Recording drums is a crucial part of creating a great sounding track - assuming your song has drums in it :-P. It isn't often easy, but with the right approach and the right set up, you can get a drum sound that will make your track shine.
In this blog post, we'll cover key elements that go into recording drums – from microphone selection and placement to signal flow and mixing. We'll also touch on some of the best practices for recording drums, as well as any tips and tricks you can use to get the best sound possible.
Whether you're a seasoned engineer or a beginner, these tips will help you get the most out of your drum recording sessions. So let's dive in and explore what it takes to record drums like a pro.
1. How many microphones do I need?
The answer to the question "How many microphones do I need to record drums?" will depend on your individual needs and budget. Generally, you will need at least 3-4 microphones for a basic recording setup.
A good starting point for most drum kits is a dynamic mic for the kick drum, a condenser OR dynamic mic for the snare, and two condenser mics for the overheads. Depending on your preferences, you may also want to add mics for the hi-hat and toms. A good rule of thumb is to use as many mics as you need to capture the sound of the kit that you are looking for, while still staying within your budget.
2. Selecting the right microphone for each drum
The type of microphone you use will determine how the drum sounds in the mix. For example, if you use a condenser mic on the snare drum, it will capture the crispness of the snare wire and the attack of the drumstick. On the other hand, it is pretty common to use a Shure SM57 mic on the snare. In fact that setup has dominated drum recording for decades.
Try different microphones on each drum and see which combination suits your needs best.
3. Microphone placement
Once you have drums set up and your mic stands in place, it’s time to start positioning your microphones. The key to capturing great recordings of drums is finding the right microphone placement. You want to get mics close enough to pick up the full sound of the drums, but not too close that they pick up unwanted noise.
The most important mic placement to consider is the kick drum microphone. To get the best sound, position the mic about one to two inches away from the drum head, pointing towards the center.
The snare drum mic should be about an inch away from the rim, angled towards the center.
Lastly, the overheads should be positioned above the kit and pointed downwards. This setup will capture the full sound of the kit.
4. How to mix and pan a drum kit recording
Mixing and panning a drum recording is an art form in itself. Before you can mix and pan your drum recording, it's important to get the best sound possible during the recording. Make sure you have the right microphones for each drum, and that the drums are evenly tuned and balanced on the kit.
Once you have your sound, you can begin the mixing and panning process. To achieve a full and balanced sound, it's important to create space between the drums. This is done by panning the drums to different sides of the mix.
Try to keep the kick and snare in the center, while panning the other drums to one side or the other. You can also add a subtle reverb or delay to each drum track to add depth and space. Experiment with different settings until you find a mix that works for your song.
5. How to apply compression to drums
Compressing drums can give your recordings a punchier sound and help you control the dynamics of your drum tracks. When applying compression, it's important to use the right settings for your mix.
Start by setting a moderate ratio, such as 2:1 or 4:1, and then set the threshold so that the compressor starts to kick in when the drums reach a certain volume. Then, adjust the attack and release times to get the desired sound. It's also important to monitor the gain reduction meter to make sure that the compressor isn't over-compressing the signal.
Finally, use a subtle amount of makeup gain to bring the level of the drums back up.
In conclusion, recording drums can be a challenging but rewarding experience. The key is to take your time and experiment until you find the right setup and sound that works for you. It is important to remember to take breaks and keep the environment comfortable and relaxed. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your creative process while recording drums.