Show 138 – Kick Drum Mic Placement and more

This week Ryan compares various kick drum placement options with an Audix D6 and homemade subkick. In Rapidfire we cover: Guitar and vocals at the same time; What we compare our mixes to; Dumbest things heard in a recording session.

Our guest host this week is Sonic Valentine aka Ben Strano. Ben was also with us on show #118

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15 thoughts on “Show 138 – Kick Drum Mic Placement and more

  1. hey guys, great show as always and totally dug the opinions on recording guitar and vocals at the same time since that’s usually how I do my first scratch tracks for a new song project. I’m partial a mic on the guitar, one on the vocals, and then a large diaphragm condenser recording “the performance” which I use as the primary track then use then blend in the other 2 to taste. A lot of work for a scratch track, sure, but the first track sets the tone for all to come after and I like getting a good emotive recording to work from.

    Question for you guys:
    for reference I run OSX lion, Reaper 64, and have a shoestring budget for new software.

    I never use drum machines in final tracks but I find them very useful during the song-writing process. Is there a free or cheap drum machine software that I can run in reaper that can work with various time signatures (2/4, 3/4, 6/8, etc) or should I just work on getting better at programming drums in the midi sequencer?

  2. Regarding show #137 and programming MIDI drums; Good segment, but having played drums for over 40 years starting back when there was no MIDI or time correction, I am like your guest and firmly believe in simply recording a real drummer from the get go. Considering that everyone that programs drums them goes to great lengths to humanize the feel, even programming drums by nature suggest a real drummer would be the first choice in most cases.

    But I also agree when trying to compose and with today’s technology, MIDI and/or audio drum loops (whether pre-programmed or not) are very useful tools and can benefit the work flow and creative process. I actually tend to use them myself when trying to write. I can generally find something that is pretty akin to what I want and save the details and putting “my” own stamp on things later when recording. Ultimately for most things, there is no substitute for real drums.

    However, I couldn’t help but wonder at a few things that were mentioned in the segment that left me scratching my head. Jon, correct me if I am wrong, but you made a comment that you time correct and quantize real drums, then use the audio to trigger samples, and then after all that you go back and humanize the feel? Not only does this seem obsessively redundant, but I am at a loss to understand how killing the natural feel of the drummer and then trying to recreate that feel with algorithms after the fact is either time efficient or logical. I also fail to see how the end result would be as convincing as simply leaving some of the drummers original feel intact.I have an alternative suggestion to offer that might work better for some.

    I want to preface my comments by saying that outside of metal or the various styles and sub genres of rap, hip-hop, etc., far too much time correction/quantizing of real drummers is done these days (in my opinion anyway). Don’t take it personally Jon, but to me metal drums are some of the most sterile, boring, and redundant drums there are, lacking any real “feel” that could be lost quantizing, etc. For example, in the blues and jazz, as well as country and some types of rock for example, much of the impact and detail of the drumming is about feel, volume and timing wise. And with the Blues specifically (much as with guitar), a shuffle beat is a shuffle beat and it is the “feel” provided by the dynamics of the drummer as well as the “swing” or timing pulses that “makes” the drums and often the song and were an engineer to remove or “correct” any of that without first consulting the drummer would create huge doubt as to the abilities of the engineer in my mind.

    For me, instead of correcting the real drummer and quantizing and then applying human feel to the final sample tracks, it is far easier to use a tool like Sonar’s Audio Snap when beat mapping the real drum tracks and then instead of time correcting everything precisely, use the swing setting and set the magnetic strength a little weaker so you don’t lose the natural swing and feel of the drummer, but the beat runs a little closer. And instead of correcting every kick hit so it is exactly on the beat, I then sidechain the kick to trigger the bass guitar compressor to “tighten” the kick/bass groove a bit without drastically altering the original feel. I assume Steven Slate Trigger has this same capability.

