Newbie - Recording Acoustic Drums - Kind of Long Post

Discussion in 'Drums' started by MikeinSC, Apr 21, 2006.

  1. MikeinSC

    MikeinSC Guest

    My partner and I are in the beginning stages of creating a recording studio. While we both have recorded in several professional studios, this is our first attempt at building our own. So far, it has been a good learning experience. By the way, our budget has been somewhat limited (aren't they all)?

    First I just want to preface that I am going to include some information which may seem like overkill. However, I just want to give those that are interested, info on our room, before I ask the drum questions.

    The dimensions of the room are 10x20, with 8 ft. high ceilings. The main area where we will be recording has about 20% coverage using Auralex foam. We also have two bass traps in the corners of the recording area. The rest of the area is carpet and drywall. The drywall ceiling currently does not have acoustic treatment, although I am not opposed to it if it will help keep any flutter down. In order to add separation between the recording area and the mixing board, we built three portable acoustically sound panels. These are moveable so that we can set in place and allow separation between the recording session and mixer area. The walls are 4' wide X 7' high.

    Our main piece of equipment is a Korg D16XD. It is a digital hard disk recording workstation.

    Now...onto the drum questions.

    We are now at the stage of experimenting with trying to get a good drum sound. Right now, we have just a kick drum (18x20), snare and hi-hat setup for testing purposes. We have an AKG D112 on the bass drum, a Shure SM57 for the snare, and a Samson CO2H Condenser Pencil Mic for the hihat.

    We have the bass drum pretty muffled, using a heavy blanket to cover up any overtone. Initially, the sound we got can only be described as kind of a "blatt" sound. Without headphones, it sounds great. With some tweaking with the gate, and some limiting and compression, we were able to control it a bit. It's better, but, it still needs a bit of work. Any idea what causes that "blatt" sound?

    The snare seems to be clipping out, but, can be controlled. It probably needs compression and to be EQ'd. We are also getting some bleed over from the hi-hat into the snare mic. Any ideas on how to control this?

    The hi hat needs some more EQ. Plus, as stated above, there is some bleed over into the snare mic from the hihat.

    Based on everyone's experience with recording, can anybody offer some tips, trick or suggestions for us to try, either with the settings on this unit (if you are familiar), or, with the room?

    Also, any suggestions on mics for the toms? Would you suggest an SM57, or, a different type. Condenser or dynamic?

    Again, sorry for the long post. Thanks everyone.
  2. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    Addressing your concerns about the environment...

    Stop over at the Acoustics forum. Rod, Steve and the gang are more than able to address your issues.

    The basics are going to be to get some numbers on your room. I can tell you that there are going to be some modal issues since the room has a linear ratio of 1:2. The bass trapping in the corners is probably a good thing and then maybe some absorbtion and/or diffusion to get the RT60 where you want it... Kinda. The control room "area" is a WHOLE different challenge.

    In a One Room studio, the tracking area needs to have some liveliness, but the control room shouldn't have as much as the tracking area. In a nutshell, a LEDE (Live End-Dead End) room. It ain't ideal, but there going to be a solution that will at least make your situation serviceable.

    About the kit...

    First, tune the kick and snare so that you're getting exactly what you want to hear. If you don't have a good sounding kit in the room, how can you expect to track something better than the source? - GIGO.

    About the kick and the D112. Loose the gate and compressor. You should add those AFTER you track. Drop your gain on the pre. Put the D112 about 2 inches off the head - inside the kick. Turn the mic around. get rid of the blanket. If necessary, add the blanket to the INSIDE of the kick. Again, watch the gain on the pre - If you're overdriving the strip, you're square waving the signal. That's usually cause of the "splatt"'s.

    The snare - drop the gain on the pre here too. If you're overdriving the signal... TURN IT DOWN! If you have the strip all the way down and you still have a hot signal, THEN compress... well actually limit.

    Lastly the hat bleed - so what's the problem? Use it to your advantage. If you think about it, you're getting two things captured for the admission price of one mic. Sure, I almost always track the hat, but I rarely end up using it... and even then, it ends up being so little, so why bother?

    I've done plenty of gig's with 57's. They're servicable, but you can always find 5000 opinions as to what else to use... e609's, 421's, 414's, 418's, 57's, U86's are all good choices among many.

