The following is part of Travis’ blog series and eBook “The Musicians Guide to Better Sounding Drums”
To me, the cymbals are the most important component to a great sounding drum kit. In fact, I often like to consider myself a “cymbal player” instead of a drummer. Your cymbals are your color instruments, it’s what completes and expresses your personal style.
You can dampen, tune and manipulate your drums all day. But with the cymbal: What you hear, is what you get. Let’s look at three ways to get the best sounds out of your cymbals:
1. Cymbal Choice
A few years ago my vehicle was broken into. I had a gig the night before and got home late. I planned on just unloading my drums & cymbals in the morning. When I walked out to my vehicle the next day, I immediately saw my driver side window was bashed in. My first thought? “MY CYMBALS!” I didn’t care about the radio, sunglasses, speakers, sub woofer and all of my CD’s (yep all gone). The only thing that consumed me at that moment was, “I hope my cymbals weren’t taken.” And thank God they weren’t. Still in the case, all spoken for. Drums can be replaced fairly easily. But cymbals are more personal. It takes time to find the perfect pitch, feel, size, tone, etc. Each cymbal is different. When you find ones that work, you don’t want to let them go.
My point is this: Take your time carefully choosing your cymbal selection. Listen to the cymbals hanging over your drums. Do they complement each other? Do they blend nicely with the guitars? Are they sitting in the mix beautifully? Do they define your sound? Choosing cymbals is 100% personal. Don’t just copy what your favorite drummer is playing. Determine what sounds good to YOU!
2. Cymbal Height
The next time you’re setting up your drums & cymbals in the studio, pay attention to the height of your cymbals. I don’t care what position you like your cymbals to be at when you’re playing live. But when you’re recording, get those cymbals higher. A couple of reasons engineers and producers love higher cymbals: First, positioning the mics around the toms is simply a pain in the rear when the cymbals are almost touching. Second, when positioned too low, bleed from the cymbals begins moving into every other mic around the kit including the toms, snare and kick mics. This becomes a nightmare when trying to compress and EQ the drum kit later on.
3. Cymbal Angles
One last tip to keep in mind when you’re using overheads: Angles. This is something a recording engineer in Nashville showed me years ago. Pay attention to the angles of your cymbals in relation to the angle of the overheads. You’ll want to try and keep the angle of the cymbals and the microphones on the same axis. What this does is help relieve some of the washy and abrasive overtones. Additionally, your cymbal angles will also help produce a better sound out of the cymbal. If your cymbals are too flat, you run the risk of damaging your sticks AND cracking the cymbal. Position the cymbal slightly towards you so that you can still read the logo.
What about you? What’s your favorite cymbal choice and set up?