Posted tagged ‘Recording studio’


October 24, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 34 Music Editing

We started looking at the multitrack process in detail in TCM’s Home Music Studio Part 29. Over the last few weeks we’ve considered multitrack setups, signal paths, recording and last week – overdubbing.

This week and next we will continue looking at the multitrack process by discussing Editing.

When I started in this fantastic business, my first job was as a runner/teaboy. But within weeks I was promoted to Chief Editor (the only music editor as it turned out).  The company I worked for was very small, so somebody had to do it!

Cutting Tape Was The Method Of Editing Until Digital Came Along.

I had no idea how to edit music but I learnt very quickly. Analog reel to reel tape was the format. You edited the tape with a razor blade and stuck the edited sections back together with adhesive tape. If you made a mistake or the edit didn’t work, you had to retrieve the edited out section from the floor, stick it back in and try again.

Of course as I became more skilled, I made fewer mistakes and took on more complex projects. However, there were always going to be downsides to editing tape. The more you handled the tape, the more likely it could get damaged. Also handling tape with your fingers left behind oils which could lead to sound degradation.

24 Track 2 Inch Wide Tape Moving At High Speed. Editing Multitrack Tape Required Great Skill And Sometimes A Large Dose Of Luck!

If you only wanted to edit a single track of a multitrack tape – it got worse. You had to cut a hole or scrape the oxide off the back of the tape in the area of the track that needed editing.

Frank Zappa…..An Early User Of Digital Technology, With His Synclavier. It Was Not The Most User Friendly System, But Extremely Powerful (And Very Expensive).

Flash forward to the present day…..we now have digital editing. Some systems offer quite basic editing functions. Whilst the likes of Pro Tools, Logic Studio and other top systems offer facilities to manipulate your tracks in many ways.

Powerful Apple Logic Studio 9, Running On A Laptop.

As we have mentioned in earlier blogs, sound can now be edited much like the written word in an MS Word document. It can be copied, pasted, cut, deleted, moved, erased and inserted. If you include effects processing, you can also stretch or reverse it as well as a whole bunch of other things too. And any changes you make to the audio can be undone, because the original recording is not altered.

This is termed non-destructive editing. The various different audio parts (or regions as they’re known in Pro Tools) are accessed rapidly on the hard drive to produce the sequence of audio that is required. So this approach allows you to try out multiple edits without harming the original audio.

Pro Tools’ Smart Tool Combines Three Separate Tools.

In Pro Tools you select and edit audio using the ‘smart tool’. This combination tool allows you to grab audio and move it, trim the fronts and ends of regions (making the regions shorter or longer) or simply select a point in the audio to play from or highlight a region.

When you record sound into a digital system like Pro Tools, it gets stored as an audio file on the hard drive…..there are various file formats (.Wav, .Aiff, .SD2). It also gets drawn as a waveform in the edit page.

Audio Waveform & MIDI Displayed In Edit Page.

When you trim or edit the audio file in the edit page, you are basically telling Pro Tools to only look at and playback the part of the audio file that is on the page. The unedited version of the file still exists in its entirety on the hard drive.

Below, I describe the various common editing functions, first in summary then below the diagram, in more detail.

The 9 bars to the left represent a track of audio, that has been edited in different ways.

#1 Is the track before editing. The grey shaded area is the section to be edited.

#2 This shows the track after using Cut, leaving a blank hole (some systems).

#3 Cut on some other systems.

#4 Track after Delete.

#5 Track after Erase.

#6 Shows the audio track before editing, showing Insert point.

#7 Track after Insert.

#8 Track with edit point prior to using Paste.

#9 The Paste function places the Copied audio from your clipboard over existing audio.

Now the various editing functions in more detail…..

Cut, Delete and Erase – these three functions all do the same thing to a selected piece of audio. They make it disappear…..but, they differ in how they treat the audio once it’s gone.

Cut removes the audio section and places it in your clipboard for further use. Some systems leave behind a hole where the audio resided. Others, may close the gap by moving forward, everything that’s later in the timeline, so that the hole is filled. Some systems allow you to choose one or the other.

Delete gets rid of the selected audio on the edit page and does not allow the placement of it anywhere else. The audio still exists on the hard drive, just not on the page. The later audio material is usually moved earlier to fill the hole. Again, some systems may give you options.

Erase is similar to Delete, except that the audio after the removed segment, stays put.

MIDI Editing – Many Of The Functions Used For Audio Editing Can Be Applied To MIDI Data Too.

Insert – effectively allows you to squeeze a section of audio between edit points. Let’s say you’ve finished recording a song. It’s got an intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a middle 8 or bridge, and end chorus. But you feel it would sound better with a longer bridge or another verse. You could copy the backing tracks for the bridge or verse and insert them into the appropriate point in the song. Then play an extended guitar solo over the longer bridge or sing the newly written vocals over the added verse.

This technique can be used for single tracks or multiple tracks, as long as care is taken to make sure the tempos are the same, you are copying the correct number of bars and placing them at exactly the right point in the song…..and again, this saves you having to set up mics and instruments to make a new recording.

Copy and Paste – these two functions are often used together, just like in a Word document. Copy does what it says, it makes a copy of whatever you select and (usually) puts it in your clipboard. It leaves the original where it is. But then allows you to paste the copy somewhere else.

Shaded Area Shows Section or Region To Be Edited.

So let’s say the above picture represents a region of a guitar track. Later in the song the same guitar chords are played but there’s a mistake. Editing could allow you to copy the good section of guitar chords and paste them over the bad section. Providing you placed them in the correct position (sync), nobody would know you’d done an edit. It saves getting the guitarist back, besides he may be on tour in Japan by now!

Next week we’ll get into editing aurally and visually, fixing bad notes or phrases and discuss some effects which are used in editing eg. pitch change, stretching and reversing.

If you have any questions so far, our contact details are here. We love to hear from you.

And don’t forget, TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group provide a professional, fast and affordable service to musicians of all genres.

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



October 14, 2011

TCM Mastering & TCM Music Group Owner And Founder, Ted Carfrae Discusses How To Achieve A Great Vocal Recording.

In our Monday blogs (TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Series) we’re currently discussing the multitrack process. So we thought it might be useful to include a few videos that relate to this series – specifically recording vocals – as most great songs are best remembered for their vocal performance.

In the first video below, Ted Carfrae owner and founder of TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group, discusses vocal recording, microphone technique and finding your microphone’s ‘sweet spot’ to get that great vocal sound.

In the second video, Ted discusses how he and many other producers and engineers achieve a ‘magical’ vocal performance in the recording studio.

If you’re looking for help, putting those finishing touches to a music track or would like more information on our affordable studio packages, please contact us by clicking here.

If you would like more information about recording at home, why not subscribe to the TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio series of blogs. You can do this by filling out your e-mail address in the e-mail subscription box on the right. We respect your privacy. We hate spam and will never rent, sell or trade your information with anyone for any reason.


August 26, 2011

Ted Carfrae, My Life In Music: The Planning & Recording of Cilla Black’s Beginnings Revisited Album Part 2

Ted Carfrae continues…..

I was very excited to have a new Bacharach/David song on the album, it was written for a musical but at that time had not been recorded by anyone. I remember that I was at home working on arrangement ideas or something and the phone rang, I picked it up and this voice said, ‘Is that Ted?’, I said ‘Yes it is’, and he said ‘This is Burt Bacharach here’, I was stunned for a few seconds and after my initial shock, we started to chat about music and eventually the song and he said he was delighted that Cilla was going to record it as he’s always known her to be a fine vocalist.

Burt Bacharach, George Martin & Cilla.

He said he was going to fax over all the chord charts for me so that I could make sure that when we record all the chords were right. I said, ‘That’s great’, and with that the call ended. That was a ‘You won’t guess what just happened to me’, moment. It’s actually quite funny because by the time Burt called, we had already started recording and his song was done so I never got to refer to his chord charts but gladly it all turned out as it was supposed to.

