Tech Tip:Miking Drums (Part 4) Glossary Terms


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DYNAMIC RANGE
Usually expressed in dB, this describes the usable range, from the quietest to the loudest sound or signal, of a device or system. The human ear is said to have roughly a 120 dB dynamic range, while a cassette deck probably has about 65dB.

 

MILLISECOND (ms)
One-thousandth of a second. A short, punchy kick drum sound is around 250 ms, and an old-fashioned tape delay on a master deck is about 110 ms.

 

NOISE GATE
An electronic device that allows loud signals to pass through but shuts out or "gates" quieter signals. Quality noise gates can do this simple process with many variables to make them more musical. Noise gates are critical components in studio recording, used most often in mixdown.

 

OVERHEADS
Microphones - typically, a pair of small condenser mics - hung above the drum kit pointing downwards. Used principally to pick up cymbals and give life to the snare, they can sometimes (depending on the room and the mics) be used as the principal kit mics.

 

PHASE
A description of a relationship between two or more similar (coherent) signals. When such signals are in phase, the peaks and troughs of the waveforms all line up perfectly. When two such signals are 180° out of phase, they almost completely cancel each other out, as the peaks and troughs are opposite. This mainly happens when a mic cable is mis-wired or a phase switch on a mixing console is engaged. Then there are real-world conditions, especially in multiple miking situations, where signals are a little more or less out of phase: not enough to cancel each other, but enough to cancel certain frequencies. These small phase differences are extremely complex and very hard to work with, which is why many engineers have been going back to minimal miking techniques for clearer recordings.

 

PRESSURE WAVE
Physical description of sound in air. Sound as we perceive it travels through the air as variations in air pressure, which our ears than translate into electrical and neuro-chemical impulses that are interpreted by the brain as sound. (If this sounds over-complicated, well,it is. There is nothing simple about our ears or the way our brains work with them. It' s important to remember how subjective the simple process of hearing a door slamming is.)

 

ROOM MICS
Microphones used to pick up the ambience or reverberation contour of a room.

 

TALKBACK MIC
Microphone put up in the middle of the studio tracking room (live room) so that the engineer can hear what the musicians are saying between takes. This is usually the crumbiest mic in the studio, put up in a random place as an afterthought, and brutally compressed, so the engineer doesn't go deaf when the band starts playing.

 

Copyright ©2001 Douglas B. Henderson

 

 

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