How do you record drums? What’s the best way to record drums? How do I get a good drum sound?
Well, now that we’re all asking these questions, we need answers. So let’s dive in and learn how! First, we’ll explore what gear is necessary for recording drums, as well as some tips on mic placement.
Finally, there will be a list of guidelines for getting the most out of your drum recordings. This blog post is an ultimate guide to recording drums – let’s rock this together!
There are many different ways to get the best possible recording of your kit, and this article will guide you through all of them! It starts by deciding whether or not you want each drum miked separately or as one large group (called a “kit”).
You can also add more microphones if they aren’t already there to capture every nuance of the drums. Finally, to make sure that everything is recorded correctly and that no mistakes happen on playback, make sure to use headphones while recording so that you can hear what’s going on better.
If you’re interested in recording drums, or if you want to know more about the process of how this is done, then read on! This article will cover everything from choosing a location for your drum kit and mic placement to editing and mastering.
1st step – Preparing the room for drum recording
Before you even set up your drum kit, you need to make sure that you have a great sounding room. The room will influence the overall sound of the final “product”.
How do I know if my room is good acoustics?
The most important aspect of recording drums is the acoustics of your recording room.
You have to learn about and become familiar with Acoustics, as they can turn an average recording into professional-sounding songs or a professional recording into amateur-sounding tracks.
As realistic as it sounds, trust your ears on this one! Listen to all sorts of music through a high-quality pair of headphones (so that you can hear deep bass without distortion), try recording yourself playing guitar and listen back to how full the recording sounds, and then listen to some other songs where everything seems in sync.
It may sound obvious but make sure there are no distracting noises from outside either, like traffic!
What is the best room for recording?
In a recording studio, you’d have to make sure the room was soundproofed and also had some way of recording accurate bass frequencies (maybe by using ‘bass traps’ or even just recording in an attic).
If you’re recording yourself jamming in your bedroom, then the most important thing is that there aren’t any distracting noises coming from outside. In this case, it’s best to cover up all windows with heavy curtains and duvets so that other sounds don’t get picked up during recording. Of course, you’d probably need something pretty thick too!
Nowadays, recording equipment is very affordable, so booking an expensive recording studio is not always necessary.
How can I make my room sound better when recording?
The more you dampen the room, the more control you’ll be able to get in the mixing process. If your room is too big, make sure you enclose your drum kit to avoid sound reflection off the wall.
Try a few different drum kit locations to ensure you are getting the most out of the recording room.
Also, treat windows and doors and all other surfaces where sound can go through.
You need all the sound to stay in the room.
No matter what recording software you use, make sure your recording is as dry (without reverb) as possible.
Lighting also has a major impact on sound reflection, so make sure everything in the room is well lit….and not too bright!
The bottom line when recording drums: There’s no such thing as a perfect drum sound, but every imperfection can be corrected during the mixing process if everything was set up properly before recording.
2nd step – The drum sound
For the best sound, we only use fully functional and flawless equipment. That means no cables that produce a buzzing noise when played with or any broken cymbals for effect – they have to be perfect if you want it on record!
We’re picky about our drumsets, too; cheap ones are out of bounds unless you’re aiming for an off-sounding recording.
The most important thing when recording drums is how you’re going to capture them! Each style has different requirements so let’s look at each one individually.
So, choose the room, the drum equipment, and tune drums according to the sound you want to achieve.
If you lack drumming equipment, use what you have and make sure you get the best possible sound.
It’s important that your drum set sounds good and you don’t have any unnecessary overtones. This can be avoided by placing the duck tape on the bottom drum head.
3rd step – Miking the drums
There are various miking techniques. It’s important to know which style you are recording.
Professional studios record drums with at least 7 microphones for a 5-piece drum kit where every component has its own mike + 2 overheads.
To get more control, engineers add bottom mics, room mics, and bass drum mic that goes inside.
It’s important to know that recording drums is a very subjective matter.
Can you record drums with 2 mics?
Yes. But recording drums with 20 is certainly better.
More mics mean more control; that is why professional studios use 10 mics or more.
An experienced recording engineer knows how to make any recording sound great using just one microphone.
Some techniques can be used to achieve this result. Unfortunately, an inexperienced recording engineer has no idea about these techniques and usually gets poor results by how many mics he uses.
But yes, it is possible two record drums with only two mics. It is usually done with two overheads.
How many microphones do you need to record drums?
If you want to do the right why you should mic every component.
So let’s say you have a 5-piece drum set. You would use 11 mics.
- 3 on the toms
- 2 on the snare (top and bottom)
- 2 on the bass drum (inside and out)
- 2 overheads
- 1 hi-hat mic
- 1 room mic
You can always add more room mics like bottom tom mics.
Many different recording techniques are described on the internet, but what works for some doesn’t work for others. So experiment with your recording equipment and make sure you get the best possible sound.
We have a full guide on drum miking, so go check it out.
4th step – Hardware needed for drum recording
The low-budget solution is to use a sound recorder like Zoom H4, H6, etc. It’s easy, portable and not too expensive.
Something a little bit more expensive is to go with the sound card like Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre that supports up to 8 channels.
The mid-budget solution is to go with some small digital mixer like Behringer X Air Digital Mixer. It supports 18 channels which are more than enough for drum recording.
The top budget solution is to build your own dream rack with preamps, sound cards, effects, etc. It’s an expensive and advanced solution, but this is how it’s done in a professional environment.
Let’s talk about microphones needed for drum recording.
There are so many amazing choices in the world of microphones that it’s difficult to point out which one you should pick. It depends on several things, such as your budget, if you are looking for a condenser or dynamic mic, and many other factors you may not think about yet.
But remember, no matter what type of mic you choose, it’s always important to record at the highest possible quality setting that your computer can handle.
Bass drum can be captured with three microphones:
- Laying inside: Shure Beta 91A, Beyerdynamic TG D71c
- In front of the drum head: E-V RE20, AKG D112, Shure Beta 52A, Royer R121
- Inside but not laying down: Audix D6, E-V ND68, Telefunken M82, and Sennheiser MD 421 II
The most common microphones for snare drum recording are:
- Shure SM57
- Telefunken M80
- Beyerdynamic M201TG
- Neumann KM 184
- sE Electronics V7
- Audix i5
- Sennheiser 421
Mics used for hi-hat recording:
- Shure SM81
- AKG C 451 B
- Neumann KM 184
- Audio-Technica AT4051
Mics for recording toms
- Sennheiser e604
- Granelli Audio Labs G5790
- Sennheiser MD 421 II
- Audio-Technica Artist Elite AE3000
- hure Beta 98AMP/C
- Shure KSM44As
- Telefunken C12s
- Neumann U 87 Ais
- AKG C414 XLIIs
- DPA 4006-As
- Audio-Technica AT5045
5th step – Software needed for drum recording
DAW or digital audio workstations is what recording engineers use to record their audio. You can choose between many different DAWs, some of them free and others paid.
Free recording software like Audacity is also available for you to try out recording drums in a recording studio environment.
Windows users: – Cubase – Reason – Pro Tools – Reaper – LogicPro
Mac user: Apple Logic Pro – FL Studio – GarageBand – Audacity – Ableton Live
Depending on your need, you will decide to go with free or paid software, but to get wheels rolling, any free DAW will do the work.
If you decide to go with a sound recorder, you will not record everything directly in DAW but transfer files when you do editing and mixing.
Ok, it’s time to dive deeper into using DAW. We will explain everything through Presonus Studio One, but all these softwares work similarly.
How to use DAW to record drums
At the beginning window with options to start either creating a song or a whole project shows up. If not, you can click FILE and find the same options there.
To make it easy, let’s click on CREATE A NEW SONG.
In the next window, we have several options:
- To name the song
- To decide where to save it
- Sample rate (usually either 44,1 kHz or 48 kHz – files in 48 kHz are slightly larger, and this sample rate offers slightly better recordings.
- The resolution represents the bit depth, and the producers prefer the higher the 24 bit.
- Timebase – in this case, bars, but it can be in seconds, frames samples, etc.
