Creative Uses For Loudspeakers


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Adding More Snares to Snare Drums
If you're presented with an "inherited recording" to mix (one you didn't engineer) with live drums where no bottom mic was used on the snare drum, or the track sheet says "snare" but all you've got to work with is a dull thump, try this: route an aux send buss output from your mixing console to a small powered speaker (or, if you have an extra power amp, a regular small passive speaker) you've placed out in the studio room or vocal booth. I would put my small, powered 5-inch Yamaha speaker right on top of a decent sounding snare drum sitting on its stand. You should use a spacer so the speaker itself does not dampen the snare drum head too much. I use the plastic protective ring from a two-inch reel of tape for a spacer and strap it and the speaker down to the drum's shell with gaffer's tape. Then put your favorite bottom snare drum mic on the bottom and bring it up in the mix on another mic input fader. While sending on the aux send buss from the original snare track slowly add in the bottom mic. I sometimes hard gate the aux send signal to the speaker if leakage causes too much snare buzzing in between snare hits. You should EQ and try flipping phase—one way will sound better than another and you shouldn't need much of this to vibe up that dull snare.

Recording Sympathetic Vibrations
Another use for a speaker is to energize the strings inside your piano. Use non-residue tape to clamp down the piano keys in the key of the song. I usually hold down all the octaves of the key of the song but you can experiment with forming chords too. You also need to put something heavy on the sustain pedal to keep the damper off the strings. If you place the speaker (or attached it) underneath the piano right up under the soundboard, you'll hear it vibrating the harp and strings. I would usually send the bass, guitars and keyboard tracks but you should try sending only vocals for a very interesting vocal effect. Of course you'll have to place a couple of microphones over the harp on the other side of the soundboard and add them to your mix as a stereo pair.

Adding Unique Room Ambience
Another trick is to place the speaker out in a room and pick up it's sound with a mic—a basic echo chamber. Some mixers routinely set up two speakers with a stereo send and stereo mics just to add more room to sounds that are too dry or were recorded direct. If you have a good sounding room, this is a winner. I only have a small storage room with a very high ceiling. I've mounted a Shure SM57 near the top of the room for one sound and I sometimes put another mic much closer to the speaker. I get 'quirky' but not big room sounds with this rig.

A Speaker For Kick Drum Mic
I've used old Auratone speakers to record kick drums. The small five-inch speaker gets a low midrange sound quality when placed close to the kick drum. Moving further away produces a more hollow sound good for special effects. Lately I've been using the woofer out of the ubiquitous NS-10M since I usually find them around the studio in various stages of disrepair. The 8-inch Yamaha speaker gets a lower tone - almost a TR-808 (drum machine) sound with a lot of 'hang time' (that's ghetto-speak for decay length). After soldering a mic cable to it, I prop it up on tape boxes and place it about a foot in front at an angle since air blasts from the drum can cause trouble. These "microphones" are not going to give you anything above about 2 kHz so you'll have to mix in a real microphone for the rest of the drum's sound.

Bass Drum Tunnels
A lot has been written on bass drum tunnels and I've seen a few versions. The usual way is to build a tunnel using standard studio gobos or baffles. I've seen them as long as fifteen feet. You have the option with a long tunnel of using more distant miking and still maintain isolation from the rest of the kit. This tunnel has to have a roof made of more gobos and cartage blankets laid on top of all of it. I've read where a heavy cylindrical cardboard concrete casting form works as a prefab tunnel. You can get these is various diameters up to about 24-inches at home improvement centers in just about any length you can get home. They are a much quicker setup than dragging out all those gobos. You should put a mic in your normal place—maybe just inside the hole of the front head or right in front of the drum. Then put a distant mic down near the end of the tunnel. Achieve a balance and sound with just two mics: the distant one down the tunnel and the close mic. Flip phase around and try different positions before reaching for EQ and if you are recording to a DAW, you can shift (in time) the distant mic's recorded waveform closer to the close mic's signal waveform timing. This sometimes helps and sometimes hurts. I've used a shotgun mic for the distant mic for a faraway sound yet sonorous presence.

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