Realistically speaking, how many microphones minimum to record a 5-piece acoustic drum kit ?

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Interesting this - drums is always last on the list for me now - pre-click tracks, we'd do the record everything at the same time then replace thing, but once we started playing to clicks - drums is the last thing. I guess it does depend if you're a drummer. If you are, then it's bound to creep up the order.
 

Farview

Well-known member
I always record drums first, normally with a click and guitar going as a guide. I guess it really depends on the style of music you play and what kind of setup you have.

When I had the studio, it would always be drums first with the guitar player playing along as a guide. When I was recording my own stuff by myself, I would play the guitar part to a click, then lay down the drums, the re-record the guitar and layer everything else up.

I like playing drums to the click, but I play everything else to the drums without listening to the click (except at the count in and any breaks in the song). But I tend to do metal and progressive metal kind of stuff, so the click makes more sense.
 

Gtoboy

Well-known member
I would recommend starting with one of the many available drum mic "prepacks" usually containing ~4-7 mics geared toward recording drums. Some of these sets are very good, depending on price of course. As you gain experience you can add more specialty mics like getting Sennheisers for the toms when you find a good deal or a pair of SDC's for overheads if you see a nice price , etc.

I like both the Shure an Audix drum mic kits, though admittedly I am using more mics and more expensive mics at this time.

As for recording drums before or after , I tend to meet in the middle most times, but also do record them after. I think for me the only time recording before would make sense if I was recording band-at-once style, or if the drummer was good enough an arranger that they worked best when given some basic rhythm and melody tracks, a general outline of the sections and a free hand to change it up.

Usually, I do one or two rhythm guitar elements (either acoustic and/or electric), a scratch bass track and possibly a rudimentary melody or vocal before recording drums. Then when I am satisfied with the drums I can finish the rest. Getting the right drum sound for a specific track is the number one reason I like to do it this way so I don't end up with some metal sounding drums on my heartfelt ballad or what have you. Plus it makes it easier for me to tune the drums to the track
 

LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
I always record drums first,.
Yeah, it is nice to be able to drag in and drop a midi drum section into the DAW. Take some blues measures. A verse and a chorus. Cut paste and stretch them out.

Then jam for 30-40 minutes

Back in the day I recorded drums on tape with 1 omni overhead and 1 dynamic at the snare.
 

Eric V

Inquiring mind wants to know
I would recommend starting with one of the many available drum mic "prepacks" usually containing ~4-7 mics geared toward recording drums. Some of these sets are very good, depending on price of course. As you gain experience you can add more specialty mics like getting Sennheisers for the toms when you find a good deal or a pair of SDC's for overheads if you see a nice price , etc.

I like both the Shure an Audix drum mic kits, though admittedly I am using more mics and more expensive mics at this time.

As for recording drums before or after , I tend to meet in the middle most times, but also do record them after. I think for me the only time recording before would make sense if I was recording band-at-once style, or if the drummer was good enough an arranger that they worked best when given some basic rhythm and melody tracks, a general outline of the sections and a free hand to change it up.

Usually, I do one or two rhythm guitar elements (either acoustic and/or electric), a scratch bass track and possibly a rudimentary melody or vocal before recording drums. Then when I am satisfied with the drums I can finish the rest. Getting the right drum sound for a specific track is the number one reason I like to do it this way so I don't end up with some metal sounding drums on my heartfelt ballad or what have you. Plus it makes it easier for me to tune the drums to the track
Those are some good points to consider, thank you.
 

Farview

Well-known member
One of the things that makes it easy for me to record drums first is that I already have the parts written and arranged before I record. I put up the click, perform the drum part, move on to the next instrument, etc...

I could see how doing the drums first wouldn't make much sense if you are still writing and arranging. Even though I think I would still, once the song was in its final state, put the drums down and replay all the other parts to the drums. I generally don't like having all the instruments relating to a click instead of each other, or having the drums following the other instruments.
 

Eric V

Inquiring mind wants to know
My next question is, what would be a good little mixer if I use say 5 microphones to mic the drums? How much would such a mixer cost as far as a range of prices goes? I am thinking a 16 channel would be enough channels. That way other instruments could play along mic'ed.
 

bouldersoundguy

Well-known member
Unless you have some reason to use a hardware mixer, you really just need an interface with the required number of inputs (plus some extras).
 

Eric V

Inquiring mind wants to know
Unless you have some reason to use a hardware mixer, you really just need an interface with the required number of inputs (plus some extras).
I have a 4 input Focusrite, so I should be all set if I record with 4 as a maximum. Thanks BSG.
 
When I started out recording drums in the 90's, I too was concerned with number of mics and tracks. With the knowledge I have now, I would say that learning to mix drums on an analog desk and recording it as stereo is a good way to approach it. That said, I have all drums close miked plus overheads. A decent compressor can really glue the kit together.
All that said, start with mastering the instrument. Playing with good balance, dynamics and technique is far more important than the recording gear.
 

Eric V

Inquiring mind wants to know
When I started out recording drums in the 90's, I too was concerned with number of mics and tracks. With the knowledge I have now, I would say that learning to mix drums on an analog desk and recording it as stereo is a good way to approach it. That said, I have all drums close miked plus overheads. A decent compressor can really glue the kit together.
All that said, start with mastering the instrument. Playing with good balance, dynamics and technique is far more important than the recording gear.
Sounds like excellent advice, thank you Chris.
 

ashcat_lt

Well-known member
Most of my clients have neither budget nor patience for anything other than band-at-once. Maybe overdub vocals. For my own stuff, drums come toward the end, LP it are never acoustic.

My preference is always to just put an x/y stereo mic (nowadays my 12 Gauge) somewhere that the whole kit sounds good, stick something in (or in front of since nobody ever lets me cut a whole in their head) the kick, and then blame the drummer. :)
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
I would record the drums, and then add a new track, record bass guitar etc. one track at at time. I have no choice, as there are only two of us, so live is not an option
This has been one of the ways I've recorded for years. I did, for many years, record bass or guitar with drums or percussion live and keep the result, for the most part.
But I found that if I was recording the acoustic guitar with the drums, there'd be too much drum spill in my guitar track and it was hard to mix. I actually devised all kinds of ways around this, like recording the guitar DI {the 6 string was awful, DI. The 12 string was unique}, recording behind a piano or wooden board, or, most novel of all, putting a toilet roll around the mic and stuffing it with tissue {!!} or stockings........but none of these things were as effective as using an electric guitar DI as a guide to follow with the drums. The drums are a keeper, the guitar sketches out the framework of the song {even if there is no guitar in the song} and so I have a set of drum tracks and everything else is then easy to throw in.
Because recording live with a friend on drums or percussion often netted some great interplay, moments that just couldn't be repeated, I was reluctant initially, to record to the drums, having already got down a good take on whatever instrument. But not any more. Even if there are great moments on the original electric guitar take, I don't care because an acoustic is going to replace it and I can still record some decent~ish takes of whatever other instruments are there. In fact, I can cheat as much as I desire and make myself seem brilliant. 🤩 🥳
But more important is having those drums there to start with.
 

Eric V

Inquiring mind wants to know
I think I know how I am going to approach it now, which is whatever instrument needs to be first will be first, be it drums or guitar. Thanks everyone that I haven't thanked already.
 
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