On Friday this week (3), during our spare time, Roy, Dechlan, Tom and myself continued making progress on our band recording Drax project. With some organisation, we managed to get a large 4 hour session in the Neve so we could finally record the band’s drummer – so that’s what we did.
THE DETAILS ~
As usual, here’s a rundown of the setup we had going, along with the gear we used:
SAE Drum Kit (Snare, 3 Toms, Crash, Ride, Single Kick, Hats)
1 x AKG D112 – (Kick Drum) 4 x Shure SM57 – (Snare, Rack & Floor Toms)
2 x Sennheiser E614 – (Overheads) 1 x Rode NT2A – (Room Mic)
1 x Shure SM58 – (Talkback)
As an indie/shoe-gaze act, the band is after a more natural, raw sounding recording. We realised that in order to achieve this, it might be more beneficial to limit the amount of mics on the kit to avoid accidentally going overboard in the mixing stage, rather than miking everything up and feeling obliged to use every track later on. As a result, we got rid of the dedicated hi-hat mic, kick-in mic and snare bottom mic. As I see it, these are mics are meant to capture more detail within certain elements of the kit – details which are not necessarily required to get good, raw sounding drums.Some may argue that this decision is limiting in the end, but personally I find that doing this helps me mentally streamline my approach to mixing. In this scenario particularly, it will make sure I focus on the sound that the artist wants, and minimises the chances of me getting lost over smaller details which they don’t really care for. This simultaneously provides the challenge of mixing with less tracks, which is exciting and will help sharpen my production skills (which is never a bad thing).
SETUP PROCESS & DECISIONS:
We decided to arrange our drums in the middle of the room. There’s nothing too flashy about this decision, we just wanted to avoid the extra absorption from the baffles near the back of the room and the resonance that comes from the glass near the front.
As you might’ve figured, our actual miking techniques were pretty standard too. First we close miced the kick drum fairly deep in the porthole to try and get a more ‘woofy’ and ‘thuddy’ sound matching the some of the references we received (in contrast to more modern sounding kicks which are typically all sub and snap frequencies).Next, the snare and toms were all close miked near the rim of the skins, angled slightly towards the centre of the drum. These were tested by ear as we did them to make sure we got a good result for each of these elements, being adjusted appropriately throughout the session.
The overheads were an interesting task, as we initially wanted a basic AB stereo setup but ended up settling on something a little different. As we were measuring our distance from the kit and testing the sound of our overheads, we noticed the snare was having a bit of a phasing issue, so we re-distanced our mics equally away from the snare to counteract this. In doing this, however, we started to lose some of the right side of our kit (the drummer liked his floor tom and ride a little further out than usual). As an initial fix, we angled our right overhead slightly out a little bit, but this only seemed to bring back the phasing issue. After re-measuring and adjusting the distance for this mic though, we were able to alleviate the phase while still encompassing most of the kit – so we decided to go with it even if it wasn’t ‘technically’ entirely faithful to the rules of the AB stereo technique. Even so, this was a satisfying solution that yielded good results; it was worth the effort. (The A-B Stereo Technique, 2016)
Finally, for the room mic, we decided to keep it fairly low to the ground in an attempt to get more of the ‘energy’ from the kit in the form of lower bodied frequencies. To avoid picking up the glass resonance from behind the mic, we simply used a cardioid pattern pointed towards the kit. Furthermore, we also wanted to make sure the room mic wasn’t ruining the sound of the kit we just spent so long testing, so we had to make sure it was in phase. The distance we ended up measuring between the room mic and the kit was the same as the distance between the overheads and the kit.
Overall, this mic setup ended up giving us a nice full sound overall that didn’t have wavering bass or washy cymbals. As a finishing touch, we ran everything through the Neve’s retro setting to try and get the kit sounding as warm as possible.
This was ultimately a very successful and smooth recording session in the Neve. As usual we had minor hiccups here and there, but not nearly as often, and they were solved very quickly when they did arise. This was definitely the most efficient session to date.Fortunately the drummer also knew his parts fairly confidently and was able to smash out multiple takes of each song in rapid succession, leaving us ample time to revise the takes and pack down before the session expired. This was one big relief for us personally, as drum recording is a large and detailed task – something which would be genuinely impossible to replicate exactly in a follow-up session unless we could leave everything set up there without it moving (which we can’t). Thinking about this now, I’m not entirely sure how to handle that situation if it were to occur in a future recording scenario beyond referring to session notes and trying to replicate it – this may be something worth looking in to in further detail.
The A-B Stereo Technique (2016). Retrieved from http://www.dpamicrophones.com/mic-university/principles-of-the-a-b-stereo-technique