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Capturing The Right Feel & Sound: Rhythm Section Tracking In The Studio
Recording rhythm tracks requires a lot of preparation and planning. With precise ideas on exactly how you want the session to proceed, you'll be ready for a good time capturing great performances. Here's an extensive discussion - with plenty of "how to" - by a recording studio veteran who's had plenty of success.
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Putting the kit in a corner will increase low frequencies and add the reflections of two walls, which also could be good!

The drummer will probably like to setup on a carpet throw rug if the studio is not carpeted. Some of the best sounds come from studios with wood or tile floors where area rugs will “stop” the room down for a reverb time (rt) of around one to two seconds…or much less for a very dry, funk drum sound. I have used a wooden riser that adds a woody, overall stage quality especially to the bass drum.

Some metal bands use a huge PA power amplifier with separate mics on the kick and snare that drive subwoofers built-in to the riser…essentially reinforcing the low frequencies for the benefit of the room mics.

This subwoofer rig, done right, sounds huge! Similar studio PA schemes will add a very live quality to the drum recording.

Miking the kit can take lots of microphones… or not! If you have a large console and lots of microphones and a patient drummer (that will work with you tweaking in the control room), go for using a lot of mics on everything that moves on the kit.

I think a lot of engineers think by separately miking a kit they should get isolation between the different drums and cymbals. All manner of gating, wacked equalization, and strange mic positioning goes on to try to obtain this drum machine quality.

In my opinion, you should have your drummer play pads and trigger samples if that is what you looking for…because it is unrealistic to think that a well-miked, real drum set will ever sound that way.

Think of the close microphones as “spotlights” that enhance the sound of the overheads. The close mics add low frequencies, attack and panoramic image focus to the overheads’ sound.

Tracking with limited console real estate (ten inputs or less) requires you to use less mics and spend more time on their exact choice, placement, processing and submix. Naturally, drum tuning and balance (the drum mix the drummer produces when playing), room ambience, cymbal choice and playing volume are even more important and less controllable after-the-fact than a multi-miked setup that you get to “remix” later.

I get a great drum sound, as good as anything on the radio with about five microphones: kick, snare, hat and two overheads. One way to conserve microphones and inputs is to know what the drummer is going to play beforehand.

It’s kind of silly to mike up tom-toms, put them on separate tracks, and never have the drummer use them! Actually, some of the coolest “dialed-in” drum sounds I ever got was when the drummer and I worked on the actual drum part in the song and tailored each microphone’s position and processing together to exactly “fit” the groove.

If you have any outboard mic preamps or good condenser mics, I would use them on the overheads first. The sound in the overheads is the sound of the kit.

Another fallacy is that the overheads are for cymbals only as if you can get rid of the rest of the kit through some kind of engineering science that defies the laws of physics!

Get those “overs” sounding good and in balanced with your drummer and the rest is easy!


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