The Vintage Sound
Ok well the easiest way is.... to buy a vintage kit! Honestly this is not as scary as it may seem. They are often a lot cheaper than a new kit, heck you can buy a 1920s Wutlitzer for £400! But to some the risk is too much. An old drum requires tender care and attention and more often than not doesn't want to be gigged and requires a lot of upkeep and also hardware was often quite disastrous during this time. So a lot of the time people spend the premium on a replica vintage kit. So after spending the premium on a kit that in all fairness is just visually a vintage kit (unless you use a company very knowledgeable in vintage drums) you want it to sound vintage. The first thing is that most vintage drums were out of round (which means the shells aren't a perfect circle). This tended to dry the sound out so dry heads are the best.
Bass drum: The bass drum traditionally was ambassador over ambassador. Thin heads but on an out of round drum which dried it out, and to aid the dry sound would be a wood beater, muffler on the reso head and a felt strip. Now to get a similar sound on a modern drum firstly you need the correct sizes. 20", 22", 24" or 26" are the normal sizes, with 14" depth being the deepest you would find. Any longer and you wont get that proper attack sharp sound. Now there are 2 main ways to get this sound. The first is heads. The easiest is an emad with standard stock and a wooden beater. This prevents the need for exterior muffling and keeps the attack and punch. The second is a fiberskyn ambassador beater with fibreskyn ambassador reso with wooden beater and felt strip over reso. For extra measure use a clear beater patch to help the batter head last longer. This will give the closest feel to the vintage sound as it will give plenty of rebound on the batter.
The second way is the Drum Port, this replaces the reso head and although it doesn't give the rebound and feel a resonant head has, it gives the sheer attack whilst retaining tone (the cone itself still vibrates).
As far as tuning is concerned both beater and reso should be tuned quite tight to help with the high attack and give some overtones.
Toms: This one is quite easy. Standard single ply drum heads tuned nice and high for a tight high pitched tone.
Now another thing to add is that vintage drums were in general VERY thin shells. So if you want that open vintage sound you want around 6mm as your thickest and you want re-rings to help give strength to the drums. Straight sided shells thicker than 8mm will mean you will lose out on the vintage sound.
So that's the easiest way to get the vintage sound live. Now for studio.
So you have this lovely vintage kit, or a vintage sounding kit, and you want to make it sound just like you heard on your lovely vinyls. The only question is... how? With all the new recording techniques an super microphones everything sounds so... clinical, clean. So you want that nice old sound but don't know how to get it? Well here is 2 studio techniques on how to get it.
1) Dustbin. Ok I understand just saying dustbin doesn't really garner many ideas... This is a really simple technique that actually really works. Only use one microphone, stick it in a metal dustbin in its side with the open side of the bin pointed away from the kit but the microphone aimed at the kit. The natural reverb and tinny sound creates a vintage styled sound.
2) Sky High. Again just a name, this is the other way that people get that famous sound. Only use one or 2 overhead microphones, not much need for anything more back then, so why should there be now. The toms being low in the mix compared to the harshness of cymbals and the natural blend of all the sounds creates complex dynamics on all those vinyls. If you want more reveb then stick a metal pole in the room, this is how they did it in abbey roads, and how you can get that sound today.
So thanks for reading, any questions and please post below. Keep on playing.