Dear Meister Brauer the BrauerMeister,
When it comes to acoustic drums, how much of a ‘standard’ do you stick to? For example, are overheads usually hi-passed and treated as ‘cymbal mics’? Are toms hard panned, or is the overall stereo image sometimes narrower, or even lopsided (like on old school 60’s and 70’s records). And when you EQ drums, do you assume they’ve already been EQ’d during tracking, or these days do engineers tend to track more neutral and leave dynamic and EQ decisions to the mixer? Lastly, are there any ‘classic’ drum sounds you’re still aiming to beat? For me it’s always Roger Taylor’s Classic Queen tom sounds, or the juicy kick/snares on John Mayer’s ‘Continuum’. How’d you get the snare on ‘Can’t Trust Myself Loving You’ to decay so perfectly???!
The answer to your question is dependent on the source material and what the song requires. There is no standard default because I’m not doing the recording, I’m doing the mixing and therefore every song I get has different needs. If analog drums are properly recorded, then it’s best to leave the leakage alone. If you empty out the overheads, you might lose the sound of the snare and toms . If you clean up the toms you might lose the tone of the cymbals snare and kick or the air around the drums. I only delve in if it doesn’t sound good. If the track is busy I may pan overheads and room to a real tight stereo which will give the guitars more space. The song dictates the panning, not the other way around.
Why aim to beat a classic? That sound was made because of how the drums were played and tuned and how it sat in a song, not necessarily how they were recorded, A lot of engineers use my Vultures mix to calibrate a new room. 90% of that sound came from Steve Jordan’s playing and chad franscoviak’s recording. It’s that other 10% that I nailed like a motherfucker!!
I have no memory of what I did on can’t trust myself. I rarely care to remember how i got a sound. It may be important to you but not to me. I get on the right train and get off at the right stop, everything in between is just in passing. You know what I mean jellybean?
Awesome - thanks MrB! Kinda what I expected, but great advice about leakage etc. Since I tend to be playing/recording/mixing my own drums, I’m still trying to figure out the best workflow in terms of ‘when’ to make EQ and dynamics decisions… I tend to do minimal eq on the way in, then mess with everything in the mix. Which is why I’m curious about those albums you mixed with Steve Jordan producing and drumming - I imagine he gets some pretty great drum sounds already, probably with some EQ already ‘baked in’, then you beef it up as necessary with your big bag o’ trix. All I know is ‘Continuum’ has some of my favourite drum sounds ever.
Last thing I’ll add is that I STILL think about what a great teacher you were that week I spent in France stealing your secrets… I mean learning. I continue to be inspired by your sounds and your approach. Add THAT to your jellybean jar.