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Production Review - Are tea towels really the way to get great drum damping?

The natural sound of drums is resonant and often boomy. So we damp them. But with tea towels? Surely that would be going too far...


In Sgt. Pepper - It Was 40 Years Ago Today, US band The Fray is encouraged by engineer Geoff Emerick to prepare their drums Ringo-style, to give their best performance in this recreation of the classic Beatles album at Abbey Road studios.

Emerick actually mentions at one point that he remembers when he first damped a drum. Can you believe that? We damp drums as a matter of course these days, but clearly there was a time when drums were allowed to resonate and ring.

Of course, the Beatles were great experimenters, so the idea of modifying the sound of the drums would have come quite naturally. And what better damping material than a tea towel from the Abbey Road canteen? (They could get some printed up and do a bit of merchandising there surely.)

As you can see in the photo, the tea towel is draped over a considerable proportion of the drum head. And here's how it sounds...

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These days we would consider it over-damped. But that is perhaps because we are too stuck in the mud of our current conventions.

Perhaps we should be more adventurous.

Next time leave off the damping, or use tea towels. Or go all the way and use bath towels! Don't forget to let us hear what you achieve - use the 'upload audio' link at the top of the page.

If you get the chance, Sgt. Pepper - It Was 40 Years Ago Today is essential viewing for anyone interested in recording. Perhaps you could encourage the production company (Hart Davies Television) to release it on DVD!

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006

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