027 MixCoach Minute-Which perspective? Drummer? or Audience

In this episode of the MixCoach Minute, Stone asks which is better? To pan the toms the way a drummer would hear it, or an audience. I answer with MY “perspective” on the situation.

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Raw Transcript:

Kevin Ward: Hey guys. It’s Kevin Ward again with MixCoach. It’s time for
another episode of the MixCoach Minute. Today, as promised, we have Stone
Walters. You may know Stone from some of the articles that he writes for
MixCoach. Stone is a friend of mind and he asks such great questions, that
I just love to sit and talk to Stone about some of the questions he has. So
Stone has another question today and I’d like to just toss it to you,
Stone.

Stone Walter: Cool. Okay. Well thanks again for having me. This question is
about when you’re mixing multi-mics drums, or maybe just drums in general.
What’s your whole take on drummer perspective versus audience perspective?

Kevin: Okay. Well, I have an interesting perspective on this because my
perspective is actually both. And you may be wondering why that is. It’s
because my first big studio job was at a studio where it was a little bit
like the Motown, Nashville A-Team, sort of muscle show sound. And the fact
that there was a team of people creating the music.

Stone: Right.

Kevin: I was the engineer. We had a drummer, a bass player, a guitar
player, a steel player, who played everything else, and then a piano
player. And it was the same team almost every time. Well, the drummer was
left-handed.

Stone: Oh wow.

Kevin: So my drummer’s perspective was his audience perspective. So it was
really not a problem for me at all. Also, I play the drums a little bit too
so I like to hear the high tom to happen where the high tom would happen
for me. So in my opinion it should almost always be drummer’s perspective
because I’m a drummer. But to solidify all of that, the drummer I recorded
all the time was a lefty. His name was Tony Creasman. He’s an incredible
drummer. And I learned a lot about mic-ing drums and getting balances which
I think we’re going to talk about tomorrow on the MixCoach minute.

But in my opinion the drums should feel like the drums are happening about
where they do if you’re sitting behind a kit. There was a time, and I still
do occasionally, when I’m looking for a lot of width in a mix, I will mix
the high tom hard left and the low tom hard right. These days, what I do
now is I’ll listen, sometimes I’ll listen to the overhead, but most of the
time I’m familiar with the drummer that I’m mixing and I’ll remember how
the kit is set up. And usually the high tom is about 11:00, the mid tom is
about 2:00, and the low tom is hard right. That’s usually how I mix the
toms.

But if you really want to get all ninja on it, listen to the overheads and
if there’s enough imaging on the overheads, try to match the imaging of
where the tom happened in the overheads to the tom in the panning. And then
of course, as I’ve talked about in many episodes and what I talk about on
MixCoach Member all the time is that, listen to it in mono and make sure
that your tom is in phase with your overheads. Otherwise, if you get that
panning just right and your tom is exactly where it is in the stereo field,
then it’s pretty much going to be mono when you mix it unless it’s in phase
with the overhead mic.

There’s hardly any chance at all that the toms will be out of phase
relative to the overhead mics with each other. The only chance you have of
getting the phase wrong on the toms is if somehow electrically or
electronically the phase is out on the tom.

So as far as drummer’s perspective versus audience perspective, for me it’s
drummer’s perspective. Again, to solidify that, it’s because I had a left-
handed drummer that I learned to mic drums and mix drums with. I know that
may not be the answer you were looking for, but … I’m sorry, did you have
another follow-up question with that?

Stone: Yeah, I did. I was going to say, you said something about the
imaging of the overheads when you took on matching the drums, which kind of
makes me think. When you say you’ve recorded the drums or you’re listening
to the drums and you listen to the imaging, do you keep the overheads
panned hard left and right? Or do you, if you’re aware of how it was
recorded in the session, do you bring it in so that it’s similar to, as if
you were the drummer sitting by the… because I guess the drums wouldn’t
wrap around the drummer and I realize…

Kevin: Yea, that’s another… this is why I love talking to you, Stone,
because that’s a great question. I always pan the overheads hard left and
right unless there’s something going on in the track, like maybe there’s
build up on one side or possibly the overheads weren’t recorded that well.
The only instance that I don’t pan the overheads hard left and right is if
there is some kind phase discrepancy in the overheads. In other words, I
can’t flip the phase on one side to correct it in mono. I can’t slip one
side in or out to make it phase line-up. And what happens is I try to
equalize what it sounds like in stereo versus mono.

And I find that if I don’t go hard left and right, then when I go mono,
it’s not as drastic of a difference. So if I do have a phase problem in the
overheads, I will pull it in to about ten and two or nine and three, just
so that when I mono it only goes that much difference instead of hard left
and hard right to mono. It’s still not completely cancelled out. You’re
kind of almost hearing some of the cancellation and then if it’s really
really bad I might take the overheads and almost mono them. Or pick one
side, whichever one’s you know because a lot of times you can’t really tell
how they recorded it, it’s just that the phase is not right in my
headphones or my ears or my monitors.

Stone: So if you were to describe then, the shape of the drums in your mix,
how would you describe the shape from left to right, front to back? So, for
example, you just said if ever you had to take the overheads, just one mic
and when you said that I almost saw a triangular type sound? And I saw with
the peak of the triangle, the apex of the triangle further back in the mix.
And if you’ve got everything panned hard right and hard left, what shape
does the drums create? And the reason I ask that is because I guess when
you’re adding guitars and you’re adding other things; does that create any
masking problems? Or does that give them a nice context within which to
exist in the mix as well?

Kevin: You know what? I have never thought about a shape of drum as it
pertains to the imaging in the mix. I think that maybe I don’t think on
that plane of mixing or it could be that some people over think the drums
because I also had mentor who told me, “If it sounds good, it is good.”

So I kind of go with that rule most of the time so I’ve never really
thought about the shape of drums. I guess if I had to put a shape on it, it
would be real triangular I guess, with the snare and the kick always
hitting in the middle. That’s one other instance where I may pan the
overheads a little bit. If the overheads somehow picked up the snare and
the snare is just a little to the left, I will compensate for that to make
the snare in the middle. So if the kick and the snare are in the middle and
the overheads are hard left and right, I guess that would be, if it was a
shape, it would be triangular, right?

Stone: Right. Yeah. That’s what I would see anyway. I tend to see things
more visually once I can see it, it makes sense to me. So I’m trying to
figure out spatially where the sounds are happening.

Kevin: I’m a visual person too and I learned by watching, but I have never
thought about, I probably will now. I’ve got another mix to do this
afternoon and I probably will start thinking shapes now just so I can tell
you next time exactly what shape the drums are in.

Stone: I see squares. I see squares.

Kevin: That’s a great question, Stone. And we may be back for one more
question tomorrow from Stone in this series. But thank you again, Stone. I
think Stone would agree with me that MixCoach Member is the best place to
learn to mix. We have a different session every month. We have guys just
like Stone all over the forum answering questions, giving feedback to their
brothers-in-arms. Then we do a different song every month. There’s
tutorials for those songs and we would love to have you as a MixCoach
member. So check out mixcoachmember.com when you get a chance and we’ll see
you tomorrow.

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drummer, perspective, MixCoach

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