Recording Heavy Metal, advice, links?



I started my recording life as an assistant in a jazz/classical studio, then left and did a punk album for my friends back home. Now their band is heavy metal. I can get the EXACT sounds I want for punk drums, but Metal sounds so different. The Bass Drum usually has the double kick going on in heavy metal with very heavy bass, as opposed to the "beater click" style in punk, which has a lot of high end in the kick. In punk i usually filter the heck out of my overheads and boost the directs... I am looking for a darker sound with NO mud for the metal drums... anyone done a few heavy metal records before? any good sources for metal engineering? here is one for I got useful info from for punk drums. he has a discussion board.(ryan is the man who records and mixes NOFX, amound a zillion other talented punk bands)
It seems to me that punk and metal do have a lot more in common than jazz and classical do to punk, but you kno me, I am a guy who spends all day looking in every source I can to get just the little bit of info that makes a difference.



Well-Known Member
Dec 10, 2001
Pacific NW
Metal=everything louder than everything else.

I would still keep the click in the kicks.and add a second mic out in front.Something to get that sub-sonic sheen.If theres two kicks then go with one really good LD condenser or perhaps two.You can also just use the close mics with the click going on and send this signal out to a sub-sonic generator of some kind...a synth,some eq,remember to not let it blur too much..especially if its really fast and heavy.


Big drum sound = big room + room mics

The natural reverb in a larger room will give the drums that open feeling. It will feel less clostrophobic. Make sure the snare has a nice dark feel to it... perhaps a nice tenor snare or a deep oak snare. Get a big kick drum, 24 if possible. Mic it just inside the front. The kick drum sound in a lot of metal albums is edited in. But a nice big kick drum with a D112 or D6 or Beta 52 in the front facing the beater for definition will usually work.


thanks! definatly going to try that LD condenser in from of the kick. I'm prolly going to end up with 4 mics on my kick, but hey, its heavy metal and that kick really defines A LOT.(too many cds I own have a great drummer who sounds like mud on the kicks...) The drummer MIGHT be getting a midi trigger for his kick, but thats no fun, those digital drums are really popular in metal, but half the fun of recording is getting the drumsound...

thanks again,

Alberto Ortiz

Use all mic pres with gain set to "0" (no additional gain). That will give you the tightest sound even in presence of humongous bass content.
Use 2 mics for every drum.
Snare top & bottom. Toms top & bottom (the last preferably inside the tom, bottom head removed, Senn. 421).
Get the attack/highs from the bottom mics & the size/body from the top mics.
Kick: condenser at beater side (get there the attack and compress to mush), and with the other mic, mike normally from inside the drum. Just make sure the ratio (from the beater head) is 1:4 ratio, meaning that if the beater mic is 2 inches from the head and phase reversed, the other mic must be at 8 inches from that head, normal polarity.
Mic the cymbals, not the whole drums with the OH, you will be at phase nightmare if you don't strive for maximum separation here of every piece of the drumset with these technique. Mic the hh & ride too, if necessary.
You can do snare with top and inside mic (lavalier).

As pointed above, what you are trying to do is to get every band member to be the gigantic, so you need control of every piece. As drums and gtrs usually take up most of the spectrum, the bass can be seriously victimized: Get a bass POD or mike the cab on top of the d.i. leave some midrange to the center channel.

I do not believe metal should be darker than punk. I think punk may be warmer and more midrangey/vintagey even if the high contend is similar. Metal is bigger, dryer & colder, traditionally. But if you see the actual trend (Disturbed, Evanescence, System of a Down, etc), midrange is put to good use, especially on gtrs. Although, if you see Metallica's last, midrange can really be put to ill use.

If you check what's around you will see that there is not a contemporary metal "sound". Metal is in the music and the attitude, just like Punk.

Just take Korn's, System of a Down's, Metallica's, or Sevendust's (great sound) last albums. These are very different approches to the genre, even if some are mixed by the same person.

Which, in turn, make the above advice just an option.

Oh! Put a couple of room mics...facing the walls.


Well-Known Member
Jun 9, 2003
There are no hard rules to recording Metal. I use much the same technique as I would for a Punk band. I find the biggest difference is in the tuning of the kit, head selection, and the guy playing them.
[=""]Drum tuning bible[/]
Unfortunetly my clients are generally, shall we say, "less than pro quality musicians" and rarly know how to tune or play the kit properly. I try to help them out when I can but if I encounter the "this is my kit" attitude I just do what I can in the mix and throw a trigger or two on the kick.

