I never used to understand why people thought John Bonham was the greatest drummer to ever exist, but while watching his “Moby Dick” drum solo in 1973, it hit me.
His charisma, energy, vibrancy and mastery behind the drum set brought so much life to the music. Instead of seeing his small imperfections as weaknesses, I was able to see they were his biggest strengths. And with this knowledge I was able to learn that every drummer has his own spark that is worth exploring and bringing to life.
When I recorded my band’s debut EP at Graphic Nature Audio in New Jersey, I wanted my drum performances to be precise but have an authentic energy and excitement that would breathe life to the music in the same way that John Bonham did for the legendary Led Zeppelin.
I think it’s very helpful for producers and engineers to take a step back from the focus on techniques and strategies involved in sound recording and reproduction and instead, really make an effort to capture the innately human element of a drummer. Music is all about emotion and connection, and there are so many influencing factors to what contributes to an individual drummer’s sound. If we’re unable to cherish these then we lose all personality within the music.
I used to want to be a perfect, robotic drummer and have all my drum performances edited. But I now see how stale and lifeless drums sound when they lose all their charm. And that human essence is what each drummer brings to the table. It’s a producer/engineer’s job to capture the personality and energy from a drummer that truly enables a listener to connect with a song!
With all that said, let’s consider some techniques to help a producer or engineer to work effectively with a drummer.
It’s well known that recording drums is one of the trickiest and most time consuming processes within the realms of audio engineering. It requires a well-thought out and structured approach — employing a variety of drum microphone techniques in order to capture great drum sounds.
It’s also the role of the engineer to focus on the emotional and human processes that take place in a studio environment in order to record the best drum performance possible. Engaging a drummer in this way can help make the music an accurate reflection of the artist’s personality.
In the role of producer, the goal is to see the bigger picture and know how each sound fits into the record. Drums are the first and arguably most important piece of the puzzle.