Skip to main content
Pro Audio Content Management System

Yup you heard me, I'm going nuts. I've been trying to conquer drum sounds for years, and every time I get a new opportunity, I just can't seem to get the sounds in my head. And it keeps me up at night thinking about it. Sure some better equipment would help, but I just had a thought.. what if the SOUNDS I was going for individually are "wrong"?

I've been in and out of a few project studios but never got to hear what the INDIVIDUAL drum sounds are like on their own through REAL (Meaning neve, api, daking, focusrite red league)preamps and such. Most of these studios had just a step above what I had, and were weekend warriors. I've never heard what "great" engineers are going for.. and what their tracks sounded like SOLOED BEFORE mixdown.

So I ask this HUGE favor of all the seasoned guys here producing commercial work from the bigger studios with top flight gear:

Could you PLEASE upload some tracks of the individual drums (let's say a rock track) as you would print them going in, and mention what's happening (Which pres, EQ and compression etc.. be specific!) with each track, and then maybe a rough mix of them together? (This way I can see how the overheads interact with the kit)I would be forever grateful. At the very least I'm interested most in the snare and overheads.

I know I can't get the same (pro)results without that gear, but I want to get a rough Idea of what I'm going for, stylistic interpretations aside that is.

Currently I'm using an A&H mixwizard as my front end.. it's not the best, but it's what the budget allows for now. I've been avoiding using the pad on the input because they seem to take away a lot of tone. Instead I've been using some compression with the output down a lot to keep from overloading the pres and the result seems to be better. I am being a touch conservative on input gain, peaking at about 0-3+db with no more than +6db. I've read the mackies start to fall apart after that signal integrity wise, and assume the A&H's aren't much different since it falls in the same price range.

Here's what I'm doing per drum, note these are new top and bottom heads on all drums, and they were just taken to precision drum to have the bearing edges reworked to tighter tolerances.
The mics chosen sounded best of what's available pre-eq(There are some other mics available however). There is EQ going in, boosts AND cuts where needed (I've long grown out of the "boost only" phase). The amount of EQ is light where possble, NEVER radical. I'm avoiding fixing things with EQ as the sole solution. Mic placement has been tinkered with. I will say my EQ is still probably a touch more than what a "pro" would use.

For the kick I'm using a d112 slightly off axis through a focusrite compounder. I'm pretty satisfied with this sound. The bass expander is a nice touch.

For Snare I'm top micing with a beta 57a on axis and bringing the level down with an rnc. This is the one that's KILLIN me! I've tried 57's, 58's, beta 57a's, 421's, sennheiser e604's, and nothing seems to get it right. I've been through a few differnet sessions with different drummers and snares and have never been happy with the sound. The current drummer is a decent player and is using a free floating pearl wooden snare (8x14 I think) and I'm DEALING with the sound, but not doing backflips over it.

For toms (high to low) I'm using an e604, and then a 421, 421, d112, and an e604 top miced on axis. The last e604 is because a d112 shit the bed. I have an Audix D6 (based on what I read here!) on the way this week, which will replace the current d112 on kick, and then that d112 will replace the e604 on the last floor tom. The e604(or a 57) that was on the last floor tom will probably find it's way as a bottom mic revese phased for snare. There is no compression on the toms, I'm just using the pad on these... but since these are only used for fills, I figure not as big a deal. The tone doesn't seem to be deadened as bad from the pad. For what I'm using, these sound decent so far.

For Overhead I'm using A single TLM103 directly behind the drummer about 2-3 feet over his right shoulder slightly off axis. The balance of drums is pretty good, but seems a bit bright around 5khz which I'm cutting about 3-4 db. This is also going through another RNC to bring the level down (hot mic!) with some light compresion which seems to smooth things out a bit. I'm OK with the drum sounds, but the cymbals seem a little thin.

All of this is going into a fostex d-90 and d-80 synced which is my scratch pad. When I record for "real" I plan on using the 24bit 1010lt's in my computer. Playback currenlty is monitored through an old alesis 1622 (yuck I know, but it's STRICTLY play back, no eq etc..) and Mackie HR824's. The 1622 will be out of the picture when I record to the computer.

