How to Record Drums: A Detailed Guide

It has always been hard to get a good recording of drums, especially when you are working from a home recording studio. There are plenty of home recorders who have successfully managed to record keyboards, guitars and bass at a studio quality but even they fall short on drums most of the time.

However, if you invest in the proper equipment and carefully follow a disciplined technique, even you will be able to produce studio quality drum recordings from your home recording studio in no time without having to pay hundreds for a high end studio.

How to Properly Record Your Drums

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First of all, to get a good recording you need to start off with proper preparation. You need to carefully select and have your microphone palette set up properly, only then you will be able to create a template reliable enough in your home studio for recording all types of drum parts with ease and guarantee a studio quality recording. How to record drums

Here are some steps you should follow to get a good quality drum recording:

Tuning Your Drum Kit

If you were to ask any audio engineers, they would without a doubt tell you that the key to have a good quality recording is to make sure you have a good sounding instrument. You can’t just take a tone deaf person with a range of half octave and expect them to sing like Celine Dion.

Similarly, you can’t just take an untuned set of drums and get a crispy and precise sounding recording from them. So before your recordings make sure your drum kit is properly tuned. 

The most prominent instrument in your whole drum kit is the snare. Make sure to give it just as much importance. You also have to consider your toms and make sure they sound just as great. You need them to give you that low end girth while not making your final mix all muddy.

Mic Your Kick Drum

You can mic your kick drum in many ways, of course depending on the number of mics at your disposal and also the design of your drum set. Many home recorders tackle this issue by having a boundary microphone placed somewhere around 3 to 4 inches away from the outer head of the drum. 

If your drum has a circular cutout in its outer head then the mic can be placed inside the drum to help block out the audio bleed that may come from the other drums in your set. You can get better results when you start mixing by doing both if you have enough mics to spare, since you will have more options that way. 

Mic Your Snare Drum

It can easily be said that your snare drum is the defining characteristic of your drum kit. There are some who even say a good sounding snare can define your entire band.

To properly mic a snare drum you can have a dynamic mic somewhere around 1.5 to 2 inches above your drum’s head, the best way to do it is by having the mic angled to the center of your instrument and having it suspended on the plastic hoop over your drum.

If you extra mixing inputs and mics to spare you can achieve an interesting blend of tones by having a mic placed beneath your drums. 

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Set Up Your Overhead Microphones

If you have a number of mixing inputs and microphones available to yourself then you can get by with using a four mic setup. How it works is by having one mic dedicated to the snare drum and one to the kick, and having two other mics suspended over the whole drum set.

The stereo pair up top accounts for the remainder of your drums, like the bongos, floor toms, cowbell and rack toms. Most engineers tend to use expensive microphones especially for a four mic setup to get better and crispier sounds.

Try to Mic More Drums Individually

This is completely optional but if you have the budget then you should definitely try to add more mics in the mix. You should start by ‘miking’ your hi-hats and then your individual toms. 

However, you should still have a stereo pair of microphones to get the sound of the overall set. It’s just that having more of your drums closely mic’d gives you more mixing options. Keep in mind that you should use dynamic mics if you’re a loud drummer.

Make Sure to Have a Preamp and Compression Sound Set

In order to bring the overall dynamics to a level most drum recordings have an added compression effect to them. Although many engineers don’t really apply any use of compression while tracking the drums but the effect is instead added to the recording after it is finished.

You can’t get back the audio signal when you’re mixing if you compress while recording, which is why it is important to save compression for later and making sure to record a clean and pure tone.

Many engineers do also use preamps before sending the audio over to their mixing boards. You need to make sure to not overdo this since preamps add a bit of distortion to the audio. You have to keep in mind that a clean audio can be made dirty but a dirty one can’t be made cleaner. 

Using expensive gears if your budget allows is obviously a great choice, but if you’re running on a tight budget don’t be discouraged, you can still make great quality recordings with the proper set up.


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Final Words

After you have your selected preamp and your mics set up, it’s time for you to start recording and find your own technique and a tone unique to you that will make other drummers and bands seek you out! Now you know how to record drums

You Can Also Read: Simple Steps to Setting Up a Recording Studio

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