A few weeks ago we posted our article on Reddit talking about some “unconventional” drum recording techniques and we had a massive response from the users.
Many of them appreciated the crazy drum recording hacks we proposed, but the really cool part was seeing others proposing their own tips and tricks to get a specific drum sound starting from some unusual mic placement.
That’s why we’ve collected these further hacks from the comments below the post and we’ve decided to write a second article regarding this subject.
Here are some of the craziest drum recording hacks proposed by the Reddit users. Enjoy!
Try placing a Sennheiser 441 microphone between the kick and the snare, making sure there’s a good balance and phase alignment between these two elements. Point it approximately towards the snare stand and run it through an Empirical Labs Distressor compressor.
This tool has a very iconic feature called “Nuke Mode”: it basically switches to a “brickwall limiting” ratio, creating a huge amount of harmonic distortion on the signal. If you can balance a high input gain with a fast attack and an even faster release, that’s it: you can get a massive kit sound from just one mic.
Place two Neumann U87s at about 4-5 ft from the front of the kick drum. Make sure they’re more or less 1ft from the longitudinal center of the kit and are set on cardioid pattern. Point them downward at the floor keeping the diaphragm about half a foot off the ground.
The floor should be a reflective surface so the mics can capture more room sound than the direct sound coming from the kit. Pan one mic hard left and the other one hard right.
This technique is maybe more handy to use during mixing, but you can always record it if you feel comfortable enough with it. Try taking a pre-fader send or a copy of the snare top mic track and run it through an Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer. Then send that signal to a Fender Deluxe guitar amp and mic it with a Neumann U87 or a Shure SM57.
There are many variables in this signal chain, starting from the mic on the snare, the settings of the pedal and the amp, and the mic in front of the amp. Play around with them and figure out what fits your song best.
The first thing you need is, of course, a big enough room where you can fit a piano next to your drum-kit. The second thing is the piano.
Place a mono or a stereo pair of mics in the innards of the piano: you can choose to mic the piano strings, or just use a general ambient. You can pick up some very strange and cool-sounding reverb given by the resonance of the drums (and the room) inside the piano.
Take a Shure SM57 and tape the vent holes behind the cap. This will essentially make the pickup pattern closer to omnidirectional. Look (and hear) for a sweet spot in the room where there’s a good balance between the direct sound coming from the kit and the room reflections.
Add some low end to the mic and compress it with a high ratio but slow attack and medium release.
The main challenge is finding a position that avoids picking up to much cymbals, because they can become a big issue once you start compressing the room mic. This mic is killer for some mono energy to blend in and ride around during different parts of the song.
The Elbow Technique
This technique can really save your drum sound if you have a limited number of microphones or recording inputs. It can sound weird but it does the job: have the drummer to stick out his elbows as far up and back as he can, as if he was stretching without extending his forearms.
Then place two small diaphragm condensers mics about a foot away from each elbow. The exact distance from the elbows doesn't matter, but make sure the mics are both facing the center of the tom rack, and are both the same distance from the center of the tom rack. The best way to measure this is to use a length of any studio cable, TRS or XLR will do.
If this is done correctly it acts as an alternative for overheads, but believe it or not picks up pretty much every drum on the kit exceptionally well! If you have a couple extra mic inputs available, mic the snare and kick at close range.
This technique was used by a Reddit user to record drums with no cymbals in a garage using just two mics. The mics he used were two Coles 4038s, a British mic designed in the 50’s that became part of those “bigger than life” drum sounds we can hear in the Beatles’ and in the Led Zeppelin’s albums.
He placed one mic above the drummer’s head and the other one low out in front of the kit. The diaphragms were both equidistant from the middle of the kick drum on a sort of diagonal line. “Less is more” and this mic placement can really sound amazing.
Or you can always go for a "Chris Lord Alge" approach to miking drums (not exactly using two mics)...
Well, that’s it for today! All credits go to the Reddit users who came up with these after reading our crazy drum recording hacks.
Looking forward to part 3…
I’m a young musician and sound engineer based in Italy.
I’m also the Artists & Professionals Assistant at Bantamu and I’m here to get the best music out there, whether it’s playing, engineering or simply writing about it.
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