Tell me your lessons learned in drum recording - what do you wish you knew when you started out?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by voodoochili12, May 17, 2019.

  1. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

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    Maybe it’s inexperience, but I use solo a fair amount. I often like to choose my starting frequency for EQ cut/boost in solo, and then figure out the amount of boost or cut in the context of the mix. For Fx too, I will almost always start in solo to line up the effect with what I’m hearing in my head...

    I think the horror stories about using solo come from early experiences of ‘chasing your tail’ where you try to make each instrument sound awesome in solo. You need to be aware when you’re losing that big picture context.

    Lately I’ve been writing in the studio, and definitely have been finding that having a vocal (even if it’s a gibberish scratch vocal) helps anchor the rest of the parts, and prevents over-playing. I’m definitely down with the idea of getting as much of the tracks recorded live “off the floor” as possible. Sometimes magic happens!
     
  2. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

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    The best “magic happens” story I have from recording my own music. I was recording one of my band’s tunes and both the drummer and bassist messed up at the same time in a take...it was a spacey tune with a delay driven guitar hook (which was to be added later since I was behind the board for recording the bed tracks), and they added a 1/2measure pause at one point and that little bit of serendipity is one of the stand out parts of the tune. Of course it made my job harder to figure out a guitar part that worked over it, before listening back, that pause added a tension that really helped make the song!
     
  3. tazzboy

    tazzboy Supporting Member

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    There is a lot of ways to go about recording a drum kit. All the above do have there plus and minus. Just experiment with what you like and don't like and let your ears be your guided on what you recorded and what sounds like on playback on the record.
     
  4. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    What a full paint bucket in a kick drum does sonically....
     
  5. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

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    Ok....I’ll bite, more details required on this one Ed.

    Are you using the bucket as part of the drum dampening?
     
  6. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    Long story short...I used it for a skipping kick. However it added weight to the fundamental and second harmonic.
    Been doing it since.
    Tried it with a big brick ..not the same
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
  7. louderock

    louderock Member

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    What has 3 legs and one A$$hole?

    A drum throne
     
  8. drfrankencopter

    drfrankencopter Member

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    Technically if it has an a$$hole it probably has 5 legs!

    :)
     
  9. tazzboy

    tazzboy Supporting Member

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    Simon Phillips of Toto fame does the paint bucket with sand.
     
  10. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    This is a great question. I have miked probably 1000 drum kits for recording. We all develop our own styles and a lot of it depends on taste. Also, the truth is that there are far more good articles online than you will probably ever get in this forum:

    https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/recording-drums

    BUT - just to name of few of my favorite techniques:

    1. Work on the kit itself - it seems many modern engineers do not want to touch the kit, but personally I feel that some tuning, some tape to control rattle, padding and a weight inside a kick drum to get the right combination of boom and snap, etc - are all things you can do as an engineer to get the right sound.

    2. I am not a big "room mic" engineer for drums. I have nothing against it, I just feel like it is over-rated and much harder to get a great sound than some people think. Hence my overheads are mostly used to catch the cymbals, plus attack on the toms, but I angle them out to lesson the snare and hi-hat bleed in. I would rather mic those more singularly. Some people seem to think mics are like cameras - that one mic can record "spatial variations" but you need a stereo pair to do that. One mic is more like a microscope - where you have to figure out what you want to have in focus, and things on the periphery are present but also prone to some slight "aural distortion characteristics" (not in the too loud sense, but in the sense of having phase and off-axis coloration effects).

    3. Never mic any drum too closely - the idea is to get the sound of each drum in the set as if it is the only piece in the room so you would normally have some distance. I like to mic snare drums from the top/side, with the right balance between top and snares. If I am having trouble with too much snare I ask the drummer to consider tightening, or I use tape to dampen them some.

    4. Kick drum - I mic from the inside thru a hole usually. I tune the beater head down to get some slap and but not so low that you lose the resonant low pitch. I put a pillow against it, and hold it down with a weight (sandbag or mic stand bottom).