    PS: Ryan, I am curious, did your drummer friend know he was listening to drums you had programmed when he said he couldn’t tell the difference or was it an actual “blind test” where he heard them and then made a comment not knowing they were programmed? I am not suggesting that you didn’t do a great job and he really wasn’t able to tell, but while most people can’t tell the difference (including some drummers I know), myself and a few of my friends (including a guitar player or two) can pretty much always tell if drums have been programmed UNLESS the samples were triggered by real audio drum tracks or MIDI recordings of a real drummer playing. I will also admit the ability to distinguish between real and programmed drums may be influenced by age/experience and growing up listening to music that didn’t have MIDI drums. It’s kind of like how many people have suggested that because so many people listen to compressed music files through earbuds or music that has been hyped or enhanced, they can’t differentiate the real details of the music because they never really hear it. Audiophile stereos and high end stereo gear in general seem to be almost a bygone product these days!

  3. Guys, thanks for the tip. I have been thinking about what design I should use for my project studio’s website. Now I know I don’t have to think too hard: just have to keep it crappy and the work will come! Great show, keep ’em coming!

  4. Hi Guys,
    I enjoyed your end of year show when you reviewed albums and talked about what turned your cranks. So, this is a 2 month heads up to think about it again. I’d like to hear your perspective on trends, and how there are some albums that sound crappy but sell, and vice versa.

  5. HI guys another great show. Jon’s segment on midi drums inspired me to install Reaper on my old music room PC to use as a midi sequencer. The PC is too old to use for much else (it’s running Windows 98…). I got midi working after a struggle but man oh man, the latency is terrible. Must be half a second from pressing a key on the keyboard to hearing sound. Any ideas? I have another sequencer on there (Freestyle) which has no latency at all, which is what I’d expect. I mean, midi isn’t a lot of data? Anyway, and ideas? The Reaper blogs are full of stuff about Asio drivers etc but surely it’s not athat complicated just to get midi up and running?

    Thanks for the great work. Love the show.

  6. @e_scarab: Preface actually means “preliminary or introductory remarks which function as an prelude.” It strikes me as odd that you would put your “preface” in paragraph 3 at the 75% mark of you comment…

    @Ryan & Jon: I 2nd Jimbag’s suggestion. Getting your list of well-recorded or well-produced music is always enlightening.

    Ride the Lightning


  7. Hi Guys,

    To follow up on the discussion about recording a vocal and acoustic guitar simultaneously, I wonder if you could continue and elaborate on mic choices (dynamic, condensor, make, model, etc.)and mic positioning to achieve a nice mix between the vocal and guitar. Love the show! Thanks.

  8. Hey Guys,

    I am in need of some suggestions on dealing with low volume on a spoken recording.

    Here is the situation: I recorded a class with a mic sitting between the two instructors. The mic is a speculated multi-direction mic (I’ll talk more about this another day) where I’m able to pick out their audio and reduce a bunch of the background and/or other folks people in the room.

    What I noticed when I got back with the recording is that the vocals ended up much lower than I expected (my error when setting the recording levels). Given this I’ve been playing with a few things:
    1) Increased volume (duh)
    2) Expander/Compressor
    3) Compressor on the main audio
    4) EQ before the Expander/Compressor

    The expander/compress is the one shipped with Reaper (Yeah, I’m giving Reaper a try due to the need for multi-track in/out for the VST i’m using). The problem I’m facing with the Expander is that often times I’m getting a bunch of audio artifacts from it and/or audio spikes I don’t want expanded. This is why I was trying the EQ before the Expander/compressor.

    Any thoughts on:
    1) A possible chain to try on audio?
    2) Thoughts on settings to try with the expander/compressor?
    3) Other ideas here? (besides the obvious – check your levels better next time)

    If you covered this in a different show, feel free to point me that way and skip all the answers as I know you all have limited time.

    Keep up the great work!


  9. Arh, nothing beats a cup of coffee and HRS on a rainy day.

    A hiphophead is a fanatic hiphop fan, as if it’s a real thing, well i made it up, so guess it isn’t.

    There was some weird echoing going on most of the podcast, what went wrong?

    As always great show guys can’t wait for the next one.

  10. Great show guys! I was wondering if you could make your archived podcast available for download so I can put them on my iPod. I listen to them on the plane on the train and on the bus. I am not going to recording school, instead I listen to your podcast during the day and in the evening I practice what I’ve learned. Spending what little money I have on gear. And I have run out of podcast that I had downloaded before. Please don’t kick me out of school LOL the clouds are parting the storm is moving out and I’m starting to see rainbows, unicorns and sony f-98’s in the sky. I am desperate to ride the lightning some more!!!!!!

