Advice for Drummers
by Fenris Wulf
I'm going to talk about a common problem with drummers. It has to do with the cymbals.
A cymbal is essentially a burst of white noise, centered in the range where the human ear is most sensitive. It's a very dangerous thing. A good drummer should hit the cymbals about 1/3 as hard as the drums, use the crash sparingly, and be careful about riding the crash or playing half-open hi-hat.
Too many drummers do the opposite. They play the cymbals louder than the drums, hit the crash in every measure, and play half-open hi-hat incessantly. The sound in the overhead mics is dominated by a loud wash of cymbals, and the drums are almost inaudible. In band rehearsal, the cymbals are the loudest thing in the room. The problem is made worse by harsh cymbals with loud midrange frequencies. If I mixed your drums the way you actually play them, you wouldn't like it very much.
This is not a "style." It's just bad playing. When you do this, you're making everyone hate you: your bandmates, the sound engineer, and the audience. Go home and work on your balance, and everyone will love you.
There are some other things you can do to improve your drum sound. Hold the sticks properly so they bounce off the head instead of choking it. Tension the kick pedal sufficiently so it strikes the head cleanly and doesn't produce double hits. Practice with a metronome to improve your timing. Learn how to tune your drums: start by removing the heads, then put them back on and carefully bring them up to the natural pitch of the drum, maintaining equal tension on all the lugs. And finally, listen to the rest of the band, and come up with drum parts that complement whatever they're playing.
When you go into the studio, the engineer shouldn't have to spend hours fixing your performance in the computer with editing, quantization, and sample replacement. At that point, you're not really playing the drums any more. You've been replaced by a robot.