    5. Toms - never point a mic straight down at a head - give it room to breathe and get the sound of the wood and angle of stick attack. Do not mic too close to a tuning peg - usually dead center between them is best. But first determine how the drummer tunes his toms, some lugs may be much looser than others, go around the drum and listen to each spot, and mic (or work on retuning) accordingly.

    6. Hi hat - smaller, light, thin cymbals on hi-hat for the non-raspy sound. Mic it opposite the snare drum and keep moving it until you get stick playing AND foot pedal action at the proper relative volumes. About 5 inches out and three inches over the top - usually.

    7. Never mic a cymbal too low (from the side). My favorite cymbal mic is almost completely over the top of the cymbal and parallel to it.

    8. Record drums at lower V.U. meter levels, use pads and avoid digital clipping at all costs.

    9. Pan your drumset in the control room in the same aural plain (right to left) as you see your mics visually when looking at the drummer (subject to artistic options, of course).
     
  11. maydaynyc

    maydaynyc Supporting Member

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    Lots of good advice here but what I can say will be the biggest help for you is to start with only 4 mics - stereo overheads in an XY pattern, Kick Drum mic and snare mic. Position the overheads first and get a great sound out of them so you could almost use them by themselves. They don't need to be too high either, Maybe a foot higher than the drummers head and centered over the back of the kick drum. You can get good results with small diaphragm condensers, large diaphragm condensers and ribbon mics.. Once you've got the overhead sounding like a nice full kit, slowly bring up kick ensuring it's placement gives a fat sound and it's in phase with the overheads, then do the same for the snare. If you can't get a nice full drum sound with that arrangement there's a problem with the kit, the drummer or the the miking technique. I personally like a lot of the actual snares in my snare tone, so I often mic the bottom of the snare as well, you just have to really be careful with phase both with the top of snare mic and the overheads. Loads of resources online about how to do it. I would not mess with room mics the first time out unless you are in a particularly great sounding room and you want a very live drums in the room kind of feel.

    One more point is don't record the drums too hot. I see people making this mistake all the time and it leaves you no room to make significant changes in the mix.-18 to -12 Peaks are plenty.

    The other thing I'd say is don't record with any effects if this is your first time. You will undoubtedly overuse EQ and compression that you can't undo.
     
  12. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    With drums everyone has a different style so there is no right or wrong way. I personally do not like the AJ one-mic in front of the set idea because i don't think a cymbal sounds best when you are capturing the sound from the side (so the object is oscillating above & below your mic). A cymbal is made to he heard from "top" because that is the primary way the sound is projecting in phase.

    I had actually never seen this video, just searched for Andy Johns drum mic technique - but here is an engineer talking about exactly what I said about cymbal sound generation:



    If one has never miked a cymbal it is because you have your overheads set up to catch them - and this absolutely works. But the OP question was "what did you learn after years of miking drums?" and for me it was to use the OH mics primarily for the cymbals. I also used X/Y for years and 45-degrees out from the drummers head - all that. But in the end I had them about 2 feet over the cymbals and worked in L.A. and many drummers said it was the best cymbal sound they ever heard - perfect balance in the mix and a sound like breaking glass - no gongish resonance or midrange clang. This was because I purposely made sure they were miked almost separately so I could EQ them as desired.

    Of course, there is ALWAYS some compromise when trying to do this, and I never had a house set so I always worked with whatever walked in. But If found the right spot I could capture the toms with my basically fairly wide placed cymbal mics but I also angled the mics out a touch so I did not get much snare, hat, or kick. These all also had their own mics.

    But I could push the high end EQ to get the breaking glass sound on the cymbals, but also bring in resonance on the toms without losing the cymbals by bringing in some lower midrange. I guess my point is I found a way to be able to use my OH mics mostly for cymbals and toms, without having to worry about the hat or snare getting too loud - I did this mostly by moving the OH mics outwards - away from the middle of the set.
     

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