Drum compression priorities

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by pitseleh, Apr 18, 2008.

  1. pitseleh

    pitseleh Guest

    Hello, I'm pretty amateur at this whole recording business and it shows with my limited equipment I'm mostly interested in what people think is the order of importance of drum compression on 'rock' drums (not really for normal rock music, the musical style is in the vein of Fugazi, Cap'n Jazz, Hot Snakes, Gang of Four etc) as I've only got two mono hardware compressors, two mixers (each with stereo outs) and 4 sound card inputs. The drum kit will have a kick, snare, hi-hats, ride, crash and a floor tom, while I've got a handful of cheap microphones:

    My current plan is to record the kick and the snare on individual inputs and then in compress them in the same stereo bus, while a stereo mix of the overheads, tom and hi-hats in stereo.

    I'm wondering which, if any, of the stereo-mixed drums would suit mono-compression, and if the kick+drum compression is the best use of my 2 free channels. Part of me wonders whether the overheads could have reverb applied in software while my snare and kick could be compressed separately with hardware..

    Another question is whether it's advantageous or disadvantageous in separately mic'ing the hi-hat and snare as they're placed rather close together? (I don't know anything)

    As far as microphones go I'm planning to use an MD 421 on the kick, SM57's/58's on the other drums (my microphone selection sucks) and bog standard condensors for the cymbals/overheads.

    If anyone can point out anywhere that I'm going wrong or has any tips for making the most of a modest DIY recording of drums in cramped room that will make them listenable in a final mix then it would honestly make my day. I think an imperfect sound suits this kind of music, but while The Beatles' records are often very 'loose' and don't sound like modern production perfection, nothing about them detracts from the music or is hard to listen to.. I'm hoping the same for these drums, and, if I persevere and am lucky, the other pieces.

    Thank you,
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    First, as far as I'm concerned you have excellent mics for kick and snare. Start with those and make the most of them. You should spend several hours with each going straight to your interface. Experiment with mic position, drum tuning, and damping. After you have those as good as possible make a loop of recorded quarter notes of the individual drums and experiment with eq, compression, gate/expansion within your DAW. It is much easier to experiment with compressor setting on a looped recording in the box than it is with live drums and a hardware compressor. After you have played with the DAW compressor and understand how to set threshold, attack, release, and make-up gain. Plug your kick and snare into the two channels of your hardware compressor and see if you like it better. After you feel you have the kick and snare sound down (and we are talking many hours, if not days or weeks) throw in a pair of overheads.

    Now, if it were me, I'd just record with four mics - kick, snare, and overheads. In fact, that's what I usually do, but I'm not doing the same type of music. Still, until you get a more elaborate interface, I'd live within your constraints and let the overheads pick up the tom and high hat. (And yes, the bleed into the snare mic can help you here if you don't gate it too tightly.) I don't want to discourage you too much from experimenting with more individual mics, but if you are just starting out it's usually best to keep it simple. There is a lot to learn about micing a drum kit.
  3. pitseleh

    pitseleh Guest

    Thanks Bob, that advice is very encouraging and easy to follow (albeit time consuming :eek: ). I'll try four microphones for now and see if I can get a well-defined sound on the tom and hi-hats.
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Bob's advice is great!

    The only thing I want to add - you mention "see if I can get a well-defined sound on the tom and hi-hats..."

    You can! I promise. Bear in mind, moving the mics only a couple inches will significantly alter the balance. Play around with placement and eventually (more time here...), you'll find that you can accomplish everything you want with those four mics.

  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    While you can get a clear and well-defined sound on the toms and high hat with a four mic setup, there are some common effects that depend on individually miced toms - e.g., tom rolls that pan across the stereo field. But until you can get a good kick and snare sound and a good sound out of the overheads I'd stick with a more limited setup. You have the equipment now to do four mics "right" without tying yourself in knots. I'd say start there.
  6. pitseleh

    pitseleh Guest

    :D I can't wait to try perfecting the four microphone approach now if it's all I need. Thanks for the support.
  7. pitseleh

    pitseleh Guest

    Luckily the only tom is the floor tom, so no stereo drum rolls. Four microphones is probably all I need for what I'm trying to do, which makes things a lot easier :).

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