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Make it Easy for Them

There's a group on Facebook that I follow called "Drum Tuning and Maintenance." Sometimes it's hard to read the things people post because, and I hate to admit it but it's true: many, MANY drummers are totally ignorant about any kind of care for their instrument - and they remain WILLFULLY ignorant for their entire playing lives. Call me a snob, but I find that inexcusable.

However, there was one post that asked a really good question. A player was saying that "I leave my drums pretty open from muffling and let the sound man dial it in. How do you all handle your live sound?"

I decided to give a reply, and here's what I wrote:

"It's my humble belief that part of our responsibilities as drummers - as MUSICIANS - is to: 1) Make sure that our instrument is in the best shape it can be in, and well-tuned, otherwise no sound engineer on earth can make it sound great; 2) Be sure you know how to SELF-MIX ... or, in other words, balance your set's sound and volume levels AS YOU PLAY IT. Al Jackson did it. John Bonham did it. Dave Weckl does it. How do you get this skill? Record yourself often with a cheap setup (like your phone or any other simple, one-microphone recorder) and listen for the volume levels on each part of your set; 3) Talk with the sound engineer after sound check and during breaks and ask them how things are going and if there's anything you can do or adjust to make their life easier."

Step one should be an absolute given for any player. Step two comes with some work, but the results are incredible, and you become easy to record in the studio, and your overall sound becomes much easier to reproduce through the FOH (front-of-house sound) system. Step three is all about working with your partners. When you're playing at a venue and your're going through a PA controlled by an FOH engineer that isn't a member of your band, you have to remember that the FOH person is your partner for this event. They're not just some person who sits there and fiddles on the mixing board while you get impatient during sound check. They're responsible for getting you and your band's sound out to the audience, and if you give them a good sound source to start with - and if you regard them as the sound partners they are - they'll work hard to make you sound great for your audience.

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