So you’ve got the best overhead drum mics, but how exactly do you use them? There are several things you need to know when it comes to recording drums, which is why we’ve prepared for you a couple of useful tips that can help you do this even if you don’t have previous experience.
The first time that you record drums can be quite an experience, regardless if you do so in your own private space or in a popular studio. There are some things that you need to take into consideration even before you go to the studio, so let’s get to them and see what’s in store for you.
Before the studio
Being ready by preparing yourself before starting to record the drums can make a world of a difference when it comes to the end results – it’s really what could make the difference between a great recording and a not-so-great one. This means that you have to get comfortable with said songs before you arrive at the studio.
By choosing to do things properly from the get-go, you are basically preparing yourself for a career in recording as a professional, which will turn you into a drum recording master. Even the best of the best had their first time in the studio and they were also nervous, so remind yourself of that when you step in the studio.
Do your homework
You clearly have to know the track very well when you are ready to record it which means lots and lots of rehearsals, but don’t forget about other important things that are going to help you even more than you may realize. Being comfortable when you play your part alone is so important that it’s hard to really put it into words.
If you are recording this in a studio, before you get there, you must be sure that everything sounds put together. Practice not only until you get it right, that’s easy – practice until there’s no chance you could get it wrong. That’s especially important since drums are usually the first ones recorded so, as a drummer, you have to be the most prepared.
Make charts and take notes for all tracks. You may feel like you’ve got everything locked in your mind, but in the off-chance that you do get stuck, these things are going to help you. Plus, when you see all the notes and the charts in front of you, you may start to look at things differently which will improve your game.
Come prepared with extra drumheads and sticks, gaffers tape, plus some snacks. You can even bring your own headphones so you can feel more comfortable. It’s easy to get carried away and you don’t want to stop the rehearsal because you ran out of sticks. Stay ready so you won’t have to get ready!
You should also work on improving your drumming stamina. The recording session could take all day or all night, which means that you have to be prepared! You will probably have to play a song dozens of times until everyone forgets about their nerves and gets their act together.
Another thing that you can do before you go to the studio is to learn how to play the drums in various positions. In the studio, you are going to have microphones around you and the kit which is not always comfortable. Be ready for this beforehand by learning how to play the drums in various different setups that may help you later, in the studio.
At the studio
When you arrive at the studio, you are not going to start playing right away. You will spend time setting up the drum kit and doing various needed tests which means that the part in which you actually get to play the drums is not going to start for a while – it will actually take a couple of hours until you will be ready to play.
Once you’ve set up the drum kit, you have to place mics around it and then check the quality. There will be an engineer in the studio who is surely going to ask you to make some adjustments for the sound to come out better and clearer, so you’ll probably have to change the tuning and the drum dampening.
There is a small chance that your kit may experience some problems, at which point you may have to use some of the gear from the studio as a replacement. The engineer knows how to get the best results from the room that the drums are played in and from the microphones, so have a conversation, so you can meet halfway.
Talk with the engineer and let them know what sound you are aiming for, so they’ll understand and point you in that direction. Testing, tuning the drums and the perfect placement for the microphone are just some of the things that are important so that the recorded sound of the drum sounds good.
It’s easy to get impatient when the whole setting up and testing parts are happening, but keep in mind that the engineer is doing all this so that your drums sound as good as possible in the studio environment. Learn to trust them as they know how to pick on things that you may have not noticed.
Meanwhile, you also need to warm up before you start any recording. This is important because it helps you loosen up and it also allows you to check that the kit is set up properly. Play for about 15 minutes after you set up the drum kit so that you will be sure the end result is what you are aiming for.
Include the click track in some of your warm-ups and make sure that you check the volume of the click and compare it with the other things you are hearing. This also lets you check the drum kit and makes sure that everything is tuned the way it should be, it lets you know if you have to move something before the recording begins, etc.
Tightening up the gear is another highly important thing that you need to do before you’ve started the recording session per se. That means the cymbal arms, the pedal beaters, hi-hat clutch, in other words, literally everything in the drum set. You really don’t want something to fall while you do your thing.
Tightening up the gear is also an important thing to do before you do a live show, so if you manage to make it a habit, it’s all for the better. You could ruin the moment if something just falls off so avoid that as much as possible as things are going to jump around the more you get into the spirit of things.
When you do start playing the drums, in order to build your confidence a bit, you should start with an easy song. It’s not a great idea to start right away with a track you don’t feel comfortable with, especially since you will need some time to get used to the studio and to the recording process as a newbie.
This is why you should start easy. After you’ve done your warming up and you got to feel more comfortable, you will feel more confident in tackling the difficult tracks you skipped at first and you will probably do a good job as you’ve now eased your way into the environment.
Don’t change the tune suddenly
Everything that you need to tune, do it before the recording session has begun for each of the tracks. Once the session has begun, the only adjustments you can make to your kit are really small ones, in case things are really out of tune. But why should you avoid doing this, you ask?
If you change the sound of the drum after two takes of a track, you won’t be able to splice in anything else when it comes to the next takes in order to fix any mistake because the difference in sound will be simply too big not to be noticed by everybody. What you need to do is this: stick with the bet tuning that you found.
Do this and only make a change if the sound is really not working and it needs to be changed. When the recording of the next song starts, you can make all the adjustments that you need. Good luck!