ASK A PRO l MODERN DRUMMER l Scott Smith
Hi, Benny! I recently discovered a video on your Web site, www.bennygreb.com, of you playing a bunch of super funky grooves. (I had no idea you were such a great pocket player!) Not only does your dynamic and precise playing inspire me to work on my time and feel, but the sound of your drums is amazing. Can you take me through the various snares you used on that video and describe how you got them to sound so good (shell type, tuning, head selection, muffling, mic choice and placement, etc.)? Also, what do you recommend that I practice to improve my precision?
Hey, Scott. Thanks for the question and for your kind words. I made that â€œSome Groovesâ€ video two years ago to try out my new recording/practice room. I kept the setup simple and only used two Beyerdynamic MC 840 mics that went directly into a MOTU MK2 interface that was connectedâ€”via Firewireâ€”to my Mac that has the recording software Logic Pro on it. One mic was placed in front of the bass drum, about 12″ away from the resonant head, and the other one was in an overhead position. I didnâ€™t use any EQ, just different types of compression. I love these kinds of recordings. I also sometimes use just one mic to check my balance and overall sound when I practice.
I used three snare drums with different tunings. One was a 5×14 Sonor Delite with a vintage maple shellâ€”the silver sparkle one with die-cast hoops. The other two were Sonor snare drums from the Artist series, a 5×14 AS 07 1405 MB with gold hardware, which also has a thin (vintage) maple shell, and a black steel 5×14 AS 07 1405 SB. All three drums had Remo coated Ambassador heads on them. At first I always tune the heads with equal tension on every lug. The overall tone differs a lot depending on the style and the song that Iâ€™m playing. But in that clip, I would say most of the batter heads were tuned medium, somewhere between a timbale-like sound and a more resonant tom-type tone. I lower the two lugs that face me about a half or a full turn.
To get a deeper, muddy tone I loosen them even more. (I have the snares quite loose, and the bottom heads are tuned to the point where you can barely press in on them.) A lot of people are sometimes amazed by how deeply Iâ€™ll tune my snare. If you would place your thumb in the center of the head, you would be able to press it down about five millimeters. But this is something you have to try out and listen to yourself. As far as muffling goes, I sometimes use a bit of gafferâ€™s tape or Pro-Mark Drum Gum close to the rim, as you can see on the close-up of the black snare in the video. An important thing to be aware of is to not play the snare (and the cymbals) too loudly so that you get an even and well-balanced overall sound.
Precision-wise, I would recommend practicing grooves or improvising while singing a short sound, like â€œchid,â€ on quarter notes and 8th-note off-beats. Doing this is my â€œclarification plant,â€ or point of reference, so that everything I practice is checked to see if itâ€™s in time. Of course, itâ€™s also important that your playing is relaxed and you have fun.
Thanks again for checking out my Web site. My new DVD The Language Of Drumming covers many more exercises regarding matters such as these.