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In this episode of Sound Design Live, I speak with five professional drummers: Go-Go Ray, Jason Willer, Jonathan Ulman, Russ Gold, and Zil. We talk about how live sound engineers and drummers can work together to control the sound level of shows in small rooms and a lot of psychological and technical hacks to make a drum kit quieter on stage. I ask:
- Is it true what they say about drummers?
- What is the most important thing you do to get great-sounding live drums at every show?
- What is the most important thing that the sound engineer does to get great-sounding live drums at every show?
- What can sound engineers and drummers do to control the sound level in the room?
We’re all in this together. It’s not about how my drums sound. It’s about how my drums sound in the mix with everything else. –Jonathan Ulman
- Everyone wants the same thing: to have a great show and get more gigs.
- Although the simplest solution to make a drum kit quieter on stage might be for the drummer to play quieter, not all drummers are going to be able to change the way they play at a moment’s notice. So as sound engineers we need to have a diverse set of solutions to adapt to the player just like drummers need to be able to adapt to a diverse set of rooms.
- Music in this episode
- Hardware: Sennheiser e900 series, Moon Gels, True Tone, Hot Rods, Whip Sticks, Drum Tacs, Roland vDrum,
- Tips for drummers
- Bring your own microphones and IEM.
- Tune your drums.
- Make sure you have a good working relationship with the sound engineer.
- Get someone else to play the drum kit while you walk around the room.
- Ask, “In this room, what works best here?”
- Tips for sound engineers
- Be careful with gates, especially when feeding IEMs.
- Let the drummer finish setting up his drums before you set any mics. Ask, “Will this mic be in the way?”
- Say, “This is what works really well in this room.”
- Give the drummer a microphone so they can communicate with you.
- If it’s your first time working with someone, try to create a very orderly soundcheck. Be a strong organized leader.
- Not every drummer is going to be able to adjust their volume on the fly.
- The drummer should be able to bring it down. It starts with the drums.
- You can say, “This is a listening room.”
- To tell someone to adjust what they’ve been doing for months and months, on the fly, is not really going to happen.
- Volume level is a very difficult thing to master especially when you are used to playing a certain way.
- You’re my eyes and ears out there.
- In order to get repeat work you have to be able to adapt to the environment and whatever the show calls for. You can’t have an ego in this industry and expect to progress or make friends.
- This is the situation in this room. How would you adapt?
- My goal on every gig is to have my instrument be transparent to me.
- A lot of musicians are really oppositional to the sound people and I think that’s ridiculous.
- If you don’t have an orderly soundcheck, people are going to be pissed. If people are inexperienced, they are not going to know how to ask for what they want. They might not even know what they want!
- The most effective thing is to put up a shield.
- The better your relationship with the musicians, the more you can ask of them.
- What I would do in a perfect world is put an absorption gobo behind the drums.
- User thinner sticks.
- Drums are loud. There’s no way around it.
- It may not be loud. It may be an irritating frequency.
Drummers at work