I use md421s on the toms (top), usually a 57 and a 421 on top of the snare and an AKG d1000e or a 57 on the bottom. I use a D6 inside the kick closer to the head and a D6 or 421 just inside the hole. Usually a LD condenser 2-3 feet in front of the resonant head with a packing blanket stretching from the kick over the mic stand. I use 2 LD condensers and one SD condenser in a modified XY type setup for overheads. If the kit is really large I'll separate the OHs. SD condenser on the Hi Hat and sometimes on the ride if needed. One or two room mics, on efacing the kit and one facing the wall.

A small room can work fine if tuned well. Usually treat the ceiling and two joined walls. The other two walls go bare. Bare wood floor with small carpet under the kit. Place the kit off center in the room. I usually put a couple 4X12 guitar cabs 6-8 feet in front of the kit with 5-6 packing blankets draped over them to absorb excess bass.

In the mix usually less of the overheads and more of the close mics. I usually compress each drum individually at mixdown. The amount depends on how consistant the drummer is and how much "effect" I'm looking for on the project. The amount of low end you leave on the kick varies. I find that the really fast speed metal stuff has to be thinned out a bit on the low end or it sounds like mud. Slower stuff can sound great with a real heavy kick.


If you want to get a huge sound, the way to do that is not to get every instrumet to sound huge individually. If you do, when everything's together it'll sound like mud. What you need to figure out is how you're going to fill up the sonic space you have as much as possible without having all of the instruments step all over each other.

About the only "rule" I really follow is to double-track the rhythm guitars in mono and pan then hard left and hard right. That leaves a nice space for the vocals right in the middle and gives you a little more flexibility without having the guitars and vocals fighting for the same space both frequency- and panning-wise.

Another way to get a big sound is to avoid the temptation to close-mic everything. Again, doing so may give you a huge image when the track is soloed, but then when you try to fit everything together suddenly it doesn't sound huge at all. I've gotten some great huge-sounding guitar tracks with the microphone quite a ways back...they didn't sound too huge as I was tracking, but when it came time to mix it made things much easier to "fit" in and they sounded much better. But with guitars specifically, if you do really want that huge low-end-heavy close sound, you may want to dial up the high end of your bass guitar so it's not fighting for those same frequencies (think of the sound of the bass in Korn's music).

Just a few thoughts. Sorry there are no easy answers.



a VERY BIG THANK YOU to all of you! This has been great, i have many new concepts to try out now! You people ALL ROCK2theMAX!!!

many thanks,
Eric Metro


May 5, 2012
Oklahoma City, OK
First of all (some may disagree), System of a Down, Korn, Metallica after ...And Justice for All =/= metal!

That's not a snobbish, ignorant comment on my part, but a reflection of attitudes amongst traditionalists in the genre. There is a major rejection of most everything American in the metal genre these days, which is sad given there are a lot of good bands from the states. To get respect and notoriety they tend to sound like they are from Sweden.

Where is metal today? Well like most everything else metal is EVERYWHERE!

The gravitational center of the metal sound, though, is Scandanavia, and particularly Norway and Sweden. Some great bands from Finland, too. You can get into Black Metal vs Death Metal, but really there is European metal and there is American metal. America dominated metal in the late 80's, early 90's with releases like Slayer's "Seasons in the Abyss," and Morbid Angel's "Covenant," but that is more or less "the past" in the world of metal. It's inspirational to what's happening now, but production wise there isn't much of a similarity.

Much more important I would say would be bands like Dark Funeral, Amon Amarth, Bork Nagar, Hypocrisy, Behemoth and Dark Fortress. Those are some of my favorites anyway. I really dig Vintersorg, too, but he stands alone! I don't think I'd really even compare anything else to it - the guy sings about particles. Lol.

If you have a metal band you have to figure out which genre they fit into best, and I like to think about it more regionally and by time period: Norwegian Black Metal circa 1991 does NOT sound like Scandanavian extreme metal music of 2012. There is a vast difference, and we're talking about the same place, even the same general musical style. Vastly different production esthetic.

There's classic metal:
Black Sabbath
Led Zeppelin
Deep Purple

New Wave (British) metal:
Iron Maiden

Metallica (pre-Black)

Death metal:
Cannibal Corpse
Morbid Angel

Each has its own esthetic, and trust me people get VIOLENT about some of these subtle differences sometimes. It's almost ridiculous. It does pay to be aware of where you band stands in this whole mess, though, because you may want to come at it with a muddier sound. Or you may want more compression and definition. Metal is very hard to generalize, but I wouldn't say Metallica is even in the same galaxy as what would be considered metal today.

As for drums I'd say that is the foundation of your sound. I have discovered through writing and recording metal that I will often mix it more like Hip-Hop, starting out with the kick, snare and vocal and then bringing in the bass, and finally guitar making sure the vocal and snare are still defined, and not crowded out by the guitar. The more I get into the low-growl death metal sort of esthetic the more I feel it is really a drum-and-vox type of thing. Guitar is almost a carnival side show to the brutality happening in center stage.