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Thursday, 27 November 2014

An Easy Technique for Recording Drums

Live drums are awesome. Sampled from Funk, Jazz and other genres, such drum breaks have played an integral part in developing the sound of modern Drum and Bass, not to mention Hip Hop and other genres. While arguably it's now too difficult to polish an old low fidelity break to a point where you can use it in certain sub genres of Drum and Bass due to the high standard of production involved, there is still some scope to use drums that you have carefully recorded yourself. Even if only for edits or drum fills, and artists such as Fre4knc and others make extensive use of this. Conversely, other sub genres within Drum and Bass still exclusively use live drums to the point where this has become a hallmark of certain artists like Paradox and Fanu whom champion this approach. So where do you start?

This week i'll be presenting the first in a two part series on a couple of easy approaches to this. First up is the Glyn Johns' Technique. This technique has the advantage that you don't need to own many microphones to achieve a good, workable sound. This method uses three microphones, a mono overhead microphone, a side microphone and a kick drum microphone. If you have additional resources available then you can also use a snare microphone. Usually you'd use a dynamic microphone on the kick (and the snare drum if applicable) while for the overhead and the side microphone you'd generally use condenser microphones. This is by no means an ironclad rule, feel free to experiment and see what leads you to the best sound.

The single most important facet of this method is that the side and overhead microphones must be equidistant. Typically you'd start by placing the overhead around two and a half drum stick's distance from the snare, while the side microphone should sit somewhere above your tom drum. Once you've got a reasonably good position, then measure both with an XLR cable to make sure they are both the same distance from the snare drum. Both microphones should be pointed directly at the snare drum. Experiment with the distance between the microphones and the snare drum to alter the sound radically, just make sure you keep them exactly the same distance away. This will avoid any phasing issues that could be caused by the sound arriving at the microphones at slightly different times. You'll know if you ave a phasing issue because generally the low end of the drum disappears completely. Once recorded, leave your kick and snare in the centre. Take the overhead and side microphones, and pan one about halfway to the right in order to reflect the setup of the drum kit whereby the snare is slightly off centre.

This technique lends itself well to an open, natural sounding drum kit as you might hear in Jazz or a similar style of music. See the image below for a good visual representation of how this technique works.

Huge thanks to my colleague Tristan for his description and instruction on this method.

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