Hi! This is Nikhil from 91 Sound Studio, and I would like to start off by saying welcome to the 91 Sound Studio blog! I’ll be posting a lot of material here for musicians, music producers and audio engineers. For the first post, I’ll be going over a drum sound that I fell in love with not too long ago.
The drum sound is from the album Hail To The King by Avenged Sevenfold. I’ll be trying to recreate this sound in the box with as limited resources as possible. I’ll be documenting everything so you can follow along and recreate this sound in your own setup. Things I’ve used to chase this sound are:
Toontrack Superior Drummer 3
Toontrack Metal Machinery SDX
Toontrack Progressive Foundry SDX
Steven Slate Drums 4
Slate VMR plugins
To start with, I used Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 3. I absolutely love the products Toontrack have put out, and think they sound phenomenal (no I am not endorsed by them or being paid by them to write any of this, I just believe credit should be given where it is due). We can go on for days about how a real drummer is better than Superior Drummer, and recording a full drum kit is always going to sound better than any virtual drum software, and the audio engineer side of me will agree with you 10/10 times; but, and theres a big but, as big as Kim Kardashian’s butt— although a LOT nicer than hers, the fact remains that in the day and age we live in products like Superior Drummer 3, BFD, GetGood Drums etc are helping to bridge a gap by providing fantastic technology that helps even the independent bands, and also the younger, upcoming bands with not as big as a budget still get a sound that can hold up to any major commercial release. Stepping out of the studio realms, as a songwriter, these products are incredible, as, personally speaking, nothing inspires me to write a different track more than a new sound does, and the ability to scroll through vastly different sounds in a few clicks, and come up with song after song is just awesome. Oh, also, as a guitarist, I’d like to mention that, I’ve seen a LOT of drummers shift towards a e-kit and superior drummer rig for practicing, and ANYTHING that actually gets drummers practicing instead of complaining for an hour about setting up their kit and then taking another forty-five minutes to actually setup the kit, only to find out that we have 15 minutes left to rehearse, is WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD.
Anyways, moving on. So Superior Drummer 3 is the platform of choice for this experiment. The expansion pack that I used for this is the Metal Machinery SDX. Just absolutely amazing go-to drum kit for any metal sound. To begin, in Metal Machinery, I loaded up the “Allround” preset, and tweaked things from there. I also used the multi-out function on superior drummer to have the tracks routed into Pro Tools individually, so I can make more eq, compression and level tweaks in Pro Tools. To keep things organized, I’ll split the process into two sections, first part being things I’ve done in Superior Drummer and the second part will go over everything done in Pro Tools.
PART 1 - Superior Drummer
As mentioned earlier, I loaded up the Metal Machinery SDX in Superior drummer 3, and started off with the “Allround” preset. Starting with the actual drum kit itself, here are the kit pieces I used, to recreate the sound:
Kick - Tama Starclassic Bubinga
Snare - Tama Bell Brass for the main snare
EXTRA SNARE SAMPLE - Ludwig Black Magic Brass from Progressive Foundry
Toms - Tama Starclassic Bubinga Quilted Sapele set
Cymbals - the default cymbals that are loaded when you load up the Allround Preset.
So those are the kit pieces I’m using for this project. The extra snare sample that I’ve mentioned above is from the Progressive Foundry SDX. It provides a bit more ring and tail to the sound, if you don't have the Progressive Foundry SDX, you can use a different sample, that has a fair amount of ring, here instead. I have used the envelope function on the shells and the cymbals to taste. I chose to use the envelope function over a gate in pro tools as it sounded more natural than having the pro tools Dyn3 Expander/Gate cut off the tail of the sample. Pictured below are the settings I've used on the envelope function.
Just a note on the envelopes before we move on. I’ve primarily used them on the shells to “gate” the sound, although you can copy these exact settings to your project, the release/decay times might not be absolutely appropriate for every setting. Make sure you tweak the tail end of the shells and cymbals to make sure they match and fit to your tracks.
