Once at the Department of Sound Engineering of the Institute. The Gnesins had a meeting with the famous sound engineer Yuri Bogdanov. He told various stories from his life for a long time that the sound engineer is a complex, ambiguous profession, which often requires knowledge of psychology and the like. Everyone listened very carefully, respectfully, outlined something. When the monologue came to an end and Yuri Ivanovich suggested asking him questions, the first one was: “Tell me, please, how do you record drums?
It is only natural that practical questions concern novice sound engineers much more than philosophical aspects. Therefore, let me remind you of a few quite understandable, but not always obvious rules, due to which the recording of drums will become a holiday for you, and not a torment with the selection of microphones, their arrangement, balance and similar problems.
First: do everything possible to have correctly tuned, good-sounding instruments on the record. If you don’t have one, rent it. This will fully pay off not only due to the good sound, but also due to the saving of studio time, which does not have to be spent on fighting a bad instrument. You won’t have to worry that the big drum doesn’t sound at all, while the small drum has such a spurious resonance as you don’t often see. Percussion is probably the only instrument whose half sound, if not more, depends on the quality of the instrument itself, and only the rest on the performer.
Second: if you don’t know anything about the musician you are going to record, try to find out about all his strengths and weaknesses from your fellow sound engineers or fellow musicians. This will help in finding a common language with the performer as soon as possible, and also will not allow you to do anything stupid in the recording process. A typical mistake is excessive pickiness towards a musician who is not capable of more. Ask yourself, and if you think it is possible, and the musicians the question: “Will it be better?”. Depending on the answer and act, but remember that often the first take when recording is the most natural and emotional. With each subsequent take this freshness begins to be lost, and, thank God, if, in the end, you achieve evenness, dynamics, getting into the metronome and everything else that you lacked, and do not lower your hands, looking at the soaked drummer, and not understood – what do they want from him?
Sometimes, having learned in advance about an upcoming meeting with a not-so-good, “but very promising young drummer,” it’s worth taking the liberty of talking with a producer or recording artists about the possibility of inviting a session musician instead, since working in the studio is quite different from the process rehearsals and concert activities. In this case, experience shows that one or two rehearsals with a professional are enough – and again you will save both quite expensive studio time and your own strengths, as well as the emotions of the musicians.
Let’s go directly to practice. It is very important to plan the session correctly. The fact that for recording you need well-tuned drums has already been said. The methods of their proper tuning are known to the musicians themselves, and for those who want to get acquainted, there is also special literature. But in our time of ubiquitous “loops”, that is, ready-made sampled rhythmic figures, it’s a shame to spend studio time, which is precious in all senses, when you are required to quickly and qualitatively set up all the acoustic and electrical aspects of the recording without spending hours on selecting microphones, their arrangement. It is worth saving the strength of the performer, while tuning stupidly playing quarters for each of the instruments. If you still lack experience in something, or simply don’t have confidence, try to build a session so that all the technical part of the work is done on the eve of the recording, and in the morning you can do creative work. It’s more convenient not only for you, but, first of all, for musicians.
Each drum set, tone room, and the song itself (composition) require a new approach from the sound engineer each time. Therefore, the drum recording technique itself is determined only by the experience and ingenuity of the sound engineer. If you are sure what the sound image of the work should be like in the final version, feel free to experiment and get the drums sound that matches it right away, instead of writing some standard averaged sound, and then turning the knobs on the remote control and instruments processing, trying to find something bright, special, not like other records.
If there is no such certainty, try to have at least one microphone for each of the drums, and record it on a separate track. In the future, this gives great freedom in reducing not only the balance between them, but also the ability to supplement (mix) or replace some parts with a trigger with samples, and not only drum, or any others.