Professional Sound - Indepth

Tips On Getting Killer Drum Sounds by Nick Blagona

Engineers spend more time getting drum sounds than any other instrument. I’ve personally seen situations where days have been spent getting a drum sound. Kits are changed, heads are changed, cymbals are changed, heads are taped up or un-taped, mics are selected and changed, the kit is placed in various parts of the studio, head damping devices are used, mini pads are cut up and placed on heads, and on it goes. The poor drummer keeps hitting his kick, snare, and toms … by the end of this, he or she is back in rehab.

Here’s my approach for a great drum sound. My recommendations for drum mics: Sennheiser MD 421s, Shure 57, and some Neumann 87s. I like using the Neve 1081 console in Studio 1 at Metalworks, so all frequencies mentioned here are from the 1081s. I find that padding down the preamp a low as you can go with the fader up gives me the best result. Having the mic pres all the way down gives me very little leakage from the cymbals to the toms and hi-hat to the snare and very little kit in the kick drum.

**The Kick **
Mic the kick drum with a Sennheiser 421, throwing a sandbag in the drum helps to dampen out any overtones. The mic should be placed right at the beater. I also use a Yamaha NS10 woofer as my second mic, placed where the front skin used to be. I record this flat since it has the prefect frequency response.
For the 421, give it +3 at 82 Hz for bottom and +4 at 6.8 K for added attack.

**The Snare **
For the snare drum, use the Shure SM57 at a 45- to 60-degree angle about an inch or two above the head pointing it at the centre of the snare.
+2 at 82 Hz, -2 to -4 at 820 Hz, and +4 at 6.8 K for crispness. If you like the idea of miking under the snare for some rattle and hum, use an AKG 414 in a tight pattern under the stands.

**Toms **
Mic all three toms with the 421s set at about a 45-degree angle to the centre of the tom. I usually add
some 8.2 K.

For the overheads use U 87s. Place the mics about 16″ over the cymbals’ centres and towed out at about 45 degrees. I usually record them flat.

An AKG 451, pointing at the centre.

Nick Blagona has recorded The Bee Gees, Chicago, The Police, The Tea Party, Alexisonfire, Deep Purple, and many others. Please go to for more details.

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About Andrew King
Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief at Professional Sound. He is also a co-host of Canadian Musician Radio and NWC Webinars’ series of free music and entertainment industry webinars.
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