3 tips for troubleshooting battery noise

By Andy Doerschuk

The drums alone are quite loud. The very nature of their potentially extreme volume and sound can mask a stray rattle during most concerts and practice sessions. But as soon as you put your kit to the ruthless reality test, otherwise known as a “microphone,” all kinds of little artifacts can mysteriously appear.

The good news is that you already have the most important tools you need to eliminate annoying noise: your ears. So when you hear your 12 ″ tom or hi-hat pedal squeak, the next thing to do is stick your head as close to the origin point as possible and try again (maybe at a lower volume). !) actual location.

Then use your common sense (duct tape here, a tight wing nut there), and you’re back to slapping skins in no time. However, there are a few areas of a drum kit that are particularly prone to sudden sounds (a bit) like “skree-oink!” Here’s what to look for.

Equipment and pedals

When it comes to hardware, disappointing sounds invariably come from some sort of metallic squeak or squeak. Let’s start with the most common culprit: your pedals. By simply applying lubricant to all moving parts, you can eliminate virtually any squeaking noise. But to be honest, why do your pedals have to beg for a drink? Go ahead, give them a little squirt every now and then and they’ll return the favor not only with noise-free performance, but also with a nice bottom bracket feel. Premium!

Here’s a tip for extra credit: The WD-40 isn’t particularly forgiving on pedals. Oh sure, it’s absolutely fabulous for lubricating moving metal parts, but if you get even the slightest drop on your crankset your feet will slip and slide for a much longer period of time than you imagine. Our solution is to use a spray can of vegetable oil – that’s right, the same gunk you cook with. It effectively kills squeaks, is easier to wipe down your crankset, and is as environmentally friendly as it gets. That’s right, we live in California.

If you wait to buy that 50 ¢ sleeve, you can easily ruin a $ 350 crash cymbal.

An exception to the “moving parts of lubrication” rule may occur on the hi-hat pedal. Let’s say you hear a metal-to-metal sound every time you step on the step, but no amount of lube seems to remove the noise. It’s easy – you have an angled pull rod (which is the inner rod that moves the upper cymbal up and down each time you activate the pedal). You can bend the suction cup in a semblance of straightness to correct the problem about half the time, but be aware that you can actually make it worse the other half of the time by twisting it even more. Our best solution? Buy a new pull rod and be done with it.

The hardware does not necessarily need moving parts to produce noisy results. Have you ever hit a cymbal and heard a slight hum as the sound begins to fade? It’s probably one of two things: The plastic sleeve that protects the inside of the cymbal mounting hole has worn out completely, allowing the precious bronze to vibrate dangerously against the metal pole. Hey! Fix it! Right now! If you wait to buy that 50 ¢ sleeve, you can easily ruin a $ 350 crash cymbal. The other culprit could be the booth itself. As a cymbal stand ages, things move and loosen, so the telescoping tubes end up touching each other at one point or another. Sorry, but maybe it’s time to visit the cymbal stand cemetery if this happens to you.

Drum noise

You hit a drum and hear a little hum, 98 – or more precisely, 99.99 – percent of the time, you just need to change your head. It pays to learn to recognize this sound and act on it as soon as you hear it. You will just be a better drummer for it.

As you might expect, there are other reasons why a drum can vibrate. A loose tension rod is the second most common culprit. In a perfect world, you should hear your head go out of tune first before the tension rod starts to vibrate – but the truth is, anything can happen. So it’s a good idea to hit the drums key as soon as you hear something funny and fix it.

Some heads are easier to hit on the fly than others. If you’ve ever had to walk to the front of the drum lift during a performance with a drum key in hand, you know the worst, most embarrassing head to tune on stage is the bass drum head. that resonates before. Second, there is the snare head, largely because of its inaccessibility. So it’s a hell of a good idea to lightly squeeze those heads when setting up your kit before a gig. Learn to feel where the tension rods start to bite into the hoop. It is an invaluable skill.

Here’s another snare nightmare on stage. Your snare wire buzz becomes erratic and lasts longer than usual while you play. Guess what? You’ve just broken one or more of your snare wires and they click uncontrollably against the lower head. The quick fix is ​​to completely twist the loose wires from the snare case. But keep in mind that your snare is trying to tell you something. You need to change your snare leads more often so that you don’t have to deal with breakage on stage (plus your snare will sound a lot cooler). And the second lesson is that you should always have a spare set of snare cables with you. Better yet – bring a backup snare to your concerts for even faster snare switching.

A sudden clicking noise in a drum can also mean that a bolt has come loose inside the shell, so every time you hit the drum the bolt dances until the lower head stops. to vibrate. In short, you are doomed! There just isn’t enough time on stage to remove your drumhead, reinstall the bolt, and reassemble the drum assembly before the audience starts looking for the pinball machine. So try to work around the problem until you have a break and then fix it. Again, this is a sure sign that you just aren’t doing enough maintenance on your kit between gigs. Your best bet is to think of it as a learning experience and become a pro.

The cost of being cool

This one is so incredibly simple, and yet so true. If you’re like me, you like having a fan blowing on you while filming to keep your body from overheating. Well, I admit that half the time it’s just a luxury that I appreciate… a lot! But there are those hot summer festivals where you are on stage with the sun directly in your eyes and no breeze to speak of. Without a fan, you will sweat all of your electrolytes after a few songs and start having dehydration cramps. This little windbreak suddenly becomes a lifeline.

But a fan can also contribute to unwanted noise. In particular, if your fan is blowing directly into a microphone capsule in your kit, it can create a huge, low-end hum that looks a lot like an oncoming Mac truck. The solution is quite simple: move the fan around until you get rid of the noise. You may have to compromise on how much wind power you have on your back, but you get the drum sound you are looking for.

Founding editor of DRUM! Magazine, Andy Doerschuk has played drums with artists such as Steppenwolf, Rick Derringer, Billy Vera & The Beaters and Debbie Davies.

This article originally appeared in the August-September 2004 issue of Drum! as part of the article “101 Ways to Become a Better Drummer”.

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