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How do YOU record drums?
#3054813 07/18/20 04:39 PM
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This is a thread for talking about recording drums. There is no wrong way, I'm sure there are a variety of ideas to share.

I'll start but I'd love to hear everybody else's accomplishments and mistakes too. We can all learn! Any and every way that you get this done is interesting. THIS THREAD IS NOT ABOUT ME AND HOW I DO THINGS, IT IS ABOUT EVERYBODY AND THE DIFFERENT WAYS WE GET THINGS DONE!!!!

My stiuation is limiting in a physical sense. I have a small room in a multi-unit condo for a home studio. I can make a bit of noise during daylight but a full drum kit mic'ed up is not going to happen. The way of working that I am currently evolving is based on that limitation.

First, I started with digital solutions. I have NI Studio Drummer and DrumLab, they are both good programs. I still use them, more on that below. I also have a Roland HPD15 Handsonic and a Korg Wavedrum, as well as a couple of small MIDI keyboard controllers and a Fishman Triple Play for guitar. While EDM beats are a style and I've used plenty of loops for various things, I don't really "bond" with the expression of that way of working and I often find that I have a different beat in my mind, one that may not be available in the loops. I also hear very different parts in the songs, again maybe not available in the loops.

Over time, I've added a nice accumulation of percussion widgets, toy snare drums, a big floor tom and smaller rack tom, bongos - and I made an "Oklahoma Dumbek", a great sounding 5 gallon water bottle with a microphone mounted inside. REAL drums and percussion.

My current path is an experiment at this point. It is a hybrid approach. My beginning stage is pretty well figured out and works for me. I search through my beats to find one that has a "feel" that allows me to play over it easily and naturally. I'll spend as long as it takes finding the perfect tempo, there is no shortcut. Then I make a repeating loop that is longer than the song, I can trim it down once the scratch tracks are in place.

Next comes a vocal and guitar track to build around. Then bass (I'll post another thread about recording bass). When I get a good feel on the bass track, that's what I want to use to start building drum tracks.

And, that's where I am now, on my first real effort to get everything the way I want instead of somethng I am willing to settle for as being "good enough."
With the kick, a decision has to be made - "turf wars" between kick and bass. For the song I am currently working on, I've chosen bass to be the low end and kick will need to "stay out of the way" or that area of the mix gets messy. At the same time, kick and bass should lock the groove - they need to fit together sonically. In the future, I am sure I will decide to reverse their low end roles and make the kick the primarly deep source.

I think this is one of the most important decisions that needs to be made from a production standpoint but it also informs the composition so best to get it made early.
Since kick is usually triggered by a pedal, we expect to hear volume changes (and the tone changes that come with volume changes) but it is not typically an expressive voice in the same sense as snare or high hat.
There is an intangible "feel" I get by physically swinging my limbs and controlling my strike, it is part of playing guitar (and keyboards - which I suck at).

Now comes "practice makes perfect." Using the scratch drums for timing, the bass line to inform locking the groove and the scratch guitar/vocal to keep track of which part of the song I am playing, I will just indulge in the luxury of repetition. I can record, may get keeper parts that can be spliced together.

Both the Wavedrum and the Handsonic have some excellent kick sounds, I want to PLAY those two for my kick tracks. I may use a bit of both, depending. I see no reason not too, recording does not have to represent the "real world" any more than drawing a picture represents anything but imagination. As an added note, the Wavedrum can be very expressive as a kick, that is something I wlll experiment with, it could become part of my "sound."

That's where I am right now, I'll be checking in as I develop a way of working. In the meantime, many of you have already found your happy place with drums so please CHIME IN.
It doesn't need to(and probably won't) resemble my approach, in fact THE MORE DIFFERENT THE BETTER! Maybe you have a nice room and can record real drums, let's hear about it!!!! All ITB? Let's hear abot that too!!! Cheers, Kuru


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Re: How do YOU record drums?
KuruPrionz #3056315 07/29/20 07:14 PM
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It changes from project, but when I am recording acoustic drums/percussion, I spend a lot of time making sure the drums sound like I want them to sound before I put up the mics. Most of the time I should be able to put up 3-4 mics and have something pretty close to the sound I am going for. i will almost always do quite a few spot mics, but they are use for emphasis or or creativity.


