Recording Drums – How to Record a Snare Drum

How To Record a Snare Drum

how to record a snare drumThis is part two in the series of drum recording articles. Today I will write about how to record a snare drum.

The first thing you need to have to get a great snare drum recording is a good snare drum. This is true with anything that you want to record. You also need to have a good drummer. Most good drummers know how to setup and tune their drums, if your drummer doesn’t you may want to call your local drum shop and see if you can hire a drum tech for the setup.

My go-to microphone for recording the snare drum is the Shure SM-57. There are many other mics that work great but I know that the SM-57 will work every time and if your band has a limited budget (which most do) there is no sense in playing around with other mics. However if you are recording a song where the drummer uses mostly brushes or plays softly like on a quiet jazz tune you may want to try something like the AKG-C451B.

The Techniques

Microphone Placement

I usually set up the SM-57 near the rim of the drum and point it toward the center of the drum. Very simple and effective.

If you want more of a bright sound that gets the snare rattle you can add a second mic and place it underneath the snare. For this mic I like to use a condenser mic that has a pad on it. My favorite microphone for this is the AKG-414. I like to record this on a second track, pad the mic and flip the phase on this channel. You can combine the two signals into one track if you are brave and confident but I don’t recommend it.

Another trick is to place another mic off to the side of the snare about 4 feet away and use that to trigger a gate when you are mixing.

Generally I like to keep it simple and use one microphone. Remember that the other drum mics will pick up the snare and add to the overall sound. You are capturing the close attack sound and the body of the snare with the close mic and the room mics will generally pick up the brightness of the drum.

Recording Chain

I usually add a compressor and EQ channel before the signal gets to the recording device. I only recommend this when you know what you are doing with compression and EQ. This cannot be undone when you work this way. If you are just starting out you may want to add light compression and no EQ before the recording input and then experiment with the compression and EQ after the signal is recording.

Mixing the Snare

The final part of how to record a snare drum is the mix. The mix of the snare depends on the style of music and the playing. Generally I compress the snare pretty hard when I am working on a louder song to get a nice attack. I use a little EQ in the mix but if the recording was done right there is not a lot that needs to be done.

I like to use the same reverb for the whole drum kit to make it sound uniform. Sometimes you don’t need reverb if you have used room mics and like the sound of the room.

Remember to listen to the whole mix and not get too focused on the individual instruments and have fun!


Recording Drums – The Kick Drum

How to Record a Kick Drum

The Microphone

how to record a kick drumHow to record a kick drum. This is the first in a series of drum recording techniques. This first article will cover some recording techniques for the kick drum.

The first thing you need to do is pick the right microphone. There are several mics available to choose from and it is fun to experiment with different ones if you have the time. My favorite mic for kick drum is the AKG-D112, it picks up the low end as well as the attack.

Microphone Placement

The placement of the microphone makes a lot of difference in the sound that you will get. If the drum has an access hole in the head I will place the mic inside and about 4-6 inches from the rear head (the one that gets kicked), a couple of inches off center and pointing at the middle of the head. This is great if you are doing rock, country or anything with a hard hitting kick that needs to sound punchy.

If your drum does not have a front access hole there are a couple of options. I would place a mic a couple of inches in front of the front head and another mic (I like the AKG-421) near the kick pedal pointing at the center to capture the attack, just hope the pedal doesn’t squeak too much. The mic in the front will not capture that attack which is important with aggressive drum sounds.

If you are recording a jazz kit they usually don’t have an access hole in front and the sound that you want is not punchy. You can use the one mic in front and get that classic jazz kick sound that is not punchy.

Experiment with mics and placement to get the sound that you want.

Recording Chain

The simplest recording path is mic > preamp > recording medium (DAW, tape, etc.). This path will get the sound recorded but you need to be careful of the input levels because you don’t have the dynamic control that a compressor gives you. The advantage to this path is that you have complete control over the sound after you record it.

I prefer to use this one mic>preamp>compressor>equalizer>recording medium. This path gives me full control of the sound before it is recorded. The down side to this is if you screw it up you can’t change it.

This depends a lot on what gear you have and how experienced you are. If you have no outboard gear like a compressor or EQ then the choice is obvious, the simple recording path is for you.

If you have a good compressor and equalizer and time to experiment use it and get the sound that you want.

My favorite piece of gear for this is the Tube-Tech MEC-1A.

Tube Tech makes some great gear, but it is not inexpensive. I would recommend this if you have a large budget and are working on high-end projects as this recording channel is versatile and sounds great.

A more affordable alternative is the dbx 376 – Tube Channel Strip. This piece of gear sounds good and works great for kick drum recording.

Fun Trick

Here is a fun trick to try. Get a speaker, a 10″ is a good size. Solder the microphone end of a microphone cable to the speaker connections and use it as a super low end microphone. I like to place this anywhere from 6″ to 3′ away to get a nice boom sound. Mix that in with the main kick mic and it gives you a great sound. And that’s how to record a kick drum.




