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Have you ever wondered how legends like Sheila E. manage to create that pristine, pitch-perfect drum sound every time they hit the recording studio?
Are you looking to dial in your drum kit for a sound that makes the angels, or head-banging rock fans, weep?
Well, drumroll, please... because we have just the ticket for you.
In the grand symphony of studio recording, your drum kit is the brash, lively percussion section, waving its sticks frantically for attention. But to capture its voice with all the richness, depth, and nuance it deserves... now, that's a whole different beat.
That’s why we discuss:
Presenting... seven explosive tips to help you set up your percussion drum kit for studio recording like a drumming icon.
When it comes to achieving a great recorded drum sound, the right recording drum accessories are essential. Let’s explore some microphone options:
With the right equipment and preparation, your studio recording experience can be a success.
Let's be clear: drum heads are like pizza toppings.
Some people like it hot with jalapenos and others may fancy a pineapple fiesta. There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but every choice will totally shape the flavor, or in this case, the sound, of your masterpiece.
Kick drums, snare drums, tom toms—each requires a different drum head for that perfect harmony.
Let's start with the big guy, your kick drum. Want that thump to echo through the listener's chest? Something like a clear or coated double-ply drum head will do.
Want an even smoother session and punchier sound? Get the Single Kick Bass Drum Pedal by GRIFFIN - Deluxe Double Chain Foot Percussion Hardware for Intense Play - 4-Sided Beater & Adjustable Power Cam System.
Now, let's move on to the snare drum. Single-ply heads are often the go-to for snares, offering a lively, bright sound. But if you want more durability and a darker tone, don't shy away from a double-ply head.
And then we have the tom toms. Clear heads will give your toms a bright, open sound, while coated heads will provide a warmer, more mellow tone.
The table below compares the tonal qualities and durability of different drum head types:
|Drum Head Type
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Every room is an undiscovered island, with unique sonic characteristics hidden within its dimensions.
Shift around the room, and find that sweet spot where your drums bellow out with the bravado of a pirate king.
Try to keep your drum set away from walls or corners where sound can bounce back and cause interference. If possible, keep your kit at a central location in the room. This can help reduce echo and standing waves.
Let’s examine which drums you can include in your kit and where to position them:
The size of your kick drum plays a key role in determining the sound of your rhythmic voyage.
Larger kick drums, say around 22 to 24 inches, will give you a deep, low-end resonance while smaller kick drums (around 18 to 20 inches) will produce a brighter, punchier sound.
Once you've chosen your kick drum, position it facing straight out towards the room. Angle it slightly away from you to allow for better pedal access.
As captain, you'll need to choose the voice that will command your ship's rhythm.
Picking the right snare drum is as crucial as choosing the right parrot to perch on your shoulder. Different birds squawk in different tones, and different snares, well, they “squawk” differently too.
Smaller snare drums (think 13 inches or less) like the Piccolo Snare Drum 13" x 3.5" by GRIFFIN - 100% Poplar Shell Zebra Wood Finish & Coated Drum Head, tend to produce higher, tighter sounds.
This sound can be perfect for fast-paced music genres where a quick, crisp response is needed.
Larger snares (14 inches and up) deliver a broader, lower sound with more resonance. An example is the GRIFFIN Snare Drum - Poplar Wood Shell 14" x 5.5" with Black PVC & Coated Head - Acoustic Marching Percussion Musical Instrument Set with Drummers Key.
“I absolutely love this snare! It definitely gets five stars. It doesn’t weigh a lot so it's not too uncomfortable to march with. And the company was so user friendly that they even wrote a personalized thank you letter saying if anything was wrong to personally contact them.”
— Jeanie Boyer, Verified Buyer
Large snare drums are a versatile choice for many music styles, from rock to jazz.
For your home studio recording, though, you might want to choose a snare that sings out with a bright, attacking voice, providing clarity and presence in your recordings.
Position the snare on a stand, between your legs, angled towards you. The top needs to be approximately parallel to the ground, at a height where your stick strikes the drum's center when your arm is in a relaxed state.
Rack toms are typically smaller and can be mounted directly onto your kick drum or on separate drum mounting hardware. They generally produce higher pitches.
Floor toms, on the other hand, are larger and stand on their own. They belt out deep, resonant tones, like the hearty bellow of a seasoned boatswain.