    But it really is going to be to your advantage to get the room's acoustics and soundproofing fixed first. THEN worry about the instruments.

    HTH's and look forward to seeing your posts over in Acoustic's.

  3. JWL

    JWL Active Member

    Feb 12, 2006
    Portland, Maine
    Home Page:
    I have a few thoughts. First of all, "a good drum sound" is highly subjective and depends on many things, including the style of music.

    My own personal aesthetic about "a good drum sound" is to rely heavily on the overhead mics as the starting point; I would say that in general 80% of what I hear in the mix comes from the overhead mics. I'm not a big fan of individually micing drums and trying to mix it together, it sounds too fake and 80s hair metal and spandex to me. :-?

    Most days, I'll use 6 mics on a drum kit. An OH pair of small diaphragm condensers spaced according to the Recordman technique (or another variation on the Glyn Johns technique), as well as a large diaphragm condenser in the front of the kit. Spend a LOT of time placing these mics; phase is critical and if you get it right here, you'll enjoy a really good drum sound with only 3 mics. Earthworks has started to capitalize on this idea, and it really works.

    In addition to these 3 mics -- which in most cases is at least 80% of what I use in the mix -- I'll use a close snare and a close kick mic for further tone processing, as well as a "crotch mic" which is usually a 57 pointing at the drummers crotch, between the kick and the snare. This crotch mic is the "squash the heck out of it" mic and it adds a nice attitude where needed.

    OK, all of the above presupposes that you like the sound of the kit in the room. If you don't, spend the time to fix that first, there is very little you can do. For small rooms like yours, my preference is for a dead sound. In my 15x17 room I have an area where the ceiling is highly absorptive (fiberglass covered by cloth), and I place the kit under that. Plus I have several moveable bass traps and gobos that I line up around the kit, enclosing it in a circle. Unless you have a room big enough to sound good, I absolutely think "deader is better."

    Placement of the kit in the room is essential. One trick I learned is to walk around the room with the floor tom, striking it all over the room. Find the "sweet spot" for the floor tom tone; there will be somewhere in the room where the low end from the floor tom comes alive. Find this spot, and when you find it, set the floor tom down and don't move it again. Set up the rest of the kit around the floor tom in that position.

    New, tuned heads are essential for good drum recordings.

    Now, to your questions:

    The key to getting HH out of the snare mic: good luck. Use a cardioid mic and point it away from the HH and toward the snare. Use good isolating headphones and have the drummer play a snare/HH pattern while you turn the mic every which way to find the sweet spot. This is tricky, and if it really bugs you you'll need to get intimate with a gate, or just edit out the HH hits. But I agree that this isn't such a bad thing overall.

    As far as a blatt sound on the Kick, it sounds like you are overdriving something, either the gain structure on the preamp, or the internal circuitry of the mic if it has it. Use a pad, bring the gain down. Also, experiment with placement, again isolating headphones are essential here.

    Enough JWL-babblage. Good luck!
  4. twon

    twon Guest


    try to not have to use so much processing (eq, comp, gate, etc). work on placement instead. for the hats bleed, JWL is right. point your 57 away from the hihat, and gate if you HAVE to.
    for the hats sound problem, try every position you can imagine and then try another few. it shouldnt need much eq... maybe try a different mic also? sm81?
    imo try and get the drums sounding the best one at a time.

    good luck and let us know how you go

  5. MikeinSC

    MikeinSC Guest

    Thanks for the Replies Everyone

    As a newcomer to this board, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that has responded to my message. It is refreshing and a real pleasure to know that there are others that are willing to share and contribute ideas.

    After some more testing, we were able to obtain, what I believe, is a very nice quality drum sound. It has more of a tight and focused sound. It has a nice feel for more of a traditional pop sound. We followed the advice of some ideas that were given from several of the posts. Obviously, the room environment carries some consideration, so, that can dictate the success of some ideas versus others. However, much appreciation goes out to all that contributed.

    At some point I plan to post some of the tests so that I can get direct audio feedback as well.

    Again, thanks for the tremendous support and feedback. I am sure you will see me here again.

    Thanks everyone. :)
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