Posted tagged ‘Glyn Johns’


July 16, 2012

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

The TCM Mastering Home Music Studio blog series provides essential tips and invaluable information for the musician recording at home.

L-R: Mic Selection, Glyn Johns Technique For Recording Drums, Recording Electric Guitar.

If you’re setting up a Home Music Studio from scratch, you will no doubt have many questions – What kind of gear is best, which microphones to choose, which software should I buy or should I use an analogue tape system? How to record a drum kit or an electric guitar?

Software Is At The Heart Of Most Home Studios These Days. Left To Right – Logic, ProTools & Cubase.

You will find the answers to these questions and much more in the 56 parts of the TCM Mastering Home Music Studio series of blogs.

To find what you’re looking for either use the links below or the Tags on the right hand side of the page. Often, there are several blogs dedicated to a particular topic. For example, MIDI is covered over 4 parts from 52-55.

Ted Carfrae & CJ Boggs In TCM Mastering (UK) & TCM Music Group Studios (USA).

Part 56 – Mastering

Part 52 – Intro To MIDI

L: Showing Part Of A Drum Patch On A Keyboard. R: Drums & Multiple Mics Setup, TCM Studios.

Part 45 – Mixing Drums

Part 39 – Mixing Vocals

Tape Editing & MIDI Editing.

Part 35 – Editing Music

Part 29 – Multitrack Recording

Chorus Effect.

Part 24 – Signal Processing

Part 19 – Recording Drums

Tuning Order On Drum Heads.

Part 18 – Tuning Drums

Two Options For Recording Violin.

Part 11 – Recording Acoustic Stringed Instruments

Part 8 – Recording Piano

Digital Software Or Analog Hardware.

Part 1 – Your Room

Owned and run by multi-platinum music producer Ted Carfrae, TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group have been providing

a professional, fast and affordable service

to all genres of the music industry for decades – from major record labels and international artists to brand new, up and coming music talent.

Take a look at some recent clients, by clicking here.

If you have any questions regarding the recording or mixing process, drop us a line. Our contact details are here. We love to hear from you.

Do you have some songs that need producing, recording, mixing or mastering? Then contact us for details on our rates and some incredible recording packages.

West 1 Entertainment News

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Ben – The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Act.

Ben – The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Act is currently on tour (see dates below) in the UK playing to packed crowds. Ben and the band perform totally live with the support of a full lighting and sound crew.







Ben as Michael Jackson has taken the theatre world by storm with his innovative, true to life presentation of the King of Pop’s moves and iconic music, backed by his incredible band and dancers – the ultimate tribute act in Europe. Lead by the show’s creator, James Baker who himself is an established musician and producer, this show is selling out all over the UK!

Contact details are or if you’d like more information on Ben The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Act, go to the website by clicking here.

Check out Ben and The Band performing ‘The Love You Save’ live at Glastonbudget 2012 (below).



January 9, 2012

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 45 Mixing Drums

Over the last few weeks we’ve covered the various individual drums and cymbals that make up the drum kit. This week we’ll conclude our look at drums in the mix, by considering the use of the Overheads and Ambience tracks.

Overheads: Spaced Pair.

We’ve mentioned the Overheads a few times and alluded to how useful they can be to pull the overall drum sound together.

The overheads are often set up as a stereo pair, for example X-Y Coincident, Spaced pair or Blumlein. There are other stereo techniques each with their own pros and cons as well as mic setups with one mic in front of the kit and one behind the drummer.

See this blog for more information on recording techniques for overheads and ambience tracks.

In reality, unless you were standing very close to a drum kit, you would hear very little stereo spread. So, how important is it to have a wide stereo picture of the drums in your song? That’s entirely for you to decide. Some songs will suit a wider stereo image than others.

Overheads: X-Y Coincident Pair.

If you do decide to go with stereo drums in your mix, listen to your overhead tracks sooner rather than later. Providing you set up your OHs as a stereo pair with quality mics, you should hear a pretty good drum mix from just these two mics. They will most likely have picked up the cymbals, hi-hat, snare and toms quite well.

By adding in the kick and snare specific mikes, you should be able to produce a drum sound that provides punch and clarity.

With such a wide range of kit components, it might be difficult to apply an EQ setting that works well for everything. Providing you are adding close miked tracks, you could try rolling off a lot of low-end from the OHs, maybe all the way up to 400 Hz. This can sometimes help the close mics poke through more.

If the drums heard in the OHs sound muddy, play around with the 100-200 Hz range of frequencies. If they sound boxy try cutting between 400 Hz-1 kHz.

TML Studio TCM Music Nashville – Showing Overhead Spaced Pair, Kick, Snare, Hi-Hat & Tom Mics.

Just be careful in applying any EQ. What works for cymbals for example, may not make your toms sound great and vice versa. So a compromise needs to be reached. However, don’t dismiss the OHs because of this. With a little effort, these two tracks can provide a great base to build your drum sound on.

Remember, if you recorded the kit using 10 or 20 mics it does not mean you have to use all of them. Only use what is needed to get a great drum sound. And when using more than one mic, there is always the possibility of phase issues. The more mics you use the more the problem gets compounded. So check for mono compatibility whenever you introduce another mic into the mix.

Also consider which way you want to ‘see’ the kit. Do you want the listener POV or the drummer POV? Whichever way you decide to go with, make sure you’re consistent when adding individual drums and cymbals to the OHs.

Kit From Drummer’s POV, Hi-Hat Left.

Kit From Audience POV, Hi-Hat Right.

When panning the OHs left and right, if the OHs have the hi-hat appearing on the right, don’t place the individual hi-hat mic track on the left. Listen carefully to the OHs (solo them) and determine where each kit component is in the stereo field, then add the individual tracks to match the position you hear in the OHs.

Gating the OHs does not work. The OHs are effectively capturing the whole kit. Gating the OHs will do the opposite and result in parts of the kit being cut out. So don’t use this processor to fix your OHs sound. If the OHs don’t sound very good, you may have to re-record them.

Actually, the OH’s often help to mask any gating artifacts from the individually miked drums…..another very good reason to have them as part of your drum sound.

Adding compression to the OHs is debatable…..some engineers do, some don’t. If you recorded your OHs as a stereo pair and do decide to use compression, make sure you use a linked stereo compressor to prevent image shift. If the two sides of the compressor are not linked, every time the crash cymbal is struck, the stereo image will move because the mic that is closest to the crash will compress more than the one that is further away. This is especially true for a Spaced Pair setup.

Best to use light compression in the OHs if at all, and compress the individual drum mikes.

Using A Royer SF-12 Stereo Ribbon Mic To Record Ambience In Kitchen, Drums In Next Room.

Ambient mics can add a unique quality to the sound of your drums (or any instrument). They are usually placed several feet away from the signal source and therefore capture more of the room sound. The position(s) that work will only be discovered by experimentation.

In a home studio setting, one room – your main recording room – may be somewhat acoustically treated. The other rooms are probably not.

Try listening to the drums from different points in the same room as well as different rooms. Bathrooms, kitchens or hallways may provide useful opportunities to place ambient mics that produce interesting results. Whilst the drummer is playing, move around until you hear a sound quality you like (the sweet spot), set up a mic and listen to the result. Providing you have enough tracks, you can always record an ambient track or three then decide in the mix if you want to use them.

If you’re able to borrow a church hall or other large reverberant space, you can capture some amazing ambient sounds which when added to your close mics, can transform the sound of your kit and other instruments.

Incidentally, if you want to hear what a great sounding room can do for your music, search out Beaver & Krause’s ‘Gandharva’. Recorded in 1971, side two of the LP was recorded in San Fransisco’s magnificent Grace Cathedral. Featuring Mike Bloomfield, Gerry Mulligan, Bud Shank and many other stalwart musicians of that era, it’s an amazing mixture of Jazz, Blues, Rock and Gospel – a unique album.

If you use more than one mic at varying distances on a single source, the sound will arrive at the different mics at slightly different times. So delays will be introduced as well as possible phase problems.

The further away a mic is from a source, the less attack will be picked up and there will be less signal to noise. So you may need to EQ out some background noise or rumble. Play around with the panning of ambient mic(s) to see what works best for the song.

Maybe the best advice with drums, is to start off simple – using the Glyn Johns mic technique – using three or four mics or something similar. Then as you become more familiar with your mic collection, acoustics, the recording and mixing processes you’ll feel inclined to experiment with more complex setups.

Getting a great drum sound can be one of the more challenging aspects of the mix stage. But as with everything in life, practice makes perfect. There’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and just doing it. Fortunately in the home studio, the multitrack process allows endless attempts at getting the mix right. Take your time, learn your skills and have fun.

Next week we’ll look at Percussion before moving on to the other instruments in the mix.

All of us at TCM Mastering love music. We’ve all spent most of our lives in this business. So, if you have any questions regarding the blog, mastering or recording in general please drop us a line or contact us here.


December 19, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 42 Mixing Drums

This week and next in the TCM Mastering Home Music Studio series, we’ll be looking at Drums in the mix process.

But before we get into discussing mixing drums – were you happy with the recorded sound of your kit? Was the drum kit properly tuned?

A Vital Ingredient For A Great Drum Sound – Tuning.

We covered drum tuning in this blog. A badly tuned kit will never produce a great sound. So if you weren’t up to it yourself, hopefully you got 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 22.

Showing The Tuning Order For Drum Heads With Different Numbers Of Lugs.

It is rumoured that Metallica’s Black Album employed 30 tracks (including ambience tracks) just for the drums!!! Depending on how many mics you used to record your kit, will dictate to a large extent what you can do with the drums in your mix. If you have 12 tracks recorded for the kit it should allow you more control over each individual drum and cymbal component and more variation in sound than if you only used 2 or 3 tracks for the drums. But either extreme can produce a great sound or a complete mess.

More isn’t always better. Glyn Johns famously used 3 or 4 mics to record drums on many major releases from the 60s to the late 80s. His technique is described in this blog.

To understand better the pros and cons for using a few or several mics, click on the links above for tuning and recording drums.

Drums And Mics Setup At TML Studio TCM Music Nashville.

Drums are the backbone of modern music tracks. Providing you have taken the time to tune them properly and have got a great recording of them – you should have few problems in the mix. Although there is bound to be some bleed, for example, a snare mic may also pick up audio from the other drums and cymbals in the kit.

Of course, one of the reasons for using a real drummer and kit is to get that real drum sound that’s unique to that player, kit, room etc.

A useful tip, is to sample all the drums on the kit individually before recording the drummer. This allows you to trigger a clean sample if necessary in the mix stage.

Drum Samples From Sonic Reality.

Today, you can buy great drum samples (which tend to be EQ’d already), but unless you’re really good at programming, it’s not always easy producing a great drum performance. Many samples offered come as loops that can be used ‘straight out of the box’. With a little editing they can be turned into excellent drum tracks.

When using EQ on any instrument, drums included, solo the track your listening to first. And only ever apply EQ if it’s needed. If it sounds okay, leave it alone. Where possible, use EQ cut rather than boost to get the sound you want…..this approach ensures less noise is added to your track.

Once you start monitoring drums with the rest of your tracks, then you may find yourself adding more top end to a kick and snare. Be sure to compare the sound between the soloed track(s) and the overall drum sound in the mix.

The acoustics of the room you recorded in, the quality of the drum kit, how well they were tuned, the player – will all have contributed to the drum sound. So any EQ and processing suggestions are only guidelines.

Graphic Illustrating Possible EQ For Bass Guitar And Kick Drum.

The Kick Drum needs to work with the bass guitar. So don’t EQ both with the same frequencies. For example, if the bass guitar is boosted around 150 Hz, don’t emphasise the kick in the same frequency range. In the picture above, notice the narrow bandwidth boost for the kick at 50 Hz and the cut to the bass guitar at the same frequency.

Kick Drum Miked From Pedal Side.

To give the kick some force, add a few dB at 80-100 Hz. Cutting around 400-600 Hz can help to reduce the boxiness some drums have. Adding a few dB at around 5 kHz should give your kick more presence and attack. If you recorded the kick with a mic at the front and another on the pedal side, each will give a different quality to the drum. The pedal side usually contributes a punchier sound.

To find the exact frequency that needs adjusting, use extreme cut or boost, whilst using a very high Q or narrow bandwidth setting as you sweep through the frequencies. This makes it easier to find the desired frequency. Once you’ve found the frequency that works best, moderate the cut or boost dB levels and widen the bandwidth a little.

Don’t alter the levels of the kick drum and bass guitar. These two instruments are the foundation of the beat in any song. Find a level and EQ setting that works for them and leave them alone.

It’s rare to find two engineers/producers that approach recording and mixing in exactly the same way. So opinions vary on the use of dynamic processing in the mix stage. A major part of the debate centres around whether to EQ first then Compress or vice versa. You might want to consider this guideline…..if the drum needs drastic EQ then compress before EQ. If the drum needs serious compression then EQ before compression. Ultimately, it’s down to what sounds best, so try both and see which you prefer.

A Carefully Setup Noise Gate On The Kick Can Get Rid Of Bleed From Other Drums.

If you have used multiple mics to record your drum kit, there will inevitably be bleed on the kick mic from other drums (especially the snare) and vice versa. One way to reduce bleed is to use a noise gate. The principle is that the noise gate will open when the kick drum is hit, but will close when the kick is not present, thus getting rid of the spill in the kick mic from the other drums.

The picture above shows Logic’s Noise Gate with a very fast attack. The release is fast enough to close before the snare is heard, but allows the full sound of the kick to get through. The threshold has been turned down until the other drums cannot be heard. If you decide to use a gate, take your time to get the settings right so that the kick is not cut off prematurely.

Logic’s Compressor Set Up For The Kick.

Compression helps to even out any level inconsistencies. If the drummer provided a reasonably steady output, you could try a 5:1 ratio, adjust the threshold until you’re compressing around 3-4 dBs. You can then bring the level back by increasing the gain by about 3 dBs. Then adjust the attack and release until you get the effect you want. A slower attack allows the beater to break through. Adjust the release time to stop the compressor from compressing before the next beat.

Left – Snare Miked Top & Bottom, Right – Dampening The Snare.

The Snare Drum is what gives the drive and beat to your music, so it should cut through everything else. For many producers/engineers their snare drum sound is their signature. Also, many drummers will bring along more than one snare to a recording session, using different ones on different songs. So decide on the kind of snare sound you want. Listen to your favourite songs from different eras and different bands for ideas. Drums recorded in the 60’s sounded different from those in the noughties.

Click here for an interesting article on recording and mixing the snare drum.

If you have used one mic on the snare, positioning it above the rim is the usual  spot. Placing a mic below the snare gives you additional options and tonal qualities as it will capture the sizzle of the snare wires. You will however, need to reverse its phase with the mic above the snare.

Digirack EQ On Snare Drum.

If your snare sound needs more body, try boosting at around 100-150 Hz. Below 100 Hz, there isn’t much that needs to be kept, so you can use a high-pass filter. Reduce boxiness by cutting around 650 Hz. Need more crispness? Add a few dB between 4-8 kHz. There are also enhancers or exciters on the market from the likes of JoeMeek and Aphex that can really help to improve the sound.

The snare mic will pick up some of the kick, toms, cymbals and hi-hat. So again, a noise gate works well in cleaning up the snare sound. But whereas the kick’s characteristic thud is quite short, the snare can ring out. So adjust the settings carefully, taking care that the natural decay of the snare does not get cut-off.

Something to consider…..once you’ve got a great sounding snare, you could try triggering some good drum samples underneath to produce a punchier, modern rock sound.

Along with the kick and the bass guitar, the snare is usually placed centre stage in the stereo field. There are examples in modern music where these conventions have been ignored, but in general these three instruments fulfill their purpose best when panned down the middle.

A radically different snare sound can be created with the addition of a short delay or reverb, e.g. a good plate or room setting. Just bear in mind that adding a long reverb can muddy or confuse the snare sound. Try using a decay length that fits between the consecutive snare hits. There’s also the gated reverb sound, used by Phil Collins to great effect on ‘In The Air Tonight’ and many other artists.

You may find there are certain effects that require slightly different settings at different points in the song.  For example, you may want to add a longer reverb to a snare in the chorus, whilst using a drier setting in the verse. The only way to find out what works is to try it. This is the beauty of the modern multitrack process, in the mix stage you can experiment with all kinds of processing without compromising your original tracks.

Next week we’ll continue with mixing drums by looking at Toms, Overheads, Hi-Hat, Cymbals and Ambience tracks.

TCM Music Group and TCM Mastering provide full recording, mixing, mastering and production services from their facilities in the UK and Nashville, USA. For more information, click here.


October 3, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 31 Multitrack Recording

At TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group we love what we do. We love music. So if you have any questions please feel free to drop us a line or call us. Our contact details are here.

We started outlining the multitrack process in TCM Mastering’s Home Music Studio Part 29. Then last week we discussed basic setups (MIDI or Live band) and signal paths.

Before we embark on the Recording stage, it may be useful to refer back to a few earlier blog posts.

Mic Selection And Polarity Patterns.

If you want to read more on microphone types and techniques look at parts 5 and 6.

The Glyn Johns 3 Mic Technique For Recording Drums.

Check out parts 9 and 10 for recording guitars…..followed by strings, horns and woodwind, then drums kicked off in part 18 going through to part 23 for percussion.

Signal Processing – Dynamics And EQ Plug-Ins.

Signal processing started at part 24 and the multitracking process came in at 29.

 TCM Editor’s Note: In order to keep the blogs to a reasonable length every week, we have to make some assumptions. But if you have questions – please let us know by dropping us a line.

Assuming most of you are working in the digital realm, to start recording you will need to open up a new session in your software programme or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

Pro Tools I/O Setup Matrix Page.

If we use Pro Tools on a Mac as our example…..when you first open up a new session, there are no tracks or mix channels set up. You have to create ‘new’ tracks, set up input/output (I/Os) routings, set your sampling (44.1/48/96 kHz) and bit (16/24 bit) rates etc.

If you are setting up the same parameters, inputs/outputs, plug-ins, tracks and instruments for each session, you will want to put together a Template session. Pro Tools 9 offers several ready to use Templates (see pix below), but it’s also easy to make one to your own specific requirements.

Pro Tools Offers Various Ready To Use Templates.

For example, you could have a Template setup for a 4 piece band or a MIDI setup depending on how you work.

It’s a similar concept to the Word Processing Template, this will pull together all the common things you want in your session, so that you don’t have to start from scratch every time…..a huge time saver.

There will be slight differences for a PC. And other programmes will be different again. But most offer this facility as well as many other time saving options, which you should explore to make your recording experience easier and more efficient.

Remember each system is different, so for specific details read your user manual.

Recording Electric Guitar In Home Studio.

So your DAW is set up and ready for recording. Make sure your input and mixer fader (real or virtual) are turned down all the way. This is just good practice to prevent any unwanted clicks or snaps damaging the speakers (and your ears) when connecting anything.

Plug in the mic or instrument into the correct input of your mixer or interface. Remember an electric or bass guitar will probably need to go through a DI box or into the Hi-Z input and condenser mics will need phantom power.

Providing You Have Setup Your I/Os Correctly, You Should See Your Track Meter Registering Some Activity When There Is A Sound Source Present.

In your programme or DAW, choose the track you want to record to. Providing you have set up I/O routings (as part of your Template) you can then arm the track for record. In Pro Tools you can arm your track in either the Edit or Mix page.

As mentioned in last week’s blog, take care to set the optimum level at each stage of the signal path. Remember your aim is to record the best quality sound signal into your DAW. You want the highest level at each stage with as little noise as possible (a high signal-to-noise ratio) and without distortion or clipping.

There Are Various Types Of Meters To Measure Sound Levels.

Instruments and voices have dynamic range, so you need to allow for the highest peaks and transients from them. Recording in the digital realm is nowhere near as forgiving as analog tape. So if your system allows, always use 24 bit rate over 16 bit, this will give you better signal-to-noise, and remember to peak your recording level no higher than about minus 6-8dB.

Whilst recommending the higher bit rate, I should mention that a 3 minute song with say, 16 tracks recorded at 24 bit rate and 44.1 kHz sample rate will  need about 360 MB of space on your hard drive. If you choose a 96 kHz sample rate you’d be looking at double this amount.

I also recommend you use a separate hard drive from your computer system drive for storing all your audio files and session data, with as much storage space as possible. Audio sessions can use up an awful lot of space.

And whilst we’re on the subject of equipment, don’t under-estimate the importance of a good pair of monitor speakers. To record and mix effectively, you need a pair of monitors that do not colour the sound. Some speakers may accentuate high frequencies whilst some enhance the bass.

KRK VXT6 Active Studio Monitors.

Monitor speakers are available as either Passive or Active. Passive monitors require a separate amp to power them, much like speakers in a Hi-Fi. Active monitors have their own built-in amps. There are plenty of choices on the market in all price ranges. So go for the best you can afford.

A Single Analog Mixer Channel Strip, Split Into 3 Sections For Easy Viewing: Section A – Input Pot & Preamp Plus EQ…..Section B – Aux & Monitor Sends…..Section C – Fader, Pan, Mute, Solo & Bus Assigns Switches.

Meter levels can often be monitored at different points in the signal path but not all systems are the same.

The Prefader Input Level shows you the level of signal entering the mixer channel before it passes through the fader and channel EQ. How much level the meter registers depends on how loud or soft the sound source is and the adjustment of the trim pot (or input gain pot). If you’re using a separate preamp you can make adjustments on the preamp’s trim pot. And if you’re recording with a mic, the position and proximity of the mic will affect the level of your sound source too.

Logic Studio And Cubase Record Pages, Both Systems Offer Excellent Facilities.

The Postfader Input Level shows the signal level after passing through the channel strip including the fader and any EQ adjustments that have been made. The level you see here is different to the prefader level only if the channel trim pot is in a position other than unity gain or if EQ has been adjusted in some way.

The Prefader Track Level is the level actually being recorded on the hard drive or recorder. If you’re setup uses a separate analog mixer and a stand alone recorder, this level is shown on the recorder not the mixer.

The Postfader Track Level displays the level after you have made changes to the track channel’s fader and EQ. This level will only be different to the Prefader Track Level if adjustments have been made to the track fader level and/or EQ.

The Meter Level On The Pro Tools Master Track Represents The Sum Of All The Tracks Being Fed To It.

Master Bus Levels need to be monitored very carefully when mixing. In a typical session there will be many tracks being routed to the Master Bus. Which means that this level represents the sum of all those tracks.

The reason I mention these various points in the signal path is to make you aware that a problem with the sound could be at any one of these stages. If you hear distortion when recording, systematically check your various levels and trust your ears.

It’s also important to mention that in Pro Tools, a track’s channel fader only affects the track’s output level, it does not affect the input (record) level. That is set earlier in the signal chain at the sound source itself or the mic’s preamp.

If you want more information and are using Pro Tools, click here for an excellent article on headroom and the use of the Mix Bus. If you’re using MIDI with Pro Tools you might find this article useful too.

Next week we will continue with the Recording stage by discussing the use of EQ and Effects, recording your first take, punching in and the importance of saving your work.


July 24, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 21 Recording Drums, More Detailed Mic Techniques

Last week we covered some basic mic techniques for recording the drum kit…..from using just one mic to the 3 mic method pioneered by legendary producer and engineer, Glyn Johns.

For most Home Music Studios the methods mentioned, should allow you to capture a pretty good drum sound providing all the fundamentals are covered. That is, if you have a decent sounding drum kit that is tuned and set up properly, a room that is not too dead or reverberant and a decent drummer who can control to some extent his volume when playing.

As part of their recording packages, TCM offer the services of professional session musicians. Troy Luccketta, drummer with Tesla is available through TCM Music Group and is also a Producer partner.

This week and next we will discuss in greater detail miking individual drums and cymbals then follow that with percussion.

First a word on recording levels – When recording any instrument, you want to capture the highest level without distortion with as little noise as possible. In other words you want a high signal-to-noise ratio.

Drums produce loud transients and are usually recorded quite hot, that is at a level that is close to distorting. Analogue tape can be quite forgiving, in fact many engineers record high levels onto tape to saturate the tape, which gives a warmer sound. However, if you record above 0dB into a digital system, the distortion you get will not be pleasant at all.

So before recording, always get your drummer to play the kit at the loudest volume he/she will play at for the track you’re working on, so that you can set your levels to best suit either your analogue or digital recorder.

If you have the resources to buy a large selection of mics and have the requisite number of preamps and inputs to plug all those mics into…..the possibilities for recording drums are almost endless.

One Mic Ain’t Gonna Do It For Neil Peart’s Kit! 

A lot of modern popular music, rock or country recordings use several mics. As well as using overheads or ambient mics, specific mics will be used for the kick, snare, toms, hi-hat, cymbals, gongs and other assorted percussion.

For example…..

  • 2 or even 3 mics for the kick (eg. AKG D112/D12, Audix D6).
  • 2 for the snare (eg. Shure SM57, AKG C451, Sennheiser e604).
  • Top and bottom mics on each tom (eg. Sennheiser 441/MD421/e604, Beyer M88, Audix D2).
  • A couple on the hi-hat (eg. AKG C1000/C451B, AT 4041).
  • A mic on each cymbal (eg. AKG 452/C1000, Octava MK319).
  • A stereo pair of overheads (eg. AKG C414/C451, Royer NT-1A).
  • A couple of ambience mics at different distances from the kit (eg. AKG C414, Neumann U87).
  • Mics for specific pieces of percussion.

That’s a lot of mics. And the more mics you have set up, the bigger the potential problem with phase issues. So setting up such a large group of mics in pretty close proximity to each other will present several challenges to the recording engineer.

Reasonably Priced Samson 7 Piece Mic Set For Drums.

Miking each instrument in the drum kit separately, will allow you to apply EQ, compression and balance the levels between the different drums and cymbals. But in order for this to work effectively, you will need to achieve good separation between the various mics, so that each one picks up the drum it’s positioned on without picking up the other drums.

Just because you have set up a complicated array of mics and captured a good recording of them all on your DAW or recorder, doesn’t mean you will necessarily use all the tracks in the final mix.

Once all the other instruments in the band are recorded and the mix process is underway you may decide for example, to dispense with the ambient mics or only use one mic each on the kick and snare. The music track you’re working on will (or it should) dictate the overall drum sound you present in your final mix.

Bass or Kick Drum

So let’s consider the bass or kick drum. This drum provides the basic rhythm of a song.

An Audix D6 Mic Positioned Through The Cut Out Hole, Aimed At The Beater Head. Note The Blanket Inside To Reduce Boominess.

Reduce the boominess from your kick by putting a pillow or blanket inside the drum. Place it so that it is either touching the inner skin or just an inch or so away from the skin. You will need to experiment.

Be careful when tuning the bass drum. You don’t want it too low. A tight well tuned beater head will give a full-bodied tone. The beater itself will contribute to the quality of the sound. A hard beater will give more attack than a soft one.

Top Nashville Mixer, Steve Marcantonio Favours Placing An AKG D112 Or EV RE20 Inside The Bass Drum Near The Beater And A Neumann U47 FET About 7 Inches Back From The Outer Skin.

You can place a mic inside the kick drum if you remove the outer head or cut a hole in it eg. AKG D112/D12, Sennheiser MD421, Beyer M88 or Audix D6. Position it 2 or 3 inches from the inside head just off centre. This will give you a sharp attack from the beater. Dynamics work best in this situation because they can handle the high SPLs. Condensers and especially ribbons are more fragile, so be very careful using them close up.

You may want to label the mic you use and keep it specifically for the kick, because it will take more of a beating than any other mic in your collection.

Pulling the mic a little further from the beater head (midway) will result in less attack and a bit more body to the drum sound.

If you don’t want to remove the outer head, you can place the mic 2-8 inches from the outer skin. Aimed at the centre, this position will give a more open, boomy quality. Move the mic a little from the centre to get less boom.

Of course, the further you place the mic away from the kick drum, the more it will pick up other drums and the room. To reduce this, you can place a blanket or acoustic panel over and around the kick mic.

Miking The Kick On The Beater Side Contributes Mid And Treble Giving Definition If Added To The Sound From A Mic Positioned At The Front.

Alternatively, you can place a mic on the beater side of the drum. This position is more prone to pick up squeaks from the pedal (keep a can of oil or WD40 handy), but will give a less boomy sound with lots of mids and treble. By mixing this mic position with a mic on the front end, it will add definition and give a fuller more rounded overall sound.

Make sure (as with all the drums and cymbals) that you achieve the best sound you can get from the particular instrument, before adding any EQ or compression. If you can, hold off on the EQ until the mixdown stage. When you add in the other band instruments, certain frequencies on the drums will be more useful than others to bring them out in the mix. You don’t want to commit too early to a kick EQ, because the kick and the bass guitar have to work together and the bass guitar sound will certainly affect the way you treat the kick sound.

Snare Drum

The snare is probably the most important drum in the kit because it drives the tempo of the song (and is probably the most strident of the drums). So it really needs as much separation as possible from the rest of the kit.

Aim A Quality Dynamic Mic Towards The Centre Of The Snare, Far Enough Back So That The Drummer Doesn’t Hit It.

When miking the snare consider it’s proximity to the hi-hat and don’t place it too far over the head or the drummer could accidentally hit it. Use a robust cardioid dynamic mic angled between 30 and 40 degrees to the beater head about an inch or two above the skin. Shure SM57s are widely used because they can handle the high SPLs and do a great job capturing the mid-range. You could also try an AKG C451 or Sennheiser 409.

Plus there are several mic packs on the market specifically designed for the drums. I mention Samson above, Audio Technica also do a 5 mic drum pack – AT MBDK5.

Striking The Snare At Different Points Produces Varying Sound Qualities.

Striking the snare in the centre will give most attack, at the edge will produce lots of high harmonics and midway will be the most resonant.

And remember, due to the Proximity Effect – the closer you move a mic with  a cardioid polarity pattern into a sound source, the more bottom end it will pick up.

Left – Miking The Snare From Below. Right – Air Blasts From The Hi-Hat Can Affect The Snare Mic Sound.

Positioning the mic over the snare may need a few attempts to get it right, so that it doesn’t pick up the blasts of air from the hi-hat opening and closing. Sometimes a super or hypercardioid does a better job.

Adding a mic below the snare gives you more options and tonal qualities as it will capture the sizzle of the snare wires. But you will need to reverse its phase with the mic above the snare. The snare wires should be tensioned so that they rattle when the snare is struck but not buzz in sympathy when other parts of the kit are hit. Applying some tissue or gaffa tape to the snare wires may be necessary, but don’t dampen or mute them completely.

Next week we’ll conclude our coverage of the Drum Kit with the Toms and Cymbals, then continue with Percussion.

Links For Mics…..AKG, Audix, Shure, Sennheiser, Royer, Neumann.


July 17, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 20 Recording Drums – Simple Mic Techniques

Over 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 this series. We really appreciate your interest.

This week we’ll look at some basic set ups and next week we’ll cover more detailed mic techniques for recording drums.

Dave Brubeck’s Drummer – Joe Morello With A Single Mic At The Front Of His Kit (Placed Left In Picture Just Below Cymbal).

Memorable drum tracks have been recorded by the Beatles, Motown and Sun Records as well as Jazz greats Joe Morello (check out this You Tube video – amazing drum solo!) and Buddy Rich to name a few…..all at a time when technology was quite primitive in comparison to the facilities that are available today.

Before placing any mics, make sure you find the best spot in your room to position the drums. Depending on whether your room is ‘live’ (reflective) or dead, will partly influence where to put the kit.

If the room is square, try setting up the kit in a corner facing into the room…..face the kit away from any windows and try to point it towards soft furniture that will absorb rather than reflect sound. If it’s a particularly dead room to start with, you may want to use a few reflective panels to bring some life into your recordings. But remember, it’s much easier to add some reverb in the mix than it is to remove it. 

Until you’ve gone through this process a few times, you won’t know which is the best spot. Eventually, you will get to know your room’s positives and negatives and be able to position instruments for the best results.

So let’s consider the most popular basic techniques for mic placement.

If you are limited by the number of mics, preamps or input channels, a basic stripped down approach will be required. Remember, drums used to be recorded with just one mic (before the days of multi-tracking).

A Single Well Placed Condenser (eg. Neumann U47) At The Front Of The Kit, Can Produce Great Results.

With a single well placed mic – if you have a great drummer playing a well tuned, decent kit in a good sounding room – most of your problems are solved. The challenges in recording a drum kit come from any of those factors not being quite good enough. In the pictures above, a single condenser mic is positioned at about 5-6 feet high at a distance of 2-5 feet from the kit.

Remember, when we mention distances they are only a guide. There is always a little trial and error in miking any instrument. What will work for one situation…..a room, drummer, kit…..will be different for another.

A Single Quality Mic Placed In Front Of The Kick Drum, Pointing Towards The Snare, At Hi-Hat Height Can Produce Great Results.

Try a condenser or ribbon mic either above and behind the drummer aimed at the snare (though you won’t pick up much kick) or in front of the kick drum at a height of 3-6 feet pointing towards the snare (see the picture above).

To find the best mic position, ask your drummer to play. Listen carefully with your ears as you move around the kit while it’s being played, then place the mic, monitor it and move it until you find the sweet spot.

And always evaluate a drum kit with the drummer you will use for your recording session. Two drummers can make the same kit sound quite different.

Most engineers seem to prefer large diaphragm mics, but you can try small too. Everything from a Neumann U47/87, TLM 103/170, KM84/184 to the AKG C414B/C451/C3000, Audio Technica AT 4033/4044 or a Coles 4033 ribbon can produce surprisingly good results.

X-Y Stereo Pair On Drum Kit.

If you want to keep it simple but record in stereo eg. a jazz kit, you can place an X-Y pair (AKG C451s or C460Bs work well) about 6 feet high aligned over the snare drum or the player’s head. This technique works well for mono compatibility. Sounds from different directions arrive at both mics at the same time – because the two mic heads are almost touching – resulting in no phase problems. Use either large or small diaphragm condensers. Ribbons yield a sweet sound.

A small change in mic position can give you a very different sound – favouring cymbals or drums. So take your time to try out various positions.

If you add individual mics for the kick and snare to the above set up, you should have ample coverage for the kit. Place the bass drum and snare mics a few inches away from the drum heads (see next week’s blog for more detailed placement). Use EQ sparingly. A little compression on the kick and snare usually help to keep a tight sound…..we’ll cover signal processing in more depth in a later blog.

A Stereo Spaced Pair Set Up Works Best Using The 3 To 1 Ratio Rule.

An alternative stereo set up is the Spaced Pair. Use two matched/identical mics. And remember to use the 3 to 1 ratio rule. For example, if the mics are placed 2 feet above the cymbals make sure the two mics are 6 feet apart. This helps to eliminate any phase problems.

With all techniques that employ more than one mic – check for mono compatibility…..the sound should still be full with a good bottom end. If there are out of phase issues, the two tracks being monitored together in mono will sound hollow. If you feel this is the case, move one of the mics until the sound improves or use a phase reversal switch on one of the mics. If you’re recording into a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), they often have the facility of flipping phase to solve this problem.

Good Bass Drum Mic Choices – AKG D112, Sennheiser E602 and Beyer Dynamic Opus 65.

There are plenty of mics on the market specifically designed to record the kick drum eg. AKG D112 or the classic D12 (if you can get your hands on one), Sennheiser E602 and Beyer Dynamic Opus 65 – all rugged, excellent for transients and capable of handling high SPLs (Sound Pressure Levels).

For the snare, the ever popular Shure SM57 (dynamic) or the AKG C451 (condenser) are commonly used. Angle the mic towards the snare, close to the drum’s edge but far enough away from the drummer to prevent the mic being struck.

The Glyn Johns’ 3 Mic Technique – Uses A Mic On The Kick And 2 Matched Mics Equidistant From The Snare…One To The Drummer’s Right, The Other Above The Snare. 

The last method I want to include in this week’s blog, uses 3 mics. Some variations on it use 4, but you can get away with 3 and achieve a great, live, open sound. Obviously, with only 3 mics there will be some compromises in the mixing of the drum kit. The ‘secret’ to success with this method seems to be in getting the drummer to play the cymbals quieter than normal.

Glyn Johns created this 3 mic method which he famously used on sessions for Led Zeppelin when recording drummer John Bonham.

Led Zeppelin Drummer – John Bonham.

A good mic (usually dynamic) is positioned 6 inches to a foot from the resonating head of the kick drum. Popular choices for decades have been the AKG D12/D112, Sennheiser MD421, Shure SM57/58 or Beta 52. The Audix D6, a large diaphragm, cardioid dynamic is also well liked. Condensers can work too, but you have to be very careful as the SPLs produced by a bass drum are high.

If you hear too much resonance or rattle you can place a blanket or pillow inside the kick drum. Refrain from using any EQ until you’re absolutely sure you are capturing the best possible sound.

The other 2 mics are matching ‘overheads’ eg. AT 2020s, placed the same distance from the centre of the snare. Use a measure, for accuracy. This eliminates any phasing problems…..see the diagram – Glyn Johns’ Technique – below.

Johns placed one mic out to the drummer’s right, 4 or 5 inches above and just beyond the floor tom pointing towards the snare drum. The other was placed directly over the snare pointing down. There have since been many minor variations on these positions. The key, however, is that the 2 ‘overhead’ mics are always equidistant from the snare drum.

Get the drummer to play the cymbals quieter than normal. Using smaller cymbals often helps too.

When it comes to mixing, pan the ‘overheads’ as far apart as you can before you lose stereo focus (try 3-9 o’clock). Bring the kick drum up in the centre.

If you like, you can add a fourth mic for the snare (panning it to the centre), to give more presence to the kit. And there you have it. A tried and tested mic technique for recording drums which should yield a great sounding kit.

In next week’s blog we will cover miking individual drums in more detail and get into more complicated set ups and mic techniques.

At the moment TCM are offering a RED HOT SUMMER DEAL – Ted Carfrae owner and founder of TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group will mix and master a track for £175.00 inclusive. For more information please contact TCM by clicking here.

And remember, TCM Music Group have access to many great session musicians, including Troy Luccketta (drummer with Tesla). If you’re interested in finding out more about our recording packages, or simply have a question about recording, mixing or mastering – please click here.