The Rode NT1-A Review

Rode NT1-ARode Nt1-A A Great Mic For The Price

The Rode NT1-A is a great choice for a vocal microphone for the price. It is a large diaphragm condenser mic and sounds great. The NT1-A competes with some of the better mics out there for a fraction of the cost. At under $250 it is a great buy.

When this microphone first came out I was skeptical about how it would perform. I had heard good things about it but mostly from the guys running home studios and didn’t really have the experience with higher quality pro audio gear. Yes I’m kind of a snob.

I got a chance to try the Rode NT1-A out on a female vocal and put it up with my AKG-414 and was pleasantly surprised. The sound is open and clear without some of the annoying high-end or that you find with some other mics in this price range.

Rode NT1_A Frequency Response

Rode NT1-AYou can see the high-end boost and the slight drop at 50 Hz in the frequency response chart. These particular variations make this microphone useable with a variety of voices.

One of the reasons this microphone is less expensive is that it is a single pattern mic and has no internal pad or filters.

I recently used this mic on strings and some brass recordings and found that it sounds good on almost anything requiring a cardioid pattern mic. This is a great bonus that makes the Rode NT1-A an excellent value.

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If you are looking for a great sounding and versatile vocal mic that is not expensive and works well with other instruments I would definitely recommend the Rode NT1-A.

The KRK RoKit 5 G2 Is A Good Monitor For Your Project Studio

The KRK RoKit 5 G2 is a great little monitor. I tried these in my project studio and found them very easy to listen to from an audio engineering point of view.

This KRK speaker has a 5 inch woofer that is made from a glass aramid composite which results in a nice tight sounding low end and a 1 inch soft dome tweeter which allows for a great natural sounding high end.

One of the things I really like about the RoKit 5 is the tweeter wave guide. This design makes the speakers work really well together and provides a clear wide stereo image with fewer phase issues that you get with some traditional designs.

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The front firing bass port is very nice to have in a small control room (which most project studios have) because with the front bass port you get  fewer low frequencies reflecting  off the walls behind the monitors and the effect is a cleaner and more accurate low end sound in the room.

You can also adjust the high frequency level in 1dB increments from -2dB to +1dB. I found that the +1dB boost worked great for the room I was working in.

Check out the specs:

Low Frequency – 5″ (127mm) Glass Aramid Composite Woofer
High Frequency – 1″ (25mm) Neodymium Soft Dome Tweeter
Frequency Response – 52Hz – 20kHz ±2.0dB
Max Peak SPL – 106 dB
Power Output – 45W
HF Level Adjust – -2dB, -1dB, 0, +1dB
Input Connectors – 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4″ TRS, 1 x RCA Phono
Dimensions (H x W x D) – 11.1 x 7.3 x 9.1″ (282 x 185 x 230mm)
Weight – 13.4 lbs (6.1kg)

I think that the best quality of these speakers is that you can listen to them for a long time and experience very little ear fatigue. This is a big deal if you are working on long sessions for multiple days.

I would definitely recommend this monitor to any audio engineer that is looking for a small speaker for a project studio. The KRK RoKit 5 G2 sounds great!

If you are doing a lot of mixing with these speakers, however, you should really consider adding a subwoofer like the KRK 10s 10” powered subwoofer to get the full range of frequencies.

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The Shure SM7B Is Used By The Best Audio Engineers

I recently got the opportunity to use the Shure SM7B and found out why this microphone is used by some of the best audio engineers in the business.

The Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone that is mainly designed for voice recording and live sound applications, it features a cardioid pickup pattern, a bass rolloff, a high mid boost, great off-axis rejection and a pronounced proximity effect.

I like the sound of the mic with the mid-range boost for a male announcer voice as it adds the clarity and allows the voice to cut through a little better than it might on just the flat setting. The proximity effect is quite pronounced, the low end is very full sounding as you get closer to the mic which makes it great as a broadcast or voice over microphone.

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The low end rolloff is useful if you are recording in a room that is not well treated and need to filter out the room noise or if you have a very boomy voice talent.

The SM7B also sounds great on a male singing voice and has been used by Eddie Vedder, Michael Jackson, Metallica and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Check out the specs:

Eric Paul, the engineer for Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash had this to say:

“If you’ve tried out three very expensive tube mics and you aren’t happy with any of them, then the next step should immediately be a Shure SM-7. I will almost always guarantee you that if the expensive mic doesn’t work, an SM-7 will. For some reason, people sound better on them.”

Mix Magazine March 1998

The July Issue of EQ Magazine states:

The SM7 is perhaps most famous for being used as the vocal microphone on Michael Jackson’s Thriller engineered by Bruce Swedien.

Overall the Shure SM7B is an excellent dynamic microphone and would highly recommend adding it to your mic collection especially if you are recording male vocals or voice over talent. I must have for any audio engineering you are doing.

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