How To Record Drums: Part 1
This month (March 2021) I am starting a how to record series and this week it is on recording live drums. There are so many ways to approach this and your results will vary. Heck, the results varies in my studio on every recording session due to many reasons.
The drum set
One session will be a 20" kick, 2 toms, snare, a hi hat, and ride.
The next session will be two 22" kicks, 6 toms, 2 hi hats, 2 snare drums, and a variety of cymbals.
Next will be a 32" bass drum, a 10" snare, a ride, 2 crashes, a hi hat, and an electronic pad.
So as you can see, each situation is going to be different. THEN OF COURSE, you have the person playing it.
Someone that plays inconsistently.
What I mean by that is the velocity of the hits from one to the next is more that 6dB. I am not talking about dynamics here, that's different. This is when the song needs the drummer to be consistent to keep the drive of the song going and just can't.
A drummer that can play with the best because thy know how to control the instrument and bend it to their will
Then you have someone that floats in between these to types of players. Is consistent for the most part, can play with with the bass player, knows when and wen not to add fills for the most part
So where do we begin when we record drums?
I start with seeing how the drums sound in the room, and most notably, the kick and snare; especially if it's a room I am not familiar with. Where do these drums resonate the best? Worse?
Once that is established, I have the drummer setup and once the drummer is comfortable with the setup, we address tuning. What sound does the song(s) call for? Higher or lower pitched Snare? Toms? Kick? Once that is resolved, we move on to mic selection and placement.
For mic selection, this is going to vary studio to studio. You can expect different types of mics, and instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll give you a link to a great explanation: https://www.gearank.com/articles/types-of-mics
I am going to instead, talk about different types of mic placement
To make sure that there isn't any phase issues, make the overhead equidistant from the middle of the snare. I usually start with 48 inches (4 feet/~1 meter)
I like to use cardioid or hyper cardioid dynamic mics. They reject a lot of bleed and I place them about 3 to 5 inches above the rim and adjust to sound taste.
top mic is a large capsule condenser, about 2 to 3 feet away
Bottom mic pointed away from the kick at the center of the snare, about 5 to 6 inches away
Again, adjust to taste.
I pointed it away from the snare so that it doesn't leak too badly into the mic.
Next week I'll discuss compression before record and after record (mixing)