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Thread: Home studio drum recording - eclectic, busy music, feedback wanted

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    Home studio drum recording - eclectic, busy music, feedback wanted

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    Hi,

    I’m new to this forum and am eager to get some advice/feedback on an upcoming recording session in which I’ll be playing drums. Some quick background – I’ve been playing drums for over 30 years and have been recording them in studios for nearly as long. That being said, while I know enough to be dangerous I wouldn’t be shocked if there are obvious things I‘m missing or mistakes I’m making, so I’m really open to opinions. Sorry if this is a little long but I want to paint the complete picture so figure better too many details than too few.

    First, the style of music is important: we play a very strange instrumental mix of prog rock, space, psychedelic, jazz and punk. The drums are busy/chattery with a lot going on, including odd times and polyrhythms, with a lot of quick notes and accents. The drum set itself is a very high quality Premiere kit (recording series) from the 80s – 4 toms, snare and 24” BD with double bass pedal. The cymbal setup is unique – Zildjians: high hats, large ride, china, 2 small bell cymbals and 2 sets of inverted, stacked cymbals (Bozzio style) which provide for very fast, staccato notes as well as unusual trashy sounds. I also use a clave cowbell that I play with my left foot. I’ll be going over the tuning of the drums with a fine-toothed comb before we record. I also plan to walk around the room and try to decide the best spot to record the drums.

    The room is OK – not great, not terrible. It’s our rehearsal space, pretty decent sized - something like 20’ or 25’ x 15’ or so – I can measure if helpful. The ceilings are a nice height – I’d guess 8’ or 9’. Carpet on most of the floor, wood underneath. Blankets hanging on some of the walls and part of the ceiling. One door leading to a hallway and 2 doors on the opposite side leading to other, smaller rooms. One window on the wall between the hallway door and one of the other doors.

    Aside from the drums we have a chapman stick player who also plays electric violin (never in the same song) and an electric guitarist. We record all together using headphones – no overdubs at all – with the stick & violin being recorded direct. Last time we had the guitar amp in another room but the guitarist was not very comfortable with that. This time considering his main amp in another room and a small amp/speaker in the room with us for him to play off of, likely behind a makeshift barrier wall that he can see over and/or facing away from the drums. While there will still be some bleed, we hope it’ll be minimal and as I said, we keep all the tracks so at least it won’t fight anything else being played.

    Last time we recorded with 8 tracks into a MacBook Pro – this time we are planning to get the Behringer 16 track interface, using 1 track each for stick & violin, 2 for guitars leaving 12 for drums/room.
    On to the drum recording itself: all in all I (will) have access to 10 Mics, some of which are very good. Here are my thoughts on how to use them:

    • 2 matched Neumann U87s (OHs) – last time these were placed ORTF, considering going with a wider spacing this time for more separation
    • Sennheiser 441-D (top snare - alt could be AKG C 414 EB)
    • To be purchased - either EV N/D868 or Avantone Pro Mondo (inside bass drum)
    • AKG C 414 EB - assuming not used on snare ( 2 smallest toms)
    • Sennheiser 421-D (tom)
    • SM-58 (floor tom)
    • SM-58 (batter side bass drum)
    • SM-57 (underneath snare)
    • EV PL88 - EV's version of a 58 (Cowbell played with foot)

    We also have access to a few more SM 58s and a cheapish AKG condenser mic that we plan to experiment with as mono or stereo ambient room mics.
    I've also read online that some people love the AKG C 414 EB as a bass drum mic so depending what we decide I could try that, in which case I’d move a 58 to the toms - I've even read that a lot of people like the Sennheiser 421-D on the bass drum, although it might require a little extra low end in the mixdown.

    I’d love to read thoughts/feedback/criticisms, whatever. I feel like in the past I should’ve done more homework and research ahead of the session, so this time I’m hoping some extra preparation and planning pays off.

    Thanks.

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    With such a large setup i would try to get the best sound you can out of the overheads on the entire kit, then add snare mic, move it until it blends with the overheads for the best sound , then do the same with the kick drum, using one just outside the reso head off set from the hole to get more bottom while again moving to get it to blend with to O/heads. The i would take a room mic and move it around for the best ambient that fits with the rest. I might just throw a spot mic on the cymbals that you plan to "feature" but really with so much stuff going on i would feel like trying to mic everything and make sure everything was in phase would be just an exercise in frustration, so minimalist would be my personal suggestion
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    My studio kit is quite large when it's fully set up...and I always opted to go with a M/S overhead pair and just a spot mic on the snare and one on the kick (front head or inside the drum).

    That way the drums are primarily recorded as a "kit", with the two spot mics only there to reinforce the snare and kick.
    The M/S pair was place not too high up, like about 8'... and centered over the snare/kick point...and then rotate the M/S until you get the desired L/R image.
    I found that the M/S pair did a great job picking up the toms, and I kept the cymbals low and slightly down toward the inside of the kit, which made for a nice level balance.

    Not to mention...come mixdown time...you only have to deal with 4 drum tracks...not 10.

    At any rate, if you start with the minimal setup and get a good sound...it's not a problem to add some more spot mics if really needed, but once you get a good sound with the minimal setup, you won't depend on the spot mics as much...they can be used just for reinforcing the sound of the kit if needed.

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    Thanks for the suggestions, For our first CD, we did go minimal out of necessity - as i said above we had 8 tracks. I was happy enough with the snare, the cymbals sounded great but there were not enough toms and I was unhappy with the bass drum. I was able to fix the toms by doubling the OH tracks and then automating them so they were only open when the toms were played. Then a bit of treatment. This was a bit of work but the end result was pretty good. I also doubled with BD and tried triggering a programmed sound and mixing that in but was never quite happy with the result. We tried a lot of stuff including sidechaining but it was never quite right. That was a SM 58 inside the BD, so I'm hoping a better mic will help. I thinking we could also do a better job of carving out space for both the BD and stick by finding a sweet spot for each and accentuating that on the given track with pulling the same down on the other.

    Anyway I thought I might try the close micing thing just to have more control later, but maybe starting minimal and only adding as necessary is a good approach.

    What do you guys think of my mic choices? If I do go more minimal I could try either the AKG 451 or Sennheiser 421 on the BD as I wrote above.

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    I would try every mic on the kick since a lot of the time i find it needs some eq anyway. Plus i have had good luck using random vocal dynamic mics and even SDC mics on the kick. Dont be afraid to experiment, a lot of times the "right" way is not the only way and some times not the best way,
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    thanks - I feel like the batter side mic might be important for the attack and the left foot clave gets a bit lost so I think I probably to mic that as well.

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    With the Bass drum, I would forget the batter side mic, why not place the internal mic closer to beater skin. I tend to do this and also have a sub kick, I have a home made one with a 10" speaker but any speaker from about 6" will do it. The picture below that I found on the net is almost exactly what I do but I have the inside mike usually a bit more inside. You may have to flip the phase on the mic or speaker to bring them in phase, sometimes you have to also move them slightly, also check them against the overheads.

    Alan.

    p7310008-jpg

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    I have a very big hole cut in my resonance head on the BD, so not sure if the sub kick is possible. I plan to put blankets etc over the back of the BD to make a "room" and provide extra isolation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oddfodder View Post
    I have a very big hole cut in my resonance head on the BD, so not sure if the sub kick is possible. I plan to put blankets etc over the back of the BD to make a "room" and provide extra isolation.
    I have even used it with no front skin, it picks up air movement

    I often build a blanket tunnel over the bass drum and mics.

    Alan

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    When you've used it without a front skin, do you just sit it inside the BD (pointing down?) towards the open end?

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