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RECORDING REAL DRUMS
Sampled drums may be quicker and cheaper to use than the real thing, but there is something special about a real drummer hitting real drums. Hugh Robjohns passes on a few ideas and tips on capturing the best possible kit sound.
My usual opening gambit in these recording workshops has been along the lines of the art and challenge ofrecording being all about capturing a faithful rendition of the instruments without swamping their subtleties in undesirable mechanical noises. Well, exactly the same is true of drum kits, and all the principles discussed in my previous brass, strings and piano workshops apply equally well here. The most obvious feature of a drum kit -- particularly a modern rock kit -- is that it is very loud.This may be a useful attribute for the drummer of a pub band, but it also presents a few difficulties in the recording studio. To make a decent recording we need to be able to balance and control one sound against another and, nine times out of 10, the drum kit will have to be screened off from the other instruments in some way to provide a modicum of separation. The best solution is to install thedrums in a specially designed drum booth with a high degree of acoustic isolation, although it helps if the drummer can still see the rest of the band for those all-important visual cues. Opinions differ on the ideal acoustics of a drum booth: some have bright-sounding wooden floors and stone walls, while others have lots of carpet and absorbers everywhere to make them dryer than a dehydratedBedouin in the Sahara! The best acoustic will obviously depend on the musical style to some extent, but I personally prefer something fairly dead as this allows more freedom of mic placement and therefore better control. It also allows various room simulations to be applied at a later stage, making it a lot easier to create suitable acoustics for a wide variety of music without having to relocate thekit or the mics. If a drum booth is not available, the kit will have to be set up in the same room as everything else, and some level of acoustic screening will be required to reduce the inevitable spill of drums onto other instruments, and vice versa. Purpose-designed screens could be used to construct a 'booth' around the kit, or the other instruments, but homemade screens can be just aseffective. Sheets of fibreboard (six by four feet is a good size) supported on wooden frames, and designed so that they can stand on either the long or
RECORDING REAL DRUMS
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short edges work surprisingly well. Rather than trying to box in the drums, use the screens to create 'sound shadows' by placingthem directly behind the microphones which are suffering the worst spill problems -- you will be surprised at how much they attenuate spill. Mic Placement -- Simple Is Good The simplest technique for recording drums, and one which is still very much in fashion, is a basic three-mic approach: a pair of overheads for the whole kit and a third microphone to add a little definition to the kick BuildingThe Stereo Image drum. Although simple, this works The kick drum is usually panned dead centre -- a stunningly well and sounds very convention set back in the days of vinyl records (a loud natural and clean -- a breath of kick drum panned hard left or right could cause the stylus fresh air after the over-processed, to jump out of the groove). However, now we have CDs, gated, compressed, andMinidiscs and cassettes, there is no technical reason why loud or low-frequency signals should remain in the centre synthesized sounds we have all and if there is a good reason to locate the kit towards one been exposed to over the last side of the stereo image (perhaps there are two drum kits couple of decades! for example, one left and another right), then feel free to This technique forms the basis...