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Trashy Reverb

Ambient miking can enhance the recorded sound of a drum kit, but there are also novel approaches to ambient miking to color the sound of the kit if you wanted to, say, mess things up and get all gritty and grimy — but on purpose. Don your mad scientist getup and think inside the can if you will, to get a truly trashy reverb/echo effect.

I copped this idea from fellow engineer, Myles Boisen, who first experimented with the approach years ago by placing a dynamic microphone inside a large food tin, clamping down the lid, and placing the tin on the floor a few feet in front of the drum kit. The resultant sound was weird and wonderful. The funky resonance of the container, the lack of direct sound, and distortion from the low-grade mike combined to form something truly unique.

Expanding on this concept, you can try a variety of containers and see what you get. A large metal trash can be employed — the kind raccoons go ape over. A condenser microphone (either cardioid or omni-directional) would work best to capture all the subtle details. Simply gaffers-tape the mike cable to the inside of the lid so that the microphone is suspended inside the can, not touching the sides or the bottom of the container. Place the garbage can a few feet in front of the kit, record a pass while the drummer plays, and listen to the results. Move the can a bit further back for a more diffuse sound, and experiment with the position of the mike inside the can by raising or lowering it. If you have a cardioid condenser, you could try lowering it closer to the base of the can to see if proximity effect adds anything desirable to the sound.

The parameters of container size and thickness can be adjusted according to taste. The larger the container, the more resonance you will get. The thickness of the walls determines how much of the direct sound is blocked; the thicker the walls, the more high frequencies will be attenuated. Where you place that container in relation to the drum set will affect the results, so have fun and mess around with your lo-fi trashy echo chamber.

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