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Capturing Great-Sounding Drums Using Only Four Tracks
If you're looking for an earthy, realistic kit sound that can easily be manipulated, try this out...
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This same snare technique will work fine on the kick drum. You can control the attack and tone. Watch the bottom end with the EQ. Don’t overdo it or it will get lost when heard with the bass player. Look for EQ frequencies that separate the kick from the bass.

I use little or no reverb on kick drums. You want to trigger the reverb with the compressed signal from the snare and toms to get a naturally reverberant sound. This is exactly what a properly tuned and played kit in a decent acoustic environment would sound like…….with a little help from our electro friends.

Now you should have all the control you’ll ever need. You can raise and lower kick and snare independently as needed in the mix.

You can also pan the tom-toms as you like. I usually use a medium pan on the overheads. This way when the drummer plays a fill across the kit, it will bloom across the sound field and then settle down the way a real kit would—unlike with the hard synthetic panning of individual toms that always stay separated from each other. This naturally occurring sound will also help the drummer, as his kit will sound the same in the cue ‘phones as it does live.

I usually leave the kick and snare near center, but not on top of each other. It’s best to slightly separate kick and bass. Bass that is too far to either side is bad news for the mastering engineer.

During tom fills, the effect of natural buildup is due to the toms’ resonance enhanced by the corner walls and your compressor.

Tweaks For Different Genres
Try this technique when you have time and you’re not under a deadline. It’s well worth the effort. If you can nail it, it will work with little variation on many types of music.

Some suggestions:
- R&B: toms medium spread, kick and snare tight-panned.
- Country: tight-panned snare and kick, medium tom spread (just like R&B).
- Jazz: close-mike the snare and kick, mike the toms not too close, and use very little “room program” reverb.
- Doo-wop: mike very close for mono sound, and use little or no reverb.
- Reggae: mike snare and kick very close, pan toms wide, use tight EQ and mucho reverb.

Neat huh?  Good luck!

Ward Lionel Kremer is a lifelong musician, producer, and recording engineer, who cut his first hit at age 17. In the 1960s he recorded and performed in the New York pop/R&B music scene with The Four Seasons, The Chiffons, Joey Dee, The Temptations, and Ike & Tina Turner. In the ‘70s he worked in the Miami music scene with TK records, KC & The Sunshine Band, George McRae, and The Ritchie Family. Ward also recorded and produced soca, reggae, and jazz festivals in Italy, USA, and Mexico, along with live sound and recording for Randy Bernsen and Ken Basman.

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