Like the foundation of a house, the drums are the foundation of a recording.
With a strong foundation, you can build almost anything on it that you or your clients can imagine.
A little effort and time spent miking the drums and getting the sound just right can result in a recording that sounds great.
Here’s a list of things to check if things just don’t sound right taken from my book The Drum Recording Handbook (written with engineer Dennis Moody).
Remember that each situation is different and ultimately the sound depends upon the drums, the drummer, the song, the arrangement, and even the other players.
Sometimes things are just out of your control. Also, these are not hard and fast rules, just a starting place.
If you try something that’s different from what you’ll read below and it sounds good, it is good!
1. Do the drums sound great acoustically? Make sure that you start with a great acoustic drum sound with the drums well tuned and minimum of sympathetic vibrations.
2. Are the mics acoustically in phase? Make sure that tom mics and room mics are parallel to each other. Make sure that any underneath mics are at a 45° angle to the top mics.
3. Are the mics electronically in phase? Make sure that any bottom mics have the phase reversed. Make sure that all the mic cables are wired the same by doing a phase check.
4. Are the mics at the correct distance from the drum? If they’re too far away they’ll pick up too much of the other drums. If they’re too close the sound will be unbalanced with too much attack or ring.