Need advice on recording drums live - SAMPLE INCLUDED

Tonight, a drummer (recommended by a friend who is an audio engineer) is coming over to record a live track for I Just Don’t Believe.

I’ve never recorded drums before, and I’m afraid I’ll screw this up since I don’t have the usual accoutrements associated with drum recording (no drum room, no full mic kit). I don’t even have a mic specifically for the kick drum (AKG D112, for example). Here are my thoughts on the process:

  1. Use two hypercardioid pencil condensers for overheads. They have a HPF installed on the capsule, which should help avoid too much collision in the lower EQ ranges.

  2. Use two supercardioid dynamic mics, on floor stands (no shock mounts :open_mouth: ) on either side of the kick drum to pick up the kick, snare, and toms (if he brings any).

I do have an AKG dynamic vocal mic that I could possibly dedicate to the kick / snare if I mount it on a stand and get it pointed in between the two. But I’ll get the kick coming from the shell and not the head if I do that.

I also have an AKG C414 that I can set to omni to pick up room ambiance, but I’m afraid of getting rattling, etc. from other stuff down here since I don’t have a drum room to isolate him.

I only have a stereo audio interface, i.e. I’m going to have to mix this live and route the master bus from the Mackie into my audio interface in stereo (vs. dedicating a track to each drum or class of drum). Undoubtedly, this will then require me to use a multi-band compressor to keep the overall sound under control.

I have an outboard mono compressor only so that means I can’t use it and preserve the stereo image. That sucks.


Get the best sound you can from the overheads and room mic then spot the kik and Snr to fill in and try not to worry too much about the toms.

Keep the HPF off the overheads as you can cut later if needed as you may have to relay on them for a full kit sound!

Indeed! If you have no dedicated tom mics, you definitely want full-spectrum sound from OH’s.

With your limited mic count I would definitely concentrate on getting best sound out of the OH’s. Maybe using them as X/Y pair to minimize phase issues. Then add kick and snare as required.

Maybe try this:

Hey Larry. Good luck with the recording. The only thing I would add is if you have a spare carpet to put under the kit, it may help you out a little if the mics are overhead and pointing down toward it. Thinking about reflections getting back to the microphones…

Bring your floor tom in the room first and move it around the room to find the sweet spot of the room where it sounds best then build the rest of the kit around it. It may be tough if the room isn’t treated but at least you will be mostly in the sweet spot of the room.

Well, this is the basement. There is Berber carpet on the floor, which is rugged by design and (as a result) should trap more sound than it reflects.

I will take the HPFs off of the overhead per everyone’s advice, but I will keep the hypercardioid pattern on so that I can avoid picking up reflections off of the walls. This is especially important because the basement is essentially a small rectangle next to a big rectangle with a small square room off of one of the long wall in the middle. That small room is the man cave where the outboard gear, mic amplifier, etc. is. I am a tad afraid of standing waves, but there is enough irregularity in the basement plus enough furniture to prevent that from being much of an issue.

I will read drum primer PDF now. Thanks!

A quick note on the pencil condensers. AKG’s manual describes them as a presence boost and not an HPF.

The supplied PB1000 Presence Boost Adapter boosts the sensitivity of the microphone by approximately 5 dB between 5 kHz and 9 kHz for optimum speech intelligibility.

I will record a test before deciding whether to keep these on or not.

Ooo… I would leave that off, it’s basically +5 dB right where you don’t want it!!!

That’ll be the C1000 then.

Its has an over emphasised top with a steep roll-off from 200Hz down (5dB down at 70Hz) let alone a further boost to the +4dB at 5Khz bumb that it already has!!!

Question then: since I don’t have a good dynamic mic for the kick, I’m probably going to get more mids than I’d like. Wouldn’t that balance out the brightness of the C1000s?

Another question: should I use the Neumann TLM103 for the front overhead and the AKG C414 for the back instead of the AKG C1000 pair?

Unlikely, bright is bright and harsh is harsh

You have a TLM103! you never said that before (or did you?) and a C414, I’d use them in the configuration of the previous PDF as the overhead/ambient mics, if the kit suits? as the setup is not symmetrical and doesn’t attempt to produce a stereo image from a XY or AB pair.

If you have any SM58s or 57s lying about they would be fine for snr and kik.

I just spoke with Tom Zartler for about 30m. He gave me a quick-n-dirty primer on this. Cross your fingers.

Good luck! Let us know how it went.

Quick set of thoughts.

The room’s lack of treatment may end up biting me in the ass. There’s a boominess that I attribute partially to the drums (which were tuned after he set up, by the way) having too much resonance and partially to the fact that we’re playing in my basement, which is carpeted but still is untreated.

The dynamic mic that I used on the kick was insufficient. I had to boost the mic pre and the channel fader to get it to be on par with the snare mic.

My lack of experience in this cost us precious time in the beginning because I had signal path issues that it took me a few minutes to work out.

There is a lot of mixing work to be done now because the boominess of the track is a) like a natural reverb and b) causes it to have a lot of mids. This is competing heavily with the rest of the mix and is causing the drums to get drowned out.

In other words, in addition to comping the various takes I have a decent amount of work to do just to see if I can get this to set well in the mix. I may be back here begging someone with Drumagog to process the drum track into a MIDI file that I can then apply to Battery to get good quality audio.

Stay tuned.

Edit: Tom’s tips on setting up the mic configuration were a huge help. I used the Glyn Jon PDF to provide initial guidance with some much needed information from Tom to ensure that it would be successful. THANKS TOM!

What you have in your favor is drums can take a lot of EQ and not sound wrong so the first thing to do would be to find the frequencies of the mid range that’s out of whack and cut till it’s better.

What you have against is drums also take a lot of compression, which will enhance any reverberant component in the sound that you may not like.

Of course it also depends on the music style and the drummer!

Larry, you should have something totally useful. Split is absolutely right too about eq and compression. Drums can really take a beating in a mix and sound great.

Rigging up temporary baffles can make a (low-tech) difference to roomboom. Just simple furniture really. Couple of mic or spare drum stands and sling a blanket between them. Position anywhere within 6 feet of the kit to break up the boom.
On bass drums try a blanket tunnel. Couple of chairs with blankets, coats, anything draped over. Insert mic and see what you get. Ideally though the bass tunnel uses two mics, one close, the other at the mid or end of the tunnel.

Do not laugh! If you have a lot of cardboard packing left over you can build a house for the drumkit to contain the sound. Technique used on at least one megabuck hit production.

Get the room right and the instrument will follow with less imperfections to correct.
ie: Put the carpet down before you bring in the furniture.

Conman, I agree completely. There were significant time restraints though and so I was unable to do as many things as I would have liked.

While driving to my business meeting this morning (just arrived at the McD’s down the road for a quick coffee) I realized to my horror that I forgot to check the pattern that the AKG C414 was using. If it was omni I’m going to die.

In any case, I won’t know anything until I get some quality time tonight to play with this.

A few years ago a semi-pro band asked me to do a live recording at a local venue - a permanently moored ship. I got everything set up to record the band, except the drummer who was late - very late. He managed to set up just before kick-off, so to teach him a lesson :0) I stuck two Tandy PZM boundary mics (pre-Crown lawsuit ones) in front of his kit.

Annoyingly, I still get compliments about the way I captured the drums that night. That’s life! :unamused: :laughing:

Aloha guys,

Great thread and some wonderful advice given out.

Re the title of this thread:

‘Need advice on recording drums live’

My wife was walking by as I was reading this and she said to me,

How else are drums recorded if not ‘live’?
As a matter of fact is not all ‘recording’ done ‘live’?

I did not have an answer for her. It was ‘FacePalm’ time.
Please help me out. :slight_smile:



I did not have an answer for her.

Tell her she’s only a girl, and as such cannot possibly understand. (Ouch…duck…ouch, ouch) :neutral_face: :laughing: