Can you really record drums with just one microphone? The answer is – yes! You can record drums with just one mic if that’s all you have, and still get half-reasonable results! The tip is to experiment with mic placement. Trying to get a balanced sound of a whole drum kit is going to be challenging, so getting creative with the mic is a must.
For you bedroom studio artists, you’re most likely going to have a two channel interface with something like an SM57 and a large diaphragm condenser like a Rode NT1-A, or something similar. In the example below, I placed a Sontronics STC-2 large diaphragm condenser microphone just below the ride cymbal and in between the mid tom and floor tom. The mic was angled towards the snare and hi-hat. The mic is cardioid pattern.
The drawback of just using one mic is that you’re left with a mono drum recording; although, this enforces phase coherency, as you’re not battling with two or more microphones. To get some sort of stereo, send the drum recording out to a stereo reverb and blend it in with the dry signal, that way you’re giving the drums a sense of space even though the recording is mono. In the mixed example below, I added some basic EQ, some parallel compression and reverb. That’s it!
*I’m a pretty lousy drummer!
It’s been a very long time since I’ve written a blog post, and this is really just some self-promotion for my recorded work, but my buds in Light Fire Down (who I recorded over this summer) have got their EP streaming in full over at Punktastic. I’m very happy that my recorded work has finally got some recognition other than those who live locally to me, and hopefully this will put the boys in good stead. You can stream the EP in full for a week by following the link below.
So today, I’ve been tracking the last few vocal bits with Light Fire Down by working on harmonies. I went to the studio early so I could record some abstract chimes/bells for the bridge of one of their tracks. I thought it’d be a cool idea, and it sounds really doomy, which I like. I used one of my Sontronics STC-1s for more transient detail and attack, and set it around 3ft back to capture the whole spectrum of the instrument. The instrument is this really old, beaten up, hunk of junk that never gets used in the studio, but I’m glad we haven’t chucked it out, as it sounds really cool!
For vocals, I recorded through one of my Shure KSM32s. This whole EP has been recorded through PreSonus FireStudio Projects; no fancy recording desk, no fancy external compressors or EQ on the way in, just an 8-channel firewire audio interface. I’m so impressed by how good the pres are in these units. Most interfaces generally sound pretty good these days anyway, but the signal going in is so clean and full-bodied.
Below are some pics from the session:
This past week, I’ve been working on guitar tracks with Light Fire Down. We initially started with leads and then rhythm just for kicks. For lead guitars, we went through my rig which is my homemade custom Telecaster with Dimarzio Twang Kings into my Sweet Honey Overdrive to push the tubes and to add a bit of flexibility with EQ, then into my Tiny Terror head and finally into my Orange 1×12. I recorded it with an SM57 and MD421. The purpose of having the Sweet Honey Overdrive in the chain, like I said, was to give more flexibility with EQ, as the Tiny Terror’s EQ section is fairly limiting, the pedal was also used just to drive the tubes a bit more, and provide a more compressed overdrive tone.
For Rich’s guitars, we went through my old guitar head which I sold to Dan (lead guitarist). We tracked through Dan’s Epiphone Les Paul into my Pork Loin to push the tubes, then into my old JCM2000 DSL50, into Rich’s Marshall 4×12. Again, we recorded with an SM57 and MD421. During this session, once we’d finished all of Rich’s parts, we decided to record some weird noisy sounds for the intro to their opening track “Lighthouse”, I brought my discontinued Electro Harmonix HOG and put it in “freeze-gliss” mode with an expression pedal to get some weird organ-like sounds. Below are some pictures from the session.
On Tuesday, I started tracking bass with Light Fire Down. Ash, their bassist, has just bought himself some tasty new gear, and we put it through its paces in the session. We tracked through his newly acquired Fender American Precision with Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders into my Pork Loin for more dirt into Ash’s Terror Bass then into Ash’s weird Ampeg cab.
The combination of all this made for a growly bass tone which sounds great! I took a lot of takes of each section of the three songs we recorded so that I could comp between them and then just ensure that each of these sections were in tune after every take.
This week, I’ve been working with Light Fire Down, a new Melodic Punk band based in my hometown. They’ve got three tracks that they’re recording with me, and on Monday we started drums. The guys are heavily influenced by Alkaline Trio, so I’ve done some early mixing to the drums and so far, it’s in the ballpark of a modern Alkaline Trio record. Max, their drummer, is also in WeWhoDare, and we both decided that we wanted to use a different snare with this record which had more crack and tone rather than Max’s deep Pork Pie snare.
The setup in this session was more-or-less the same, besides a few sneaky things. I used three mics on the kick, something I’ve never done before and I also made a “tent” for it to isolate the mics from the rest of the kit. I used my DIY subkick and modded 57 as before, but added my Rode NT1-A to the resonant head to pick up more tone. Other than that, the setup is the same with 57s on the snare and hi-tom, 421 on the floor, KSM32s for overheads and my NT2000 for the room set to omni.
I’ve since comped the drum tracks, and I’m going to start the long tedious journey of quantizing tomorrow. Can’t wait to crack on with guitars!
Last night, I recorded my brother’s new band at their rehearsal. They wanted to have something clear to listen back to as they were writing some material, rather than just recording a horrible mess with their phones. This was also a good opportunity for me to try out some unusual mic combinations that I wouldn’t do in a regular session. As you can see from the picture, the room we recorded in wasn’t ideal, but surprisingly, the results are quite good!
So, I went for a pretty minimal approach, I used six mics in total, one of which wasn’t even used in the mix. For drums, I used an NT1-A on kick, SM57 on snare and a KSM32 as a mono overhead. For guitars and bass, I used an SM57 for guitar and DI’d bass.
In the mix, I did some fairly minimal mixing, I EQ’d all tracks but only compressed the master bus and the snare to tame some of the peaks. To give the drums the smack they needed, I parallel compressed the kick and snare and gave them space using some reverb. For bass, I also did some parallel processing, I made a copy of the bass guitar with an aux input and then heavily distorted it with the “Crunchy Citrus” setting in Guitar Rig. Guitar was just EQ.
I wanted to see what sort of sound could be achieved in a scenario where the room is less than ideal, the band are all playing live, and have their instruments loud. Setting myself restrictions made me think more creatively on how I was going to get the best sound possible with these limitations. I’m very surprised how well the condenser I used on the kick rejected the bass amp which was right behind the mic. The amp that was used in the rehearsal was a 300 watt valve amp, which I took a DI signal from. I also love the sound of the kick drum with a condenser, it provides a really nice rounded, warm tone which would go nicely with a clicky mic and subkick.
Listen to the quick mix I did below: