Drums can be the most difficult instrument to record because of all the variables involved. First, thereís the kit. The quality and condition of the kit is probably the single largest factor in getting a good drum sound. The individual drums need to be tuned to themselves and then tuned to a specific pitch. Tuning drums is another subject that we do not have time for here but suffice it to say the more you know about tuning drums, the better your sessions will be. The second factor in getting a good drum sound is the room. A very live room can sound great but it cuts down on your ability to tune in just the amount of reverb you want later. A very dry room gives you lots of options. If youíre not sure which way to go, opt for dry. You can always add reverb and room ambience later. Lastly, the skill of the drummer will complete the trifecta. You can have a great kit in a great room but if the drummerís not proficient, youíre cooked. The drum track is what everything else in the song is built upon. If the drummerís not getting it , donít waste his time or yoursótell him to come back when heís rehearsed the song some more.
†††††††††† There are number of ways to mic a drum kit starting with just 2 mics and working up to 16 or more. I tend to think the best solution is somewhere right in the middleóabout 8 mics depending on how many drums you have. Hereís what youíll need:
†††††††††† 1) Two overhead micsópreferably small diaphragm condenser mics
†††††††††† 2) one Shure SM-57 for the snare, high-hat and each of the toms
†††††††††† 3) one AKG D 22 large diaphragm dynamic mic for the kick drum
†††††††††† The overhead mics should be placed about 2-3 feet above the drum kit pointing toward the drummer. They should be spaced about 3-4 feet apart and the mic stands should of the boom type so that they be comfortably away from any flailing drumsticks. If you think of a drum mix as a artistís painting, the overheads are the rough sketch and the individual drum microphones provide the detail and the color. The SM-57s should be mounted on each drum with a special mount that clamps onto the drum so that they donít interfere with the drummer, i.e. as close to the front of the kit as possible. Each mic should be at a 45 degree angle and about 1 inch away from the drum head. The kick drum mic should be on a short boom stand and should extend into the bass drum. Youíll have to experiment with distance to get the right sound but you donít want it too boomy. What you want to hear is a crisp thud accompanied by the sound of the beater hitting the head. Dial in the levels to be as loud as possible without clipping. If you have the luxury of having compressors on each channel (my Yamaha AW-2816 does), make sure you use them, what youíre looking for is just enough to keep any stray transients from going into digital overload territory (0db or higher).
†††††††††† Once youíve got this all situated, you can begin tracking. Itís ok if the rhythm guitarist plays in the same room. Youíre going to need the cues from the vocal and guitar to record the other tracks and by the time you get everything else recorded in there you wonít notice it. In fact, if itís done properly, it can add some depth to the finished product that canít be introduced any other way. If you donít have the extra tracks to spare and can only record the drums, make sure you use a click track so the song will be at a consistent tempo. It will save you time and money in the long run.