This guy (the author) is the real deal. I once had the pleasure to visit his workshop and he had me test a bass drum he recently made. An amazing piece indeed. Just a gentle tap from the beater and it produced a rich and powerful but quiet sound!
I often hear famous and extraordinary drummers on Youtube state that playing quiet is a skill every drummer can acquire. Yes, but no: It really does depend on the instrument as well if that sounds good! And most drums just aren’t made for it.
For example, a technique of masking distortion (or clipping, rather) is adding something with rich harmonic content (a trumpet for example) to parts that are expected to be hitting the wall and otherwise distorting / clipping.
Would trumpets be there otherwise? I don't know, but I'm sure producers are aware of the limitations of digital audio and as such adapt the music to it.
For example, analog tape naturally saturates high frequency sounds before low frequency sounds, which brings down the peak level of a close mic'd drum. Peak limiting a recording which already has analog-saturated drums produces fewer audible artifacts.
In the abstract, at mastering-time you can achieve any absolute level without hard-clipping by smushing down the peaks with peak limiting and multi-band compression, then dialing things back up with makeup gain. But when compared against the original recording in a level matched test, at some point the processed result becomes unacceptably degraded.
Compression is an optimization for making the song sound better at louder volume
That kind of level matching didn't happen with consumer CD players or vinyl turntables. Producers have to use different techniques to stand out in an automatically level-matched environment.
- history, drum set evolved kind of organically bringing marching band percussion, orchestral percussion and other drums into the theater / concert halls / dance halls
As a consequence things like temple blocks were often placed above the bass drum which, before toms were really a thing. They were loosely pitched in similar way.
As the drums evolved they became a thing unto themselves and not just a collection of percussion instruments.
3 or more toms was rare historically. The "floor Tom" and "high tom" allowed a drummer to make a high and a low sound with their hands, which has numerous musical applications
Then as kits got more toms key factors become:
- reach (you cannot fit a low tom above a bass drum)
- style: rock generally suited looser and lower tension tunings, bigger drums, jazz tended to be more tightly tuned toms, and smaller sized drums, more open resonance, pop and funk generally wanted more dampened staccato sounds.
- feel. Drummers balance tuning of their drums with how it feels to play. You will not pick a tuning that feels bad, or sounds bad to you.
- mountings: you can either mount toms directly on bass drum, with legs on the floor or off cymbal stands (and the latter option was bolstered by modern hardware), but so to balance space, mount points and reach there isn't really many other places for them to go.
I'm being brief here, and the musical motivation was sort of natural and evolutionary and not prescribed by music theory.
Finally, if you play tuned percussion like timpani, you go to great lengths to retune them quickly between different passages and pieces. You cannot re-tune toms to an exact pitch while playing it with 4 limbs, and so it would be repeatedly out of tune with the music, and that would be worse than the approximate high mid low you get today!
Hope that makes some sense.
(says owner of seven)
Toms are pretty tonal, as far as drums go, yet, as far as I could tell from my research there's no standard tuning for them. That would make sense if pop musicians all tuned their toms according to the music they were playing, but to the extent that they do, the tunings I read about were mostly flakey (ie: ungrounded in music theory)
So instead of having a neat more-or-less integer-based harmonic series like a 1D resonant object (i.e. a string) they have multiple complex resonant modes which are triggered simultaneously, and which decay at different rates.
So they're semi-pitched. There's usually a fundamental, but the other frequencies can be almost as loud. So if you tune the fundamental you can still get dissonance with the other modes.
All of this makes the idea of tuning a bit and miss.
I know a drummer that is very particular about tuning his drums, and he gets mad when people change it, thing is, he also plays other instruments, so I guess he DOES choose what notes he wants from his drum.
I don't blame him.
I often keep my acoustic guitar tuned down a whole tone, and use heavier strings as a result, because it fits my voice better when I sing. You better believe I get grumpy with people when they pick it up and ignorantly retune it to standard.
As another commenter mentioned, it's also about timbre and not only tuning for a song. I've noticed I got particular about tuning at least my kick and bass layer to the scale of the lead of a track (if there is a noticeable key), in techno is easy to break almost any rule but to me, personally, is much easier to start a new idea with the kick and bass in tune.
I haven't played in ages, so I'm not sure where I settle at, but I imagine there's a few notes that come up in music frequently enough to leave the toms in those tunings.
They also have to match the cymbals
Source - learned for several years
Sure some people have the absolute ear (ability to tell a note from the sound), but those are rare and rarely enjoy music with drums.
That being so, it would make sense to avoid hitting a tom with a low frequency note in unison with, say, a bass guitar playing the same note. That could result in two bassy notes sounding off a semitone apart... yuck.
Whatever sense my theory makes, I didn't read much about it being a consideration. I read about tunings, for example, that just pitched each drum up by exactly 3 or 4 or 5 semitones... seemed weird to me.
Perception of consonance and dissonance is related to the phenomenon of "beats". If you add two sine waves of similar frequency, you get alternating constructive and destructive interference, sounding like tremolo. As you increase the difference in frequency, the beat becomes faster, until it's no longer heard as tremolo, and becomes a single dissonant tone. Increase it further still and the dissonance vanishes as it's heard as two separate tones.
Importantly, beats depend on absolute difference in frequency, not relative difference. Musical intervals are relative differences, e.g. a semitone higher in equal temperament is 2^(1/12) times higher frequency, not some fixed number of cycles per second. The higher in the musical scale, the bigger the absolute difference per semitone. This means low frequency sine waves a semitone apart will sound consonant, medium frequency will sound dissonant, and at high enough frequencies the dissonance diminishes.
However, this effect applies to all the harmonics/partials of the notes, not just the fundamentals. A smooth bass note will have mostly fundamental, so the pairs of harmonics with frequency differences that cause dissonance will be quiet and unnoticeable. A bright or distorted bass note will have much louder harmonics, so the dissonance will be obvious.
Two bass notes a semitone apart won't necessarily
sound bad; it depends on the timbre.
By relative interval I understand the interval within an octave, so C-D is a second regardless of the octave. The frequencies (notwithstanding fine tuning), double each octave. Of course the absolute difference is proportional to the power of two, depending on the octave.
The picture is different when counting the proportion relative a fundamental frequency of your choice. That's how dezibell is generally defined, arbitrarily over some reference point. This has two interesting consequences. When counting keys not modulo 8 but continuously, the ratio D5 over C5 is much lower than D4 over C4. Second, if you want integer multiples of the fundamental's wave length, the first multiple spans an octave, and only the fourth or fifth octave has a full scale--this chromatic scale worked reasonably well tested on AVR with a buzzer, except that F needed adjustment taken from a frequency table.
This means there can be no second in the lowest register unless you invert the programm and scale the higher octaves down linearly. In that case, the interference from the second (ca. 9/8'th of the fundamental's wave length) sounds extremely grating when played as a chord; the attenuation where the maxima of both waves meet forms the actual fundamental and your notes lie 9 to 8 above it, canceling each other out half the time; this is easier illustrated with a sixth that would be 1.5 of the base key. It is not a good illustration of music theory though, more like information theory while the signal chain is computationally intractable.
Jazz musicians, huh
I don’t think GP is denying this. They are simply saying that an interval at a lower frequency is generally more dissonant than the same interval at a higher frequency.
The problem is, if you have only two tones, the lower one is essentially the base frequency in my address. But I'm assuming you have somewhat of a natural buzz, or resonant frequencies from the environment that command the base frequency for you, so you can't take any two intervals and compare them as if they were relatively same. This should be relevant especially if you play them one after another to compare, no?
I don't have a bass guitar, but if somebody does they might want to try playing those G# and A notes together, and check how consonant they sound with the tone knob turned all the way up and all the way down. I predict that the brighter tone will sound more dissonant.