There you have it. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me hear what it's SUPPOSED To sound like!

Thank you,



white swan Wed, 10/15/2003 - 23:46

I'm not one of the people who can provide you with what you want, although I think your idea of hearing some raw tracks from top engineers is a really really cool one. I hope someone responds so we'll all get to hear those tracks.

But while we're waiting, it made me think about all the different things involved in a "great drum sound." Obviously, great mics, preamps, and positioning are going to play a role. But also, perhaps the answer lies elsewhere.

Obviously there is the drummer, the drums, and the room. That's been beaten to death (oops- unintentional play on words), so I'm not implying that I'm making any major revelation there. But lately I'm more and more convinced that the greatest sounding individual component tracks can still sound "blahhh" when combined because people just don't pay enough attention to phase issues when they set up their mics.

Add to this the importance of learning good compression technique while mixing.

Another part of my point would be, that while I too would love to hear the raw tracks of a top pro, if you gave those tracks to someone who didn't have the proper mixing skills, compressors, etc. they STILL probably wouldn't sound the way you wanted them to sound!

But I like your idea anyway! :h:

P.S. - If you hate your snare sound try getting the majority of it from your overhead instead of the close mic. Try putting your TLM 103 directly over the center of the snare (pointing straight down) about three feet above the drum. I don't know if that will work for you, but it's what I would try! I find close miking ANYTHING rarely sounds, by itself, all that much like how we hear a real instrument. After all, how many of us put our ears one inch from a drum skin? Close mics can be very useful, but I like them in a supporting role to the overheads and room mics.

WLoveday Thu, 10/16/2003 - 06:18

Thanks for the reply swan. Regarding the snare with the overhead, I AM getting a fair amount of
snare in the TLM103. I did try it a little more direct, but then I find the snare dominates the drum mix. With the exception of the kick, I've been trying to use the close mic'd drums as support tracks with the OV being the main sound, I've read this is how it should be.

Other interesting topics that came up: The room is a decent size room, but does have a low ceiling (Basement). The basement is finished with exception of the ceiling which was pink insulation in the rafters, so teh reflections don't seem too bad. The drummer's back is to the wall in the center of one of the long walls. (I am planning to do some minimal treating to that wall a little later.) The drum kit itself is supposedly a top of the line birch kit by pearl (according to the drummer). Personally I wish I was recording a DW, GMS, Precision Drum, or a high end tama I one had the pleasure to record (wish i had the gear then I do now!). The drummer is a decent player with good control and dynamics.

Phase.. ah phase.. I understand the principles.. but my ears still aren't tuned to it yet(workin on it though!), and I'm sure it's a major hurdle.

Thanks again, and keep those replies comin!

heinz Thu, 10/16/2003 - 07:53

FWIW Lynn Fuston's 3d Pre Cd vol II contains like 40 recordings of a snare drum through different high-end preamps. That may help you.

I think the low ceiling thing may be a significant factor. For kicks have you tried setting up your same rig in a church or good acoustic space? Might be a way to judge the room from your gear.

And yeah phase is a HUGE issue, do the white noise exploration on your rig or perhaps pick up a littlelabs IBP.

Profile picture for user pmolsonmus

pmolsonmus Thu, 10/16/2003 - 08:47

Just a thought -
I hope some pros help you out, but why not test a few sample CDs - there's usually great engineering and sometimes they tell you the equipment used. Try A/B'ing through your set up and get as close as possible. Often you can even download some free samples from their websites.


by Thu, 10/16/2003 - 11:26

There is also those R.A.P. cd's which explain every chain and process. Could be useful. Maybe not TOP producers, but definately some seriously good engineering (gerst, mixerman, fletcher, ect..)

But yeah, I've been asking about this same exact thing for years... and it just seems no one is interested in doing this. I suppose I understand more why then I used to.

"There you have it. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me hear what it's SUPPOSED To sound like!"

Well, what do you think it should cound like? Give us examples of what kinda recordings you are trying to emulate.

Have you tried mic'ing the shell of the snare?

I know the tlm103 can possibly make things sound thin if not used with a nice smooth pre. It might not be the best mic for overhead.

