Focusrite Academy Recording Drums

Welcome to the Focusrite Academy – Drum Recording video tutorial course. Here we’ll show you how to record drums, and process and mix a full drum kit in the studio, addressing everything from the drum recording equipment required – microphones, audio interface and outboard – to the skills and techniques involved.

Through this series of videos, featuring first-call session drummers Craig Blundell and Alessandro Lombardo, you’ll learn how to set microphones up around the kit in various configurations, apply compression, phase correction and effects, edit the timing and groove of a recorded drum track in your DAW, and more.

Having worked through Focusrite Academy – Drum Recording, you’ll have all the insider knowledge you need to be able to engineer and produce incredible-sounding drum tracks.

Meet your drum recording tutors

Welcome to Focusrite Academy – Drum Recording. Your course tutors are world-renowned session drummers Craig Blundell and Alessandro Lombardo, and producer Tim Harbour. Craig is playing Mapex drums and Paiste cymbals, while Alessandro uses Tama drums and Zildjian cymbals.

Craig Blundell

Alessandro Lombardo

Tim Harbour

Listen to and compare the different mic setups

Here you can listen to all of the recordings from the different mic setups that you will be learning about. The twelve-mic recordings are also available in our interactive virtual mixer where you can listen to them idividually or have a go at mixing them together.

Drum recording setup

Drum tuning with Craig Blundell

We start at the very beginning: getting the drums themselves sounding great by making sure they’re positioned correctly, and that the heads are properly tuned.

Drum tuning with Alessandro Lombardo

Alessandro Lombardo talks about the topic of tuning.

Microphone know-how

Tim Harbour explains the differences between microphone applications.

Mic placement

One-mic placement

We show you how to record drums using a professional-sounding drum recording setup with one AKG C414 microphone.

Two-mic placement – part one

We show you how to record drums using a professional-sounding drum recording setup with two microphones. We’re using mics by AKG and Shure.

Two-mic placement – part two

Using two mics by Shure, we show you how to record drums with a professional-sounding drum recording setup.

Three-mic placement – part one

We show you how to record drums using a professional-sounding drum recording setup with two microphones in a spaced pair and a kick.

Three-mic placement – part two

We show you how to record drums using a professional-sounding drum recording setup with two microphones in an XY pair and a kick.

Four-mic placement

Using four mics by AKG and Shure, we show you how to record drums with a professional-sounding drum recording setup.

Eight-mic placement

In this video we clip three Sennheiser e 904s onto the toms and aim an SE Electronics RN17 at the hi-hats.

Twelve-mic placement

We work in another four microphones: a Shure SM57 under the snare, an SE Electronics RN17 on the ride cymbal and a pair of SE Z5600 A2s room mics.

Drum mic comparison with Alessandro Lombardo

In this video, we seamlessly line up each mic positioning technique in one take so you can listen to each placement in sequence.

Technique and correction

Expanding channel count

In this video we hook up a Focusrite Clarett 8PreX audio interface to a Clarett OctoPre to double up to a whopping 16 inputs!

Phase problems

Recording studio drums using multiple microphones often results in phasing and cancellation problems, to the detriment of the overall sound.

Soundchecking drums

Now we’ve covered the mics we’re going to soundcheck each drum, starting with the kick.

Dampening

Alessandro Lombardo's guide to dampening drums can be used to get the drum recording setup you want.

Posture

Correct posture is important when recording studio drums. Here Alessandro Lombardo gives advice on improving your drum recording setup – taking the pressure off your body.

Rudiments

Learn some of the basic patterns used by Alessandro Lombardo when recording studio drums.

Mixing drums

Panning

In this tutorial, Tim Harbour takes you through panning when mixing drums.

EQ

In this tutorial, Tim Harbour takes you through EQ when mixing drums.

Routing and FX

In this tutorial, Tim Harbour takes you through routing and FX when mixing drums.

Triggers

In this tutorial, Tim Harbour takes you through triggers when mixing drums.

Performances

Drum performance with Craig Blundell

Here we present Craig Blundell’s performance recording studio drums.

Drum performance with Alessandro Lombardo

Here we present Alessandro Lombardo’s performance recording studio drums.

Pro Tips

Donal Hodgson
Grammy award winning recording engineer and record producer (Primal Scream, Happy Mondays, etc).

Recording drums. A lot of people have a lot of strong views on this… here are some of my thoughts for you.

Get a great drummer !! A great drummer can make a bad kit sound good as well as make up for any compromises or inefficiencies in the recording setup. But if your not lucky enough to be working with one of the worlds best then before you even move a mic stand take a listen to the drummer playing his drum part in the room your going to record in. Listen for any extraneous noises in the kit, loose stands, buzzing heads, creaking drum stool etc… and resolve them. (unless of course your going for that lived in and used drum sound !!).

I almost always end up putting more weights on the bass drum, either in the actual drum or around the spikes to stop the drum from moving when it’s hit. You want the air to move not the kick it’s self. I also spend time making sure the kit is in tune, especially the toms and work with the drummer to dampen any ringing toms or funny tones in the snare. The same goes for the kick. With advent of the DAW and multiple inputs I always record more mics than I’ll end up using in the mix. A typical input list would be kick in & out, snare top and bottom, hi-hat, ride (usually mic from underneath), toms top and bottom (remember to check the phase on the bottom mic, it will need to be inverted). If I have a lot of record inputs I will mic each cymbal other wise I’ll use a stereo pair over the top of the kit and a stereo pair for the room and a mono mic behind the kit in case I want to add any big drum effects, like extreme compression etc…

I am always changing my drum mics but some of my favourites that I have kept with for a while include Sure Beta 52a for kick and Beta 56a for Snare top. I am a big fan of the Focusrite Red 4Pre interface, DPA mics and use 2011’s and 4099’s on cymbals and toms which I generally track with my ISA Two.

Neil Davidge
Co-writer and producer of Massive Attack.

The drums for the song ‘Angel' from the album Mezzanine.

Mezzanine was mainly recorded and written in an ex BBC studio facility here in Bristol, Christchurch studios (it’s now owned by the Bristol Old Vic).

Massive Attack and I shared half a floor, we each had a writing room and shared an office. On the level below us was the Control room for the studio and below that was the live room and ‘dead’ room (the control room was actually a Mezzanine… I’m not sure if that’s where Dee got the idea for the album title from…). But below that was a labyrinth of cellars, with one room in particular at the back that was used for embalming back in the day.

This room to my mind was the perfect echo chamber for the live drums, played by Andy Gangadeen.

Luckily the BBC had tie lined throughout the building, including the cellars (although many of the lines were starting to degrade due to the damp). Lee Shephard (engineer) and I set up a large (Tannoy ‘Little Gold’) speaker in the room with a pair of Neumann U87’s through my ISA 215’s, then hooked up a send from the control room from the drums. They sounded immense. With a blend of the dead room (where we’d set the drums up) and the acoustics of the embalming room, this was to become the drum sound for the track ‘Angel’ that kicks in with Angelo’s guitar halfway through the track.

When we came to mix the album, Spike (Mark ‘Spike’ Stent, mix engineer) took the pure wet sound and fed it through a filter box, I think it was a Mutator, then slowly fed this back into the drum mix as the track built, creating the ‘sloshing’ sound towards the end of the track.

There’s something really satisfying about using the natural acoustics around you, possibly even more so now, when so much of music creation is done ‘in the box’.

Joe Flory
Session drummer for Chilly Gonzales, CocknBullKid and others.

The funny thing about recording drums is that you can have about ten expensive mics all over a drum kit, and then when you go through your tracks, its the cheap stereo mic at the back of the room that sounds best. I have had some very good results from multiple mic set ups, but it's easy to get lost in the technical process.

My personal taste tends towards the dirtier sounding recordings, because if I wanted a clean sound I would probably opt for electronic drums. My absolute favourite way to record drums remains pretty much the same as when I first ever tried it. I used to use a MiniDisc, but these days I can attach two mics to a laptop via a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 (portable, high spec and reliable).

I'll move the mics around the room until I find the best position soundwise, then play very simple drum parts with no fluff. Afterwards I go through the stereo recordings and sample the best bits. Lazy maybe, but very fun and I like the results!

YouTuber Tips

In painting, each color and brush plays a roll in the work of art. The quality and characteristics of your paint and tools will contribute to the finished work. When I record drums, each sound is it's own color; the microphones and interface are my brushes. As you improve the quality of each sound and tool, you inevitably improve the quality of your art.

Nothing lends itself better to a live video than a mix that sounds live. It adds to the performance and entertainment factor if the mix furthers the live performance nature of your video.

Live monitoring of your recording is key to being able to minimize retakes and maximize your happiness with the recording quality if you are generally a one person recording operation (engineer/artist). The incredibly low latency of the new Thunderbolt Clarett line makes live monitoring so easy and successful and eliminates so much of the stress of trying to engineer and play at the same time.

Proper placement of your overheads is key. If you can create a sound you're happy with using only your overheads or overheads and kick/snare mics, you're only going to find more success and happiness with your mix once you start adding in more close mics.