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Drum Head and Shell Selection

Lesson 3 from: Studio Pass: Periphery

Adam "Nolly" Getgood, Matt Halpern

Drum Head and Shell Selection

Lesson 3 from: Studio Pass: Periphery

Adam "Nolly" Getgood, Matt Halpern

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Lesson Info

3. Drum Head and Shell Selection

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The lesson discusses drum head and shell selection for recording situations, with a focus on the preference for clear drum heads. The instructors explain the differences between clear and coated drum heads in terms of sound and durability. They also discuss the importance of accommodating the drummer's preferences and the challenges of recording drums. The lesson concludes with a discussion on bass drum and snare drum sizes, tuning, and the impact of head selection on drum sound.


  1. What are the differences between clear and coated drum heads?

    Clear drum heads provide more give and resonance, while coated drum heads have a papery feel and tend to muffle the sound, resulting in a more mid-focused sound.

  2. Why do the instructors prefer clear drum heads?

    They prefer clear drum heads because they prefer the give and responsiveness of the drum when hitting it.

  3. How do drum heads affect recording?

    Clear drum heads generally have more extended high end and resonance, while coated drum heads have a more muffled sound with less high end. The choice of drum head depends on the desired sound and style of the drummer.

  4. How does shell depth affect drum sound?

    Shallower drum shells have a shorter sustain and tighter sound, which can be desirable in a studio setting. Deeper drum shells have more space for sound to resonate, resulting in a more drawn-out sound.

  5. What is the importance of tuning and head selection in achieving good drum sounds?

    The instructors emphasize that tuning and head selection are key to achieving good drum sounds, regardless of the quality of the drum kit. As long as the drum is in good condition and can be tuned well, a decent sound can be achieved.

Lesson Info

Drum Head and Shell Selection

I think what we should talk about specifically is why would pick certain heads for certain drums in certain settings. Sure. And I can really talk about that first from just a preference standpoint. I've always really liked clear drum heads. Can you actually grab me that Mapex drum? So, for those that don't know, this is a clear drum head. Okay, so it's see through basically. You can see through. But there other drum heads out there that are coated that it's kind of like, almost a papery feel on top, it's a coating that can add durability but also can give it a very specific sound. I've never been much of a fan of it, just from a field perspective. When I hit the drum, I like a little bit of give, and I feel like with a clear head you can really get some nice give to it and you can really lay into the drum. With the coated ones, I never really connected with it that way. So for me-- Yeah. That's a big preference of goin' into recording situations where the producer or the engine...