Ronan Chris Murphy - Producer-Engineer
(King Crimson, GWAR, Ulver, Mafia III)
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Re: How do YOU record drums?
Ronan C Murphy #3056326 07/29/20 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Ronan C Murphy
It changes from project, but when I am recording acoustic drums/percussion, I spend a lot of time making sure the drums sound like I want them to sound before I put up the mics. Most of the time I should be able to put up 3-4 mics and have something pretty close to the sound I am going for. i will almost always do quite a few spot mics, but they are use for emphasis or or creativity.

Thanks for responding! I was starting to wonder if this thread would just die a slow death, having a professional in the industry chime in is a splendid thing indeed.

That is my view as well, getting good sounds starts at the source. Tuning, the type of heads and sticks, the beater on the kick, all of that matters.
Then a room that sounds good - something I don't really have at this point. I do know where one is and I can rent it but there needs to be a budget - that's the tricky part!

The same is true with all acoustic sources. I have great sounding acoustic guitars but the strings and pick used can really change the tones I get. Just one example of many.


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Re: How do YOU record drums?
KuruPrionz #3056358 07/29/20 10:29 PM
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In the case of real drum kits - proper tuning is the key. No amount of micing or post processing will fix a bad sounding kit.

I don't have a proper studio so I can't do ambient micing, have to do close micing. My Sennheiser mics have worked very well. One of my favorite tricks is recording overhead with Sennheiser then cutting off everything below 2K. Even works in a non-isolated band recording. I know about the risk with phase cancellation but I haven't heard it.

Re: How do YOU record drums?
The Real MC #3056421 07/30/20 06:13 AM
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Originally Posted by The Real MC
In the case of real drum kits - proper tuning is the key. No amount of micing or post processing will fix a bad sounding kit.

I don't have a proper studio so I can't do ambient micing, have to do close micing. My Sennheiser mics have worked very well. One of my favorite tricks is recording overhead with Sennheiser then cutting off everything below 2K. Even works in a non-isolated band recording. I know about the risk with phase cancellation but I haven't heard it.

Crossing over at 2k with a stationary sound source and stationary mic, I doubt you will ever hear phase cancellation. It may exist but finding a true null by accident would be difficult. It is going to be a multiple and a fraction most likely so the sound would still be vigorous.

Close micing would be my only option as well. I have a good sounding large floor tom and I am considering drilling a hole in the side to put a mic inside.


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Re: How do YOU record drums?
Ronan C Murphy #3056471 07/30/20 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Ronan C Murphy
It changes from project, but when I am recording acoustic drums/percussion, I spend a lot of time making sure the drums sound like I want them to sound before I put up the mics. Most of the time I should be able to put up 3-4 mics and have something pretty close to the sound I am going for. i will almost always do quite a few spot mics, but they are use for emphasis or or creativity.

This. I have two excellent custom drum sets in the studio - one walnut stave and the other an ovangol segmented kit. They have acoustic tone for days and are far more resonant than ply drums from the big brands. This can be good or bad depending on the sound desired, so tuning and head choice gives me a huge range of sounds, as Ronan suggests. A collection of snare drums provides other tonal options at the instrument level.

For micing, I get the overheads right as an absolute priority. I favor omni's or wide cardioids from Josephson, Schoeps, etc. I believe the drums should sound great just in the overheads. Then it is kick, because the overheads are normally a little bass shy for a modern drum sound. I mic inside with a Shure Beta 91a, Outer with a Lawson L47FET. Generally, the 91a is high passed to get the transient, and the outer is low passed for the boom. Sometimes I use only one or the other. I also have an Audix kick mic if that kind of sound is wanted from the port in the resonant head. Toms are Earthworks DM20's. Snare is a 57 on top, Aston Origin cardiod underneath. How much of any of these is used depends, but I normally put 10 tracks down when recording drums. But if I'm mixing, the overheads are most of the sound. Snare and kick to taste, everything else is accents.

The only thing more important that any of this is a great player behind the kit for the style of music being performed.

Re: How do YOU record drums?
Nathanael_I #3056772 08/01/20 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
The only thing more important that any of this is a great player behind the kit for the style of music being performed.

A universal truth!

Getting the gear to sound great is an important step but all is for naught without some mastery of the instrument and inspiration.

Long ago in some lowlife club I saw a band called St John The Conqueroo. They made their own instruments. The drummer used one of those modern plastic garbage cans with wheels and the handles that allow automated pickup by the garbage truck. It was his drum case and his kick drum. He had all home-made, adapted, thrift store pawn shop junk for a drum set, including saw blades for cymbals and other abominations. Great drummer and it sounded awesome. Plus, I could not stop laughing when he tossed everything back into the garbage can and rolled it out to their van.


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