On Drum Rugs

So, I am packing up for a gig tomorrow in Dickinson. I will be playing for Jessie Veeder and Frog Holler String Band at ‘Blues and Brews’. I have packed away all my stuff in to cases and I am down to my drum rug. I thought I might take this moment to talk a little about drum rugs as I think they are very important and often overlooked.

First, you really should have a drum rug. There are lots of reason why – here’s a few:

  • Very often you will not be performing on a carpeted floor.
  • You can use it to claim the space you need to set up – especially when space is a premium.
  • Even at home, playing on a rug saves the nice carpet underneath from strain from the bass drum spikes, etc.
  • All the wood chips from your drumsticks go on your rug and not in the nice carpet.
  • If you need to move the kit a foot or two then you can drag the rug and save some effort.

When it comes to getting a drum rug, you can get specially made rugs from the music store. The ones I have seen are pretty flimsy  – no better than a thick piece of cloth – and expensive. I have always just gone to my local hardware store and got a $20 rug, or off-cut of carpet. Even if it is a cheap rug, it is still better than the one you get at the music store, and remember all the wood chips and spikes in your bass drum? Remember all the drinks that get spilled on stage, and how about the state of that floor in that dive bar you play in once a month? Yeah! The cheapo rug from the hardware store is just fine.

Lastly, here are a few other random tips I have learned from bitter experience:

  • ALWAYS make sure the drum stool fits on the rug. Having your stool slip away from the rest of the kit is at least off-putting, and can be painful – as I found out once when I fell off the back of a stage mid song.
  • I have two sizes of tug. One is a 4 feet by 6 feet for small kits and small stages. The other is 5 by 7.
  • If you like your setup to be exactly the same each time you set it up – especially if’s complicated, then consider taping out where each foot goes. That plus memory locks should get you pretty close each time.

drum-carpet

The picture above shows what I have marked out on my rug. You will notice the snare stand and stool are not there. I decided against it because they are always moving around, mostly because I have never come to a firm decision where the best place for them is. You will also notice that they are not centered on the rug. I noticed that too and might fix that one day.

Close Mic’ed Drums – The Obvious Lessons

The other big part of my life (family and computers being the other two) is music; specifically drums and percussion. Up until now, this blog has focused almost entirely on computers and IT, I am going to include more drums now.

drums from above

A few weeks ago, I got a set of microphones and all the various accouterments. I am finding more and more that bits, or all of the drum kit is, or should have been mic’ed up when playing live, so it seemed like a good investment for both gigging, and for just learning the ins and outs of using microphones with drums. I have read and heard from many sources that getting drums to sound good with microphones is a non-trivial task. Getting drums to sound good on their own is hard, I thought, adding mic’s couldn’t be much harder. Well, it certainly adds an extra level.

I am  still getting to grips with all the new aspects, like mic placement, using a mixer, and even stuff like stands and cables all over the place. Here is a list of things I noticed right away after the initial setup:

floot tom microphone

  1. Microphone placement is HUGELY important. Just a small angle change is the difference between a boomy, ringy drum and a crisp sharp sound.
  2. When close-mic’ing, a few millimeters closer to a drum can make a huge difference to the amount of gain, and the tone you get.
  3. When played acoustic only (i.e. no microphones) then if a drum is slightly out of tune, only the well trained ear will notice. You close mic it and everyone notices.

You are probably reading this and nodding your head sagely and saying to yourself that this is common sense and that you could have told me that for nothing. Here’s the thing, you need to learn this the hard way. I have heard these things many times too, and I was fully expecting them. That still doesn’t stop you from being a little shocked at just how apparent these things are when you experience if for yourself. Up until it bites you, it is just an intellectual thing. Once you experience it, and learn how to deal with it then it becomes part of your craft.

The next stage is then learning how to set levels, tone and mix your drums. I’m not going to give any tips on that yet – I still don’t know what I am doing. I will give some general ideas that I am finding are helping me a lot.

  • Give yourself lots of time. Do not expect to get a new set of microphones, and then use them in a gig that night and sound awesome. Set them up in your practice room and play with all the things.
  • Try to isolate  yourself from the ambient noise and listen just to the microphones. I have a pair of IEM;s and a set of isolation headphones – both of which have a 20-30 dB ambient noise drop. I have found plugging the IEM’s in to the desk and wearing the headphones on top of the IEM’s give sufficient isolation to hear just what the microphones are picking up.
  • Play, twiddle, play, twiddle, and repeat till your drums sound how you like them. The twiddling will probably include a bit of changing mic positions, tuning, and changing settings on the mixer.

Youtube Night 3

So, what has caught my attention recently?

Youtube Night 2

The fruits of another evenings youtube watching.

Youtube Night 1

Every so often I spend the vening watching music videos on youtube. I figured I might post links to the better ones I find. Here is the results of the last one I did.