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Author Topic: off-center drummers  (Read 420 times)

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Offline dabbler

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off-center drummers
« on: November 14, 2016, 09:11:46 PM »
I've attended some shows where the drummer is off to the side (usually to make room for a video screen or lack of stage space).  The off-center sound isn't too noticeable with room speakers, but can get annoying when played back on headphones.

How do you all deal with them?

I have some of my own methods, below:

During recording:

(007, but I suppose some of these could apply to open-taping, too):

Option #1 - Stand farther back, possibly using point-at-stacks if using cardioids in an X-Y config.  I am short, and can't use a stand 007; so this doesn't always work.  I also find talkers tend to congregate farther back.  When doing this, I might be
a little off to the side opposite of the drummer.

Option #2 - I use head-baffled omnis more often than not; my results standing up close, opposite (and facing torwards the drummer) seem better than when I stand in the center or
on the same side as the drummer.

Here's a stage layout with me in the audience:

Code: [Select]

        [bass]   [vox/guitar]   [guitar]

        ------------STAGE LIP-----------

                              me (facing drummer)

Sometimes I'm farther off (past the stage), and sometimes I'm in between the right and center guitars.

Of course, PA/room/stage shape also need to be taken into account in irregular rooms.


I do per-channel EQ, compressor, limiter adjustments and sometimes blend the channels as appropriate.

The side farther from stage usually gets some boosts in the highs and more sub-bass cuts (for omnis).  I might blend the closer side and delay it a little into the far channel.
I might compress the near channel more, if the sound is too raw.

Anyways, I'm interested what else I can improve (either during recording or post).

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: off-center drummers
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2016, 11:53:15 AM »
It sounds like you have a pretty good understanding, ear, and open approach for achieving a well balanced recording, and are unafraid to experiment in order to find what works best for you, which is ultimately the best answer.

Following are a few thoughts with regards to audience recordings of drums on stage in various situations, with only a few specifics relating to what you've mentioned above-

Stand farther back, possibly using point-at-stacks if using cardioids in an X-Y config.
Point-At-Stacks config typically results in a relatively narrow angle between mics. As the angle between mics becomes progressively narrower, the stereo configuration will benefit by introducing progressively more spacing between the mics to compensate for the reduced angle.   Because of that, PAS generally works best in combination with a relatively wide mic spacing.  Conversely, audience recording using a coincident X/Y setup (which has no spacing whatsoever between mics) works most optimally with a very wide angle between microphones.  If using cardioids in X/Y, I'd personally suggest an angle of no less than 120 degrees.  Less angle between mics is appropriate if switching from cardioids to a more directional pattern such as crossed supercards, hypercards or bi-directionals, or when intending not to use the X/Y cardioid pair recording on it's own, but to mix it with a pair of wide-spaced omnis or something.

Option #2 - I use head-baffled omnis more often than not; my results standing up close, opposite (and facing torwards the drummer) seem better than when I stand in the center or
on the same side as the drummer.

You will be juggling multiple variables in choosing the most appropriate recording position, and every situation is going to be somewhat different.  For example, the most appropriate location for getting good vocal clarity with appropriate positional imaging may not be the optimal location for recording the drums the way you'd like.  Your personal preference plays a large roll here, making this is one of those situations where producing a more enjoyable audience recording becomes as much craft (perhaps even art) as engineering exercise.

Below are some things I've found with regards to recording drums on audience recordings which may be helpful to think about-

1) You need not record so as to accurately reproduce the positional arrangement of musicians on playback as was seen live from the audience during the performance.  Often that's appropriate and happens naturally, yet far more important is simply achieving a well balanced recording which is simply 'believable' in terms of the audible positions of sounds.  If you can achieve a more optimal balance of other recording aspects by ending up with a positionally re-arranged, but "plausible" sounding playback stage arrangement, do it.

2) Think and listen more in terms of front/back, near/distant, and dry/reverberant than in terms of left/right.  As long as the left/right balance isn't egregious, thinking of and manipulating the recording in terms of those other aspects is usually more important.

3) When choosing the most appropriate recording location, consider aspects of sound which are only well translated by recording the direct radiation of the instrument itself, and are not well translated through the PA.  Most tapers are well aware that in terms of level balance, quiet sources like vocals and acoustic instruments are weak radiators on-stage and need PA sufficient reinforcement to be loud enough to sound clear and clean.. and that conversely at times there will be very little guitar and/or drum sound present in the PA if those sources have a lot of on-stage energy dominating the room.  But more subtly, there are a number of aspects concerning the direct sound radiated by from the drums which convey more subtle indications of "energetic, you-are-there liveness".  Part of that is capturing clean transient peaks of the drum hits, unmolested by reinforcement through the PA.  There is also the complex radiation pattern of each part of the drum kit, and the way it "illuminates" its immediate on-stage environment with numerous early reflections.  Closely related to that is the fore/back, close/distant perspective thing mentioned previously, which is influenced by both the level of the drums in comparison with other on-stage instruments, but also by the position of the drum kit on stage relative to the other instruments, its distance from your recording position, and if there is anything physically blocking or diffracting the line of direct sound from the drums to your microphones.

4) If you record with sufficient headroom, you can manipulate the dynamics afterwards to reduce overly impactful live drum transients if necessary, but you cannot adjust your recording position afterwards to bring it closer.  In otherwords, it's easier to tame an over-wild and dominating drumkit and push it further back in the stereo image if necessary when working on the recording afterwards, than it is to try and make distant sounding drums "cleaner" "snappier" and "closer".  EQ and parallel compression can sometimes help bring forward distant sounding drums and bring out hidden detail, but can only do so much.

5) It's common in some styles of music to have drums set up off to one side.  Small jazz combos often set up and perform that way, as do some classical performances.  Sometimes the drummer is turned 90 degrees away from the audience, facing center stage.  The drums don't always have to be recorded so as to sound like they are near the center of the playback image. Sometimes it's refreshing to hear them off to the side, as long as the stereo image is well balanced with other sonic elements on the opposite side.
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"Narrow or widely spaced microphone configurations are preferred. It is well-known experience that pure coincidence microphone concepts are not able to produce a satisfying natural spatial impression, due to the lack of adequate interchannel temporal relations (time-of-arrival, phase, correlation)" -G√ľnther Theile
"The mix of the Double M/S signals with a large A/B configuration of omnis results in the spacious sound that is often desired. This option also provides decorrelated low-frequency signals." -Helmut Wittek


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