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Big Booms in Small Places Gwynn Oak MD

It is totally possible to get some bom bastic drum sounds at home with less-than-insanely expense microphones if you follow a few simple recording and processing guidelines.

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Big Booms in Small Places

Recording huge drum sounds in ahome studio is something like The Ultimate Struggle. You typically don’thave fabulous microphones, and therecording space is usually your dining room, living room, or garage. So youmay decide to go the loop-and-sampleroute, royally pissing off your(hopefully) loyal drummer, and causingthe band to perhaps revise all theparts the members had worked outto groove with the drummer’s feeland his or her specific input into the songs. You don’t have to do that—unless you want to, that is.

It is totally possible to get some bom bastic drum sounds at homewith less-than-insanely expense microphones if you follow a few simple recording and processing guidelines.You can record your songs theway you’ve always played them,keeping your drummer rocking to thematerial the band has worked ontogether, and retaining that wonderful vibe that occurs when a goodband plays a good song. Here’s oneway to go about it. . . .

Microphones

Don’t worry about them. Greatmics are wonderful, but if you don’thave them (or can’t borrow them),don’t sweat it. Except for almost toy-like models, most mics can atleast deliver a clean and relativelyclear sound.

Start with the snare. Find a suitabledynamic mic, and position itabout a half inch off the drumhead,pointed from the drummer’s left armtowards the kick pedal. Look for arelatively dry and clean swack. Thenext critical element is the kick drum.If all you have is another small- tomid-sized dynamic mic, don’t sweatit. Larger models, such as aSennheiser MD421 or an AKG D112can capture great wallop and boom,but even a Shure SM57 can give youenough kick attack and bass to serveup a rockin’ drum sound. Tighter kicksounds can be achieved if the fronthead is off (or if there’s a “mic hole”cut into the head), and more boomyand resonant sounds are produced when the head is left on. Start bypositioning the mic somewhere nearthe midpoint of the drum shell, andangled inward towards the rear head. Amend the positioning until you geta nice, big smack or punch.

Finally, position a mic in front ofthe kit, three feet away, and at aboutthe height of the drummer’s chest. This mic will capture the overallsound of the kit, as well as some niceroom ambience. If possible, keep theambience to a minimum. A little iscool, but too much may wash out thedrum sound, and we need to getmaximum impact from the three micswe’ve used.

Processing

At this point, your unaffected drumsounds should be tight, clear, clean,and punchy. If not, reposition themics until you hear some slammin’tones. Try to avoid using EQ, but ifyou hear too much mud or edginess,go for subtractive EQ at the offendingfrequencies. In other words, tryto cut, rather than boost, but dowhatever is needed to make thedrums rage.

A decent compressor or compressionplug-in will help dial in punchand impact. Set compression to tasteon each track (a good start for aggrosounds is a 4:1 ratio at a –10dBthreshold with a fast attack andrelease), but route the compressionreturns to dedic...

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