Introduction to Drum Recording
These days there’s many ways to get the drum tracks for a musical project. There’s using sample drums or programming them via software like BFD or another drum emulation software package. However, there’s nothing like recording real drums for a song! In particular, the cymbals still sound so much better with a real drum recording. The art of recording drums is slowly becoming forgotten as people use emulated drums more often.
In this article we are going to talk about the kinds of microphones that we choose to use on drums in our Sydney Recording studio. Crash Symphony Productions has been recording drums for a long while. We’ve settled on what specific microphones can achieve a certain sound for the recordings. We’ll go over each part of the drum kit and why we choose to do what we do.
The Kick Drum
The kick drum is one of the most important parts of the kit for the listen. It holds down so much of the rhythm of the music. One challenge that we have faced with the kick drum has been reducing the amount of ‘bleed’ from the other parts of the kit. It’s ideal to listen to the kit and not have it diluted by loud cymbals and the snare. In order to achieve this we built a drum tunnel. This is a small aircraft hangar-looking contraption that goes over the microphones that are positioned on the outside of the kick. It isolates these microphones from the rest of the kit so when the engineer listens to the kick drum there won’t be intrusive noises from the snare, toms, and cymbals.
We use four microphones on the kick. Firstly, we choose a large diaphragm condenser like a Neumann U47 Fet. This has a certain fullness to the sound. We couple this closely with a Shure SM57 dynamic microphone. This picks up the midrange punch. We use an AKG D112 in the drum hole. This has a very specific sound and it is common on kick recordings. Lastly, we use a homemade Sub-microphone. It has been constructed out of an old high tom with a speaker built in.
These four microphones give us the pallet we need to mix and match and get the drum tone that’s right for the song. Sometimes we’ll completely discard certain microphones. Having these mics makes certain we’re covering our bases correctly.
The Snare Drum
On the snare we also gravitate towards four microphones in order to cover all possibilities. Firstly, we use a Neumann U87 placed in close proximity. Next to this microphone we have a small diaphragm condenser like an AKG 451 that has sufficient padding. When these two microphones are coupled closely together the phase can be adjusted to reduce certain unwanted frequencies in the snare drum. We always use the traditional Shure SM57 on the snare drum. Underneath the snare we use the Sennheiser 441 dynamic microphone. This is very common under a snare.
These microphones are historically very common in these positions. They give us the tonal breadth that we need to make sure we achieve the best tone available for the snare drum.
The hi-hats are close miked by two small diaphragm condenser microphones. We use a few different options both above and beneath the hi-hats. Firstly, the Neumann KM184s are an excellent choice. However, because those microphones don’t have padding they can be too loud for the preamp. The Sennheiser MK416 shotgun microphone is another great choice for hi-hats. They are very focussed microphones and the side rejection works well on the kit in order to keep the hi-hats focussed. Lastly, a good choice is the AKG 451 small diaphragm condenser microphone. These have great padding and are good for keeping the signal under control.
There are many microphones that can be used for Toms. We have been using simple Sennheiser e604s on the high and mid toms. These clip on to the side of the tom and sound surprisingly good for what they are as microphones. Large diaphragm microphones like AKG 414s are great on toms, too. Switching them to the fig-8 position and padding them sufficiently will help to side-reject the other drums during the recording.
On the floor tom we use the traditional Sennheiser 421. This is a staple microphone for this position and always sounds great.
The Overhead microphones
For the overhead microphones we have a few different options. Firstly, a pair of vintage u47 tube microphones sounds beautiful. For a more crisp and clear sound the Neumann M149 pair is certainly very lovely. If a darker and more vintage sound is sort after then we would use the Coles 4038s ribbon microphones as overheads. These are very common ribbon microphones for overheads. They require some boosting with an equaliser but sound marvellous as overhead microphones.
Hopefully this article gives you a brief overview of what we use on our drum recordings and what options are available. You can learn more about our studio here https://www.crashsymphony.com.au/recording-studio/
If you have further questions about how we record in our Sydney Recording Studio please feel welcome to give us a call on 0408 300 402 or our email [email protected]