Tech Tip:Salvaging Poorly Recorded Drum Tracks for $13.99
Here's a recording tip from world-class producer/mixer Ronan Chris Murphy, whose expertise in recording and mixing drums includes work with Terry Bozzio, Victor Bisetti (Los Lobos), Gregg Bissonette (Santana, David Lee Roth), Bill Bruford (King Crimson), and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mister Mister, The Rembrandts).
In a perfect world, every time we recorded a drum set, the drums would be tuned well, played great, and recorded perfectly, with just the right gear for the sound we were going for. Unfortunately we don't get to live in a perfect world. Trying to mix a song and realizing that the raw sounds on your drum track are not happening can be a really frustrating experience. There are some advanced mixing techniques as well some often costly software and hardware options that can go a long way toward salvaging poorly recorded drum tracks. If you do not yet have the experience for advanced mixing techniques; the money for the right tools to do the job; or the drum tracks seem beyond help; there is one cool option that is effective, easy, and best of all—cheap.
The mighty tambourine!
Believe it! One of the best techniques I've found for helping mixes with poorly recorded drums is strategically adding a tambourine track. A simple mono tambourine track (a real one, played live and recorded with a microphone) can add a sense of depth, texture, and energy to a mix, actually pulling the listener's attention away from the sound or timbre of the drums but not the performance or its groove.
The great thing about the tambourine is that it can be mixed fairly loud and come across as a creative choice. The loud tambourine has been employed in rock records for decades, from Motown and the Rolling Stones to Oasis and Rob Zombie. A big, loud tambourine track is part of far more great mixes than you may have realized. The important thing to keep in mind when applying the drum-salvaging tambourine track is to make a nice clean recording with conservative recording levels and simplicity. The latter is the secret to the whole trick. Your tambourine performance must be very, very simple with no variations. I usually prefer a simple doubling of the snare that goes through the whole song (except during drum fills). A simple part without any kind of variations will not draw the listener's attention to the tambourine and many listeners will not notice it, even if it is quite loud in the mix. If you do any kinds of fills or accent, they will draw the attention away from the drums, and the trick is ruined.
We'd like to thank Ronan Chris Murphy for sharing his valuable knowledge and experience. As you can see, you don't always need to invest in expensive equipment to make the most of your recordings. In fact, the best investment you can make is knowledge, and there's no better way to learn to make the most out of your recordings than up close and personal with someone like Ronan Chris Murphy. Check out Ronan's Home Recording Boot Camp at www.homerecordingbootcamp.com and keep checking your email for more recording tips from Ronan Chris Murphy.