Drum Recording Techniques part 2

The Kit in the Room

 

One simple room technique to follow is irregular surfaces or no parallel walls. Use furniture, drapes and so on to help create this. With a LEDE room, try to have lots of absorbent/warm kind of stuff like a couch, cushions, drapes at one end and very little at the other. Then try the kit in the dead end pointing toward the live end and vice versa. Walk around the room and whichever sounds more natural, go with that. Listen to the balance of the kick drum versus the snare and hi-hats where you may find when it’s in the live end, the top end of the hi-hats and snare overpower the low end of the kick/floor tom. Try placing the kit the other way around and eventually you’ll find a happy medium. Of course once you have done this it will be fairly true for most other kits. Finding the sweet spot in a room for certain instruments is where professional engineers save a lot of time as they know what works where in their studio.
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Of course don’t forget the drum kit itself. Make sure it’s tuned and has relatively new heads, no creaks and squeaks, decent cymbals and so on. Again this is something that can be worked out in a rehearsal room long before the real session or if there’s a hire shop nearby, high quality pre-tuned recording kits by Gretsch and the like can be hired for very reasonable rates. Even hiring individual items like a second high quality snare and hi-hats/cymbals can make a huge difference.

 
The other approach to the kit itself is the ‘Ed Wood’ technique. Record it as it is, warts and all. If the room sounds good, this will reflect on the kit. So as long as the sound is a decent quality and there is a good full tone hitting the mics, the squeaks and creaks can actually add character. This suits some musical styles such as blues and roots where the beaten-up touring live kit can give a great ‘real world’ vibe to the session.

 
Once the kit sounds good in the room 80% of the work is done.

Next time we will discuss fitting in the other musicians so that a ‘live’ feel can be maintained (or not, as the case may be) plus the actual mics used, placement, phase, ambience, pre amps and mic set ups for different styles.

In the last installment we’ll put it all together with the overall sound, headphones,

Monitor mixes, click tracks, takes, plug-ins and edits plus some off the wall techniques as well.

 

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