Positioned to your dominant side (right for righties, left for southpaws), they're always ready to punctuate your beats with a robust, low-end punch.
Angle your toms towards you so you can easily strike them without shifting your posture drastically. For the best tone, your sticks need to strike near the center of the toms.
The type of cymbal you choose will have a titanic impact on your recorded sound.
The glimmering ring of a ride cymbal, the crashing crescendo of a crash cymbal, or the rhythmic chime of hi-hats; all these contribute distinct voices to your percussive symphony.
Once you've chosen your cymbal crew, remember to position them wisely.
They need to be comfortably accessible but not so low that they risk clashing with your other crew members.
Adjust their height so your sticks can comfortably reach them without colliding with the toms.
Using a Boom stand like the GRIFFIN Cymbal Boom Stand - Double Braced Drum Percussion Gear Hardware Set - Adjustable Height can give you more versatility.
“Well I had seen the sound rental company had about three of these in use when I was performing at a radio station festival. They performed so well I had to get one of these for my drum set. This is a very sturdy stand, well constructed, and easily holds my Paiste 18'' Ride Cymbal. I will definitely be purchasing another.”
— Prerna Ramkissoon, Verified Buyer
Your drums need a little TLC—tuning—to give their best performance.
Start with your snare drum, the heart of your drum kit.
Loosen all the tension rods and then gradually tighten each one, following a crisscross pattern across the head.
Make sure each rod has the same tension, gently tapping the head near each rod with a drumstick while listening for uniform pitch.
Next, let's show some love to the toms. Repeat the process used for the snare.
For a classic rock sound, tune the top heads (batter heads) a little lower than the bottom heads (resonant heads). For jazz, it's often the other way around.
Again, there's no one-size-fits-all approach here. Experiment with different tensions to find your sound.
Now, onto the kick drum. Adjust the batter head until the rods are finger-tight, then lightly tap it to confirm the pitch is uniform.
Again, trust your ears and adjust until you achieve the sound you want.
Your drum kit isn't just one instrument. It's a full-on orchestra of percussive power.
Each component has its own voice and personality, and they all deserve their moment in the spotlight. You’ll require appropriate drum microphone placement techniques.
First things first, let's talk about that kick drum. It needs a mic that can handle low frequencies.
Something like a dynamic microphone, placed just inside the hole in the front drum head, can capture that deep, punchy sound while a second mic outside the resonant head can capture those thunderous low frequencies.
Next up, the snare. A dynamic microphone can capture that bright, biting crack of the snare.
Position it a couple of inches above the rim, pointing at the center of the drum. You can also include an optional mic beneath to pick up the sizzle of the snare wires.
Then we've got the tom toms. Depending on your studio recording drum kit setup, you can use clip-on mics or stand-mounted mics for these.
Angle the mic towards the center of the drum to capture the meat of the sound while reducing the bleed from other drums.
Don't forget about your overhead mics, too.
Positioned a couple of feet above your kit, the Dynamic Vocal Microphones with Clips (2 Pack) FAT TOAD - Cardioid Handheld, Unidirectional Mic - Singing Wired Microphone for Music Stage Instrument provide a balanced perspective of the entire kit.
One last piece of advice: Adjust and experiment with your mic positioning and techniques until you find what works best for your unique sound.
Dampening drums is a technique used to control and reduce overtones, sustain, and resonance, resulting in a tighter, more focused sound.
This can be especially helpful in studio recording to prevent excess noise or ringing.
Here's a quick guide:
Remember, the goal isn't to eliminate all resonance, but to control it. It's about striking a balance, and that takes experimentation.
Isolating each drum component during recording is key to obtaining a clean, controlled studio drum kit sound. Here are some techniques you can use:
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And there you have it. Seven golden nuggets of wisdom to help you make some serious noise in the studio, all while keeping your Geek Stands percussion gear sounding like a dream.
Remember, it's all about the details when it comes to setting up your percussion instruments.
We've learned that optimal drum miking tips are the secret to capturing the perfect drum sound. Not too close, not too far, just right.
Then we discussed the importance of positioning your drum kit so everyone can comfortably reach each other, without any mid-performance collisions and dampening techniques to get rid of unwanted sound overtones.
With these tips under your belt, you're not just prepared, you're armed and dangerous—ready to take the studio by storm and create percussive perfection.
Require more inspiration? Here is how to set up your home drum studio: