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Tutorial: Tips For Recording Multi-Track Drums

By moosers on 07/26/2009 - (Anyone)

Introduction

This tutorial will give you some guidelines and tips for recording multi-track drums in your home or professional studio.  While these tips are the way that I like to do things, everyone is different so definitely try to experiment and try new things as it is the best way to develop your style.  I'll go through each drum of the drum set and give you some ideas..

Step 1

First, lets talk a little bit about recording the kick drum.  Like with all of the drums, there are a variety of ways that you can do things.  I'll start with the way that I usually do things and then I'll talk about some variations on it.  What I usually do is place an AKG D 112 inside of bass drum and place it about a foot away from the beater.  Since I mostly record rock and pop music, this provides me with a close up sound that has a lot of presence.  I'll also put another microphone on the outside of the kick drum up against the skin.  I try to experiment with the microphone that I use for this, but will usually use either a Shure SM7 or a Electrovoice RE-20, depending on what I have available.  You can also use a Shure SM57 or any other dynamic microphone.  Like with most of the up closing micing when it comes to drums, I would recommend using all dynamic microphones for recording kick drum.

Step 2

Probably the most important single drum in the drum set is the snare drum as it generally keeps the beat of the song and is a back bone in most rock and pop music as well as in many other genres.  The industry standard for recording a snare drum as many of you probably know is the Shure SM57.  I generally stick with that for the top of the snare and sometimes for the bottom, but I sometimes experiment with the bottom snare, sometimes using older Shure microphones, but almost any dynamic and sometimes even a condenser will do the trick.  I keep it about three or four inches away from the snares as I find if they are too close that you get too much rattle.  Also, watch out for phasing issues between the top and bottom snare mics.

Step 3

To me, getting a good overhead drum sound is the most crucial part while recording drums because will pick up all of the drums and provides really depth to a sound.  I believe that the close micing of the drums is really to enhance what is picked up in the overheads to a degree, especially when it comes to snare.  Many times I find that my close miced snare drum sound doesn't sound all that good on its own, but when combined with the overheads sounds great.  As far as technique goes, I usually place two overhead microphones about a foot and a half or two feet above the drums.  I will move them up or down to get different sounds, but I try not to put them too close to the cymbals so they don't pick up too much of the cymbals without picking up the rest of the kit well.  For microphones I usually use Neumann KM 184s or 84s, but I understand that not every one has access to these mics...A good and much cheaper substitution includes the Rode NT5s.

Step 4

The next drums that I mic are the tom tom drums.  For this I usually put the microphone pretty close to drum to get a close miced sound.  I generally use Sennhesier MD 421s but Shure SM57s will work fine as well.  I find that sometimes the trickiest part of getting a good tom tom sound is the actual tuning of the drums themselves.  This can take some time as can trying to get the ringing out of some drums!

Step 5

While these recording techniques will help you to get some good drum sounds, please keep in mind that the most important part of getting a good sound is making sure that your drums sound good to begin with.  If you don't have the best drum set in the world (and even if you do), concentrate on tuning the drums properly to get the best possible sound.  Also, make sure that you get a good drummer as that is of course the single most important part of getting good drum sounds!

Conclusion

One again, while these tips should definitely be considered and tried out, engineering is all about taste and you should definitely be experimenting to get the sounds that will suit your taste the best.  Recording drums can certainly be challenge and proper time should be taken to get the right sounds.  Have fun and remember to experiment!