I decided that we wanted to record the old fashioned way with everyone in the studio together. I wanted these new songs to sit perfectly alongside the hits so I decided to record through a Neve analogue desk onto my Radar 1 24 track recorder. The Radar 1 is an amazing recorder because even though it is a digital recorder it sounded very warm like tape and you could really push the level without distortion.

Recording commenced at Westside Studios in June of 2004 and we completed recording all the basic tracks within four days. I remember Cilla sang guide vocals on all the songs in 90 degrees of heat and she never once complained – she was really amazing to work with. I brought in my usual amazing rhythm section – Ralph Salmins on drums, Steve Pearce on bass, Pete Murray and Dave Arch on piano and keys and Fridrick ‘Frissy’ Karlsson and the legendary Mick Green on lead acoustic and rhythm guitars. We then overdubbed strings and brass and my musical arranger Dave Arch did a fantastic job on the arrangements.

Cilla, Ted Carfrae & Chris West.

We recorded all the vocals at my friend Terry Britten’s private studio ‘State Of The Ark’ in Richmond, Surrey. Terry has written and produced huge hits such as ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ for Tina Turner and of course Cliff Richard’s monster hit, ‘Devil Woman’. I had recorded at Terry’s studio before two years earlier when I recorded some of David Cassidy’s vocals for the  ‘Then & Now’ album and I decided to return for one very special reason.

Ted At State Of The Ark Studios.

Terry’s studio has an original EMI 1,2,3,4 valve console installed – it has sliders rather than faders and the sound is amazing. In fact it was the same desk that the Stones recorded all their sixties albums on. Terry found the console in bits in a barn in France, brought it back to the UK and restored it to its former glory. Everything you push through the desk sounds rich and fat – truly amazing and usually very little EQ is needed.

Recording vocals on my albums is always a closed set with nobody around except myself, the artist and my sound engineer and in my experience, artists prefer to sing without distractions enabling them to concentrate instead on the performance, Cilla really enjoyed working this way I know.

I would collect Cilla from her house in Buckinghamshire at 3pm and bring her to the studio. There was always a bottle of Moet in the refrigerator and we would work through until the early hours.  I remember she was just amazing every day, her phrasing was precise, she was perfectly in tune and she was naturally instinctive completing her vocals on all eleven songs in just five days.

Cilla Black – Beginnings Revisited.

Another special moment was working with Sir Cliff Richard. Cliff had agreed to sing some backing vocals on ‘Imagine’ for me, so when he arrived at the studio I was eager to see what he would come up with.

We played the song through and he and I sang along to see what would and would not work. He had listened to the song earlier and came up with some great ideas and as you would expect, recording with Sir Cliff was a breeze. Chris and I were really impressed with his performance which was done in no time, it was another one of those pinch me moments.

The album was released in September of 2004 and though it did not set the world alight, for me it was a fantastic album to work on for so many reasons and a real highlight of my career. Click here for Cill’s site.


August 8, 2011

TCM Mastering: Home Music Studio Tips and Information

Part 23 Recording Percussion

At TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group, we’ve recorded, mixed, produced and mastered virtually every genre of music over the years. So, if you have a music project that needs some TLC, give us a call. We have facilities in the UK and USA and are offering some great recording packages at the moment. And don’t forget, your mastering needs can all be handled online.

Thanks to everyone who checked out the last few blogs on recording drums. This week we will continue with Percussion.

African Kalimba, Indian Tabla and Vietnamese Bamboo Xylophone.

Almost every country or ethnic region has its own collection of percussion instruments. From the African kalimba and traditional Indian tabla to the Vietnamese bamboo xylophone.

Over a decade ago, the virtuoso cellist Yo-Yo Ma established the Silk Road Project. If you’re interested in music with an international flavour, where percussion plays a major role, take a listen to The Silk Road Ensemble.

Check out Pat Metheny – Orchestrion …..mechanically controlled percussion and other instruments using solenoids and pneumatics.

However, percussion instruments are most likely associated with various kinds of Latin music, but are used in all types of music these days… add some zest to the sound.

So whether you’re recording is inspired by Argentine Tango, Cuban Salsa, Brazilian Samba, artists such as Carlos Santana, Chick Corea or the smooth sounds of Djavan, Lee Ritenour and Pat Metheny – it’s useful to know how to handle this extremely varied group of instruments.

It’s worth noting that in some Latin music, the Piano and Guitar are often treated as percussive instruments too. Take a listen to Ruben Gonzalez in the Buena Vista Social Club (produced by Ry Cooder)….the 70 plus pianist plays a beat up piano which is characteristic of their sound.

Pianist – Ruben Gonzalez.

I remember very fondly, going to see lots of Latino bands when I lived in Los Angeles. They always delivered their music with passion and exuberance. This is not boring music!….And a lot of the excitement that is generated in this genre of music is produced by the percussion, whether it’s a blistering timbale roll or conga solo.

This group of instruments can broadly be divided into two sections.

  • Those that are tuned and play a melody eg. glockenspiel, marimba and tubular bells.
  • And the section that is struck, hit, scraped or stroked eg. various types of drums, triangle, gongs, castanets and shakers etc.

Marimba and Tubular Bells.

For many of the tuned percussion instruments eg. xylophone, marimba and vibraphone, you can use condensers or ribbon mics. Ribbons especially, are quite delicate mics, so place them carefully out of the way of the player’s mallets.

This group of instruments can produce some pretty high harmonics, so a dynamic mic will not always produce the best results.

Stereo Pair Above Marimba.

Marimba sound great with a stereo pair a couple of feet above or slightly in front of the instrument. If the player will be using the whole range of the instrument, a Spaced Pair set up will work well – but remember the 3 to 1 rule. Sennheiser 421s/441s or Royer 121s are popular choices. Soft mallets will give a warm sound – hard will give more attack.

The X-Y configuration (see Home Music Studio Part 6) needs a little trial and error to find the best position. Don’t place the mics too close or your stereo image will be narrow and you may not pick up the extremities of the instrument.

The Blumlein technique (see Home Music Studio Part 13), because it uses figure-8 mics, will capture more of your room acoustics. So if your room does not have great acoustics, you may prefer to use one of the other techniques.

A Rode Mic Over Glockenspiel.

Glockenspiels can be miked a little closer above the bars, but not so close that they can get hit by the player. Try a single or couple of Rode NT5 condensers.

Whilst Tubular Bells, being in the vertical position can be miked from the backside with the mike aimed towards the top. Try Shure SM81s or AKG 414s.

A Selection Of Hand Percussion – Cowbell, Bar Chime Set, Rocar, Metal Agogo, Cabasa and Bead Shekere.

Many instruments in the second section of this group – the shakers and scrapers (see some examples in the picture above), can be close miked if you wish, so your room will have less effect on the sound.

However, many of these hand percussion instruments involve a bit of movement when played, so there are some engineers who prefer to mike from a distance, to make sure the instrument does not wander off mike and to capture more of the room sound. You will have to decide if your room adds or detracts from the sound your recording, by experimenting.

Nana Vasconcelos – Percussionist Extraordinaire.

And if you do mike more distant, choose your mics carefully. They will need to be very responsive to capture the fast transients produced by these instruments and have a low self noise value – meaning they don’t add too much noise to the recording themselves.

This section of the percussion group is so large with so many varieties, it’s impossible to cover every single instrument. So as a general rule if the instrument is loud like the maracas and involves a fair amount of movement to play it, you could place the mic a few feet away. If it’s quieter like an egg shaker, less than a foot should be about right. The agogo bell sounds nice when miked from a couple of feet distant.

The EV 635A/RE15 are reasonably priced and work well on the tambourine, maracas and shakers as does the Beyer M500 ribbon.

Both large and small diaphragm condensers work best for this collection of instruments. But experiment to find the mic that best fits the instrument.

Remember, most condensers will need phantom power (typically 48V DC, but check the specs of the mic you’re using, just to be sure).

Left – Congas Miked From Above With A Spaced Pair Of Condensers. Right – Timbales Miked From Above With An X-Y Stereo Pair.

The congas and timbales, produce high SPLs (Sound Pressure Levels) which means you may need to back off a condenser to a safer distance, use its attenuation pad or use a dynamic mic instead.

Try a pair of AKG 414s, Sennheiser 421 dynamics or AT 4033 cardioid condensers about 18 inches to a couple of feet above and 6 inches out from the rims. SM57s do a good job of capturing the tone and attack.

You can also try miking the timbales from below with a couple of SM 57s pointing up towards the edge of the rims. These will capture the hits the player makes to the metal sides – a technique often used in Latin music where the player hits the skin and the side alternately, called Chapeo.

Timbales Miked From Below.

A budget mic solution might be to use Behringer B1s (below) – affordable condenser mics. They’re popular in a lot of Home Studios setups and give surprisingly good results, but at less than £100, don’t expect the same results you would get from Neumann 87s.

Behringer B1 and AKG C418 Miniature Clip Mic.

Or try the AKG C418 miniature clip-on condenser mic (above), specifically designed for drums and percussion.

Starting in next week’s Home Music Studio series of blogs, we’ll move on to the use of Signal Processing…..EQ, Compression, Expansion, Reverb and Echo, Flange and Chorus, Pitch Shifting and much more.


August 5, 2011

Ted Carfrae, My Life In Music: Gus Dudgeon, Me And Kiki Dee – The Rocket Records Remastering Project Part 1

Ted Carfrae owner and founder of TCM Music Group and TCM Mastering recalls his work with Kiki Dee and Gus Dudgeon…..

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge fan of Kiki Dee. For me, she is without doubt one of the finest singers that the UK has ever produced.

My association with Kiki began some years ago in the late nineties at my studio in London’s Great Titchfield Street. Quite by chance, an associate friend of mine, the late and great record producer Gus Dudgeon asked me to work with him re-mastering all of Kiki’s Rocket Records back catalogue.

Rocket Records was owned by Elton John and his then manager John Reed and Kiki was their first signing in 1973. Kiki recorded five albums for the project, four were released and one remained unreleased. In fact, Gus and I didn’t know it even existed until I dug out the original stereo master tapes for this mixing project with Gus.

Elton John US Tour with Kiki Dee in 1974.

The master tapes were held in an amazing warehouse near London’s Heathrow Airport and I remember the day I went down there to see what I could find. The building itself was a bit of a mess and the road leading up to it was full of potholes so I thought to myself,  I must be in the wrong place, surely this can’t be the right address, I knocked on the door and sure enough this was it.

I walked into the building and was met by a chap called Richard who owned the warehouse. He took me through into the main warehouse area and I was astounded by what I could see in front of me…..I was completely surrounded by more rock memorabilia that I could ever have imagined. Everything from several of Elton John’s pianos and stage sets, loads of Beatles equipment including guitars and even Ringo’s original Ludwig drum kit and I even held the snare he played at Shea Stadium.

Ringo and his Kit at Shea Stadium.

There were thousands of master tapes there as well, in special temperature controlled vaults including everything the Rolling Stones ever recorded and that was just scratching the surface. It was so incredible that I asked Richard how much it was insured for and he told me that it wasn’t, because how could you put a price on this stuff – it was truly priceless. Richard pretty much gave me the run of the place so as you can imagine I was in music heaven and I remember pinching myself several times.

Back to Kiki, when I managed to calm down from the excitement, Richard pulled several boxes of Kiki Dee 1/4” master tapes and I started to explore the contents. There is something quite magical about opening up a box and not knowing what is inside, the smell of tape is also very distinctive and for me it took me right back to my early days of working with tape.

It turned out that Kiki was quite prolific when she was at Rocket, there were of course the four main albums, there were some non album singles and ‘b’ sides. But the gem find was a completely un-released album entitled ‘Cage The Songbird’ that was recorded in Los Angeles in 1976.

I say un-released, in fact there was a single released from the album called ‘Once a Fool’ and  I am assuming that for one reason or another, a decision was made to shelve the album and maybe return to it at a later date which of course never happened until I discovered it’s existence. The album was produced by US producer Robert Appre so even Gus was unaware of its existence.

Incidentally, another song from the ‘Cage The Songbird’ album called ‘Chicago’ was re-recorded for a single and featured on the ‘Kiki Dee’ album  that followed in 1977.

Very interestingly, I discovered another un-released album in one of the boxes, this time from Kiki’s tenure at Ariola in the early eighties. Kiki’s first album ‘Perfect Timing’ produced by Status Quo producer Pip Williams, included her massive hit single ‘Star’ and this unreleased follow-up album entitled ‘Every Story Has Two Sides’ also produced by Pip is unreleased to this day, so maybe someday it will see the light of day, I really hope so because it is really good.

I brought all the boxes to the studio and Gus and I went through everything in more detail. Generally, the tapes were in very good condition but some of them had deteriorated over the years and I had to arrange for them to be ‘baked’ – let me explain this process in simple terms.

Baking Oven for Recording Tapes.

Essentially, when master tapes are left for many years, sometimes stored in ‘less than perfect’ conditions, the oxide in the chemical makeup of the tape itself starts to effectively melt and before you can play them again they are carefully baked in a special oven for a few days until the chemical composition returns to pretty much its original state.

Once baked, the process doesn’t last too long so you have just a short time to transfer the tapes onto a new tape or in this case a digital format before they revert to their damaged state. Gus and I initially copied straight transfers of all of the albums onto my early Pro-Tools system, onto DAT tapes and several CDs just to make sure we had plenty of safety copies

A word about Gus Dudgeon…..Gus was a character, an original – renowned for his outrageous clothing, a true eccentric – but he was also a true genius and lovely man. Gus produced many artists but he is probably best known for producing all of Elton John’s classic seventies albums including, ‘Yellow Brick Road’ and my personal favourite ‘Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy’.

A lot of people forget that Gus created some unique recording techniques to create these sonically amazing albums. One of his best inventions was used on the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ album in an effort to isolate the piano from the band while recording (because of course the band all played together in those days). He had the brilliant idea of building a box that mirrored the shape of the piano that rested on top of the piano, with the lid taken off, with two holes in the side for the Neumann 87 microphones to fit through. And it was, as with everything Gus did, a complete triumph.

Like so many producers before him such as the great George Martin, who I was also lucky enough to work with several times, Gus Dudgeon was an innovator, a total genius. And I remember particularly how wonderful it was for me to watch Gus audition Kiki’s tapes again after so many years because I know that working with Kiki was a very special time for him personally and he was in his own world for a while reliving those many recording sessions.

Next Monday…..Part 2 continues.


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.


July 15, 2011

Latest News: Ted Carfrae Of TCM Music Group, Launches West 1 Entertainment Ltd

Ted Carfrae of the TCM Music Group launches a new company called West 1 Entertainment Ltd…..’I am really excited about this venture and we are currently recruiting the right people to work with us.’ Ted continued, ‘This is very different to anything I have done before and there is going to be some exciting news very soon, so watch this space.’

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

TCM Mastering along with the TCM Music Group have been providing…

Professional, Fast and Affordable

…production, recording, mixing, mastering and restoration services for years. There is a ‘recording package’ to suit every serious musician. So if you’re new to TCM drop us a line or call us. We’re happy to discuss anything musical and will help you in any way we can to bring your next music project to a successful conclusion.

Ted and CJ Boggs of the TCM Music Group have produced and mastered for some of the biggest and most legendary names in the music business.

They’ve worked with all the major record labels worldwide and as producers and engineers have amassed over 25 million in sales.

To put it simply – TCM know what they’re doing when it comes to music. Most clients are repeat customers and many have become firm friends. Ted and CJ are particularly interested in helping up and coming, new artists who are passionate about getting their music careers going.

TCM offer a ONE STOP SHOP for servicing the music community with facilities in both the UK as well as Nashville, USA. For more information and contact details click here.