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First Time Recording/Mixing Drums

A few weeks ago I came in contact with a local drummer named Mackay. I must say, he’s incredibly talented and I was quite excited when he asked if I could help him record some drum covers. Check out his cover of “Running With Scissors” by I See Stars that we recorded:

I had never ever recorded or mixed drums before this, but I was very willing to learn. Here are a few things that I took away from that experience:

  • Recording drums with two mics is difficult, but it can be done.

  • I needed to move my large diaphragm condenser closer to the snare. I had my AT 4040 right in front of the two middle toms just above the kick angled slightly toward the snare. My shure sm57 was recording the kick drum. In the mix, the kick and (especially) the cymbals drowned out the snare. Because I only recorded with one mic, EQing was difficult as decreasing/increasing some frequencies affected the sound of the whole drum kit.

  • I either needed better acoustic treatment or I needed to pull the mics in closer to the kit. I noticed lots of room noise coming from the snares and toms. Despite the fact that I had a packing blanket propped behind the drums, covering the windows, and carpet beneath, I could still hear lots of room noise.

  • I needed to test my mixes using various devices, mostly devices that common people tend to listen to their music on. I listened to mixes through my crappy laptop speakers, my phone speakers, and my headphones. I’m still learning how to make mixes sound great across all systems, but I’m finding it difficult. I felt I was sacrificing certain qualities of a mix with one set of speakers in order to compensate for sound quality on another set.

  • I learned that compression is my best friend. Still trying to figure it out though. We’re going through some struggles at the moment.

I’m hoping to expand my recording and mixing skills by practicing on instruments that I’ve never recorded before. Most of my experiences lies in vocals and acoustic guitar, so I think working with drums has significantly improved my skills as an aspiring audio engineer.

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