How to Record a Drum Kit: A Beginners Guide

Do you want to record your drumming, but you aren’t sure where to start? Then you’ve come to the right place! This guide will teach you the basics of how to record drums. 

To start, we’re going to assume that you’ve already got a home studio (at a minimum). If, however, you’re still in the process of building your home studio, we suggest you read this guide first: Home Recording Starters Guide.

The Room

Before you can record any acoustic instrument, it is imperative that you first sound-treat your room. There is often a misunderstanding of what sound-treatment entails.

Sound-treatment is not sound-proofing. Sound-proofing a room is a complicated and expensive undertaking. You need to have double-glazed windows, acoustic foam around the room; you need to ensure that you don’t have a suspended floor or ceiling, and so on.

When we talk about sound-treatment on the other hand, what we’re referring to is minimising how much sound bounces around the room you’re in. To test if the room you’re in needs to be sound-treated, stand in the middle of the room and clap.

Do you hear an echo? Then you need to treat your room. Remember that if you’re using a microphone to record, it will record all the sounds in the room – including that echo. And while the echo will not be the most prominent tone you hear, it will be there.

Fortunately, treating a room is a simple task. Buy yourself some of the heaviest curtains or thickest blankets you can find, and drape them on all the walls of the room. The idea is to cover all the flat surfaces of the room.

Also, ensure that the room is carpeted, as tiled and wooden floors will add to your echo.

Recording with One Microphone

When building our first recording setup, most of us are limited to a tight budget. And while we make lists of all the gear we want, we all start off with the bare basics. But, just because you only have one microphone, that doesn’t mean that you can’t record.

If you can only afford a single microphone, you should consider a condenser mic. For single mic recording, you would ideally place the microphone over the drummer’s shoulder, pointing towards the bass drum.

This placement will allow you to record what the drummer hears.

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Recording with Two Microphones

If you’re fortunate enough to have two microphones, you can switch to overhead mic placement for recording. The most common form of overhead miking is to place a mic at 11 o’clock and 3 o’clock (from the drummer’s stool).

This will allow you to capture the ambience and room tone, as well as the kit as a whole.

Full Kit Recording

One of the primary issues with using one or two microphones is that you cannot mix the levels of individual drums. That means that you will struggle to add nuance to your playing.

If you want complete control over the volume and mix of your recording, you will need to mic each drum individually. Fortunately, many drum microphone manufacturers make drum mic kits, which will have all the mics you need to record your kit.

Bass Drum

There are three basic placements that sound engineers use when miking a drum kit.

Front of the bass: The most common, and most straightforward way to mic a bass drum is to place a kick drum mic directly in front of the kick.

Inside: Some engineers like to place a boundary microphone inside the bass drum. By doing this, they reduce the sound from the cymbals and the room to get a “pure” bass drum tone. You could also use a kick drum mic inside the bass drum, or a combination of both.

Inside and Outside. Of course, if you want the best of both tones, you could always use a boundary mic inside, the kick drum mic outside, and blend the two.

Snare Drum and Toms

The most common placement for a snare drum or tom mic is to use a clip and place the mic above the drum. Ideally, you want to put the mic near the outer rim of the drum head, pointing down.

Something to consider when it comes to tom or snare mic placement is the presence of the cymbals, both physically and tonally. Some drummers have their cymbals so low over drums, so placing a mic can be tricky.

Cymbals

The easiest way to capture your cymbals when recording is to use overhead microphones.

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