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Friday, December 12, 2008

Think about it: Things to do when recording drums

Be weary of drum tunings that conflict with the song

Many of the best engineers out there are also the best drum techs. A good engineer takes the time to tune the kit right even if the player doesn't really know how. I'm not a super-expert on the art of tuning drums but I'm pretty good (disclaimer: I am also a drummer) and much attention should be paid to drum sounds before a mic is placed anywhere.

Head conditions should be addressed first. If the tom heads look like oatmeal it's long overdue to replace them. One of those things best mentioned a week or longer before a session starts so the drummer can evaluate his kit.

Tuning of individual drums at or close to their fundamental tone is important, and then variations depending on the song (if the song is in G major don't tune the hi tom to F# and the second to C# as those rolls aren't going to jive) and the tones you choose need to be relevant to each other. There is also sympathetic vibration which is particularly a problem with snare drums buzzing. Some tones (don't ask me which one, you may have standing waves in your room that just dig the hell out of one or eight in particular... there are other reasons the frequencies could be clashing or enhancing as well) will light up a snare drum as much as a good ghost fill and this can be a huge problem. Of course, kick and snare come first as they are the pulse of the song.

Find note tunings for those that are rock solid for your G major song, E minor (hey nobody plans in THAT scale anymore... ) or whatever and it's a good place to start. Hope this helps. I've just always noticed the best results of rock recording usually start with the engineer on the floor twisting lugs on the kit while the drummer sits back sheepishly.

--Warren Dent


One of Mojo Pie's favorite engineers is Alex Gerst of Sanger, Texas. One of the reasons is his ability to track and mix drums. Pay careful attention to drums. Quality drum tracks generally indicate a well recorded and mixed project.

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