How To Use Dynamics pt. 3
So far we’ve talked about dynamics in a band, and within the drumset itself. So what’s left? I’d like to dig even deeper into this subject. At first you might ask yourself if this is really the right place to address these issues, but I think it fits, especially if you don’t look at it isolated but rather in a musical environment. Have fun reading.
Dynamic Relation Between Frequencies
The drumset consists of many different instruments. Cymbals, Snares, Toms and Bassdrums. All of these instruments can be treated as separate instruments like we’ve discussed in yesterday’s blog post. Let’s take a closer look at the specific instruments.
Each of these instruments cover a completely different frequency area. Why should we as drummers care about this? Knowing a little something about each instruments individual assets can help you invest in and use the right equipment at the right time. Let’s take a look at cymbals:
They’re obviously the instruments with the highest pitched frequencies. But each cymbal has different ‘sweet’ spots. Let’s say you play in a metal band where a massive wall of distorted guitars make it hard for you to cut through. What kind of cymbals are you going to have to choose? You’re probably going to go with the cymbals with a higher pitched overall frequency. But if you’re in an acoustic trio where you need to cover as many frequencies in ‘warm’ areas as possible to make the band sound fuller, you’re probably going to choose a dryer and lower (frequency) sounding cymbal set.
You’re probably already making these choices intuitively. But keeping this knowledge in mind will help you make better decisions when times of uncertainty arrive. Apply this knowledge to all your drum gear investments.
Volume Affects Sound
It is very interesting how playing different dynamics on a single instrument can change the instrument’s frequency range. You can easily observe this by playing 16th notes on the snare and doing crescendos and decrescendos. Notice how the sound changes? Keep this in mind when you’re trying to achieve a certain sound or feel. Let’s say you want to achieve a rocksound in a small bar, but you can’t play loud as the room is too small. Your groove isn’t going to sound like rock because you can not get the drumset to its dynamic range where the sweetspot of the sound for this genre of music would be. This is the moment to make use of equipment that allows you to manipulate sound strategically. I encourage you to experiment: change heads, sticks, brushes, cymbals, BD beaters, explore dampening techniques etc.
We dampen drums for many different reasons. Sustain, Attack, to kill overtones or to kill snare buzz. What we’re essentially doing though is taking frequencies away so that we can have more control over the sound of the drum. Keeping this in mind can help us a lot when the drums just don’t cut through in the band.
We’ve all experienced that the more we dampen a drum the louder we need to hit it to still be heard properly. Always use dampening techniques cautiously as our sound perception from right behind the drums is very different from what the audience hears, but also very different from what a microphone would hear.
Tomorrow we're discussing dynamics as a stand alone tool for creativity and musical expression. Stay tuned and drum on!