Video: Recreating Fiona Apple's "Criminal" | What's That Sound?

Back for another "What's That Sound?" episode, Noam and Jessica in the studio recreating the wild, focused, and over-compressed drums from Fiona Apple's "Criminal," performed by drummer Matt Chamberlain.

Drums in the style of Fiona Apple's
Drums in the style of Fiona Apple's "Criminal"
By Reverb
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The kit for this recreation was comprised of a '70s Gretsch bass drum, Ludwig Acrolite snare, 14-inch Zildjian K-Sweet hi-hats, and an 18-inch Zildjian K-Sweet crash.

One of the most interesting things about this drum sound is that part of the kit was recorded using a harmonica mic. Though we weren't sure which one, Noam is confident in his Shure 520DX Green Bullet pick, as it's the most popular harmonica mic on the market. But as Noam explains, this mic isn't a common choice for several reasons.

"[This] microphone is not meant for recording drums in any way. It's not even meant to go into a preamp. This is meant to be plugged directly into a guitar amp. It has a quarter-inch output, you have to plug into a DI if you want to record it, and it has a really, really aggressive mid-range sound, which is why it is used a lot for harmonica." It's also why the drums in this song have such an aggressive-sounding mid-range.

Snare Kick-out Kick-in Overhead Harmonica Drum bus

On the kick, Noam opted for common players: the ever-reliable AKG D12 for the kick-in mic and the Bock Audio iFET for the kick-out mic.

Because the harmonic mic's aggressiveness, Noam opted for mics that were less punchy here but could bring some vintage vibe and body. Both mics are going through 1073 preamps with minimal EQ and compression. Similarly, snare was kept simple and mic'd with the workhorse Shure SM57 going through a 1073 and 1176.

Finally, the harmonic mic was perhaps the most important of the lot, accounting for essentially 80% of the drum sound. Noam moved the mic around a bunch to get as balanced of a drum sound as possible with no single piece taking up too much sonic space. Be sure to check out the full video above to hear more about how that was placed and processed.

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