Drum tape can be used on drum heads to sustain vibration of the head, and while usually a well tuned drum does not produce an unwanted tone harmonics, it is common for a drummer to move microphones away from the "sweet spot" positions, in order to create more room for the hand swing. That is were the drum tape comes in. Drum tape can be applied to the problematically sounding part of the drum head to sustain that vibration.
Other uses of drum tape include fixation of the drum stands to the floor, in order to eliminate any movement, and marking positions of the instruments and players. One of the most commonly used for these applications tape - is Gaffers tape. Gaffers tape is as strong as duct tape and they do actually look almost the same.
The difference is that when removed Gaffers tape does not leave the sticky residue on the place of application as duct tape does. Gaffers tape uses special adhesive formula, that was designed not to leave sticky marks. Ken Sanders explains different methods of using drum tape to fix those problematic and unwanted sounds: Gaffers tape is used on many theatrical production stages to mark positions for the players or prop placements or maybe to tape down cords for safety purposes. It was purposely designed to be easily removed and not leave the sticky mess that duct tape does. Can you imagine how a stage floor gummed up with duct tape residue would trip up twelve dancers coming unto the stage? Happy feet galore coming onto the stage! "Tappy-tappy tappidty-tap"?.(Then shoes hit that sticky tape residue) then "whoooops?crash??boom.
Bang!" "Absolute disaster" (I wish I had a video of that happening don't you?) Well so much for the lame imaginary comedy. Now, I'll explain how and why I use gaffers tape on my drum heads. I'll do it with a real scenario.
Lets say I'm hired to do a show and my drum kit is set up and now the sound techs are ready to do the drum sound check. I know that every venue has different acoustics characteristic that have to be dealt with when using sound reinforcement equipment. It's the job of the sound crew to fix those problems at sound check and not at the actual performance. The problems?.Sometimes it's the lows, sometimes it's the highs and sometimes it may even be a very specific note of the scale.
That's why my drums (especially the toms) may generate and resonate an overtone series that sets off vibrations in the adjacent drums or that rings way too long causing feedback or weird harmonics. Okay back to the drum throne. I think my drums sound great?.
And they really do ??but then the sound techs bring the faders up. Now in this scenario, I tuned my drums to the pitch intervals I wanted, but I didn't know until now that in this venue certain drums would generate these weird little harmonics until the microphones were turned up. "Woooooooooom" yes, now we all hear it don't we? "Which drum is doing that?" Okay if you've never done this before, with drum kits, the microphone placements are a trade off. I can't let them interfere with my playing so they are sometimes placed in positions that are a compromise between the actual best spot and the spot where they don't get in my way. A drum kit has all of these components with different pitches, cymbals vibrating at different frequencies and, on a live sound stage (unlike in a studio - where you can get great room ambiance) close mic'ing the drums is typically the best way to get that big huge live show sound.
Why not do it like in a studio? Well, simply because placing a couple up those "zillion dollar studio microphones" over the drum kit and getting them "hot" enough to pick up all the drums would result in picking up other near-by sound sources too. I know.Some of you need a "word picture". Okay .Focus.
I know you can see what's around me here. First of all these stage lights are going to make about one hundred degree f on stage tonight. But I digress. Okay, there are stage monitors everywhere and guitar amps and bass amps and the keyboard amps and then there's the horn section over there and the back-up singers over here (hey, all three of those girls are really hot looking too) , and the "star of the show" is running everywhere with a cordless microphone.
Okay, back to the point and leave the hot chick singers alone! Now you see why using a studio "room mic" technique (although it sounds great in the controlled environment of a recording studio) for "live show drums" would pick up a lot of bleed over from the other sound sources and the "house mix" would be a mess. That's why I'm sitting at the kit right now listening to the sound techs say "okay ken, the kick and snare sound fantastic. Play the floor tom once again?.Hey really good solid low end like you asked for." Then it start.Wooooooooooommmmmmm the the sound tech says " s#!+ Man, that harmonic is not going away.
It must be picking up another vibration" . For live work, when I hit that floor tom I want it to just explode with low end, so I do not want them to bring the fader back because of this weird harmonic overhang.Wwwwoooooooooom so what do I do? I play on the problem drum with a stick in one hand while moving my index finger on the other hand along the drum head until I find the spot where the microphone is picking up the excess ring from. I ask the tech "i think I found the spot. Did that get it out?" He says "yeah, that did it.
" Then I apply some gaffers tape to that spot to deaden the over ring? just enough to stop the harmonic problem. Now with the tape applied I hit the drum again. I repeat this until we achieve a good useable sound because I don't want to piss off the sound techs. That's because I need them to help my drums sound good in the mix?.Which makes my employer happy?.
Which helps them remember who to call next time.Me! Like I said, I may or may not have this problem with other drums, but if I do, then I try to correct it with a little bit of tape. Although I could resort to re-tuning everything rather that using the gaffers tape??i do not want to even bring that up because it would take a lot of time and basically piss everybody off! On top on that??everyone else is waiting to get their sound check done too! That's why I opt for a quick fix, that will work for this stage, and this venue, right here, right now! I use the tape; the problem is solved in an acceptable way and quickly and I get a good sound. I'm happy, the sound techs are happy because I'm working with them and not giving them a big attitude fit.So they're going to like me and help me tonight.And for that they'll get the credit.
Hey. Everybody wins. I'm the first instrument to get finished with my sound check, but now you understand why that is. They have to get my levels so the rest of the layers can work.
Okay, I'm finished with my sound check. Let's go hang with the three hot back-up singers while, the sound crew tells the guitar player he's got a lot of lot of crackle coming out of his amp??that'll keep him busy a while! "As I walk by the house mixing console they say "thanks man" you're great to work with! - But this guitar player with six different guitars to pre-set is driving us nuts!" Where do I get gaffers tape from? I buy gaffers tape at the same store that sells sound reinforcement equipment here in nashville. If good to have in your case. I can also use it to tape down any cords I don't want folks tripping over and to mark the hardware placements on my drum rug. One more thing for the "wide open" "no muffling" guys I understand, and I like to have my drums that way too. Sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.
So, I want to assert that I don't have gobs of tape all over every single drum and my drums don't sound like cardboard boxes. The tape is used as a quick fix to the harmonics problems in live venue situations. I will add that, for me, the most frequent "problem" is my floor tom which sometimes picks up sound waves from bass drum batter head ( which is only 4" away from the bottom head of my floor tom). Sometimes one of the rack toms may set off another one, but most of the time it's the floor tom that gets some tape.
On the above described gig Ken used Yamaha Drums, Yamaha drum pedals and Gibraltar Drum Throne. Ken is an active member of Drum Forum at www.DrumSoloArtist.com where he is answering drum related questions, and helping drummers with tips and advices.