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What makes a great drum room for recording?

Discussion in 'Drums' started by EricWatkins, May 26, 2010.

  1. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    I've got a potential recording session coming up with a heavy a-la SevenDust band. I recorded them years ago when I didn't know what I was doing at all. Now I certainly know enough to be dangerous. My actual studio space is small. 7 foot ceiling and only 13 x 22. I have an alternative recording space I could use if I wanted to move my recording rig to this other location just to record drums. It has 12 foot ceilings and the room is like 60 x 25. Do you think that it could make a huge difference in the end result? Obviously I can get a way more naturally ambient sound if I want but I'm also pretty decent at doing ambience with software reverbs like epicverb and CSR. The room has thin commercial carpet and is otherwise bare on the walls and ceiling. I do have some acoustic panels I could bring in to set close to the kit to tighten the sound of the close mics but then still have a couple LDCs back in the room somewhere. Suggestions? Thanks.

  2. DJFlexx

    DJFlexx Active Member

    It depends on what sound you are trying to achieve and how you want to achieve it! First of all, congratulations on landing a returning client! Second of all, in your case I would make the room as dead as humanly possible and use close mic techniques throughout and if you have enough mics I would set up two mics in the room as far from the kit as possible (maybe opposite corners if possible!) in order to get a nice stereo image of the drums but also get a nice stereo overhead image of the cymbals.

    If you don't have a lot of dough then commercial carpeting is the cheapest and best way to go to deaden your room. Make sure you have no echo and absolutely zero backsplash. Make the room as dead as possible and rely on your mic technique and your post skills to make the drums sound as if they were record at Chung King (NYC) in the platinum room! CHEERS!
  3. Ten21Studios

    Ten21Studios Active Member

    For me it's all about tuning the kit right, mic choice and phase aligning the overheads with the snare.

    For convincing artificial ambience the Bricasti M7 Reverb is the business.

    Good luck


    Sean Kenny - Ten21

    Ten21 Recording Studio | Near London | Maidstone | Kent | UK
  4. Voiceofallanger

    Voiceofallanger Active Member

    Agree. Tune the kit, keep it dead. If things need to sound spacey, do it with placement and sparingly using FX. That's my 2 cents.
  5. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I'll take a different tack....


    Those who advise you to close mic, use artificial verbs, delays, etc... may be right... but could just as easily be completely wrong.

    Failure to think for out for yourself and rely upon what I call "cookie cutter" advice is pretty well self defeating your own ability to step up and build your own knowledge base.

    After being a drummer/percussionist for almost 50 years, I can only urge you to discuss the end goal of the drum sound the client wants (including their producer) and work towards that goal.

    If they want a tight intimate sound, you can accomplish that in just about any room. Just as you can achieve a big spacious ambient sound in just about any room...

    HOWEVER... (as you pointed out) Big rooms naturally lend themselves to big ambient sounds, while small rooms lend themselves to tight lifeless sounds... serving the song is what is paramount, or at least should be, IMNSHO.

    If some of their songs deserve the big room, go to that big room to track. It's my experience that naturally large (sounding) spaces make a huge difference in the amount of time it takes to get a large room sound. e.g. if you capture tracks in a large room, you already have your ambiance. You don't spend days on end looking for something that's "good enough".

    One thing I will agree with is that the drums need new heads and to be properly tuned... with the caveat that this too needs to be discussed with the producer, as to how those drums should be tuned/dampened/mic'd/eq'd/etc... to SERVE THE SONG.
  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Tuned kit is, as important as tuned guitar,bass,sax,vox,marimba (insert instrument here). a medium room can have a "huge sounding" reverberation depending on it's shape and mic placement. I listened to my boss use phase flip/eq/move mics position, to adjust the drum kit until all 14 channels sounded full together/alone, it took about 2 1/2 hours. the room mics nice, overheads nice, close mics nice. they sound pleasant solo'd and combined, which makes mixing them fun, using faders instead of efx sends/returns is enjoyable. Each song merits it's own sound.
  7. Steve@Russo

    Steve@Russo Active Member

    tuned kit like Kmetal said, can't get a good sound without that
  8. planet10

    planet10 Active Member

    i would go with the larger room, set up more mics to get the space of the room into the recordings, and the good thing is this...if they dont work for the song you can take it away.
    mic it tight as usual, make damn sure its tuned properly, i use the peterson strobe tuner for iPhone4 and it works amazingly!!!! well, then set up stereo mics at multiple distances from the kit.. recorded reverb IMHO is better than some plugin. also with these additional mics you can use tons of compression to smash it up (or not), blend these mics however you want.
    i ALWAYS track more parts and or mics than i might need, you can take it away but you can put it there after the fact, $*^t man hard drive space is CHEAP

    good luck
  9. DJFlexx

    DJFlexx Active Member

    Recording Drums!!

    I love love love recording drums! It is so challenging to get a great sound for most people but I love the excitement and challenge of recording drums!

    What kind of mics do you have at your disposal?