- Song length – time needed for recording. You can always add more time and make the track longer.
- Tempo – Set the tempo so you can record with the click
- Time signature – Set the time signature of the song you are recording so you can hear the click in that time signature
On the left, you have options to start from scratch or to use premade presets.
When you are ready, click OK.
Now you are ready to add channels. The software interface looks like this. This time we will not go through all the options but only the ones needed for drum recording.
Click the right click on the empty space from the left. This will appear. Now, add as many tracks as you want.
We added 7, named them, and tweaked their color, so it’s easy to differentiate them later in the process.
Before starting the recording process, make sure the software uses the correct device for recording. Find the tab options and mark the device you are using for recording.
Now, when the software knows what to use to capture the sound, it is time to check the signals.
Pull up the mixing board. In Studio One, you just press the F3 key, and it pops up, but if not, usually it’s under the tab TRACK.
Under options inputs, you can assign every component to its own channel.
Before you click the RECORD button, you need to make sure you have a good signal for recording. Play component by component and see if levels are good. If not, adjust the gain on the sound card or mixer you are using.
Gain is the amount of sound that it’s coming in, the output signal from the instrument, so you need to make sure it’s not too weak and not too strong before you start adjusting the volume reglers of each channel. Volume reglers are the output signal from the mixer, do not try to use them for adding or reducing the instrument strength; that is the purpose of gain.
Keep the volume regler under 0 dB.This way, you will ensure that you have a good, healthy signal and avoid peak and buzz.
Finally, signals are good, and everything is ready for recording. It’s time to do one take to check if everything is working as it is supposed to.
Click the record button.
You should end up getting all the tracks recorded and with healthy signals like in the image below.
You might experience something when recording the drums, and after recording, seeing what is on paper could be better than it sounded.
The recording itself may not have been perfect, as you know – sometimes the recording takes longer than expected due to bad performance or an unwanted sound, so you stop recording before having all the desired components in place.
Controlling noise during recording can affect your final result, too: If you record your snare without controlling the bleed from the overhead mics, then if those overhead mics are mixed with your snare mic in post-production (a common thing), there will be more ‘smack’ coming through because of bleed.
So let’s get our hands dirty!
Editing incorporates cutting pieces that you like and merging them together, moving hits to be more precise.
This process can be avoided by playing one good take and using it as a final version, but nobody is that good – Vinnie is laughing now 🙂
Some producers prefer going through each component and bringing the volume level all the way than when the component is not active to reduce the background noise.
How to mix drums
No one wants to sit through hours of editing, but when you finally get a perfect take, the time is worth it. This same principle applies to mixing drums – mastering your engineering skills will help give them that final polish they need for maximum enjoyment.
Now all everything comes at a charge:
- The sound of the room
- How you tuned the drums
- Are you using high-quality equipment
- Are you a good drummer
- Which microphones are you using
- How you placed the microphones
- How many microphones you used
There are various drum mixing techniques, but if you’ve done everything right, then very little mixing is needed unless you want to completely change the sound.
How to EQ drums
Let us guide you through EQ-ing basic drums components: the bass drum, snare, drum, toms, and overheads.
We are not doing anything fancy but just trying to get the most natural-sounding drum set.
You may notice this trend on YouTube and Instagram. Unfortunately, young drummers who are highly popular on these platforms do very little mixing, and our suggestion is to follow their footprints.
Here is how we like to do it.
It depends on the equipment and recording environment, so don’t take this as a final solution. Instead, play around and chase for the sound you like. Most DAWs have pre-made EQ setups.
In this example is the basic bass drum EQ. The whole point is to cut the lowest and highest frequencies.
If you want to get a metal or rock bass drum, you should leave those high frequencies or even boost them a little bit.
Around 100 Hz is usually where the bass drum strength lies down, so go ahead and boost those frequencies. Reduce frequencies between 300 and 400 Hz to kill the overtones and get a fuller sound.
Snare drum EQ looks like this.
It’s the same thing with low frequencies; you want to avoid them. The sweet spot or the frequencies you get “crack” is usually around 200 Hz, so you want to boost those.
