30 Hi-hat questions about recording drums

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Brace yourself

30.  What has a brighter sounding attack, wooden sticks or nylon sticks?


29. What techniques are used for muffling and dampening drum tone?

dampening with duct tape, with facial tissue, cloth strip under the head, dampening with a wallet, head ring

28. What do you use to dampen the Kick Drum?

a duck down pillow with a brick or mike stand to keep it in place.  The pillow should not touch the head ( = greater the dampening)

27. What mounting hardware is preferred for toms?

any mounting system that lets the drum float with no screwed-in hardware prepares the drum to sing

26. Why should you avoid mounting anything on the kick drum?

the more freedom any drum has from contact with another solid object, the better it will sound

25. What is the most essential of the microphones to use for the drum?

Condensers are the mic of choice for percussion as they respond to transients more accurately (tambourine, shaker, cymbals).  Good to have a condenser mic for over the drums set and for cymbals

24. What microphone is preferred for close-miking toms, snare and kick?

moving coil mike (Shure SM57, Sennheiser 421, Electro-Voice RE20)

23. Why?

they can withstand intense amounts of volume before distorting

22. How do you find the drum tone?

to hear tone (head ringing) place mike near rim.  When the stick hits near the rim the sound has more tone

21. Where is the attack?

to hear attack place mic near the centre of the head.  When the stick hits near the centre the sound has more attack

20. When would you record at analog levels over 0VU?

a drum (usually kick and toms) recorded hot (+2 to +5VU) won’t usually produce a buzzing distortion

19. What is the point of oversaturation?

when the analog tape reaches the point where it can’t handle any more magnetism it will usually give the drum a compressed sound

18. What is the first thing you do to get a good sound from a snare drum?

make sure the heads are in good shape.  If the top snare head has been stretched and dented to the point that the centre is sagging when the rest of the head is tight – replace the head

17. Why use a Hi-hat mic?

a separate track for the hat adds definition and provides pan control in the mix

16. Why not mike the the Hi-hats at the edge of the cymbals?

Miking at the edge of the cymbals produces a thick “gong” sound.  Also, the air coming from the cymbals closing can cause a loud popping sound as it hits the mic diaghragm

15. Where is the best place to locate the mic on the Hi-hats?

at the bell of the top cymbal (clean sound with highs).  Microphone should be a min of 3 inches from cymbal to minimize change in phase interaction between the cymbal and the mic capsule

14. Where do you aim the mic?

mic is pointed at the bell of the top cymbal, and if you point the back at a cymbal close by,  you can (using the cardoid pick-up pattern) minimize the amount of crash that is recorded by the Hi-hat mic

13. What does a drummer need to monitor the rest of the band?

a good, well balanced headphones mix.  Be sure the bass player and the drummer can hear the attach of the kick, snare and hi-hat.  Don’t make them guess where the beat is

12. What are baffles?

small, freestanding partitions with either two soft sides or one soft side and one hard reflective side.  Usually four feet square and 4 to 8 inches thick

11. Whats the biggest problem with using click tracks?

leakage of the click from the headphones into the drum microphones

10. What are the effects of compression on drum tracks?

it evens out the volume of each hit (level control) and it keeps the level even so that a weak hit doesn’t detract from the groove

9. How do you pan the drums to create a live band sound?

kick and snare are almost always panned centre since they are the foundation of the mix.  Low frequency of the kick needs to be dispersed evenly between the left-right spectrum and the constant repetition of the snare is asking to be in the centre.  A snare, panned to one side or other pulls the listener to that side and does not feel balanced

overheads are often panned hard left and right, though toms sound unnatural this way

8. What are the most difficult frequencies to dial in?

the lows.  When the same low frequency is boosted on several instruments, energy accumulates and the mix level becomes artificially hot (meter says hot but the mix sounds cold)

7. What does a low-frequency boost achieve on a typical kick drum EQ?

a low frequency  boost between 75 amd 150Hz adds a low, powerful thump to the kick drum sound

6. What does a mid-frequency cut achieve on a typical kick drum EQ?

a mid-frequency cut between 250 and 500Hz helps clean up the thick, cloudy sound of a close-miked kick

5. What does a high frequency boost achieve on a typical kick drum EQ?

a high-frequency boost between 3 and 5 kHz adds definition, attach and impact to the kick drum sound

4. How do you distinguish the “jazz” sound?

the kick is not dampened

3. What is an overhead?

when the mic is placed over the drums and pointed down at the set

2. What are the two primary options if you are using two microphones?

1. use both mics together in a stereo configuration

2. use one mic for overall pickup and the other for a specific instrument

1. How do you get a punchy drum sound?

Close miking technique:  each drum will typically have its own mic…plus two overheads on separate tracks

Ta daaaa!

Great article from Drum Magazine...thanks Dave for the link: 

Hey,thanks for this link too AND FOR THE REMINDER

Microphones…the Acoustic Era

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Three cheers for Gorilla Inventors!

Emile Berliner - MicrophoneMicrophone of Caveat April 11, 1877 with mouthpiece added

Berliner blasts the Bell patent pork in 1876:

1. Who was Emile Berliner?  2. What did he do that pissed off Thomas Edison?  3. Who takes credit for the first carbon microphone patent in 1877?

The unveiling of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone in 1876 inspired Emile Berliner, a young man with rudimentary knowledge of electricity & physics to improve on the telephone’s transmitter.  He invented a “loose contact” metal-to-metal transmitter (type of microphone) to function as a telephone speech transmitter, then wrote and filed the patent himself, causing a stir among the titans of technology.  Thomas Edison followed his lead and filed patent applications for the carbon microphone in June 1877.  After a long legal battle, Edison emerged the victor, and the Berliner patent was ruled invalid by both American and British courts.

Berliner was quickly picked up by Thomas Watson of the American Bell Telephone Company and employed as a researcher until 1884 when he set out with new wife, Cora & his recently acquired American Citizenship to pioneer in Washington DC as an independent Researcher & Inventor.  In 1886, he began working on his greatest contribution to the world: the gramophone…making possible the recording and reproduction of sound using disc records

Ok let’s take a closer look at the “micro” drama:

4. What is a liquid transmitter?  Describe how it works…  5.  Who invented it and when?

In 1876 a liquid transmitter (variable -resistance device) was developed by Elisha Gray & Alexander Graham Bell (simultaneously):

the user talked into a black funnel-shaped mouthpiece at the base of which is a stretched membrane diaphragm.  A metal pin through the centre of the diaphragm extends down into a metal cup containing dilute acid.  An ohmmeter between the cup and the pin will show fixed resistance.  Movement of the diaphragm causes the pin to move up and down in the liquid, varying resistance accordingly. Connecting wires from the pin and cup, in series with a battery & telephone receiver would produce articulate speech in the receiver when speaking into the mouthpiece
6. Why did box telephones fail?  7.  What invention improved on the magneto transmitter? 8.  Who introduced a chemical reaction to transmitter design?

Bell’s box telephones (magneto transmitters) worked well as receivers but as transmitters, their signal output was too weak to carry any great distance.  User had to shout into the mouthpiece only to be barely heard on the other end three miles of wire away.  Transmitter design would have to be improved…enter competition from Western Union…Thomas Edison’s lampblock carbon unit, “the Blake” (variable-resistance transmitter) with improvements in sensitivity & reliability courtesy of our favourite rogue, Berlinger, outperformed Bell’s Magneto type until Henry Hunnings came on the scene in 1879 with a new transmitter design using granules of coke between the diaphragm and a metal backplate.  In 1886, Edison improved on Hunnings design by designing a small button-type container and using processed anthracite granules.  In 1892, A.C. White pushed the button  by using a polished carbon block as a rear plate and a similar block in front against a mica disc, with the carbon granules in between.  The mica disc worked like a piston.  Known as the Whit “solid-back” type, it was the industry’s first reliable transmitter and was used from 1892 until about 1925

9. Who invented wireless telegraphy?  10. How did that spark interest in improving microphone technology?  11. How did Goldschmidt get around the low current capacity of the telephone transmitter?

