AES Section Meeting Reports

University of Massachusetts-Lowell - May 4, 2010

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For the last AES meeting of the Spring 2010 semester, UMASS Lowell's own Alex Case gave an in-depth presentation on the snare drum to a group of 30 recording students. Through an analysis of the life of the recorded snare drum from when it's first struck in performance to its reproduction in a finished mix, Professor Case touched upon aspects of acoustics, microphone considerations, signal processing, and mix approaches that can be applied to snare, while articulating a thought process applicable to all instruments.

The presentation began with details on the physical properties of snare drums and the different techniques used to play them. Students were given practical advice (such as why rimshots, important to live performance, often don't work so well in recording) and were encouraged to learn as much about the instruments they record as possible, and to become as detail obsessed as the people who play them.

Next, Case talked about microphone selection, the importance of proximity effect, and how the modes of the drum head influence microphone placement choices. The question of whether to use a dynamic or a small-diaphragm condensor for the top head was addressed (answer: use both), and students learned why smaller snares such as piccolo can often give surprisingly great results in the studio.

Mix concerns were discussed next. Case explained the psychoacoustic phenomenon that short sounds are harder to hear than longer sounds, and went over the use of compression and reverb to lengthen the sound of the snare and help it cut through a mix. Spectral analyses and a typical EQ curve were displayed and explained, and the intricacies of compressor attack and release times were touched upon.

The snare drum is one of the most important elements in any rock or pop song, and the right sound is essential to a great mix. Students left the presentation with a wealth of information and ideas for getting the sounds they want, and with all their practical questions answered, they're free to move on to more difficult problems - like figuring out what sounds they want.

- Brett Apitz, VP UMass Lowell AES

More About University of Massachusetts-Lowell Section

AES - Audio Engineering Society