The Production Process of a Song: Recording | Drums

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The series of blog entries I’m going to be making are going to be focused on the process of recording a song or project from scratch. We’re going to cover from the recording of the song all the way to mixing it.

Recording techniques drums protools daw pt10 studio microphone placement

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In order to make a proper recording the artists/producers/band have to do some pre-production. By this i mean they need to figure out the tempo of the songs, the key signature of the song (if possible), and the arrangements they want to do. You can always take some time once you’re in the studio to let the creativity flow, but it all really depends on the budget they are working with and if they can afford to use so many hours.

Once you know the tempo of the song it’s time to sit down with the engineer and build a click track (metronome) for the session. This click track is the one that is going to be pretty much directing the song, without it all the instruments are going to be out of time with each other.

Now that you have your click track set up it’s time to start doing a guitar or bass reference track for the drummer to lay down the drums on. We do this pretty much to give the drummer a guide to follow. This should probably take half an hour usually. It’s not completely necessary that it’s played spot on time wise but it has to be as close as spot on as it can be without wasting too much time.

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Recording drums can be tricky. There are several methods you can use such as all the different mike placements, acoustics of the room, choice of microphones, etc. You’re pretty much depending on what the studio you’re recording at has available.

In a small set up you can usually find kick or bass drum, snare, tom 1, tom 2, floor tom, hi hat and cymbals. For this kind of set up you usually use one microphone for the kick, two for the snare (up and down), one for tom 1, one for tom 2, one for floor tom, one for the hi hat and two over heads. If possible try placing a room mike to get the room sound to play with later on in the mix.

Microphone choice is also very important. Every studio has different mike choices but they all have mikes that resemble in one way or another the mikes i’m about to name.

For the kick, I usually use, depending on the style of the song, an AKG D112, a Shure 52B or an Audix D6. AKG usually picks up the attack better. This is a result of it’s frequency response, it picks up better between 2k and 5k which is where the attack is usually located. The Shure 52B has better low end response than the D112 which makes it better for softer styles of music. The Audix D6 is a great mix of the D112 and the 52B. It picks up pretty evenly between the low end and the attack.

For the snare a lot of people usually use the most common mike know to men: the Shure SM57. An SM 57 is pretty good for the top of the snare, it captures the essential frequencies of the top of the snare and enhances the body slightly. For the bottom of the snare a lot of people also use an SM57 but if it’s available i try to use an AKG 414 or a Sennheiser MD421.

Toms are tricky. You want a microphone that’s going to be able to capture low end and highs. Sennheiser has a good line that’s affordable, the e604 line. You can also use Sennheiser MD421 for toms and floor toms. Be very carefull with the placement of these microphones, you might find phasing problems between toms. Try aiming them away from the tom next to it.

For Hi-hats and Overheads you usually want to use condenser mics. I like using AKG KM184 both at the same height at opposite sides of the drum set. Sometimes you might want to get another mike for the ride same as the hi-hat.

Well, that’s it for this week. I hope it helps. My next entry will be about bass and guitar recording.

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Karl Milan

Recording and Mixing Engineer/Producer


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