Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jim Keltner: The Drummer's Studio Survival Guide


Q: Let's talk about your drums for a minute. Do you do anything to your kit to get it ready for the studio as opposed to the stage?

Jim Keltner: I don't play live that often. When I do I generally play the same drums I use in the studio. If it's a different set of drums, they're tuned the same way. I run my drums pretty wide open now - although it didn't always used to be that way. A drum is meant to go boom or bang; it's not meant to go bap. If you're going to do that you might as well use a cardboard box.


Q: What sort of room do you prefer to record in?

JK: I love big rooms, small rooms - all kinds of rooms. Sometimes you can get a bigger drum sound in a smaller room; that's something that was revelation to me a few years ago. When people started putting the drums alone in the big room and having artist and other musicians off in tiny little rooms, it was kind of opposite of the way it used to be. I've noticed that a lot of times the sound of drums is actually better when they're in a smaller, contained room.


Q: Are there certain mic's that you prefer on your drums because of the way they sound?

JK: I use a microphone in my bass drum that I really believe is fantastic - an AKG D-112. A lot of guys are using it now. I have both heads on my bass drum, so what they'll do is take a Neumann U47 or something and put it on  the outside.


Q: What do you discuss with engineer prior to a session in order to ensure a good drum sound?

JK: Believe or not, I usually don't do any talking to the engineer, since it's producer's medium. The producer, along with the artist - depending who the artist is and how much involvement he or she has - generally have an idea of what they want when they call me. So i'll let engineer do his thing. But i may bring another piece of gear - something to make drums sound a little funny or a different instrument to hang on the kit. When I do that I just generally tell the engineer what it's going to be and let him choose and place microphone.  I'm not knowledgeable enough of microphones to tell engineer to use this or that.
I've been fortunate over the years to work with great engineers - though I do wish that more engineers would be more adventurous. I do such mainstream stuff that there isn't as much adventurous as I would like. People are trying to be competitive and don't necessarily want to try new things.
Actually, as I hear myself saying that, I think about all the times I go to session where people will say, ”Listen, what can we do different this time?” So there's at least a lot of talk of it. (laughs) Whether it actually happens or not is another story.
The thing I run into all the time is that although I purpose - fully screw around with my drums just to get a different kind of sound, when I hear the record after the mixing and mastering is done, they've made me sound just like everybody else anyway. (laughs) I don't know what it is - it's a conspiracy in the musical world. There are more followers than there are leaders. But it's out of your hands unless it's your project.

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