Basics Of Recording: Drums
Updated: Feb 19, 2020
There's no denying it, drums are complex to record! And there's about a million and one ways to go about recording! So here goes:
With this article, I'll make some assumptions (I have to unfortunately). I'll assume you have 8 inputs on your audio interface, certainly enough to record a good drum kit! Whilst there's other methods with less inputs (e.g. The 'Glyn Johns' 3-4 mic technique) they're very well represented elsewhere!
Setting Up The Kit
Like recording Guitar, drums must be set up properly! New skins on drum heads will create a much better and livelier tone - using tools such as a Drumdial can help you tune the drums much more accurately and quickly.
Thought must be put into cymbals, broadly there's two types - live and studio. Live cymbals are designed to cut through everything and be heard, this isn't what you need for recordings- where a slightly more mellow sound is often better. Recording at a reputable studio they should have a good collection of cymbals to choose!
Drum mics are a bit of a rabbit hole, but a little careful though can get a great tone. If I were starting out, I'd probably go straight for an Audix Drum mic kit- straightforward and easy to use with everything you need to start.
If you fancy something a bit more custom, I got a mix from a band with great drum tone, they used:
AKG D112 - Kick
Shure SM57 - Snare
Sennheiser E604 - Toms
Rode NT5 - Overheads
Rode NT1a - Drum Rooms
Setting Up Mics
This is is the fun/complex bit! As said there's a million and one articles, but I can give some basic guidance/thought here:
KickSet this mic up inside the drum, about 1/3 of the way in, pointing towards the edge of the kick, this should get plenty of attack and boom
Point the mic just over the edge of the shell pointing to the middle of the snare, position it so it's poiting away from the HiHats- it will 'reject' this sound, making for a much easier mix!
Either the custom setup and the kit of mics I recommended come with clip on mics- just clip them to the edge of the tom and point towards the middle!
This is a truly complex topic, sohere is a great article
For the record, my favourite is ORTF
If your recording space doesn't sound good, it's best to not bother with this, but if you have a spare channel at the end, a mono room mic can bring a bit of space to your sound!
This has only scratched the surface of drum recording, there's much more to learn. If I'm honest, drums above everything else is the candidate for recording at a studio, I'm not saying it can't be done, but there is much to learn. Put time into teaching yourself and there's a minefield of information you can pick up for free.
Next time I'm looking into the basics of recording piano/keys!
What are your thoughts? Is there anything else needed for that fat drum tone? Comment below to let me know!
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