple bpm faster than the first first, you know it takes a while to sort of build a temple map that follows the drummer's natural tendencies to sort of like you know if if they're tempo this is this is no temple fluctuation and this is their normal temple fluctuation maybe you want to bring it into here where the song the song feels steadier than it was to begin with but isn't totally, totally inhumanly dead the other thing you can do is do grid based editing which in pro tools is called detective and it's a pretty useful tool I use it regularly for situations where they really want a rigid tempo through the whole song but there's some temple fluctuations between, you know, phil's or beats or whatever or the other thing happens a lot is if a drum track is composed of multiple takes edited together might be that on take one they're playing a little behind the beat and take two they're playing a little ahead beat and you want to marry those two takes takes together at the spice point between the two takes you know you've got this guy this side is a little a little behind this this size little head the only way to really effectively marry that and maintain its correlation to the click track is to do a little bit grid based editing to kind of join that stuff together and ah lot of times I'll choose to vary the strength of the detective, which is teo you know, say fifty fifty percent which which will nudge it in the right direction but not sort of lock it exactly to the grid if you're trying to integrate like some elektronik drums in with acoustic drums then one hundred percent to the grid sort of way to go otherwise you end up with some like flam e stuff happening between acoustic and electric drums, but I do try to avoid that stuff if I can in the song that's the example for this class was not done on the clicks I don't actually have a good example of that create based editing um okay, so um oh, there was a little bit of you did here on the previous the intro to the previous segment where there was some drum tracking happening you did hear some stuff with a click that was actually from a different song. So this song not on the click um talk a little bit about phil's and I'm mentioning the voice again because sometimes uh sometimes drums or hook you know, sometimes someone comes up with a drum things not just a beat but it's really a drum riff and it's it's, phil or it's a hook or some kind of thing that is the focus of a song, so don't lose sight of that sometimes you want to automate the drums up a little bit in those areas, just tow just a feature the drum set but you also want to be aware of when to fill and when not to fill and sometimes the drummer is sometimes drummers don't really care what genre of music they're playing. They're just like, yeah there's like stuff that I could do phil's over like, you know, that's like that's, like why they're there there's like tio make sure that you help guide them so that their filles are not distracting from the voice. So if there's like you know the hook is the vocal or some guitar leader, something like that there's there's there's a time for drum fills and there's a time for a drummer to just be in the service industry and just be paving the way but not not not distracting from else is happening so yeah and then, uh, choice of symbol again, um, you know, symbols symbol sort of paint paint moods you have or even to not use a symbol it all if you're recording like a lot of like classic neil young stuff uh, the acoustic guitar sort of takes the role of the high and the drummer's just playing kicking snare exceeds two times he's just playing, kicking, snare and like acoustic guitars filling the role of the crisp thing that's riding steadily, so you won think riff terrific part to part what what's the symbol choice that's going to present the best forward momentum to the song and keep a song most exciting it's really a pet peeve of mine when two symbols air used our issues one symbol is used two riffs in a row you know, like if the if the verses on high hat you know the core should be on right or course should be on crash in the version beyond rider you know whatever it is just arrange it so that you're not constantly staying on one simple and you know it's great when a drummer can you know I can do that on the fly in the studio but it's also something they should hopefully well planned out in advance and really know that they want to be on the high hat for the verse and the arrival of course hopefully you're working with the drummer this can compensate on the fly if you catch some kind of little continuity error like that um and then that want to talk a little bit about drum editing. A lot of people will save all of their drum editing for the end. I really try to avoid that a because just to avoid doing too much anything all at once and getting carpal tunnel but I think that it's crucial to do drama editing before you break down your drum set up because a lot of times you like you'll you realize like, oh, yeah, I could just fix that later by editing it. And then you realize I'll wait a second, like, I can't really do that because I thought he was on the right crash when he was actually the left crash. And when I do this end, it like all of a sudden this, like decay from another crash bubble will disappear or appear. Or or maybe, like, you know, the take is not quite there, and you want to edit it to perfect the take. But you might add it to death and still not get there would be better for the drummer just to replay it. So I think it's really a good idea to do all of your edits on the fly and make sure not it doesn't have to be before you leave that song, but should definitely be before you leave that drum sound. And if you do find yourself going back after the fact to drop in a little section of drums that you couldn't edit the way that you want to. Double check your tuning and make sure that especially the snare is has the same pitch that it did when you were tracking in the body of that song that I've been sent a lot of stuff to mix, where, you know, it's like dat don't going come to think of something that's just like super frustrating that it makes you want to use sound replacement just to get a a consistent tone? I do, I do try to avoid that if I can, um so, yeah, do the edits on the fly and as you're doing them, make sure you do them in a way that preserves the the symbols, okay? So, like, you know, let's say someone messed up a verse and you want to punch me in on the verse, having play along with the part before the verse don't just haven't start on the verse because if they start in the verse and the part before the verse and with like, a, you know, a tom roll. Now all of a sudden, when you splice into the verse that floor tom decay has all well, all of a sudden disappear because they weren't they weren't playing along with it prior to the spice point, so just do everything you can teo preserve that sense of continuity and also people. Play better and play differently for sure when they are playing with a sense of continuity and that's that holds true for any instrument but especially with with drums one final thought on drum editing I want to do switch over to pro tools for a second and do a quick just a quick little I'm not quite demonstration but just look a little visual thing so it's just going to zoom in on my it's the very first hit of the song so um still zuman sil zuman alright, so right here if you could see this cursor actually selected also the curse is a little bigger but this this is the first hit of the song is a snare drum all right? And I'm gonna zoom the height of this a little bit too so you can see um well, I'm in samples right now I'm gonna go I'm gonna go back two minutes and seconds so you can kind of see a timing offset between um the toppings and bottoms near mike we're gonna talk more about that later so the sneers arriving he's first see where the snare arrives at each microphone so there's a little bit of ah of a delay before it gets to the rack tom a little bit more delay before it gets to the floor time little mohr delay before gets the overhead pretty big delay before against that close ra mike which was a mano a and twenty two in front of the kid and then this is big delay before we get teo look about fifteen and delay before we get to the big room mike and remember that number fifty milliseconds is going to come up tomorrow as well so before I headed the drum set let's say shrink this down a little bit again I can see what's going on a little better but if I can find it like a drone phil uh like a roll or something but he doesn't even know that there's some stuff that's little buildup thing um say like look how uh well tough to see what you can you can see how skewed um you know this this this like fifteen millisecond offset is um or more like twenty second offset is from the close mike attack what I like to do when I'm editing before if I if I end up doing any greed based editing especially before I do my edits I like to slot and go back to the beginning I like to slide you can really see it actually on the stick clicks here I like to slide these um the overheads were not actually definitely the roommates maybe not the overheads but I'll slide the room mike's back in time just a little bit before I start editing so uh off, so take my close mike and I'm going to say five milliseconds I mean shuffle mode right now when I delete it's going to pull the track back and I'm going to the big room and, uh, safe fifteen millisecond offset to leave and then pulls that track back so I'm not gonna leave it like this for mixing, but now you can see that the tracks the peak of the transient lines up a lot better with the track so in the case of like, some dense stuff like this um when I do look right on doing tab the transient and then be two separate region gonna tap just got tab out well, that's a flam so it's think it's a flam so it's kind of one drum hit, but mr trains in there, but you know, as I tab this out, the if I hadn't if I hadn't slid the room mike's back then um the transient would be appear on the big room stuff would sort of be appearing in the middle of this clip rather than the transient from the big room being at the beginning of the clip. So when you get into some really fast stuff, you could end up with these weird phantom snare rings or or kick pops that you don't want to hear if you scoot those tracks back from what it lines up all the transients so that your your editing will be more accurate. And then, after you complete any grid based at anything that you do, if you remember what your offset wass, you come, you come back over here and push it back to where it was originally. And then, you know, restore the performance. But now you know, just it's. It's sort skewed where the spice point is on those andean tracks. And I find that it makes her much cleaner type of type of aditya.

