Pro Audio Files

Tips for Recording Acoustic Drums

Transcript
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here — theproaudiofiles.com, and I’ve just completed my first collaboration with producelikeapro.com. Warren and his team are amazing. Warren is a super insightful dude, so I’m hoping that this collaboration is just the first of many.

Also, it is a recording tutorial, not a mixing tutorial, which is a little different coming from me, but this tutorial is all about recording drums, and doing it in a way where it compliments the song, it sees the vision for the music right from the tracking phase, and when you get everything into the box or into your tape machine, it really doesn’t need any post-production to sound good, it just sounds good to begin with.

I love recording. Recording is one of my favorite things to do. I don’t get to showcase it that much, so this was a real treat.

Now, I’ve got a video here that I’m going to do. I’m going to pull up these drums that I recorded just a few days ago. This is a very straight end capture. There’s no compression of any sort, there’s a little bit of EQ on the kick, but really, everything that you’re hearing is simply mic choice, mic positioning, and of course, the drummer.

So let’s check it out.

[drums]

I took some pictures and everything, so what I want to do is do a quick little walkthrough of what techniques I used to get this sound, and why I felt that was beneficial. So keeping in mind that I’m going for a very specific breakbeat style of sound, I decided to go with a few techniques.

The first one, for the overheads, is one that I use a lot. It’s sort of a failsafe. It never gets me something I don’t like. It’s called the Recorderman technique, and it’s a couple of 4038s placed fairly close to the kit, and placed in a way where the — both microphones are exactly the same distance from both the snare and the kick. So what this does is it creates a very solid central image. We get a stretched stereo image, but it’s not super wide, and our power pieces, our kick and our snare, have a good center punch.

[drum kit]

Of course, I can play another example of another recording too.

[drums]

So you hear that kick and that snare are really tight in the center. You’ve got a lot of power and a lot of punch, and I go into a lot of detail about this technique. It’s one of my top three. It’s probably the one that I use the most, because it just always gives me something that I like.

So next we’ve got the snare top.

[snare]

And the cool thing about the technique that I use to get the snare top is that it almost sounds like it was going through a compressor. The way that the attack is shaped, it feels very thick, and it feels very full, and that’s because of — well, first of all, the drummer having excellent control, and second of all, the placement of the Beta 57 was placed in a way where by tilting the angling and moving back and forth from the center, I was able to get a tone and dynamic that I felt was going to be best down the line.

When you position those things in different ways, whether you’re straight down at the snare, or you can even shoot it off parallel to the snare head, whether you’re right over the center of the drum or you’re right up against the edge, those all control the tone and attack of the top capture.

So you can use that to kind of get exactly what you want to hear.

[snare]

This is also something that I demonstrate.

For my snare bottom, I found that the — just tone of the bottom of the snare was a little bit too metallic. It had a sort of sheeny, rainy quality that I didn’t quite like, so in order to get that extra bit of top end, that lift, as well as some extra impact, I did something called a port capture, or a side capture of the snare, where there’s a little sound hole in the side of the snare, and it’s taking either a dynamic or a condenser, depending on what you’re going for, you mic the port.

Id din’t feel like I needed so much low end from this, so I decided to use the dynamic. A condenser will give you more low end, a dynamic will give you a little bit less, and it sounds like this.

[snare port]

It’s a cool capture. It gives you a really nice sense of the high end without sounding super snare bandy, and it also gives you a good dynamic impact — like, just a sense of punch, so that when you combine the two, you get something that sounds really, really cool.

So here’s the top without it.

[snare top]

Here’s with.

[snare]

You can almost use this port capture like an EQ, so if I wanted it to be just a little bit firmer in the mid-range, and maybe a little less sizzly on the top, I could take it down a notch.

[snare drum]

Then I get this very balanced sounding snare by combining the two. So it kind of works like a snare bottom, and you can also supplement it with a snare bottom as well, you can use all three depending on what you’re trying to do.

Alright, here is our kick.

[kick]

So in the tutorial, I talk about kicks for a very long time, because kicks are probably one of the more challenging things to capture. Usually, I think of it in three parts. I think of it as the batter part, which is the attack, then the shell tone, which is sort of the mid-range and what’s happening inside the kick, and then the resonance, which is the low end, and that’s what’s happening and forming outside of the kick.

In this particular case, I only used one kick drum mic, I simply had a microphone up on the — right on the resonant head, but very close, so it’s an outside kick drum mic, but it’s very close to the head, and it’s not right on the sound hole. It’s not right on the cutaway. It’s in a space where I found that I was getting a good amount of punch, because what I really felt that I needed from the kick more than low end tone was punch.

I did do some EQ on the way in. It will probably require a little bit of EQ in post as well, but in terms of what the dynamic is doing, that’s what really made the difference.

So here’s our capture without it.

[drums, no kick mic]

With.

[drums, with kick mic]

One of the things I discuss in the tutorial that is very important is that how the kit sounds together is really what matters. How each individual thing sounds on its own is — it influences that, but truthfully, what you get from the collective kit is very different.

When you hear the kick solo, it really doesn’t sound like it’s doing what it needs to do.

[kick]

Because it’s really just narrow focused lower mid-range, but when you listen to it in terms of the entire capture, then it starts to sound right.

[drum kit]

And then, the last thing that I had here is this mono room.

[room]

This is just to give a little bit of the life and presence and unique character of the space inside the capture, reinforce it, and it’s also done with the intention of EQing it a little bit and compressing the snot out of it on the back end, to give it this extra bit of bounce and energy.

So here’s without the room capture.

[drums, no room mic]

Here’s with it.

[drums, with room]

It’s a subtle thing. You almost don’t even really hear it as being a room capture, it just sounds like it has a little bit more life, and that was what I was going for when I was setting this up.

I can turn it up to exaggerate it a bit.

[drums]

So yeah, I hope you guys check out this tutorial. It’s very thorough, it’s very in depth. By the time you finish watching it, you will feel equipped to record drums in any scenario. Whether it’s a studio that you’re familiar with, whether it’s a drummer you’re familiar with, or whether it’s someone that you’ve never worked with before in a place that you’ve never worked before, it’s really cool.

The link is in the description. I’m super proud of this, and I can’t wait for you guys to see it. Alright, take care.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.

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