WLoveday Fri, 10/17/2003 - 08:00

Guys keep those comments coming! Thank you so much!

The Fuston's CD's may be a good idea.. is it discrete tracks with full explanations of what's used?

The little labs stuff looks great! However, if I were to spend money in excess of $500 at the moment it would go to better preamps. I figure with the added clarity and definition the phase will probably be more obvious to boot.

Great suggestion though!

Unfortunately I do not have any great acoustic places to lug the whole "studio" to. Depending on the project I'm in, I'll typically setup at the rehearshal space and try to make it work.
Not the best I know, but from what I hear it sounds like it's the same problems sonically that keep reoccuring (Bad gear or bad technique probably). What's encouraging is the latest batch is probably the best yet(This is also a bigger room than last).

Sample cd's are another good suggestion, but in my experience of 20 years on synthesizers and samplers, I have yet to hear sampled drums "feel" like a real kit. I do currently have a Yamaha Motif with GREAT drum sounds (as far as sampled keyboards go), but I'm pretty sure the real thing sounds a bit different in a band context.

The Rap CD's look like another great resource, but not necessarily what I'm looking for. I have tons of full produced Cd's that I love the sounds of. I need to know how they got there to the finished product. I know mine never sound even close, at least after real scrutiny and checking various playback systems.

I tried micin the shell of the snare awhile ago and didn't seem much better, perhaps I should try again? Thanks for the suggestion!

The drum sounds in my head are ones that are rich and full right off the bat, with depth and clarity without being overbearing in the mix.
When I say "full" I don't necessarily mean a lot of low frequency conent, just where the drums snap with enough attack to break through without being harsh, with enough shell tone to fill up the space in the mix where needed to push the groove. By depth I mean where you can almost "feel" the wood! I am just so sick of the "over-EQ'd" sound that it's driving me mad. I find when you eq to get snap and body all the "depth and clarity" is lost. Does that make sense?

Some examples of what I'm going for (While very different) I like a lot of the dream theater sounds of the last album and awake. Vertical horizon's "you're a god" comes to mind. But what's REALLY in my head is a lot of the Mutt Lang stuff on Shania's previous album with "still the one" etc. , and lastly staind's album "break the cycle" I thought had great drum sounds. These are very different drum sounds granted, but all are of the quality I am aspiring for.

I've heard different things regarding the TLM 103 for overhead.. I've been debating getting another TLM103 to have a stero pair or buying some small diaphram condensors instead....any recommendatinons for a pair under $1000? The cheaper the better if the quality is comparable...

Never heard of "discrete drums" what is it?

Thanks again guys! :c:

Profile picture for user pmolsonmus

pmolsonmus Fri, 10/17/2003 - 09:41

The sample things I'm referring to are the loops used in programs like ACID (sonic foundry) etc...
These are not fake drums, they're real recorded looped grooves and instruments to be used instead of sampling yourself.- "Discrete Drums" is one type.


ps Sonic Foundry was recently purchased by Sony, but there are still free .wav files on their website.

by Fri, 10/17/2003 - 11:45

Well I recently bought Josephsons c42 for overheads and they are much smoother and more dimensional then I'm used to. And my snare sounds improved alot, much tighter/controlled and deeper. I can't imagine using 103s as overheads, but I set up overheads to record the whole set, not just the cymbals.

I can't recall exactly what dream theater sounds like, I did read he isolated his drumset from the ground using those aurlex gramma things. Good acoustic treatment is very important, obviously. I guess one question to ask yourself might be do you want it to sound realistic to what you hear when standing there in the room, or do you want it to sound like what you hear on a popular cd? I know alot of bands like staind (or maybe it’s korn) use triggered samples a lot. You could just go with the attitude that if all that matters is the end product, who cares how much you need to mutilate the sound until you get it the way you want?

Sorry if that's no help...

Mikka Sat, 10/18/2003 - 03:51

Warning: I'm a naive newbie so take my comments with that in mind.

