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The importance of a good drummer for recording

June 14, 2015

I’m writing this post on a bit of a whim. Over this weekend, I’ve been listening back to old projects that I’ve worked on from 2013-present, and one thing sets apart the recordings I really like compared to the recordings that don’t sound that great, and that is a good drummer. I’ve realised that you can have all the mics, pres and outboard in the world, but if you don’t have the most fundamental part for getting a great drum recording, then you may as well not bother. What makes a good drummer? Well, first and foremost, you need a drummer that can actually stay in time with the track/click. Just as importantly, you need a drummer that can make the drums “sing”; by that I mean making the drums resonate in a certain way, hitting the stick consistently in the same area (unless otherwise done so for effect – rim shots, for example), creating dynamics in the performance. For most modern genres of music, you need a drummer that can hit the drums (not cymbals) HARD. Forceful input from the drummer will create a forceful output and drums that “sing” in the mix. A great performance is absolutely essential. I find this to be most apparent with toms, but all drum shells need to be hit hard. If a drummer doesn’t put enough force hitting toms, they’ll sound wimpy in the mix – guaranteed. Secondly, you need good sounding drums. Don’t come to a session with 10-year-old drum heads covered in duct tape and are out of tune from sitting in a garage for years. What’s the point? Pointing a mic at horrible-sounding drums isn’t going to make them sound like a million bucks. If you have a good drummer with a well-maintained kit, you will absolutely get a great drum recording if you keep phase relationships in mind. What I’ve realised over the years is that a great performance in a great song mixes itself. It makes the mix engineer’s job a million times easier as they can focus on enhancing a great performance rather than fixing problems.

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