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Bargain Beats: 3 tips for recording drums on the cheap

Posted on June 04, 2015

Recording drums is the most vital part of any song production process. They're the foundation from which your entire track will be built and If they don't sound right at source, there's very little you can do to recover in the mix.

If you've got thousands of quids worth of high end mics and preamps, this will be a breeze, but the process can be frustrating, especially for most bands on a budget or a budding home producer. How can you get a great drum sound with limited means? Fear not! Here's our quick list of tips to get a great beat without breaking the bank.

1) Think Old School.

Most classic drum sounds were recorded by the most basic means. You can strip it back even further than that. Consider a single condenser mic, like the Samson C03, as a room mic or mono overhead. Get your drummer to start playing and, whilst monitoring the signal on a pair of headphones, position the mic until you get a sound that's balanced. You can then add dynamic mics to kick and snare as you like to get more definition. There's also the Glyn Johns method, famously used by Led Zeppelin, Where a single mono overhead and a carefully positioned second condenser are used to create a natural stereo field.

2) Parallel Compression

This is a great way to get a big drum sound. Send a mono mix of your drums to a compressor, crank up the ratio till it's almost acting as a limiter. Then bring the threshold down till the sound is really squeezed and almost distorted. Blending this crunchy compressed sound with a more open, untreated stereo mix will give your drums huge amounts of punch, while still retaining an open, dynamic sound.

3) Experiment!

 There are also plenty of ways to create a DIY fixes to change the acoustic sound of your drums. Using gaffa tape as a dampener on your toms will give you that thump of a vintage 60's kit, Pillows and duvets in your kick drum will also have that effect. Try setting up your kit in a different room, the strange reflections of a tiled room can open up your basic drum sound to a new ambient quality.The most important thing you can do is keep an open mind. 

I'll leave you with this rather long, but extremely fascinating look at drum recording from a master of the art, Steve Albini.

 

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