Monday, February 17, 2014

WYSINNWYG - What you see (and hear) is not necessarily what you get

Sometimes the drums you hear on recordings and at live concerts are not necessarily a good indicator of what those drums truly sound like. In the studio, the drums have been damped, mic'ed, EQ'ed, compressed, and otherwise processed to get the best sound in that situation. Same thing on stage, where the raw drums will often sound completely different in person from what you heard at the concert. If your favourite drummer plays a "TrashMaster 9000" kit, it means he or she likes those drums under their particular playing conditions. But if you check out the same drums in the showroom, don't be surprised if you can't get the same sounds out of them.

I attended a drum presentation recently and was eager to hear the featured drums in a live setting. Unfortunately, the drums were so heavily mic'ed and modified that it really wasn't possible to determine what they sounded like. I know these drums to have a clear bright tone, wonderful resonance and lively sound, but they ended up sounding like every other drum set in service to a PA system.

I find that ‘top end’ and resonance are often lacking, and yet these are the very qualities that people are inclined to defeat. You need top end for projection, and resonance provides 'body' and musicality. When these are missing, the drums lack clarity and authority, and will fade into the background. And, frankly, they’ll sound like just about any other drum … ho-hum.

So next time you're swept away with a drum sound, check out the context. You may find that the sounds have been treated to the sonic equivalent of PhotoShop. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s good to have a reality check now and then.

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