I suspect that what you're hearing that you like is not a "real" sound but a doctored one...designed to sound better than real. Now I know you're after some of the processes that have gone into the mix. I would suspect that some of these sounds will have maybe 5 levels of compression, some sub-bass added, maybe a little exciter, perhaps a little chorus, or double or triple tracked...attack/decay etc tweaked ..then re-assembled.

Some may not have even been made with drums, but produced using synthesis. I guess that if I was getting so frustrated I'd listen to the comments re: samples and go find some I really liked.. then either use these ..or slowly, methodically work backwards.

While it would be great if a pro revealed his/her tricks of the trade, why would they? Good people earn good money for a reason.

Go listen to Mick Fleetwood's drum sound on "Rumours". I consider these "real" drum sounds....made before computers got "really" useful. Feel free to call me full of s!^t...but these are my .02c.

Hack Sat, 10/18/2003 - 10:16

I dont think anyone should hold back info, esp. for money reasons. This stuff is all electronics and physics, there is no magic. So to me a trick is not really a trick, its more like a truth. And I believe that if you want to learn more truth you have to give away the truth you have learned. The magic is in the ears. The first thing the pros will tell you is "its different every time", so why not give out your starting theories and practices? Cause it took years and lots of hard work to learn this stuff... How about this.... Excelerate the next generations learning so we can spend years getting to the next level and pass that on to the next generation and before you know it we are evolving, like some crazy human race or something!

however... to balence my sarcasism.... the amount of info on the internet, books, videos, etc. so far outweighs what those who learned how to record in the 60's, 70's, and 80's had, that we forget what we have. This site alone has taken my recording and ear to many new levels over the last few years.

So I think my point is.... I have suffered from recording insomnia, as I think all of us have, and decided there is no cure, you just have to kinda let go of it. Things are what they are, not being able to sleep over it proves your on the right track.

Mikka Sat, 10/18/2003 - 16:13

I agree with lots of what you say. The info is usually around if you're willing to hunt for it.

The reality is that there are plenty of good people who aren't well paid. Is it in their interests to spread their hard earned knowledge over the net? The basics...won't make any difference....the details?

MisterBlue Sat, 10/18/2003 - 16:29

How about Joey Kramer's Audio Sample CD? It's snippets that are supposed to be used as drum loops but they are actually played by Aerosmith's drummer, not machine generated.

Heck, you don't even have to buy it, just listen to the sample MP3's for a first impression.


Profile picture for user Kurt Foster

Kurt Foster Sat, 10/18/2003 - 20:34

I am working on uploading some examples for you. There is something I must be doing wrong with NWR so as soon as Waldo and I figure out how I am screwing it up, there will be something for you to listen to. I will give you a full discription of what I used and all the details as soon as I get the mp3 posted.. Kurt

by Tue, 10/21/2003 - 08:32

Wes it's already up at the AUDIO PROJECTS section. Nice job Kurt. I was surprised you put so much eq on the kick, as you say all the time the audix needs nothing! HAHA, no, it sounds pretty good though, in the mix...

Profile picture for user pmolsonmus

pmolsonmus Tue, 10/21/2003 - 10:31

Go listen to Mick Fleetwood's drum sound on "Rumours". I consider these "real" drum sounds....made before computers got "really" useful. Feel free to call me full of s!^t...but these are my .02c.

FYI, there is a Mick Fleetwood ACID loops CD available. Great individual sounds, great 70's grooves. They're solo drum tracks on Cd


Profile picture for user Kurt Foster

Kurt Foster Tue, 10/21/2003 - 11:02

Originally posted by Yon:
Wes it's already up at the AUDIO PROJECTS section. Nice job Kurt. I was surprised you put so much eq on the kick, as you say all the time the audix needs nothing! HAHA, no, it sounds pretty good though, in the mix...

Yeah that particular kit needed a lot of eq on the kick drum (especially). The drummer really didn't want to use my kit and his kick drum had a front head on it. So we had to take the head off (the reason there is so much spill). He also had a pillow inside the drum to dampen it. This is another thing I don't care much for as it kills the shell tone. I prefer to use deadringers on the heads. But in the end we all need to do what makes the artist comfy and go with the flow, so I made the best of it! With my drums, the D6 sounds darned near to perfect without any eq.