[This article was written by Adam “Nolly” Getgood, recording engineer, producer, and bass player in the band Periphery. To hear more recording tips from Adam, check out his free class online, broadcasting August 26-27.]
Recording drums is arguably the most difficult part of a session for an engineer working in modern rock genres. With upwards of 12 microphones on the kit itself as well as capturing the room ambience (often closer to 20, or more!), there are many chances to slip up and ruin a recording, but there are also so many ways to really fine-tune the sound – and that is where the joy of engineering comes from, for me at least!
Tuning the kit
Tuning a drum kit can be a very mysterious process for a beginner, but with some practice you can get to grips with the concepts quite quickly. I’d recommend borrowing or buying a halfway decent kit and some heads to experiment with.
There are myriad ways to skin the kit (ba-dum-TISH…) when it comes to tuning drums, but my experience is that drums record extremely well when the resonant heads are tuned higher in pitch than the batter heads. On the toms and kick, the slacker batter head will give a pleasing “slap” to the attack, while the tighter resonant head will prevent the drum from sounding “flabby” and minimize pitch bend. On the snare, keeping the resonant head tuned tight will get a crisp and responsive response from the snare wires, and elicit a lovely “poppy” attack when you hit the drum with some attitude. Read more »