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Quick Update

This week as the EP project is progressing, we did our drum recording. This was a bit of different session to other recordings however, as I was running the session in the company of the class and our lecturers, as well as Max (the awesome drummer) and Laurent (the keys/synth player) who helped guide Max through some of the tracks transitions, as some were newer and required more attention in parts. The session went fairly well and I’m quite happy with the sounds we pulled from Max. At this point we had finished the demoing that we needed to get final recordings underway.

Pre Production

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Demoing the drums the day before was a huge advantage for and certainly would have helped max with getting accustomed to the tracks he would be playing to. The main advantages for myself were that I would have a bit of freedom to try different mics, I then would better know the songs, I could see the kit and get a good idea of the tone and use all of this to create a more informed and detailed arrangement for the official recordings the following day. This was the drum mic arrangement for the demo recording, which took place in the Audient 8024 studio…

Channel Item Mic
1 Kick Shure beta 52
2 Snare Top Shure SM57
3 Snare Top Sennheiser MD421
4 Tom Rack Sennheiser MD421
5 Tom Floor Sennheiser MD421
6 OH L AKG C414
7 OH R AKG C414

After this session I discovered I would have liked to try a MS drum recording technique, although given there was fairly limited time, this would not have been practical as I would have had to figure out how to do it properly which I wasn’t aware of at the time. Part of this arrangement, particularly the snare miking, was influence by Kevin Parker, from Tame Impala’s, drum miking technique. Hence why I tried the MD421 on the snare, as well as an SM57, because I wanted to see which worked better with the snare. As it turned out, we actually enjoyed sound of the both of them layered together. The beta 52 on the kick worked very well, as well as the MD421’s on the toms. The kit was a very nice older Gretsch kit, with a Black Beauty snare, it sounded fantastic and really made getting a decent sound out of the kit much easier. The over heads were quite bright however, and I had a sneaking suspicion that I would end up using the Neumann U87’s anyway, which I did.

Official Drum Recording

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I arrived at the studio with the equipment with plenty of time for setup, along with Max and his kit shortly after. Max’s performance on the day was very very good, he managed to remain on the click track quite diligently. I went for a similar approach in some aspects, as I was fairly happy with how the demo recordings turned out. However I wanted to experiment a bit more with room mic’s, a second kick and a high hat mic. We were also in the Neve studio which I felt would allow us to pull better sounds with the better preamps, which I cranked to get some crispiness and distortion out of the mics. Here is the mic arrangement…

Channel Item Microphone
1 Kick In Beta 52
2 Kick Out C414 (bit of an experiment)
3 Snare Top Sm57
4 Snare Top 2 MD421
5 HH KM184
6 Tom 1 MD421
7 Tom 2 MD421
8 ….Spare
9 OH L U87
10 OH R U87
11 Room 1 KM184 (Mid Side)
12 Room 2 C414 in fig 8 (Mid Side) L
13 Room 2 C414 in fig 8 (Mid Side) R (90 flipped)
14 Room 3 Sm57 (through distressor)
15 Talk back Sm57

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This mic setup I feel yielded a good sound overall. The mics I feel that I could have better used are the the Kick Out, the OH’s (good but could’ve improved further), and all of the room mics. Given that my reference for drums don’t have very roomy sound, I don’t feel that those tracks are as critical as say the kick, snare and OH’s. As for the drum sounds, I aim to be adding in samples for the kick snare and potentially toms, as I will be using both sample and the recorded tracks to create the semi synthetic sound that I want for the kit.

I learnt a great deal of new things from this experience that will assist me in future recordings, and not just of drums, some are just good general rules of thumb for recording…

  • Killing 400z on the toms will get rid of some of the cymbal mess and allows you to bring them up louder.
  • Mid side room making technique is better in a wider and probably less dead sound room where there is more reflection.
  • A condenser on the kick out is good maybe a half metre back, the kicks sound wave ripples out like dropping a rock in water, but use a carpet or blanket for a kick tunnel to stop bleed.
  • Making up the bottom is good for most scenarios, especially if the mix engineer is a different person and wants that sound as an option later on.
  • Pointing a dynamic mic at the kit is great for a different sound, except it needs to be kept at a distance from the cymbals in particular otherwise they will just cut through that signal too much
  • Record the talk back mic as well, cus why not…
  • Spread pair of overheads is more a jazz style technique for making up drums.
  • XY over heads, behind and above the drummer have a better stereo image than^.
  • With the kick tracks line up in phase, they will have a huge low end presence, same with the snares.
  • The high hats dispel a lot of air which can get easily picked up from the mic
  • The analog distortion sound of the preamp adds so much character to the drum kit or any signal, until the point where it clips at least.

I feel that one of the major learning curbs from this project though, and I realised this during the debrief afterwards, was how I didn’t listen to the drums in the room, especially from where I had put the mics in the room. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that from the same spot in the room, the microphone and my ears are both picking up the same sound. I feel like I should have been more specific with positioning my microphones in the room, and been more aware of what sounds each is picking up. The SM57 was picking up too much ride cymbal from where I had it at the kit, and the MS room mics were picking up a lot of low mid resonance from the back of the live room where I placed them. I should’ve listened in with more detail to each mic was and what is was picking up, then moving around accordingly.

I think next time I go to record drums, regardless of the genre, I’ll add a mic to the bottom of the snare, rearrange the over heads to a more relevant position, better arrange my room mics and most of all pay more attention to what they’re hearing, and changing the position accordingly. Otherwise I feel the session ran very smoothly and efficiently. That was one of the main praises I received from everyone at the end of the session, we track all 4 songs with in the 3 hours and with plenty of time to spare.

The next phase of the project will be finer editing, the recordings are well performed and and haven’t required much, if any editing or comping attention. Next week I will be recording all of the electrics and keyboard/synth parts.

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