I remember nearly 4 years ago finishing my first recording in my new studio. I was really excited about all the new opportunities to make music having my very own place would bring me. I was lucky enough to find an abandoned church in the small town where I live. I leased the building so that I could turn it into a studio.
The only problem was that I had only made a handful of recordings before renovating and moving my gear inside. I knew how to use all of the major features of Pro Tools, and my MOTU 896 MKIII interface, but experience is what I lacked. I also had no real training in how to tune or mic drums. I placed the mics until they looked like what I had seen in pictures and videos I had watched on youtube. I finished that first recording and began mixing it, and during the process I would listen back to my tracks on headphones, earbuds and in the car to get the feel for how it sounded different speakers. For reference I would listen to bands that sounded similar in style to the artist I had recorded. My drums were nothing like the drums on those other records. The we small, thin, weak, and lacked character. They didn’t seem to even fit what the guitars were doing in the song either. (here’s the very first recording I did in my studio)
Mixing the 6 songs I recorded with that band was a nightmare, and it didn’t turn out well at all. But, making that EP was the start of something great. Because when I finished I decided I was going to learn everything I could about recording drums so that I could improve. I read once that “a good drum recording is the backbone of a mix.” That is exactly what I set out to do, learn how to make a drum recording that felt like it supported the song. However, this new goal lead to a lot of frustrations for a couple of years. I bought an sold dozens of microphones, snare drums, and entire drum sets. I’ve tried every drum tuning device on the market, and for a long time, experimented with a different type of drum head with each new recording I made. My first real breakthroughs started almost a year ago. I stumbled across Produce Like a Pro and saw Warren at Sunset Sound showing how he mic’d up the drums.
I imitated a few of Warren’s ideas from that video and a few others and applied to my own setup. The biggest difference obviously was that I didn’t have a console and all the outboard EQ’s and Compressors, but I did have a really nice custom built set of drums, from 7Drums, and I had some decent microphones and a my studio has a 30’ x 50’ room that I use for drum recording. I made the best of what I had and kept trying to improve. The second really big improvement came when I started working for Produce Like a Pro and Pro Mix Academy in November of 2016 as a video editor. My first assignment was editing the Premium course “Producing and Mixing Music at Echo Bar.”
At the beginning of that tutorial you watch Ross the Drum Dr. tune up the drums all by feel and ear. It’s amazing. I still had several gadgets and gizmos that I was trying to use, but seeing that pushed me to want to experiment more with tuning. Also in that course Bob and Erik mic the kit and show their complete signal flow for tracking and break down the EQ moves that they use when capturing the drums. One of the stand out moments for me was hearing the Lewitt REX 640 kick drum mic.
This is a kick drum mic that has both a dynamic and condenser element lined up at the front of the mic. It sounded really fantastic. I immediately went out and bought that microphone and a year later, it’s still my go to to kick drum mic, and it replaced a Shure Beta 52 and Audix D6 for me.
The Third breakthrough in my recordings came from the course featuring Matthew Weiss from the Pro Audio Files. In this course on recording drums, Matthew has a very lengthy section on overheads and room mics. I can remember texting back and forth with him almost daily while editing the course because of the excitement I had to go and try out the mic positions he was demonstrating. This brings me to today. Today I record drums with a lot more confidence than I did 4 years ago. When it comes time to mix a song, it’s far less frustrating and I no longer feel that my drums are small thin and weak.
Currently I use either Oktava MC-012 small diaphragm condensers for my overheads or a pair of Lewitt LCT 640TS Large Diaphragm condenser. I position this mics above the kit and each mic is pointing straight down with the front of the capsule being anywhere from 46.5” to 60” from the center of the snare drum. My snare drum has a Shure Sm-57 on top and Audix i5 on the bottom.
My Toms get Audix D2’s on top. My kick drum is combination of my Lewitt REX 640 and I will either use both capsules of that microphone, or I will use the dynamic capsule and use my homemade sub kick.
For my room mics, I have a pair of KEL Audio HM1x’s in the corner pointed between a high spot in the wall an the ceiling. Occasionally I mic my HiHat with either one of my Oktava’s or a Shure Sm7b.
It takes time, patience, practice and a lot of effort to become really good at recording really quality drum sounds. The academy offers many features to all of us that are willing to learn. Not only are our mentors that create the premium courses some of the top guys in the industry, but being a part of produce like a pro academy and the forum will open up many conversations with others that are in similar shoes and still others that have excelled and grown are and willing to help bring the rest of us up with them. Additionally, have such a humble teacher in Warren is one thing, but for as busy as he is, and yet he still makes time to do Facebook Live videos, answer youtube comments and questions, answer facebook questions, involve himself in the forum, and post rad gear shots on instagram. This community that we are building is amazing and offers so much to those of us that seek to improve our recordings and mixes.
Through the offerings on this site, on youtube, and through the premium courses I am one example of a hobbyist that found a deal on a rad building, and have since turned this into a career that I love. Thank you so much for reading this! I look forward reading your comments below and answering any questions that you have!