er is set in his or her ways where it's like you have to use these drums with this head and it's coated and you know, you deal with it and it's fine, but if I have the option I really wanna record with these clear heads. So when we started working together, We sat down and we said, alright what are we doing? We made a list of all the heads we were gonna-- get from Evans. Yeah. And which ones we we're gonna set up and-- And try them. We did and funny enough, this drum head in particular, was not the Tom head that we used on the recording Juggernaut, we used the G14s, right. G14, yeah. And this one is the Evans G2 head which is kind of, it's a double-ply head, so it's a little bit more durable. With how I'm hitting in this aggressive style Periphery has, we need something that's not gonna cave in. When we were using the G14s, we were changing the drum heads, I don't know, every song, pretty much. I mean, just to talk a little bit about that, drum heads do come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and they can vary really drastically even when they look quite similar, so this is a double-ply which means it has literally two thin films. They're not glued together. They just kind of rest against each other and they naturally kind of muffle one another and it takes some of the overtones out of the drum, gives you a shorter sound, but also gives a lot more durability, and it's very standard to use this on the side of the Tom that you hit, the batter side. When we get to the resonance side, you very rarely actually see coated heads like you were talking about on the batter side, on the resonance side. This is a G1, this is a much thinner head. It's essentially like one of the plies of this head. And we'll get into all that stuff when we're actually tuning the drum, but from a microphone's perspective, the difference between clear and coated heads is, I don't wanna say, it's subtle, but perhaps it's not as great a difference as you might perceive in the room. With a clear head you get probably more extended high end, and it tends to resonate more, just by virtue of having a coating on the drum. A coated head tends to kind of muffle itself, a little bit, and you lose some of the high end. You have more of a kind of mid-focus sound. A clear head in many ways sounds kind of more open. You get more sustain after the drum. Generally people equate that with a modern drum sound, but really depending on the drummer and how they're hitting, a coated head could sound perfectly modern. It's just different flavors. One of the things I really wanna talk about throughout this process is kind of working with you and your preferences. Right. When I work with any drummer, I try to cater to their preferences if they have them. You will see some producers, as you say, who really want things to be a certain way. It's good to be flexible in those situations. Yeah, it's good for the drummer to be able to be flexible. Sure. But as an engineer, I don't wanna be forcing you to play on a setup that's unfamiliar and sacrifice a really good performance. Like when it comes to the positioning of your cymbals, or the head choice, or really any aspect of it. I'm trying to capture your performance, so I wanna have a certain skillset that allows me to work around those preferences and still get a result that works for both of us. Sure. I think that's really important considering that I really do have a pretty, you know, obvious preference as far as what we're using and I think the drum sizes too, the process of selecting them for the recording process of Juggernauts, specifically, that was really specific. I'll come around here actually, just to talk about this kit a bit. When we recorded Juggernaut, we actually used slightly different sizes than what we have here. And that was based off of really my preference. I actually enjoy a shorter Tom setup, if I'm gonna have Toms here. I find that because of me sitting high, for whatever reason I like the Toms lower. So the deeper they are, you kind of have a little bit less space, to lower them because of where the bass drum is. You know, you don't want the rims to hit the drums, so with deeper Toms, you know, the diameters are still the same, but it definitely has a different feel to it. The response of the sound is kind of more drawn out, because there's more space for the sound to resonate. But when we want to record Juggernaut specifically, we were using a sort of seven-inch depth, which is actually the drum that you had before, seven by 10-inch diameter. And this one is actually an eight inch depth, with a 10-inch diameter. So it's really one-inch difference, but from a field perspective, even just the way the stick bounces off the drum is a little bit different. And same thing with this Tom. This Tom is a 10 by 12, and then when we recorded Juggernaut, it was a eight by 12. So again, it was a one-inch deeper from this 10-inch diameter drum, but, you know, it just feels a little funny, and even the floor Toms here are different in that when we recorded the album, the circumferences were 14 and 16. Those are both the same here, but the depths are different. This depth is, it's 14 by 14, so it's a very even kind of boxy square drum, and I don't know if that affects us on (faint speaking) at all, it's just-- I think that's a really shallow-- drum though. Yeah. I think that's a 14 by 11, or something. Is it? Yeah. Oh. Both the (faint speaking) are quite shallow on this kit. Oh, it's a 16 by 14. This looks like a by 12. By 12, yeah. Yeah, I'm not sure. Yep, exactly. I think what you're already getting a sense of is that what you have to learn when you're recording drums it's such a physical instrument and you're cramming together really instruments that all come from a different tradition entirely into a small space and trying to make it work, and as an engineer it's both, to me, it's one of the most fun things to record, because you are trying to cram microphones in and get optimal sound from every piece without too much leakage between them, so that you can mix them real easily. But it can also be a real pain, sometimes. Yeah, and what I think what's great about this particular experience that we're kind of in right now, the experience that we're in right now, is that we're trying to recreate or improve upon the sounds that we have for the record in this class, and we have different drums to do it. So that's kind of the unique challenge for us to face. It's not as familiar as far as the depths go. But, there's a specific kind of sound I go for, so these are the Mapex Saturns, which are a maple walnut wood, so the sound, it's very lively but it's also nice and dark and very warm and it's got a really nice punch to it. So once we get it miked up, you'll hear what they specifically sound like. I think something just really briefly, that's important to talk about, just the bass drum and the snare drum relationship, at least in terms of the sizes that we like. The bass drum here, is an 18 by 22. So it's 18 in depth and then it's 22 around. And that's kind of the standard size these days, most kits, generally 22 by 18, is the bass drum size that you have. Yeah, and anytime that we've recorded, it's either been an 18 by 22, or a 16 by 22. Yeah, so 16 by 22, I think was more popular in the 90s? So when the kick drum we used on Juggernaut actually came from a much older kit, kind of from this era of Mapex Saturns, because we wanted that specific size. We'll get to talking about a kit sound in particular, but generally a shorter drum is gonna have a little bit less resonance. It's gonna be a bit tighter sounding which can be really good in a studio situation. And again, we'll get more into this later, but my approach to tuning drums and getting them to sound good at the source is really to not have to modify the sound with too much muffling. So if you got a drum that naturally has a shorter sustain, you can actually keep more of the character of the drum. As soon as you start putting moon gels or pillows into kit drums or moon gels on snares and Toms, you really start eating away at the differences between different drums that set them apart. So, getting the right sizes is important from that perspective. I also wanna hasten to add, and yeah, maybe some people will disagree with this, but to me, the real key to good drum sounds, is in tuning and head selection. As long the drum isn't physically damaged. As long as it's still perfectly round, so you can tune it well, you can probably get a decent sound from it. So, you know, if you are just starting out, don't feel put off if you don't have a top-end kit. That might make tuning easier, sure, if you get like a really lovely well-maintained kit, tuning might take two seconds, and it's gonna sound great right off the bat. But, my first kit was a pretty low mid-range TOMA kit, and I used that very recently on a professional project and got some of my best drum sounds to-date, in my opinion. We just used that because the drummer was flying in and we had to use that. So, don't get too caught up in the specifics of your kit, if you're just starting out. Just get to grips with tuning and trying to get the best sound you can with what you have.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Halpern Drum Samples
Micing Guitar Cab
Nolly's Mic List

