Behemoth Drum Tracking and Editing
The drum setup was relatively large with Kick, Snare, 5 Toms, Hi-Hats, Ride Cymbal, 2 Crash Cymbals, 2 China Cymbals, and a Splash Cymbal, this was done more by the drummers request of what he thought was needed for the songs. I used close mics on all of the Toms, Ride, Hi-hats, and Splash, so I could get a clear isolated sound of each of these elements to provide me with greater flexibility in the mixing stage, I also used mics on the inside and outside of the Kick drum and mics on the top and bottom of the Snare drum to capture more of their overall tone. I used a spaced pair of Over Head mics that are relatively high above the cymbals so I could get a good overall picture of the kit without the cymbals dominating too much, I also experimented with a shotgun condenser microphone high above the Snare drum to see if I would get some interesting sound from that to blend in with the other Snare mics. Lastly I had a ribbon mic to capture some room tone, I wasn't particularly bothered about capturing much room sound because it's a relatively small room with no real acoustics the mic was just there to mic up the full sound of the kit that will be crushed with compression later. See images below for details.
One thing that is not shown in these pictures is after everything was setup a heavy blanket was put over the Kick drum mics to reduce the noise coming from it into the other mics and other noise going into the Kicks mics, this was done to capture a cleaner sound which will help me in the mixing stage. With metal music the more separation between the different sound sources the better.
The tracking process I used was to record the parts in separate sections rather than playing through the whole song, this was done so more attention was payed to what was happening in each part focusing a lot on if the drummer was playing in time or not. Also means that the drummer can play with more force and energy because he can take small breaks between each section and if there are any mistakes the section can be quickly deleted then played again. After all of the sections were recorded and I was happy with how things sounded on the day I consolidated all of the different sections sections together so they could be imported as one into a drums editing session. I also recorded some one shot sounds of the Kick, Snare, and Toms, letting them ring out fully to be used as triggered samples in the mixing stage. See image below for details.
This image also shows the markers that were setup to record the different sections in each of the songs, the original songs are also in the session to make sure what was being played was reasonable accurate.
The main purpose of the editing stage is to remove unnecessary noise from the tracks when the specific element that are recording isn't being played, check the timing of parts and bring them more in time when appropriate and potentially copy and pasting different sections if they can't be fixed. The first thing I did was check how in time everything was played, some bits were good and some were not and the more I got into the process I quickly worked out that I should have payed even more attention to timing in the recording stage. Everything was mostly OK apart from the Kicks, these songs are very technically difficult with a lot of demanding Kick drum parts of which the drummer nailed some times and didn't in others. Listening and analysing the different sections more closely I was surprised by the fact that I had missed some really blatant mistakes in the tracking stage that I would have definitely recorded again if I had picked them up originally. Seeing as everything else was mostly good I focused the time correction around the Kick parts, some of them I was able to correct with Beat Detective inside of Pro Tools and others I wasn't able to, what I did for those was to copy and paste good sections over the top of the bad ones. Unfortunately I had to get rid of parts that had the Splash cymbal in because I had to copy and paste a better section over them, the cymbal was only used in that one song though so it wasn't a huge loss, but I was kicking myself that I didn't get one shots for the cymbals as well so I could have just pasted the Splash into the sections that had it. I managed to get the tracks to a stage that I am mostly happy with, there are a few things here and there that are not 100% but that's my fault for not picking up on things earlier.
After that I went through and removed the unwanted noise from each track. First I started with the snare drum track, I grouped all 3 of the together so I could edited them at the same time and the same amount. What I did was go to the start and end of every hit, make a cut, then move the end of the clip back until I had a nice short and sharp Snare sound that didn't have much ring to it. For this project I want the Snare sound to be more about having a clear and consistent attack which not much spill for the other elements in the kit which can muddy up the sound. By removing a lot of sound from the end of the Snare means I can better use EQ without bringing up sound from the rest of the kit, especially things like Cymbals and Hi-Hats which can be a big problem for the Snare. On a side note if you look at the pictures above, the drummer has his Hi-Hats on his right side appose to his left which also helps to provide separation between them and the Snare. For some of the faster Snare sections where the hits are a lot closer together I didn't do any editing because it wasn't needed and would have removed a lot of body from it's sound if I did, see image below for details.
I used this exact same process for the Toms, Ride and Hi-Hats, see image below for the completed edit and cleanup for one of the tracks.
This is the first track which can be seen in the consolidated drum track session a couple of images above, you can clearly see that a lot of the noise has been removed from the tracks I have mentioned resulting in a much cleaner sound. I also have the Kick drum tracks duplicated at the top of the session in red, because just when I thought I was finished editing everything I found a new technique that I just had to try out.
Drum Editing #2
I was having a deep dive on YouTube looking at a bunch of different recording and production techniques when I came across something that seemed very intriguing, it was a gating technique that didn't use a gate, see video below.
(URM Academy, 2018)
The basics of what he does here is, cut up all of the hit to individual clips, shorten them to a specific amount, add a fade, then normalise them so each hit is roughly the some volume. The clean and precise sound that was achieved was quite amazing, especially for how quick and easier it was to do it. Seeing as I had already manually edited the Snare tracks I didn't need to use this technique on them gut I did use it on the Kick and Toms, if I had known about this earlier I would have saved a lot of time editing the Snare but at least now I know.
This technique is really only useful for Metal where triggers are used frequently, because only the initial hit sound remains it wouldn't sound that great by itself if not reinforced with samples, but this techniques helps immensely with triggers as there are no miss triggers due to the fact there is no background noise and each hit is more or less the same velocity. I know some people might find it strange and detrimental to producing a "Natural" drum sound using a technique like this but I'm making Metal at the end of the day which requires this amount of editing precision otherwise it's just going to end up sounding like an absolute mess, with less clarity between the instruments and lacking in punch and power.
For something like the Kick drum where a lot of low end frequency content can really muffle up the whole of the mix, editing some of that out really helps in keeping everything sounding cleaner. See image below for the difference between the edited and unedited Kick drum tracks.
This will allow me to get a lot more attack out of the Kicks, have them being a more even velocity throughout the track, and I don't have to remove so much low end frequency content with an EQ because most of the rumble has already been taken care of. Leaving in a little more of the low frequencies means the Kicks will have more thump and body remaining ensuring that they don't sound too thin and clicky.
The Toms went through much of the same process for much of the same reason so I won't bother going through the explanation and reasoning again. I did have a little more trouble using this technique on Toms because some of the hits were harder to work out because they were less defined. I later found out from the drummer that some of the mics were drooping in the recording session but I wasn't made aware of this on the day so my careful microphone placement had been thrown off, another thing I know now to check on better and make sure that each Tom hit is coming through clearly. Also if the drummer is not hitting the Toms as hard as I would like I should record the parts with faster Tom fills in smaller sections and keep going over them until each hit is perfect (or at least better).
All up I have learnt a considerable amount about recording and editing Metal drums which will help greatly in future projects, even if this project for some reason doesn't turn out how I want it I believe I will still have grown as an engineer and producer. Next I shall be working on the guitars.
URM Academy. (2018). Mixing metal drums: Andrew Wade's legendary "DREAM GATE"!. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGGdOzeukYE