10 September - 2015
How to Get Better Drum Recordings By: Help For Bands, 0 Comments

So you’ve managed to get that all important studio time! Lets talk technical…

When it comes to drum recordings, they are the most important and often difficult part of the process. There are so many ways to experiment with your microphone placement that you can waste a lot of time, which leads to wasting money if you’re hiring a studio. Here, I will break down the process of choosing microphones and where to place them. I will also give some tips that will save you time when laying down the foundation of your track.

Firstly, there will be a lot of microphones mentioned that are suited for different parts of the kit. Whilst there may be cheaper alternatives, these selections are widely regarded as the best for their price range. Below I have listed the microphones and their online prices:

Thud, Thud, Thud

Lets start off with the kick drum – the foundation of drum recordings! A D112 is one of the best kick drum microphones money can buy. This is due to its brilliant low frequency response and 100dB roll-off. With placement, angle the microphone towards the beater for more of the initial click of the drum. Or point it towards the body of the drum to catch more of the ‘boom’ and tail of the hit. You may want to use a sound with more click if you are making metal and heavy rock music as the low end can often be dominated by the bass guitar and low tuning used in that genre.

Drum Roll, Please!

The other most important part of the rhythm is the snare drum. This one is fairly simple to record, you should only need a dynamic microphone like a Shure SM57 or SM58. Angle the mic towards the edge of the drum skin for the resonance of the snare. You can also angle the microphone straight across the top of the drum to capture the initial ‘pop’ on each hit. If you have a second microphone, place it beneath the drum to catch a separate resonant track. This will give you more to play around with when it comes to the mixing stage. If you do this, be cautious of phasing as the microphones could cancel each other out. This can be fixed using phase cancellation.

So you have the two most crucial parts ready, but how do we capture the rest of the kit sound? This is where you have to decide if you want to spend the extra money to isolate each of the other parts of the kit, or cut down on cost and record using one or two microphones. If that’s the case, then you will want overheads!

Use the Space Around You

Overheads will capture the sound of the entire kit from above. Using condenser microphones will give a nice crisp sound to the cymbals. Overheads can be recorded either with a pair of 414’s or NT5’s depending on your personal preference or money situation. Though in both cases you will have to test what height you want them above the drums. Around 30cm usually gives a nice distant sound, though it is important to capture the cymbals as much as possible.

If you want to use more mics, then toms are the next best thing to record. These are very simple to set up as the e604’s are clip on microphones that just snap onto the rim of the drum. Angle it how you like to capture more or less resonance and away you go!

The hi-hat is also an optional part to isolate as it can be picked up by the overheads, but their is no harm in doing it. Using a C1000, you can either mic it up from underneath to reduce spill from the other cymbals, or from above to capture more of the sizzle. Angling the microphone more inwards towards the bell will also tighten the sound of the hat, and further away will get more of a full sound.

Now Get Creative with your Drum Recordings!

From here you should be able to get decent drum recordings. However you can keep layering up to give you more options later on in editing. For example, using a stereo pair of room mics will capture the listeners perspective of the kit, and add room reverb. This can be done with a pair of 414’s or any other condenser with a wide polar pattern. Make sure they are a reasonable distance apart and decide whether you want to use an omni-directional polar pattern to record both the kit and room or just the room itself with a cardioid pattern.

Finally you could also try some other unique techniques to get some different sounds. Using a sub-kick on your kick drum (essentially a speaker cone used as a microphone) can capture a lot of sub frequencies and give you more bass. More bass will mean more powerful drums. You could also use a PZM microphone on the opposite wall to your drum kit to capture more room sound. Or place it inside the kick drum to get more of the click of the beater. There are so many ways to complete your drum recordings that experimenting is usually the best policy, just remember that you should always keep track of what microphones are placed where so that you have no issues when it comes to mixing.

The type of microphone used will also heavily impact what the end result is, so make sure you get the best drum recordings possible. Contrary to popular belief you cannot fix a bad drum take in the mix, so get it right from the start!

Phew, that was a lot to get through, I promise the next blog will be a lot less intense as we cover bass and guitars.