The Myth Behind The Best Drum Recording Technique
This is a guest post by Niklas J. Blixt. Please read the guest post guidelines if you wish to contribute.
All right gals and pals, before I get any further into the topic I’m gonna debunk the myth that says that you can’t record professional sounding drums in your home studio.
Or any other place that isn’t built for drum recording purposes.
Maybe I’m sticking my chin out here, but I’d say that’s totally wrong.
In this article I’m gonna tell you why I think that it’s a myth.
I’m a session drummer and music producer so the instrument I get to record the most is…you’re right…the drums.
I’ve been recording drums in all kinds of environments that aren’t built with drum recording in mind. What I’ve learned from that is that you can get great sounding drums, if you only learn to work with the limitations you’re facing.
Drum Recording In a Lobby
I’m actually not the first one to believe in this.
One of the more famous drum recordings in history, from “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin and engineered by Andy John, was recorded in a lobby(!).
What can we learn from that?
I’d say that the equipment you’re using will never be better than the drummer playing the drums.
So how can you apply that to your recordings?
Use your ears! What sounds good is usually good. In rooms that aren’t primarily designed for drum recording, or music in general for that matter, you have to work around the limitations.
To be fair, everything in a good drum sound actually starts with the drummer itself.
A good drummer will not only know how to play the drums like a pro but he’ll also know how to tune them like a pro.
Good drummers listen and tune the drums so they sound good in the room they’re about to play in.
If you’ve got that right the rest is easy. Place your mics where they sound great, sit back and enjoy while the drummer puts down an awesome performance.
How Many Microphones Do You Need?
There are probably as many ways to record drums as there are engineers.
Everyone you ask will have their preferred method. But as I’ve said already, if it sounds good it is good.
But how many mics do you need?
There are two or correct answers to that.
The first one is: As many mics you can make sound good together.
The second answer is: As many mics as you have access to.
But to get the best of both worlds you combine the two and use as many as you can while each microphone is still adding something to the sound.
I see people trowing up mics everywhere and suddenly there are 48 tracks of drums. It’s a problem because when you send all the files off to the mixing engineer your ”far-room-mic-left-behind-the-sink” track that you’ve recorded will probably get muted, deleted or somehow removed from the mix.
My approach to miking drums is that every mic you put up should add something to the sound. If it doesn’t it’s just an unproductive waste of time.
The Perfect Drum Miking Recipe
I’m gonna finish this article with my drum recording recipe.
I’ll start with putting up the overheads. The overhead technique varies depending on what sound I’m after. If you’re new to this game you might want to watch some tutorials about different techniques[Editor’s note: Recording & Mixing Strategies teach you every type of overhead technique you need to know].
However I usually start with setting up the overheads and adjust it until it sounds like a good sounding drum kit.
Then, if I feel there’s something missing in the sound I’ll add more mics. For example, if I feel there’s not enough punch in the kick drum, I add a kick drum mic.
The key is: There needs to be a reason for any microphone you add to the drum kit. -Click to tweet
They need to capture something that I can’t get with the mics I’ve already put up.
There you have it, my secret recipe to capture great sounding drums.
Good luck! If you have any questions please leave comment or visit me at my website if you want to know more.