Lets move onto the processing part in superior drummer. So as mentioned I loaded up the allround preset on metal machinery and the bulk of the processing remains the exact same, all the EQ and compression insets remained the same from the allround preset. The only difference is the addition of the transient designer on both the kicks and the snare. The transient designer settings can be seen in FIGURE 1. Other than the inclusion of the transient designer, I have turned down the high mid on the EQ settings from the allround preset. This was done as I felt the superior drummer EQ’s were slightly plasticky, the texture they added to the top end wasn’t exactly what I was going for. This was the main reason behind using the multi-out function and using processing in Pro Tools to boost top end as other EQ’s handle that better, we’ll get to that in a bit. I’ve included picture of transient designer, and the EQ settings are pictured below so you can use them to achieve similar results.
I have also added an EQ on the ride, just a hi-pass filter, cutting out lows and the low mid area. I would like to emphasize a point here regarding this setup. The idea isn’t particularly to copy and paste the exact settings from my project onto yours; as is with any real world application, things need to be tweaked. I’ve just outlined the concepts and methodologies of why I did particular things to achieve this tone. This is why I haven’t included any specific numbers of how much of what was boosted. I would like to invite you to apply these ideas and tweak them for your own use; if you did initially like the A7X Hail To The King drum sound, you can have something that sounds similar that fits your project, and not the exact same sound as the album for your project.
Moving on, I do also have some volume balance changes going on in superior drummer, which I’ll talk about now. Basically, I’ve muted the Kick Condenser mic, and brought down the level of the “Amb” tracks, or the ambience tracks on superior drummer fairly low. I’ve included a series of pictures showing where the original metal machinery preset levels were compared to where my tweaks done on the preset ended up being. Feel free to use these settings as a guideline to recreate the sound.
Lets move onto the 2nd part of the process now, using the Multi-Out function in Pro Tools to have the multitrack fanned out for individual processing. Here’s how I’ve split the track out to Pro Tools. There is no particular reason behind this other than organization and ease of processing. I did however choose to separate the X-Drum kick and snare samples and the actual kit’s kick and snare sample onto different tracks, primarily so that I have the option to EQ them differently to achieve the final sound. So here’s how I’ve routed the tracks:
Kick - this is the original kick from the kit the Tama Starclassic Bubinga kick.
Kick Sample - the X-Drum Kick Sample loaded when the allround preset was loaded is coming into this channel.
Kick PC - the parallel compression bus that was setup when the allround preset was loaded.
Snare - The original, Tama Bell Brass, snare.
Snare Sample - all three X-Drum snare samples, two which were loaded with the allround preset and the extra Black Magic Brass snare which I stacked with it.
Snare PC - the parallel compression bus that was setup when the allround preset was loaded.
Toms - All the toms from superior drummer into one aux track in pro tools.
Overheads - Just the '“OH” track from superior drummer
Cymbals - all the separate cymbal tracks from superior drummer into one aux track in pro tools.
PART 2 - Pro Tools
So to chase this sound, a bulk of the processing is actually happening in Pro Tools. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way the Superior Drummer EQ’s brought up the top end so I decided to use the Multi-Out function and use the Slate VMR plugins on pro tools to do the remainder of the processing. The general theme that will be seen is a top end boost on most instruments to make them bright and upfront like they are in the album. My weapon of choice for the boosts were the Slate VMR FG-S EQ. In the video below, I’ve outlined everything I’ve done in Pro Tools to get the sound I ended up with.
As you can see, a fair amount of processing has gone in to get close to the A7X Hail to the King drum sound. Although it isn’t an exact recreation of the sound, which would be fairly difficult without the same setup used for the actual recording of the album, I still think this tone hunt was quite successful, especially considering the fact that only a laptop and headphones were used to get this result. The overall character and vibe is there and things are sitting fairly close. I would like to tweak things more, when I have access to my full setup, and get a bigger low end on the kick drum. Anyways, hope you’ve enjoyed this first edition of Tone Hunters. If you have any comments, suggestions or ideas for the series, please let me know below in the comments section!
Nikhil from 91 Sound Studios.