Recording Drums - Adding Energy!
Recording drums can be one of the more challenging aspects of recording music. There’s so many elements that work together from the kick, snare, toms and cymbals. The drum kit is quite a harmonic beast! Often when recording in smaller / “less expensive sounding” rooms, it can be hard to get your drums sounding big and full of energy. The legendary “John Bonham” drum sound is hard to achieve in a 10 x 12 carpeted room! There are a couple of ways though that you can inject some more energy into your drum sounds from the recording stage. SQUASH MIC This technique has gone by many names, and similar concepts have been used in various positions all over the kit. An approach that is good to start with however is placing a mic in the centre of the kit, equidistant from each drum. For this, I positioned an SM57 approximately a drum sticks length from the centre of the Snare, toms and Kick heads.
With a good drummer this should produce a well balanced representation of the kit with a close, punchy sound. Personally, I like to have this mic influence the tone of the snare the most, so I EQ a little bit out of the top and bottom
and then I run it through some very heavy compression. Going through an 1176 style compressor, fast attack and fast to medium release the mic becomes squashed and begins to bring out the energy and aggression of the room as opposed to just the close sound of the drums themselves. The snare begins to sound fatter and have more snap! ROOM MICS Room mics typically are used to capture the sound of the ambience in the room during a performance. In smaller rooms they can be an overlooked element sometimes. Using two ribbon microphones, try positioning them as far in front of the kit as you can, but aiming them facing up to the ceiling. This will result in the microphones null point aiming straight at the kit! The idea here is to get as much of the room / ambience as possible while trying to not just produce a second set of (distant) overhead mics! This can result in adding a dark ambient energy to kit sound and depending on the spread of the mics can provide some more width to the sound. It of course depends on the size of the room you have how much energy there is bouncing around to capture, but this can be a great technique to employ when you're short on space and want to try to achieve a Steve Albini - type drum sound. You could always try to compress these mics creatively also to bring out some more ambience. These are just a couple of really easy ways to approach recording your drums with more energy, rather than spending time after the fact trying to drag energy out of your close mics with plugins etc. Have a listen to some examples below!
1) = Close mics only
2) = Close mics and Squash mic 3) = Close Mics, Squash and Room mics *DRUMS PERFORMED BY FIACHRA KINDER (@FIACHRA KINDER, @AVENUEROADSTUDIOS)