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I listened to the following song this morning on the way into work. I heard something I hadn't heard before.

Each of the crash cymbals were very minimal, almost gated, or maybe miked from a distance.

What is the recording technique to get the cymbals to only let out quickly like this?

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    I'm no expert, but I would guess it's just not heavy compressed. So the initial attack will bleed thourgh the mix and than the tail of the sound will fall down very fast. Maybe there is some gate to fade out the long tail.
    – Olli
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 12:42
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    Around 1:10, the drummer chokes a cymbal. Sounds like tat's what may happen.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 12:52
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    Different cymbals absolutely behave differently. So thinner, smaller cymbals is one way this is done in studios. Also, riding the overhead fader is done during mixing - either to extend or reduce cymbal decay. You could put an expander on them to make it less work but the overall quality of the drum sound might suffer. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 13:14
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    I know some drummers that put a few pieces of gaff tape on the underside of cymbals to reduce the sustain. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 16:15
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    @MichaelCurtis The question came about after hearing the song, and wondering how I would reproduce these results on a recording. Playing drums live, I am not interested in reducing the crash cymbals' presence. Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 16:14

4 Answers 4

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Disclaimer: I'm in no way an expert in cymbals or recording (yay! guess that makes me fully qualified to provide answers on the Internet) but here's $0.02 from my experience.

This cymbal is not only short but also fairly quiet. I'd assume the drummer plays the kit more-or-less in the same way he does in the video. The assumption is that the song has been practiced thoroughly and there's not much point playing it differently on a video vs playing live or recording. The cymbals seem to be hit pretty hard so they most-likely do ring if you're around them. This means that the cymbals are set to a fairly low value in the mix, and only the attack is audible. Sounds almost as if the cymbals are picked by a mic that's a bit remote or even used for another drum. It could be an overhead mic on top of which the rest of the drums (using separate mics) are added with more volume. You might notice that all the cymbals in the mix are rather low - there's no hi-hat or ride at all, for example. The overall drum sound is pretty dry and there's just strumming of the guitars instead of the hi-hat beat.

There are other techniques if you want to get the similar sound live, though. People mostly tape the cymbals at the bottom or at the top. There are also magnets that can be attached. This dampens the cymbals somewhat and shortens the sustain. One can also adjust the technique and play with stick tips only, etc. But that will never give this much force with such a low volume unless the cymbal is wrapped in tape like a suitcase at an airport.

And the third option, naturally, is the characteristics of the cymbal itself. As suggested in other answers, splash cymbals will be high-pitched and have a short sustain simply due to their size. The cymbals in the video, i.e. at 1.14", seem rather small to me, apart from the ride. Definitely not 18"(!) but more like 16" or even smaller. Just compare them to the size of the snare. Meaning that they ring out decently in live mode but are only adjusted in the mix.

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    The hats and ride are actually there, just as you said the acoustic guitar strums over it in pretty much the same frequency range. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 22:45
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    I'm sure this is the closest to the answer. The drums themselves have very little of the sound of the overheads in them - it's almost entirely close mikes. And the cymbals are very quiet in the mix. So the overheads have been pulled way down, which means the cymbal sustain becomes lost in the mix much faster. If you listen closely, you can actually hear the overhead fader(s) were ridden up and down in the mix. To me it sounds like the overheads were pulled way down to make sure the distinctive sound of the unique acoustic guitar tuning stand out. Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 4:32
  • We seem to want this to be about recording technique. I suspect it's more about using a cymbal that just sounds like that!
    – Laurence
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 16:04
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It's hard to give a definitive answer for a particular song, because there are many ways to skin a cat and we don't have the raw recording on hand.

I suspect it's not a single thing resulting in this sound.

Some suggested causes:

  • The drummer sounds like they are striking the drums with some force. Listen to the attack in the other parts of the drum kit. This means it was probably recorded fairly loudly, and ring-out of a cymbal can quickly be masked by volume of the hats and snare. That said, at about 3:21 the cymbals are allowed to ring and do die quite quickly.
  • It's easy to use non-linear amplification in production which can give a similar effect. Most compression is applied with some kind of a soft cut-off (or you'd end up with a square wave rather than sound per se).
  • MP3-style compression (used in youtube videos) exaggerates this effect by hiding sounds that are "less important" to your ear. Find a higher bit-rate recording and you'll hear the cymbals and hats ringing slightly longer than in the link
  • We don't have any guarantee the kit in the video is the same as in the recording. However, if it is at least similar, you can note that crash cymbal has a small diameter. So long as it's relatively thin or has a meaningful curvature, this literally can result in the sound you're talking about. China cymbals, for example, ring only for a fraction of a second
  • Cymbals can be dampened by adjusting the size, diameter, and presence of the felt washers. A wide moderately tight washer one or both sides can help produce the sound you're talking about. I've used a large felt washer below the cymbal to get a similar sound on a smaller crash for live performance.
  • There are some suggestions in comments this could also be the drummer choking the cymbal. This is possible for the few moments the rest of the playing stops - an experienced drummer can choke with their hand more dynamically than simply grabbing the thing. I don't think it could apply while striking the cymbal and returning the right hand to the hats, though.
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You asked about recording techniques, so this isn't really answering that question, but regarding the actual cymbal, it may be a Zildjian A 18" medium thin crash.

This is what I pieced together:

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/xG0AAOSwdHteYAH3/s-l1600.jpg

enter image description here

If that is the right cymbal, the live video sounds really different than the test lab video. Although, that final hard hit in the test lab video seems like it starts to get that splashy sound. Maybe that particular tone isn't achieved until it's hit very hard.

Don't know if this page... https://www.prosoundweb.com/on-stage-whats-in-the-mic-box-for-the-current-tour-by-the-goo-goo-dolls/ ...is accurate for mic info, but it a 2010 interview with Paul David Hager who mixed the band. It lists this detail about cymbals...

hi-hat and ride cymbals employ Neumann KM 184 condensers

The short, splashy sound of the recording does seem similar to the live shows. Maybe the mics are part of that sound.

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Some ideas: the cymbals themselves could be splash or China cymbals, which are designed to make shorter sounds than normal crash cymbals.

They may be (as well) choked by the drummer (or another) grabbing them as or just after they're hit.

That's probably the solution, rather than some tweaking at the desk. Although careful mic placing could easily catch the hit, and eliminate the longer ringing after.

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    I would exclude choking the cymbals because it would be extremely difficult to play this tune relaxed in such a manner. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 17:15
  • @AlenSiljak - that's why I said (or another). Often pieces in the recording studio don't consider live rendititions of the piece.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 17:58
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    I agree that it isn't choking. I also am fairly certain these are crash hits, and not splashes or chinas - they sound like crashes, but they sound low in the mix and decay really fast. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 18:17

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