Monday, May 2, 2011

Home Recording Tip 21: When recording drums, always listen to the snare soloed to make sure there’s not too much high hat bleed

This comment is obvious for anyone who’s had to mix a snare with tons of high hat bleeding into it. A loud high hat can really ruin a great drum sound. It can get not only in the snare mic, but the toms as well. And the bleed can make all of your eq difficult. When you add top end to the toms, and especially snare, the high hat comes up in level. And it’s not a good sound. It’s an over eq-ed sound which never really works.

So how do you keep that from happening? Well as I said, solo the snare while you’re recording. If things are good, great. But what if they’re not?

A lot depends upon the drummer and their background. If they’ve played mostly live gigs, then playing it too loudly can be a result of feeling they need to hit hard as they can’t hear themselves. However, even some studio players will lay hard on the hat. The first thing is to have a conversation with them one-on-one. Don’t do it over the talkback as it can put them on the spot and make them feel they’re being criticized. Take an appropriate moment, turn off the mics and tell them that they have a role like you. They are really a mixer of sorts. They have control of the volume of each drum. For it to sound great, they need to be aware of the relative balances of their kit. They are the mixer of their instrument! This concept was told to me by the late, legendary LA drummer Carlos Vega. If they are to do their part, they need to be aware that the first balances first come from their hands. How hard they hit is paramount to a great sound. They need to create a balance of the drum kit. Let them know in a postive way that they sound great, but that you’re getting more high hat in the mix than is necessary.

So what do you do after that conversation and there’s not change? My old boss Bill Schnee wisely said, then turn up the high hat in their phones until their ears bleed! Okay...that’s an overstatement, but the basics are true. Turn up the hat in their phones so they hear and feel the high hat volume to the point where they will naturally not hit it so hard. Hopefully that will do the trick.

I’ve heard of people putting an acoustic baffle between the high hat and the snare, but I’ve never resorted to that. It’s hard to find something that would work, and frankly, I’m not sure how well it would work, but that is an option. Better that the drummer lays off the high hat on their own.

All that to say, when recording be aware of this. It will make for a better mix.

1 comment:

  1. I throw a de-esser on the snare during tracking for some guys who are real heavy handed. Works great. I play until I like it, sometimes it's drastic gain reduction, but sounds great!