    Thanks! for all I have learned so far!!!

  11. I have a seriously frustrating problem recording live shows… My drummer sings backup via a headset microphone (just like I use behind the keys). How the heck do I mix that kind of input? I can’t find ANY way to gate out the snare without killing the vocals, the drum is always louder than the vocals anyway.

    If you guys have a particular method (or know of one) for dealing with headset drummer mics, I’m all ears. And no, “get a mic stand and use a better mic” isn’t an option unless you’re buying it and setting it up for us at shows. 😉

  12. James, excuse me???? I used “preface” exactly as defined and intended. I hate to break it to you, but a preface can go anywhere that you are making a qualifying statement as a prelude to a topic. I was prefacing the comments that came after that statement and not the entire post, which should have been obvious to anyone with a modicum of reading comprehension skills. I suggest you not quit your day job to start teaching English….

  13. “I can’t find ANY way to gate out the snare without killing the vocals, the drum is always louder than the vocals anyway.”

    Have you tried enclosing his head in a large glass bowl or something similar? It is just a drummer after all….

    Seriously though, have you tried a hypercardiod or some other kind of unidirectional mic? When I sang while playing drums, I always sang into an SM57 or 58 that was placed below my chin and aimed at my face angled up and away from the drums. You will still get some bleed, you always will with a live show, but nothing like what you describe… can get a boom stand for about $35 bucks and an Sm57/58 for $100 or a little less. Look on EBay and the prices are even cheaper….

  14. excellent lessson! and I totally agree with comment #2 e-scarab, a great drummer can’t be replaced by a machine, and a real human knows how to react and interact with more than one person in a way that can’t be duplicated by a machine. but it’s also true that a lot of drummers aren’t that great and have time fluctuations that are problematic in the studio.

  15. Hi guys,
    Long time subscriber, 1st time Commenter.

    1st. kudos. Love the show, yours, Sluau’s, and IHR have become the white noise of my life: be it while driving, mowing the lawn, or doing the dishes, your shows make those crappy menial tasks go faster!

    Re: show 138.. About recording GTR + vox simultaneously..

    I recently had a problem with a singer/songwriter where he couldn’t play/sing the same way in isolation then he could while doing both at same time.. I tried just about every method there is, but couldn’t escape the phase issues.. fortunately, i ultimately found one That works for me..

    I can’t recall of it has a “name” but I used two Fig 8 Mic’s, so close together that I used drummers goo to keep them from vibrating together. they were Positioned about midway between vox and GTR, one pointing at the Voice, Null point at GTR (and other end of the 8 toward the floor) and reverser for GTR, about halfway between Hole and 12th, with null point toward vox and other end of 8 toward the ceiling…

    It takes a LONG time to set up, soloing each, finding the right blend of cancellation of one vs tone of the other, but OMG does it ever work well (for me at least)! It’s not perfect vs each in isolation, but the best compromise I could find…

    Caveat… Your performer Has to practice at sitting still, and after each take and/or smoke break, you have to reposition the Mic’s again.. So it is a lot of work, but it’s been the best way I’ve found yet to capture both..

    I won’t mention the Mic’s that I used, as, while I was just a customer at the time, I’ve since become a distributor or the brand, and my intent in commenting was for the “technique” and not shameless self promotion.. (Not that I won’t try that in a future comment, wink wink, nudge nudge…) but for now, I want this to be received as totally unbiased.

    That said, I will add that I also experimented with two Naiant Pencil Omni’s over each shoulder, near each ear, pointing slightly out toward the GTR… I am not affiliated with them at all, and while now technically a competitor, I do believe on giving credit where credit is due..

    While I just did it as a test as didn’t expect anything usable, the result was surprisingly good at usable!

    It worked well solo’d, but even better at lower relative volume to add depth and room to the other two Mic’s..

    But to get back on point, While sonically, I prefer recording each (vox and GTR) separately, this method worked for me with great tone and minimal bleed!

    Thoughts? Comments?

    Also.. Best quote of the series yet, I can’t remember which episode, maybe late 120’s, but it was “And you get to use your whole knob instead of just Half!” Too funny!!

    Best wishes,
    Sending donation along with my comment.

    Rob Crewe

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