Need Advice Recording Drums in Less Than Ideal Conditions

Discussion in 'Drums' started by AndyHeisler, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. AndyHeisler

    AndyHeisler Guest

    I will be recordinging drums in a dormatory soon and was wondering if anyone had some tips to make the best of it. The only room I have to record in sounds pretty bad.

    It is a practice space with low ceilings and is aproximatly 13 ft by 7 ft, rectangular, with about 8 ft ceilings. There is a door with a glass window and the walls are not very reflective yet do not absorb much either. Over-all, drums do not sound good in here and have little space to develop resulting in a crushed sound. But this is the only place I have to record drums, so I intend to make the best of it.

    The drummer has a jazz background but is also proficient in rock styles and dynamics although he doesn't play as loud as I prefer. His set is a well tuned Premire that sounds great but the bass drum is smaller (cocktail club style is the best I can describe it). He does not have a hole in the bass drum head and will not cut one but may be willing to take it off.

    My gear is Pro-Tools Digi002 Rack, I might be using a presonous digimax LT 8 channel pre amp and I have access to a Joe Meek VC1Q. I also have a drawmer mx30 (i think that is the model number) which is a 2-channel compressor with just a threshold and ratio, no attack or release controls. My mics are an AKG D112, SM57, Rode NT1, Rode NTK, AT Pro 25 kick mic, and maybe a BLUE BabyBottle. I will be playing acoustic or electric in another room with a bass player as well for scratch tracks (although the bass will be used as a final track.)

    My main priority is that the drums sound clear and have a little bit of aggresiveness or forwardness to the sound. I would also like to have the option to simulate a roomier sound with reverb later if possible on certain songs. I intend on using maybe five mics or so as the sound in the room will not be very controlled. Some drum sounds that I think are fantastic are Interpol's "Turn on the Bright Lights" and "Antics". I also love Radiohead's drum sounds on "OK Computer" and I love Wilco's drums on "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot". I know I won't be able to get sounds this good but I would like to do the best I can to get as close as possible.

    I know that gear is important, but the engineer is more important, and a good engineer makes the best of the circumstantial limitations.

    With the limitations of the room and with this equipment what suggestions do you have for making the best of these drum recordings?

    Thanks for the help,
  2. McCheese

    McCheese Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2005
    First I would move mics around like crazy to see if ANYTHING works.
    Then if that failed I would use blankets and such to deaden the room as much as possible, enabling you to use artificial reverb to create a space with minimal impact from the real room. As far as drummer volume, that's not a problem, especially if he's good with his dynamics and volume in relation to other parts of the kit.
  3. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    Jul 25, 2004
    your big problem will be overheads!
    you can close mic everything but overheads will be very difficult! try xy for overheads amd maybe a hi-hat and ride mic and then capture the crashes with a room mic in front! try putting the overhead mics where the drummer is! if you need so mic the snare from the bottom with reverse phase so you can get more hi-hat and crashes!
  4. Kswiss

    Kswiss Guest

    I would close mic the drums and then put move an overhead pair around until you get a sound thats usable... also i would say deaden everything possible with the heaviest material you can get. You could drop $100 on a box of owens corning 703, and then try to get as little reflection into the that small of a room you are going to be fighting for balance because the sound is gonna be bouncing around like crazy..... just hang blankets up, stack sleeping bags in the corners, and deaden anything in line with the overheads......

  5. THeBLueROom

    THeBLueROom Member

    Jan 15, 2005
    If you want to spend some more money, you could get some Auralex maxwalls or Modular Acoustics traps. YOu can set these up around you kit and avoid jacked up reflections.
  6. jonnyc

    jonnyc Member

    Apr 21, 2005
    I know I'm new to this forum but how tight do you need the sound to be. I mean I record right now in a room with the same dimensions surrounded by concrete walls and every drummer that came in with doubts left with a smile. The walls add just a bit of reverb so I don't have to and I force most drummer to be a lil quieter on the cymbals and with plug ins i can make drums sounds amazing. Before dropping a bunch of cash for a bunch of stuff that may not help just try eqing and compression.
  7. fubar1217

    fubar1217 Guest

    Have you tried moving the drums around in the room? Although the room may not be optimal, you should move the drums around to get the best sound you can. As mentioned above, try to deaden the walls if you want to try and add reverb later. Fill up corners and try to line the walls with non-reflective material.