Class Materials

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GodCity Salem Impulses

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

I've been engineering out of my home studio for the past 7 years. I recently graduated from college for studio production and recording bands has been my main source of income for the past 5 years or so. Honestly, this course was incredible and completely worth the $100. Kurt Ballou truly understands the art and he really got me excited to be a recording engineer. I already knew a lot of the techniques and details he went over, but he presented his ideas so intelligently that I was happy to sit through the topics that focused on beginners. I'm not a huge metal or hardcore fan, but Kurt has amazing taste in the way he produces these bands. It's hard to listen to some of the releases today that have the life sucked out of their music with full-on drum replacement and crazy amounts of autotune. It was just refreshing to listen to an engineer who totally knows what makes rock music exciting. This class is worth checking out even just to watch a successful modern engineer show you the basics of his craft.

Fariz Junaini

This was a great course to pick apart the brain of The Kurt Ballou, but I felt some of the topics could be presented a little better and went more in-depth in like the framework of the mixing process. I fell like if you don't have an understanding of basic audio engineering you would be pretty lost but thank god I knew enough to get me through. But nonetheless, Kurt shared some pretty interesting techniques like the crossover method. Love this guy! Hope to see more of him!

a Creativelive Student

This course has been the most comprehensive I have watched concerning the art of audio manipulation. The points made in terms of phase relationships, mic technique, and polarity are valuable insight into getting good sound. My personal favorite was the way he edits toms. All the content is good stuff and well worth your money. Icing on the cake in the included IR samples. I purchased the course for $79. I love you Kurt!

Student Work