TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 19 Recording Drums

I hope you found last week’s blog on Tuning Drums useful. Even if you don’t intend tuning them yourself and you choose to let someone else do it for you, it’s worth knowing the basics so that you can at least have an informed opinion on the resultant sound.

This week and next we will discuss tips on recording drums and microphone techniques.

TCM Music Group have access to many great session musicians, including Troy Luccketta. If you’re interested in finding out more about our recording packages, please click here.

Two Legendary Drummers – Tony Williams & Keith Moon.

If you listen to some of the greatest drummers on ‘record’ you will feel a drive and vitality in the music that is extremely difficult to replicate with samples. From Buddy Rich and Tony Williams to Neil Peart and Keith Moon – can you imagine trying to programme their styles and sound into a drum machine?

The problem or challenge of recording drums at home is that most rooms are square or rectangular in shape with lots of hard surfaces – walls, ceiling and floors. The aim is to soften the hard sound and reduce unwanted reflections without making it completely ‘dead’. Cover hardwood floors with rugs and windows with curtains. Just don’t kill all the life out of the room. If you need to make your room more ‘live’, use well placed reflective panels. We’ll discuss the use of panels in the next blog when we cover mic techniques. For more information and ideas, check out this earlier blog.

A Typical Room Plan – The Drum Kit Is Positioned With The Kick Pointing Towards A Soft Sofa, Away From The Bay Window. Check Out This Article For One Person’s Starting Point For Recording Drums In The Home.

A drum kit has a huge dynamic and frequency range…..from the delicate brush stroke of a cymbal to a full on barrage from the kick drum. So there are definite challenges to recording drums whether it’s in a Home Studio setting or Pro studio.

Cymbals will cut through in a mix easier than a bass drum. A drummer who has no finesse, who bashes cymbals when less volume would be more appropriate, is going to make your job as the recording engineer much harder than a drummer who can go some way to controlling his output by playing strong or quiet when required.

       Jeff Porcaro – With Toto And Prolific Session Drummer.       Buddy Rich – Consummate Jazz Drummer.

In fact a great drummer with a real sense of volume output, will allow you to use fewer mics if necessary, than a drummer who just hits the kit with no regard to the individual volumes of drums and cymbals. So if nothing else, request that your drummer plays the cymbals quieter than he/she normally would when recording.

However, don’t get intimidated by the task. There is no right or wrong way to record drums. Each song will have different requirements. Just get the best sound you can for the song you’re working on.

It’s important to mention (again) that any recording is only as good as its weakest link. So the drummer, the drums, the room, the mics, the preamp – all play a vital role in the chain from sound source to recorded signal.

Tuning A Drum.

First, make sure the drums are tuned and set up properly (we covered the basics of this in the last blog) and discuss with the drummer if there are any parts of the kit that will not be used for the track you’re recording… point in setting up and miking parts that won’t be played.

Then listen to the kit being played, so that you can determine if any tuning adjustments need to be made or if you need to move the kit to a different position or room to find the best spot. The advantage of recording at home is that there isn’t a clock ticking and an expensive studio bill waiting for you at the end of the day. In other words, there are no hard deadlines you need to meet other than the ones you impose on yourself.

Listen Carefully To The Drum Kit With Your Ears – Before Placing Any Mics.

Don’t forget each room will have its own acoustics, so if one room doesn’t sound good, move the kit to another. Or try the garage if you have one. Once you’re happy that you have a good sounding kit with your ears, you can then start to place mics.

Resist the temptation to add lots of EQ to drums to get the right sound. Far better to get the right acoustics, drummer, tuning, preamp and mic placement.

Drum Isolation Booth.

Pro studios will often have a drum isolation booth to prevent spillage from the drums into other band mics. If you’re fortunate enough to have a few rooms at your disposal, you can use them to your advantage by placing the drummer in one room whilst the rest of the band play in another.

Providing everyone is connected through foldback and getting the right mix in their headphones, they should be able to deal with not seeing each other. However, some bands rely heavily on visual cues between members, so this may not work for everyone.

If the drummer and remaining band members are forced to play in one room, due to lack of space, you can try using some acoustic panels to gain some separation from the drums. Alternatively, the drummer could lay down a basic track, using a click track as a guide. The band then record over the basic track. Then the drummer can replace the original basic track and overdub a full track at the end.

There are many mic techniques which can be used to record drums…..from a very basic single mic or stereo pair to capture the overall sound, to individual mics on virtually each drum and cymbal that make up the kit.

Next week, we will delve into the most popular mic techniques favoured by engineers.

Any questions? Drop us a line or call us – for TCM Music Group contact details, click here. And if you find this blog to be useful, you could subscribe to it and tell your band mates too.

Explore posts in the same categories: Music, Recording Studios, Sound Recording

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  1. […] the last two weeks we’ve covered tuning and some useful tips on setting up the drum kit before placing mics. Thanks to everyone who is taking time to check out […]

  2. […] Miking Vocals & Instruments, Recording Piano, Recording Electric & Bass Guitar, Recording Acoustic Stringed Instruments, Recording Horns, Recording Woodwind, Recording Drums. […]

  3. […] Miking Vocals & Instruments, Recording Piano, Recording Electric & Bass Guitar, Recording Acoustic Stringed Instruments, Recording Horns, Recording Woodwind, Recording Drums. […]

  4. […] someone in to tune them for you. We looked at recording and the various mic techniques for drums in four blogs starting here…..from Part 19 through to Part […]

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