    Secondly, If you are looking for a tighter sound then stay in the small room and use your acoustic panels. Using acoustic panels "tight" around the kick in a large room defeats the purpose of the larger rooms potential!

    If you are recording in the larger room it's because you are looking for a LIVE sound or "broader sound and/or you can use the reverberations, i.e. reflections, of the larger room which you will get plenty of possible slap back a lot of delay if you mic 15-30 ft off of the kit will do the trick.

    Please let us know what kind of miking technique you are thinking of using whether a close "tight" miking technique or are you trying to get a "bigger" live sound from the room and your technique?
  10. GordZilla

    GordZilla Guest

    My first post on this board...

    I have often been told that if you want "big sounding drums" then record them in a big room ;-)

    For the most part I believe this to be true. Even is you are close mic'ing the kit, having a big room seems to put "air" around the kit... that intangible openess that is so hard (or even impossible) to achieve in a smaller, dead room. Especially ceiling height... get those close reflecting surfaces away from them OHs ;-)

    Just my 1/50th of a dollar :)
  11. Steve@Russo

    Steve@Russo Active Member

    the bricasti is awesome
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    whever you decide, put to decent mics up near the far carners of the room, facing the wall. Play with them a bit. It may look stupid in print, but i've got audio files that prove it can sound so good you won't want an algorithim again. To paraphrase Planet10, It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Cheers!
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I want. But, I'm looking at the new lexicon hardware. New world, new methods.
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    cool, explain more.... please?
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    So ... when you say tuning, you are tuning drums to each song? And how does one drummer find the note compared to the next?
  16. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    Yes, tuning can be everything. While mixing a recent session it became evident that the pitch of one of the toms was a semitone off from the key of the song and was playing nasty with the bass. I applied pitch correction and was able to save the tracks but learned a valuable lesson.
    Also had the exact same issue with a djembe which was not physically tunable. Had to pitch correct it quite a stretch to make it fit, but was successful in doing so.
    With drums being so foundational to most music this type of out-of-tune can really disturb the sense of "rightness" in the finished product.

  17. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    How true this is. I could cite a bunch of examples of this in my experiences although a lot were before there was any sort of electronic pitch correcting that you'd ever want to use. Most of these would involve retuning the kit and redoing the tracks.
  18. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    This is interesting, might be very educational for me. I've never really put much thought into tuning drums to work with the key of a song (which at least is an easier task in metal than other genres, as 99% of the time the songs are all in the same key), I've always just had the drums tuned to sound good by themselves. I can see this working for toms, which are fairly tonal, but snare seems far too dissonant for it's "note" (if you even want to call it that...) to matter in relation to a song - unless it has a ringing ping sound that you'd want in tune?. Kick drum is sort in-between, it has some "note" to it but not nearly as much as toms do, especially in metal recordings where it's basically just a "whack" sound and a thump (I do always spend some time sweeping to find the root note of that thump so I know what I'm working with, but I've never really worried about whether or not that root is an octave of C or anything).

    What are some rough guidelines for tuning drums to a song? I'm taking a wild guess and thinking kick tuned to root note, then the toms tuned to some variation of 5ths and 3rds (let's say just a 2 tom kit) of the root?
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Just for fun, take an already recorded track and mute the drums. Put up a basic 4 count of kick and snare. Tune them to the track. Then wonder why you havent done this all along.

    The toms should be considered but ina different way. If theres a ot of tom work on a song then consider first whether the songs' key is major or minor and whether its a relative maj/min to the true key. This will tell you something about the tuning of the toms. If its standard occasional fill work, then getting the kick and snare right and then using the toms to simply move air and create drama and have them in relative pitch to the trap set is enough.

    Cymbals make a LOT more difference than you'd think. Especially if you have one of those drummers who always wants to hit em whether its needed or not.
  20. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    I love the turn this thread has taken.

    To reinforce some answers to the original question (in my experience):

    Big rooms help a lot. Both in the close reflective surfaces, and in room micing.
    I like to use the word "breathe" a lot in describing music and recording.
    I think letting anything breathe or not is critical to its sound.
    OHs (and even some close mics) benefit from some added air.
    No - having a big, beautiful sounding room for drums is not critical, especially for close mic situations and hard rock or metal applications.
    But try one, and you'll understand!

    audiokid - regarding the room mics. This is an idea I have used before. Really it doesn't matter where you put them, but rather the sound you want to achieve. The immediate reflection from a very far wall/corner can be just right. I've also put them some 20' away and facing the floor, on the floor facing the ceiling, etc.

    Now, the tuning. I haven't done this, yet. I usually try and get the drums tuned to themselves and roll w/ it. No consistent kit of my own, so the drum set is always changing.
    However, I KNOW this matters. I noticed it first at a live gig years ago, when I hit the open G on my bass and the drummer's snare rattled and buzzed like the dickens.
    Got similar responses at any G or D, depending.

    I will be doing this for my next drum session. I imagine it will help a lot in mixing in that 250-2k range where guitars, drums, bass, and vocals seem to battle each other.

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