The Music Espionage

Recording Drums


As with any instrument, making sure you prepare the instrument before any recording is important and Recording Drums is not different. A common mistake is to throw some microphones around a drum kit and start recording. First take the time to listen to the kit in the recording space. Are the drums in tune? Are the drums balanced? You don’t want to get halfway through mixing a track and realise that the drums sound rubbish…would you record an out of tune guitar?

Recording Drums is normally the first instrument that an engineers will set up to record in a session. It is a fallacy to believe that the only way to achieve a rockin’ drum sound is by miking up every drum & cymbal. In fact you can get a great sound with anywhere from one to three mics. More on Microphones for drums here.

Recording Drums

Click on the links below for tutorials on Recording Drums with 1, 2 , 3 and 4 microphones.

Drums with 1 MicDrums with 2 Mic.sDrums with 3 Mic.sDrums with 4 Mic.s,

Recording Drums:

The main characteristics of a drum kits sound come from the overheads. The close-miked individual drums are there to reinforce the sound of these ambient mics. You may use a lot of microphones to record your drums, just try to think of the drum kit as one instrument.

Recording Drums

Don’t think you can cure all ills when mixing. You want to attempt to capture the best sound possible without editing or adding any ‘cool guy effects’. If the head sounds dead or is misshapen replace it with a new one, it’s worth taking ten minutes to replace a head than to spend hours in post-production trying to get a better sound.

Recording DrumsRecording Drums

If your drum head looks like this it’s going to sound like hitting a piece of paper with a stale baguette!

Also check the kick pedal for any unwanted noise; if it’s squeaking give it a little oil.

It is also important to identify what you want out of the recording. For a tight sound, close mic each section of the drums, this will capture each individual part giving more scope for creativity in post-production, but may sound flat and dry.

Recording Drums - Quote

This is also a good technique to use if the room you are recording in has poor acoustics, as close mic-ing will capture minimal room reverb or echo.

For a more airy, or natural sound, placing fewer mics or adding room mics to the recording will capture a more blended, colourful sound. Careful microphone placement and a lot of trial and error may be required, which means more time is needed. It has been known to record an entire drum kit with one well placed microphone!

Recording Drums

By using room mics, you will be capturing the instrument within the recording space i.e. the room the instrument is in. Therefore, it is important to ensure any room reverb or echo captured by the microphones is desired for the recording as you will not be able to edit this out in post-production.

A common mic-ing technique is to close mic each drum and add stereo microphones to capture the entire kit and cymbals blending the parts together. This may not give you the end result you want but it is always a good starting point.