Do you see how we lower frequencies around 400 Hz and 1 kHz? It’s to kill the unpleasant sound that snare drums usually produce.
Every snare drum has that “one” frequencies that spoil the whole picture, so you want to turn it off. Sometimes you will need to go much “deeper” than us and bring those frequencies all the way down, but before that, you need to go all the way up to find the exact point. Here is how to do that.
Frequencies above 5 kHz are used to shape the sound a little bit.
Some tome may produce unpleasant overtones, so when they do, kill them in the same way like we just showed you on the snare drum example.
The genuine picture of toms EQ looks something like this:
It’s a similar approach as with a bass drum when it comes to lower frequencies. First, kill the lowest frequencies and then add a little punch right after.
The sound is usually shaped in the mid frequencies for toms, so reduce it to around 350 Hz. To get a little bit more attack, add it around 5 kHz.
There is no need to go crazy with EQ-ing the overheads, just reduce frequencies below 50 Hz and do a tinny reduction in the middle area around 300 to 400 Hz.
If the are still too bright, you can do anything above 4 kHz.
Gate and Compression
These two “effects” can make a substantial mix in the sound, so pay attention; you don’t want to lose the natural sound you were fighting for.
Before we dive into adjustments, make sure you understand what these are and what their purpose is.
Gate is something that eliminates sounds with attacks faster than you have set, so basically, when recording some kind of percussion or recording in a big space, this gate can come to rescue you from unwanted noise. Make sure to lower the threshold down to around 50 ms and raise the attack as fast as possible.
It can save you from toms that ring too much or a bass drum with a weird tone.
It depends on DAW, but in Studio One, default settings will do the work. If not, you can play around or use the pre-made setups. Here are a few of them:
Gated bass drum for metal
Gated snare drum
Slight compression – how slight? This slight is enough to make it just audible because if you compress too hard, you get distortion which is not good for drums recording. Compressors make drums sound softer and more “natural”. If you want a modern loud recording, then don’t use compression on your recording. Set both RMS and peak levels between -6 dB and -3 dB, attack about 10-20 ms or even higher but make sure that it still sounds natural, and release between 50-200 ms.
For recording drums, you can use a medium or low ratio. Do not use high compression on the recording of live drums; it will sound unnatural, in our opinion, so try to find a natural balance between louder recording for recording more details and softer recording for bigger room sound. The setting LFE channel is important, too, because the -10 dB level on that channel gives you a nice bass drum without those nasty rings after kick drum hits.
Here are few examples of compression in action:
Compressed bass drum for rock
Compressed snare drum
If a recording is done properly, every drum, cymbal, and snare recording should be at least +3dB from -18dBFS level on peaks. If a recording is not done properly, it needs to be fixed in the mix before the mastering process.
Another important thing here for drums recording is to use a soft limiter between recording outputs and converters level, which should be around 6-10 dB lower than the conversion signal’s peak voltage. This way, you will keep recording natural signals without any colorations.
Recording with a compression/limiting system gives very nice results (you can read more about it in our article about recording voice ). This whole approach gives you a really good-sounding recording, so if your client wants to do that or you want something.
A limiter is very useful nowadays when everybody’s are on the mobiles. You want to get the loudest sound possible while maintaining the clarity and the quality of the recording.
Activate limiter on the Master channel. Here is the basic setup:
You can add a little bit of Input as long doesn’t influence the sound but only the volume.
PreSonus Studio One has this cool effect called “Multiband Dynamics,” but each DAW either has something similar pre-build, or you can install a 3rd party plugin.
In mastering the drums, you will adjust frequencies and the color of the entire recording.
As an example, we used one of the pre-made setups called Ari’s Master, and here is how it looks like.
It’s unnecessary to go through this process if you already got the sound you like and it sounds loud and clear.
Now when it’s all done, it’s time to export the file.
First, mark the area:
If you need to export all channels as one, that option usually can be found under the name “Mixdown”. For example, in Studio One, it looks like this:
When you click, a new window pops up.
Here you can choose where to save it and under what name. Adjust format settings. We usually do not change anything but keep the same settings as the ones in the recording process cause when you change the sample rate, the track tempo may go off, and it is impossible to merge the drums with the song.