    For the kick with two solid heads, I've seen decent results from putting a D112 on the batter side pointed at the beater impact point. Want less beater attack? Point the mic more towards the rim and not the center. You can also add another mic on the front to capture the front head's resonance. All depends on what sound you're going for.
  8. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    I'd basically agree with most of the other posts.

    Move the drums around...especially kick and snare...find the sweet spot. When you deaden, make sure and deaden all frequencies as evenly as possible. There will be a tendency for the high's to be attenuated but for the low to low-mid muck to hang around. Thick 703 should help. Tuning the kit is a must...always. More important than you think.

    Make sure the drummer is nailing the cymbals which can produce that really washy metallic sound in a small room as the sound builds up.

    Also, with PT you can always "supplement" your sounds with sound replacer (kick and snare). I wouldn't necessarily plan on replacing either drum, but I like to use the plug and slide it in there to help the tracks out...especially in sub-par conditions.

    Work real hard on the overheads...probably the most important mics you'll have in there.
  9. KyroJoe

    KyroJoe Guest


    here's a compilation of clips for you
    from sub-par environment recording -
    employing Recorderman's Technique.

    semi-DRY example
    (semi-dry = compression and pans only)

    Kyro Studios
  10. AndyHeisler

    AndyHeisler Guest

    Thanks for all of the advice so far guys.

    KyroJoe -
    I've read about the recorderman technique before and it sounds like something I might try. Just wondering, what was the room like? What were the approximate diminsions and surface materials?

    I was really immpressed by the sound you got by the way. I would love to get a sound like that.

    Anyway I appreciate the help.
  11. KyroJoe

    KyroJoe Guest


    For mics, just drummer's old-faithful SM57's and Apex 125 Kicks.

    The room was awful at first. It was the drummer's basement.
    He wanted a *very cheap* practice and idea space.
    The space started with a "sewer pipe" type resonance - about
    10' x 22' x 7' w/Concrete floor, plain sheetrock and sh$%load of standing waves,
    and reflections.

    It was quick treated with straight mineral wool (bought 2 pkgs 16"x48" Roxul Safe & Sound - Home Depot)
    in the corners and on obvious cross areas along the walls for diffusing & absorbing.
    (just tacked in place). Piece of Long-Shagged carpet was put under the entire kit.
    And old mattress was placed and braced on its side at about a 75-80 deg angle
    (from vertical) about 6 feet in front of kicks. A couple of strategic hanging
    heavy moving blankets and it was as good as it was going to be without him
    spending a lot more $$$$$.

    Set the 125's in the resonant head holes dead aimed at the batter contact point ,
    w/small pillow inside just touching the batter head and about 15% of resonant, and
    placed the SM57's in Recorderman's recommended positions.
    Inched them around until we had the best iso-headphone sound without interfering with the
    drummer's play ability. Set 2 more sm57's in good iso-headphone tested locations for the
    close up on toms and bottom/side snare. Found one good "sweet" location for a room mic.

    Test tracked the whole thing through the drummer's 8 channel mixer.
    Re-adjusted things as needed to get the best possible sound.

    The key to good sound is patience and test move test move test move test move then test and move some more.
    Give yourself lots of time setting up if you want good drums.

    Good luck with your project,

    Kyro Studios

    TIP: In studio, or out of if channels are available, when tracking guitars, bass, and if miking an amplifier, I find it *very valuable* to also get a DI (direct and un-effected recording though a DI box) from the instrument at the same time as the miked amps/room mics. This way if the performance is perfect but the sound just isn't correct later during the Mix, I can always re-amp & record / Amplitube / effect-affect, etc the recorded DI, or even chop up, or double with different effects etc...

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