In modern popular music at least, it's not desirable for the pitch to be constant. You typically want to tune the resonant head (the one at the bottom) a little higher in pitch than the batter head so that there's a slight descending pitch shift.
I'd say the modern mainstream jazz aesthetic is you bring you symbols and play with whatever drums are at the gig, and toms, at least beyond one floor and one rack, are gauche.
As much as I would like to think that this is true, all the concerts I went to prior to Covid had WAAAAAY too much freakin' bass. These were bands with vocal and guitar gods and the bass was cranked up to like 9000 such that you could barely make out the vocals and guitars if the bass was playing.
The best audio at a concert I had was the one where the house amplification system died, and band had to play with their on-stage amplification and nothing else. The sound from the band was amazing--the vocals were clear, the guitar parts were articulated, and the bass and drums were reasonable.
Funny how the bass levels are something reasonable when the bass player has to stand in front of the bass amplifier.
To be fair, I'm being a touch uncharitable. Most of the fault lies with the person running the sound mixing board. It seems most sound mixers are so used to dance, pop and rap that they can't conceive of the idea that something other than bass and drums exists in music. It also doesn't help that modern solid-state amplifiers can drive amazingly low frequencies and really high amplitudes that the old tube amplifiers with transformers simply couldn't deal with.
I started doing it after the doctor at my annual medical check mentioned I had frequency loss at 24 years old that he would associate with a 40 year old. Should probably have worn ear protection earlier... But wearing them consistently helped a lot because the measurements were mostly "normal" now 10 years later.
Back when people went completely nuts for rock music, the PAs were generally so inadequate that they were just for vocals, and monitoring wasn't really a thing. Most gigs of the era ran off each instrument generating its own stage volume, hence the Marshall stacks and such.
The Grateful Dead famously scaled this concept up to insane heights with the Wall Of Sound system, where each instrument and voice had its own speaker stacks even at stadium levels. It really worked exceptionally well, but was cumbersome and didn't last that long.
This can be done in electronic genres, as well: it just isn't, for the most part. I daresay there have been sound installations that did it.
That's not a band. That's a bunch of people playing at the same time.
One of my favourite bands to see live actually take their own sound guy on tour with them. They sound incredible.
Was text written like this before the days of SEO?
The pitch of the sound of each drum?
The softness or hardness of the drum when hit with a certain force?
The height of the surface of each drum above the floor?
What point/s is/are the article making about these characteristics?
A long decay from an instrument reaching to second next note, to be picked up by another musical instrument makes me giddy.
It's possible to make the same thing in rock and metal, but genre structure doesn't allow it much.
So my principal task is to understand the physics of the depth, radius and other features of the base. This I will do both theoretically and experimentally to see how well I can model and predict. I would appreciate thoughts on the matter.
One thing cool about Rick is he has access to a lot of original multitrack recordings and can solo tracks to isolate them, even on older stuff like John Bonham/Led Zepplin like in the above video to isolate drum tracks.
A person can ascend stairs, or descend.
A drummer could play an ascending pattern on their toms, or a descending pattern.
But neither the toms or stairs have an inherent upward or downward direction.
It’s possible the title is a bit of a pun, and refers in part to both tone and shape.
I'm not sure that it's possible to design something that sounds like a traditional rock drum kit that doesn't cause hearing damage when a drummer is mashing. It requires a different percussion instrument.
I would love to have a 'pancake' kit with all the drums double-headed but shallow. Maybe someday I'll try to get that made. The article suggests you could simply do that: everything gets the same very shallow drum depth, like a kit composed of snares without snare wires.
I hope I don't get downvoted for this. I'd really like to know.
Edit: also I can think of one album (the first one of The Glitch Mob) that doesn’t have any cymbals (not even hi hats) if I remember well.
That said, the point he makes is a good one, and one seems obvious in retrospect!