You will be safe as long you keep the same settings.
In case you wish to export tracks separately, you can. That option is called bouncing tracks or exporting stems.
Here is how it looks in Studio One:
The window that pops up looks like this:
You probably noticed that the middle and right area are completely the same as in regular export, but now we have the left are where we can choose which tracks to export.
What is needed to record drums at home?
The only thing you really need to record drums at home is a microphone and a computer. This includes the software to record your drums. Some people will use an analog mixer to get better sound quality, but this is not necessary for most home recordings.
The most important part of a drum kit when recording is the drum microphones. Having a good drum microphone makes all the difference between an average recording and a professional recording. Since you are using this as your only audio source, the best drum will have the best sound.
How can I make my drums sound better when recording?
If you’re the drummer of a band and want your drums to sound better when recording, then you might be considering using drum samples.
Drum samples are pre-recorded drum sounds that can be purchased or downloaded online. They can offer benefits such as authentic sound and convenience, but if not chosen with the care, they can also waste time and money.
The key to using drum samples wisely is to ensure they match the song’s tune as closely as possible.
Do recording studios have drums?
Yes, they do. If you’re a beginner, you’re likely to want to use “real” drums as they sound more natural, and the drummer is likely to be more experienced.
But if your song requires a real drummer, it’s unlikely that you’ll be paying a professional musician to play along with it. On the other hand, record shops and music libraries are often well-stocked with drum samples, allowing you the opportunity to have sounds that suit your needs.
How do you record drums without a mic?
As long as you’re recording a basic track, there is no need for an external mike or overhead mike. You can even record to a laptop by using the built-in microphone. There are three things to consider when recording your drums without mics:
1. Keep the drum sound simple
Drums can be recorded dry (without reverb or a click), and that’s fine as long as you don’t want any effects on the drums. The living room feel of a basic drum kit is usually what you need.
2. Record the kit separately
If you’re playing many drums or the song has a lot of samples, then record them individually. Since most software will let you record up to 16 tracks at once, it’s worth considering how many different samples you will need and how many different tunes your song has.
3. Keep the kit simple
Drums can sound great with one tom and one snare. A set of basic toms with a snare is a lean sound. The main thing to consider is mic position and how the samples will be used in the song.
Can you record drums with a phone?
This is possible, and it’s how a lot of people get started. Your phone will likely have a mic, and that will be all you need. It’s best to use any additional samples on stereo tracks that can be sent to your phone via Bluetooth or wifi.
Some phones are recording-ready, but many will need additional recording software installed. There are also virtual recording interfaces you can download for free and use with any recording program.
How much does it cost to record drums?
It depends on what you need. We try to keep the cost of recording drums and other instruments as low as possible by using samples, session packs, and royalty-free sample packs.
Here’s an example of the pricing model:
5 tracks “drums” with a total of 30 minutes – $150
Singletrack “Drums” – $20 A very quick rundown
Professional studios charge per hour, and costs are between $100 to $500 per hour.
How loud should drums be in a mix?
There is no single answer to this question. It all depends on what the drums “are going for.” If they are supposed to be a rhythmic backbone, they might be more in the background with a powerful kick drum that dominates.
However, if you want them to be heard more prominently in the mix, or just add some power and tone, then you can crank up their volume and get them closer to being even with other instruments in amplitude (loudness).
What dB should my mix be before mastering?
As a general rule, most people have their mixes peaking between -12 and -3 dB. If your mix is too hot or too soft, you risk clipping in mastering. This clipping can be heard as distortion in the high frequencies, damaging your song’s quality.
How do you get a big kick drum sound?
Many engineers use a big kick drum because of its ability to cut through the mix. However, it’s not all about volume. Many engineers will use heavy compression on the kick and set the overall volume of that part louder than other parts in the song. That way, when you blend everything together, it maintains a powerful presence in your song.
We reach the end. Thank you for being with us on this journey of getting a killer drum sound and capturing your drums in the right way.
We did our best to answer all the questions you might have. However, if you still have some left, let us know in the comments below.