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  • Recording drums

    Hi all!

    So my band is about to hit the studios to record live drums for our next album. We've sourced a studio with pretty good preamps and some good mics. Now here's the list of equipment thats there:


    2 channels of Neve

    4 channels of SSL


    1. Neumann u87

    2. AKG c451B(about 4 of them)

    3. Neumann TLM103

    4. Neumann TLM170

    The mics I'm carrying are the Heil PR48 kick drum mic and the Audix i5 for the snare

    The kind of music we're into is pop/rock n roll with many guitar and vocal harmonies/layers so I need a nice punchy rock n roll drum sound. The room is a compact one but with good acoustics and rectangular in shape. I placed the drums along the length to give the idea of more space(and be able to place mics in front and behind the kit) although when I placed them along the width I heard a more thumpy kick sound in the room. I've recorded using 2 techniques in that room, one is the Glyn Johns and the other is a simple spaced pair arrangement with the following configuration: c451b on OHs, pr48 and i5 on kick and snare, c451b on the hats.

    I used the u87 and 170(both in cardoid) as OHs for the Glyn Johns technique(panned 50% L and R) and got a pretty decent sound. Is this method okay or is it really important to have matching condensers for the same. Input levels were matched at -10db on protools.

    Also I was wondering if I can use the previous combo for OHs in all the stereo techniques like spaced pair/ORTF/recorderman etc?

    Another option is to pick up a pair of C414s and use them for OH duties but will that be overkill?

    I would also love to hear opinions on how you guys would use the combo of mics available to get a punchy rock drum sound.

    Also is keeping a -10db headroom for all tracks good enough? Or should I increase the headroom for some(like OHs, hihats) and decrease it for the kick and snare?

    Fender MIM strat(pickups upgraded and modded) -> Korg DT-10 tuner -> EHX POG2 -> ZVEX Fuzz Factory -> Vox V848 Clyde McCoy -> Keeley Fuzz Head -> Big Muff w/ Tone Wicker -> EHX Stereo Pulsar -> Moog Phaser -> Moog Analog Delay -> TC Nova Delay -> Roland RE-20 Space Echo -> Orange Tiny Terror Combo-> Marshall 1922 2X12 with Vintage 30s


  • #2
    I like the recorderman technique personally. Make sure you get a good balance (and phase alignment) listening to the mics to begin with. I wouldn't try to have a certain amount of headroom on each track. Probably make the snare and kick the loudest and balance everything to that. Sounds like you shouldn't have any troubles getting what you want and know what you're doing. So just make it sound good and you'll be good to go.
    ∆∆∆∆∆∆∆∆∆ Antelope Zen Tour, Dell Precision 7510 (w/i7-6920HQ, 16GB, 512GB NVMe SSD, 960GB SSD recording drive) Harrison Mixbus 3, StudioOne Pro, Pro Tools 12, and Reaper. Belmont Bigsby, Godin LGSP-90 (NAMM ed.), Godin LGX-SA into an 11 Rack controlled by a FCB1010 with an Eureka Prom. A bunch of other stuff lying around.

    Did I mention that Harrison Mixbus 3 is out? If not check it out. It Is AWESOME!!!


    • #3
      A matched pair of overhead condencers are critical item from my experience.

      It makes the highs balance properly left and right. its not to say you cant get

      good balance using mixed mics, but you often have a more mono sound and

      besides phase, you have the frequency responce of different mics to jack with

      balancing a stereo spread like that.

      I used all kinds of combinations of mics when I was building up the studio and

      things got so much better with a matched pair of overheads. You might want

      to make yourself a sub kick to. Dig yourself up a good paper cone 8" speaker and connect

      a high to low transformer to it and maybe put a 1K pot on there to attenuate the output.

      A sub kick along with a regular kick mic will really give a drum set some beef, and get

      reid of the whimpy cardboard sound . The speaker will pick up some snare and toms too

      and beef those up. Lets you run a thicker bass guitar in the mix and fatter guitars which is good

      for rock stuff.

      You dont need much, but what you get can be essential. I use an old altec midrange speaker.

      Its perfect for picking up the kick. I found it better than soam surround speakers but you can

      try a few different speakers out and find the best one.

      Heres how I did mine with the pot and a impedance transformer.


