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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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I think you’ll be surprised when and where you can and can’t hear the money.

I once recorded, as sort of an experiment, the entire drum kit for a song using only Shure SM57s. The producer and I called it the $100 drum sound.

The album, by Daryl Hall and John Oates, was a big hit and the song “Sara Smile” was a top 10 record. We received more phone calls than anything else asking how we got this cool drum sound. What did we use? Where did we record them?

Moral of the story: use whatever mics you have. Keep them in good shape by putting them away and not abusing them with cigarette smoke, moisture and rough handling.

If you are recording everyone at the same time and there is leakage, it is not the end of the world. Actually the overall track might sound better WITH the leakage than cleaned up.

Rather than thinking that you are “stuck” with not be able to replace some of the musician’s tracks later because they leaked on tracks you wanted to keep, you make a commitment to the band’s performance and resolve that the track is great or as best (given all circumstances) as it is going to be.

I personally think, as a band, going into a live tracking session thinking that any of it can be replaced is self-defeating, because there will be no urgency to achieve a great performance. It puts a sense of purpose and responsibility on all involved including the engineer and producer to be a part of this super effort.

If you feel that recording together is a good idea but want to reserve the ability to fix it later, just make sure nothing leaks, that’s all!

Leakage can work for you. In my early tracking days, I would place the grand piano right next to the drummer. People would say “wow you are going to get a lot of drum leakage being so close.”

Fact is. I used very thick and dense gobos or baffles and blankets to cordon off the piano from the drums. Sure, I got a little low frequency drum leakage into the piano mics, but since the two instruments were only about six feet apart, the time delay in the leakage was very short and only added to the drum sound.

Moving the piano further away would have increased the delay of the leakage and washed out the drum sound. Putting all the musicians close together is always a good idea anyway.

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.

Barry Rudolph is a veteran L.A.-based recording engineer as well as a noted writer on recording topics. Visit his website at



More Reviews & Articles By Barry Rudolph On PSW:
Five Creative Uses For Loudspeakers In The Studio
Does The WAVES Hybrid Line Of Plug-Ins Enhance The Creative Process
The Shure 55 Microphone Has Deep Roots, But How Does It Hold Up Today?
Thumbs Up Or Down For The Marshall MXL V89 Studio Condenser Microphone?
Inside The Peluso P12 Tube Condenser Microphone
Barry’s DAW Toolkit: Review Of The Novation Nocturn With Automap 3 Pro
Barry’s Recording Tips: Figure Of Eight Royer For Electric Guitars
Review Of The X-Tempo Pok DAW Wireless Footswitch Controller
Barry’s Toolkit Of Handy DAW Products
Recording Gear Hits At The 2009 Winter NAMM Show
Working At Recording Success: Taking Elemental Steps Can Make All The Difference
Recording Tip: Successfully Dealing With A Dead Room

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