The Simple Truth About a Killer Drum Recording

drum sound

It’s simple: a great sounding drum kit will sound better and need less mixing than an out-of-tune, worn out drum kit. Getting a great drum recording is so much easier if you devote the time to getting the drum kit sounding its best.

Drums Need Tuning Too

I was recording drums recently at Allusion Studios and we spent a long time making sure each drum was tuned correctly. We used a drum dial to get each drum sounding its best. Just like you would tune a guitar or bass you should make sure each of your drums are tuned as well.

A few quick tips on drum tuning

  • Stretch the heads out. The heads will go out of tune fast if the heads aren’t stretched out.
  • In order to choke the tom sound tune the bottom head a little higher than the top head.
  • On the floor tom, tune the bottom head lower than the top head to get that “falling” floor tom sound.
  • Use the drum dial to get the drum sounding good all around, but use your ears for the final fine-tune.

A Great Sound With a Great Instrument

Once we had the drum sounding as good as possible we proceeded to mic things up. To get a more natural drum recording we used large condensers on all of the toms. The condensers were much more sensitive to everything around them but the bleed actually created a very natural, earthy sound. We were looking for an “old-school” but modern sounding drum sound so I think with the condensers we added an extra element dynamic microphones wouldn’t have had.


Finally, by taking the time to get the instrument sounding as good as possible, using great microphones into pristine sounding pre-amps we were able to get a kick ass drum recording. It just makes you feel better that you have a great sound recorded; a drum sound that doesn’t need every mixing trick in the book to sound great because it’s already 80% there.

Listen to a sample of the drum sound in the audio file below. No mixing or editing has be done to it. It’s just a great sounding kit with a professional performance through some awesome equipment. A big thanks to Allusion Studios for a great drum recording!

[audio:|titles=Minnesota drum sample]

For a killer guide on recording drums, or anything else for that matter, check out Recording Strategies.

Image by: kamalaboulhosn

  • Jeffory Long


    I love your info its great stuff and brings out ooohhh ya back in the mix. About drum dials my opinion and exprience is they are equal to the same thing as taking the drum and making sure that the rim is sitting flat all the way round.Try this set the drum on a flat surface like a table. If it wobbles or see light between the table top and rim adjust, wobble adjust until the rim is even all around. Then like you said use your ear. if bottom head is a great deal tighter than the top then the drum is tweeked and you are creating the tunning not really getting the natural tone of the drum. In the seventies we played without the bottom head, so what then. Just try it alot of musician can’t afford toys and gadgets.. But i bet you will get the same or better and more accurate natural drum tone. I no everybodies got there own way, just had to say what I have been doing for years.

    My resume if your interested. I not famous just played drums for famous people.

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      Hey Jeffory,

      Thanks for the tips man. Much appreciated. About the bottom head, it shouldn’t be that much tighter, just a little bit to choke off the ringing. And in the seventies the toms sounded like cardboard boxes man, heheheehe. And I know that a lot of musicians can’t afford toys and gadgets but it saves you a lot of time(and if you can afford a few thousand dollar kit then you can afford a drum dial 🙂

      Thanks for all the comments man!

  • I agree – never underestimate the power of tuning!
    It’s also worth mentioning that drums often need a little extra dampening in the studio, as the unnatural environment picks up ring and unwanted resonance much more finely than a live stage.

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      Thanks for the comments. Actually what I didn’t mention in the post was that we used moon gels to dampen the toms and keep them tight. Like you said, we didn’t want them ringing too much, so we put moon gels on until they sounded just right.

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