Recording drums usually feels like a daunting task. They are the most difficult instrument to record, often requiring many different microphones and techniques, so most people prefer to leave it to professionals in the recording studio. Personally, I’ve found that with a little practice and average equipment, I’ve been able to record exceptionally good drum takes (for being in a bedroom). Here’s how I record my simple four piece drum kit.
First off, you need the right equipment. This includes at least one overhead mic, for cymbals and a general sound of the kit, regular dynamic mics for each drum, and a specialized low end mic for the kick drum. You can find great starter sets at places like Guitar Center or Sweetwater that come with all required microphones, and I have arguably the cheapest but most surprisingly powerful Pyle PDKM7 set. I also use a Shure SM57 and a Shure Beta 52.
Starting with the kick drum, I find that my favorite sound is gathered just outside the porthole on the resonant head. I use a Beta 52 and set it on a pair of boots that are luckily the perfect height (obviously you should try to use a stand or something equally stable).
Next is the snare drum which always sounds best with an SM57. I clip that onto the top head and angle it towards the very center of the drum to capture the “full body” sound. Most people also mic the bottom to capture the snare wires, but I find that it is easier to just let the overheads deal with those shenanigans.
Then for the rack tom I use one of the little Pyle dynamic mics. These mics work much better for toms than snares, so I clip that on the top head as well, again aiming it toward the center of the head.
For the floor tom, there are many mics and placements you can use, depending on the sound you want. Rather than a regular dynamic mic, I use the kick drum mic from the Pyle set, since I don’t need it for the kick drum and because it has a better low frequency response.
Finally, the overheads. Overhead mics can be any condenser microphone, since clarity and brightness is the priority. While I have a few AT2020’s, I find that the simple Pyle condensers work well. I use boom stands to position them roughly three feet above the kit, usually aiming them together at around 45 degree angles. This allows for nice stereo coverage of the entire kit.
Once these are all plugged into my durable Tascam US1200 interface, all that is left is recording!
Be sure to check out part two where I cover basic drum mixing methods.
Have you had any luck recording drums at home? What mic placements do you use? How much better is your equipment? Let me know in the comments!