By Greg Dawson
By For Part 1 of the column, see the August 2013 issue of PS.
For this column, I’m going to focus on the kick drum and snare drum and how you can obtain crushing drum tones for various rock styles through a balance of live miking and triggering techniques. My goal is always to get as much sound from the original source as possible. This keeps my drums sounding organic and roomy. Here are some key ingredients for killer kick and snare sounds:
I have a few different mics and techniques that I like to use depending on the situation. The great thing about creating your own samples is experimenting with different techniques and multiple mics. You don’t have to worry about bleed from the rest of the kit. I treat every sample a little differently depending on the band.
For the kick drum, I usually start with an AKG D112 (for rock/hard rock) or an Audix D6 (for metal/punk) sitting about 1-2 in. into the hole of the front skin. I’m also a fan of the Yamaha Sub Kick, which I place to one side of the kick about 4-6 in. directly in front of the kick drum. Try adding a pencil condenser 2 ft. away from the front skin and EQ the hell out of it to bring out more attack in the kick. I usually mix my close mic (d112 or D6) very dominantly and use the Sub Kick and condenser just to enhance the beef and attack.
For the snare, the tried, tested, and true Shure SM57 is my go-to mic of choice – one on top about 1-2 in. from the skin and one on the bottom, mirror imaging the top mic with the phase reversed. Try a room mic for fun and see if you like it low in the mix just to open up the sound. Sometimes, I’ll throw a Royer 121 ribbon mic on the snare and get super-fat results.
Typically, if I’m going to use any triggers in the mix, it’s going to be a blend. The mix ratio of live source hits and trigger hits varies depending on the type of sound I’m trying to achieve. For rock/hard rock recordings, I might use a 20 per cent trigger and 80 per cent live blend to achieve an organic or “real” vibe. For metal/punk recordings, a 50/50 blend could be used to increase the aggressiveness of the drum sound. When recording a few intense death metal projects, I have used a blend of 80 per cent trigger and 20 per cent live to achieve a level of punishment that was needed in the mix.
That being said, I have done tons of recordings without any trigger at all. Try it out, trust your ears, and see what sounds good to you. Try to capture and use as much live source as you can. This is the best way to capture the performance and character of any musician that comes through your studio. Triggers are a great tool to achieve a desired effect, but beware of relying on them too much.
Greg Dawson is a producer and the Owner of BWC Studios in Brampton, ON. He has worked with artists including Moneen, The End, Black Lungs,