      • #4
        Thanks a lot for responses. I really appreciate it. Thankfully my drummer already has a Yamaha sub-kick which we will be using for the recording

        Now my only concern I guess is regarding the headroom. I can understand why its preferable to keep a good amount of headroom and keeping everything at 0db does result in a bit of a wishy washy mix(in my experience). I was wondering whether I can keep a 6db headroom for all tracks or if i can vary between 10 and 6. Will that result in a clean mix? I'm asking because there are many fuzzy guitar layers and I don't want them to become too pasty and would rather have it a bit on the juicier side. I've uploaded a few samples from the recording on soundcloud. Would love to hear some opinions on it.


        Fender MIM strat(pickups upgraded and modded) -> Korg DT-10 tuner -> EHX POG2 -> ZVEX Fuzz Factory -> Vox V848 Clyde McCoy -> Keeley Fuzz Head -> Big Muff w/ Tone Wicker -> EHX Stereo Pulsar -> Moog Phaser -> Moog Analog Delay -> TC Nova Delay -> Roland RE-20 Space Echo -> Orange Tiny Terror Combo-> Marshall 1922 2X12 with Vintage 30s



        • #5
          Recording digital, Headroom is the least of your problems.

          Noise levels are extremely low. You dont track levels recording to

          obtain a commercially loud mix, you track to get a quality mix.

          You obtain commercially loud tracks when you're done mixing,

          and you master the music.

          The entire mix should come in about -16db Average/-14db RMS.

          Thats for all the tracks that are additive. Individual tracks may be

          much lower depending on the frequency content of the instruments.

          Higher and middle freqiencies tend not to move the meters as much

          yet they sound loud to the ear. Bass frequencies may move the meters allot

          yet sound lower in volume to the ear.

          The loudest you'd want individual tracks to be tracked at may be

          half scale on the daw meters somewheres between -6 and -12.

          The actual tracks when checked for Rms level will be much lower

          because the meters read and ride on the peak which is usually at leat 30% higher.

          In other words, if your meters peak at 0db, the RMS level "May" be -7db. I say

          may be because it depends on how many, and how consistanthose peaks are.

          To keep things safe, I'd likely have the meters peaking about half scale.

          this might bring the guitars in at about -12db for guitars and bass,

          and everything else about -6 ~ -12.

          Drums are highly dynamic and will have large transients.

          They are going to sound like they are recorded lower which is normal.

          A driven guitais aready dynamically compressed and has much fewer peaks.

          Its also gain staged to sound loud at any volume.

          What you do mixing is use a combination of compressors and or limiters

          to boost the drum track levels and limit the dynamic peaks so the RMS

          level of the drums comes up to match the guitars. This makes he drums sound

          like they were recorded with louder mics but in reality, its adding compression.

          Hardware Comps, and limiters were much more common on drums tracking

          in analog where tape had a much more limited dynamic range.

          They'd even push the levels above 0db to get tape satuation which

          gave the sound nice warn driven edge.

          Those techniques are pretty much obsolite in digital. 0db is the drop dead

          line you should never cross. When it is breached yu get a really nasty digital

          ripping and popping sound that sounds like a blown amp or loose speaker cable, Nasty.

          You can use hrdware comps to limit drums tracking but theres really no need.

          First off, Whatever you track with has to be spot on because you cant undo it

          afterwards. if the attack, decay, and slopes of the comp arent perfect

          tracking it may ruin the mix.

          Second, digital has enough dynamic hearoom to track at lower levels,

          capture the entire peaks, then boost the tracks mixing, level the peaks to

          make the drums sound loud, and still not have any noise floor added when

          you do boost then tracks usingthe proper plugins. Plus you can adjust amount

          of attack and release to the comps so the compression is transparent and

          doesnt have allot of pumping and breathing.

          Ever notice how live albums pump and breathe? Thats because the

          compressor settings arent finely tweaked to match the tempo of each song.

          its set to prevent overload of the recrding gear but not to sound transparent.

          setting those comps up to match the tempo and attack takes allot of tweaking and

          cant be done effectively live. In a studio, its a key item to getting drums

          sounding like they are up front.

          After mixing comes mastering where you make the mix sound as loud as ay commercial album

          youve heard. You use three basic tools. EQ to balance the entire mix, Multiband compression

          to tame the various frequency bands, low, low mid, upper mid and highs, so they all push

          with with a smooth dynamic level that pushes the speaker cones effectively and sounds good to the ears.

          Then lastly, a brck wall limiter is used to gain the mix to commercial levels and prevent overs above 0db

          This last step is the biggest key to the puzzle. If you for example comp to much on the tracks the mastering

          will make the song sound overly blured and flubby. If there isnt enough on the tracks it can wind up sounding

          small and demo/amature like.

          Then if you have the song played on the radio they comp the hell out of the music.

          Ever notice how a recording you buy sounds better/tighter than it does on the radio? it doesnt have that extra layer

          of compression added. This is why you need to make sure the compression used mixing is kept highly transparent and

          not jacked up to make it soud like a commercial recording in a single step.

          It comes down to three basic steps in a chain of events.

          Pre production

          Getting great instrument tone to track> (Good instruments tuned up and amps properly tweaked to track well.

          Tracking well to mix > (proper mics used for optimal sound capture, room acoustics, mic gains etc)


          Performing to track well > (This is where you shoot for the stars and play your asses off. This deals with everything from note tones created, to musical arrangement, Timing, emotional/dynamic content and controll of the music etc. You can play like you do for a live audiance but you may have to fine tweak your tone to get the best from your mics.

          I.E, If a mics thin, you can beef up your source sound to compensate. If the mic lacks mids, you boost some mids on your amp)

          Next is post production.

          You mix well and target what will occur when you master. (Balance, frequency content, Special effects, gain Levels, Reverb for three dimensionality.

          This is onof the harder steps but its also a very creative step if you have the resources, the greats tracks provided tracking. Great tracks, it mixes itself,

          poor tracks, and you'll be banging your head against the wall performing CPR on tracks using restoration techniques on tracks that likely will never be pro grade)

          Lastly you master. This is the icing on the cake everyone shoots for beginning at pre production from everything down to having new strings on the guitar

          and new drum heads tuned to perfection. You really dont/wont hear how a song truely sounds till this step is completed.

          If the other steps are good, Mastering the music will knock your socks off. The music will go from sounding like a decent demo

          to a hit song that sounds good on anything you play the song on.

          On the other hand, any screw ups in pre production and mixing will stick out like a sore thumb. That note thats slighly sour,

          the snare that rattles, that gurgle of breath inhale from the singer is going to be blatently obvious.

          Thats for sound quality only. The #1 item is how wll you play. The ears of a listener is goin to ignore the sound quality

          and hear what you are playing. You can play back a hendrix tune on a cheezy am radio with the worst sound quality

          ever and the listener will listen past the flaws and focus on what they do hear.

          I that, you cant easily hide a great performance even if the recording is sub par. The opposite holds true.

          There is little you can do to make a sub par performance sound great with recording gear, plugins, etc.

          yo may be able to retune a vocal a little with autotune, or shift a snare hit so its in tempo, but theres no

          plugin thats going to fix the emotional content and greatness of the performance that should have been

          there tracking to begin with.

          Lastly, as you run through this entire process, and you quickly find out how much of an art recording actually is.

          It should make you appreciate all the engineers who spend lifetimes perfecting their craft useing electronic

          gear to capture a musicians opimal performance in a sliver of time preserved to be heard again.

          Its truely an amazing thing and as a musiician, even if you dont get a hit single out of a session, you

          will have an important stepping stone that becomes a starway to the stars if the recordings have your best

          attempts made at the time you made them. Ask anyone into recording and they can listen to past recordings and

          kick themselves in the ass for not doing better. The ones who see it as one step in a positive light progress

          in solid baby steps. Those who think the stairway can be made in a single step and over extend themselves

          will usually give up as the climb blaming their failue as being an impossible task only gods can accomplish.


          • #6
            Don't forget that at the core of a "punchy rock n roll drum sound" is a drummer who is twatting the snare, flooring the kick and taking it easy on the cymbals!
            Do you need live drum tracks? http://www.drumtracksdirect.co.uk/


            • #7

              Quote Originally Posted by beatpoet
              View Post

              Don't forget that at the core of a "punchy rock n roll drum sound" is a drummer who is twatting the snare, flooring the kick and taking it easy on the cymbals!

              So true... and so important!

              "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

              - George Carlin

              "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

              - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

              "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

              - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter


              • #8

                Quote Originally Posted by Phil O'Keefe
                View Post

                So true... and so important!

                Dittos, amen, and huzzah.
                "I'm a mur-diddly-urdler!"