Ratings and Reviews

Connor Smith

I haven't even finished the course and already my mixes have improved dramatically. Night and day difference. I haven't watched the portions with Matt as I'm using drum samples (GGD specifically), but I have no doubt it's great. Matt is always incredibly helpful and is a brilliant drummer. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Nolly, he's very articulate and his approach to audio engineering is flat out brilliant. I'm so happy I purchased this course. Before my mixes were good (balance and things of that nature) but lacked life and energy. I just wasn't getting the professional level sound I was searching for. Now, I am proud of my mixes and actually think they're getting to the point where they sound professional and don't sound like they were produced by a dude in his bedroom with about half of year of recording and audio engineering experience. The metal genre is difficult to mix as there's a lot going on and the "current metal sound" is very crisp and clear while still being very heavy and punchy. It isn't 80s dad metal where guitars are hissy and flubby. lol I am a huge Periphery fan and it's a privilege to watch Nolly share his knowledge. I really enjoy his approach as its very simple but very effective. He doesn't have insane mixing strategies, he just does what works and it's applicable to any DAW and is helpful for almost any genre of music. Brilliant course!

a Creativelive Student

This was an amazing course! I loved hearing from both Matt and Nolly on their thought process behind drums in general. I love the point they drove home about getting a great source tone. That seems to be forgotten in a lot of recordings and they try to fix it in the mix. Jolly did a fantastic job of making it look "easy" to take already great sounding source tones and making them really shine! Cant wait to put these concepts into practice in my own projects. What a great source of knowledge here. Thanks for this great class!

Adrian Gougov

Best course and overall learning experience I've had in a long long while. Nolly and Matt are superb. Nolly is an astonishing mixing and recording engineer and a great teacher. Not only does he explains his methods carefully and in detail, but also lays down key concepts in an understandable language. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna learn how to mix modern heavy music. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna learn how to track drums properly. Definitely worth the investment if you wanna see one of modern metal's best drummers track a whole song from start to finish. Props to Creative Live for bringing this material to us.

Student Work