The telephone transmitter as the only available microphone in 1900, was finding other applications thanks to the invention of wireless telegraphy by Nikola Tesla in 1895.  Gorilla inventors were trying to modulate wireless radio waves so that speech could be sent on them.  As there were no amplifying currents in those days, the microphone was connected into the antenna and had to carry the circuit’s full current.  Only very low-power radio transmitters could accommodate the use of the telephone transmitter whose maximum current capacity was about one-half ampere, leading to the use of multiple microphones with a common mouthpiece.  Rudolph Goldschmidt (a fan of Jersey Shores) introduced a patented circuit for working microphones in parallel to address the problem of failure of the group due to the short circuit of one transmitter.

12. What is a flame microphone? 13.  What is a liquid microphone?  14. When was the magnetic modulator invented?  By who? And for what market?

The hunt for high-power microphones revived earlier patents for condenser transmitters (Edison in 1879 & Dolbear in 1881) and sparked a culture of electronics experimentation & inquiry between 1900 & 1915.  Berliner made a high-current carbon microphone that was air cooled by a fan mounted under the microphone…noisy! Blondell & Chambers developed flame microphones based on spark rods in an oscillating circuit adjusted just short of sparking, using speech vibration to alter the gas supply pressure and vary a flame’s resistance in the gap which would cause sparking to occur.  Liquid or “hydraulic” microphones came upon the scene at this time using the flow of a fine stream of conducting liquid from a reservoir traveling about five feet until the stream would break into droplets.  Sound variations on an elastic diaphragm were driven by a metal diaphragm behind the mouthpiece to carry the pressure of the stream, producing  a variable resistance in proportion to the sound on the diaphragm.  Using 65 volts at 12 amps (780 watts) a one-horsepower microphone was possible (until someone opened a door or sneezed).  The development of heavy-current microphone relays by Fessenden & Dubilier as well as advancement in circuit design by C. Egner & J.G. Holmstrom furthered the cause of high-current microphone technology.  In 1911 the “magnetic modulator” was invented by Alexanderson, a transformer that could handle up to 75 kilowatts for use with an RF alternator.  General Electric picked up on this technology, producing smaller transformers for the 5 to 100 watt transmitters used in Amateur Radio.

15. What was the necessity that lead to improved communications such as noise cancelling technology in microphones?  16. Who were the major players?  17. What device was used to broadcast Woodrow Wilson’s speech in 1919?

World War I created an immediate demand for improved communications and Western Electric, General Electric & The Magnavox Company with the help of vacuum tube technology put the microphone back into a simple circuit leading to the development of  “noise-cancelling” hand held microphones for the military.  These companies introduced various styles of “loudspeakers”  and amplifiers for public address systems including Western Electric’s “Chauphone”  and Magnavox’s “Telemegaphone” which was used to broadcast President Woodrow Wilson’s speech to 50,000 Americans gathered in the San Diego Stadium in 1919.

18. When did Amateur Radio go Pro?  19. What was the transmitter of choice in 1920 for commercial broadcasting?  20. What is a tomato can?  21. What manufacturers were still in the game in 1931?  22.  Who introduced the first bi-directional microphone?

Radio amateurs found themselves sought after as entertainers thanks to the  “candlestick telephone” (Western Electric transmitter No 323) and in 1920, commercial broadcasting was born. Westinghouse launched several radio stations in 1920 & 1921, picking up the microphone slack with the development of the “dishpan” microphone which permitted mellowing out of the squeaky high-pitched sound of the telephone transmitters with bass and midrange.  Improvements on this design with a condenser element was known as a “tomato can” popularized by General Electric who made most of the microphones sold by RCA between 1919 & 1927 including the “bullet” in 1926.  By 1931, Western Electric (a subsidiary of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company) however, emerged as the leader in microphone engineering waxing Westinghouse & General Electric and despite the explosion of small microphone manufacturers such as Electro-Voice, only RCA survived as a major contender with the introduction of the 44A ribbon velocity bidirectional microphone.






Most microphones today use electromagnetic induction (dynamic microphone), capacitance change (condenser microphone), piezoelectric generation, or light modulation to produce an electrical voltage signal from mechanical vibration. – See more at: http://www.historyofrecording.com/Microphones.html#sthash.3ozDmoqB.dpuf

compare with modern microphone technologies:

electromagnetic induction (dynamic mic);  condenser capacitor change (condenser mic); light modulation (mechanical vibration produces a voltage signal)