View Full Version : First time recording drums in protools?

06-03-2015, 09:06 PM

I'll be doing my first drum tracking session ever. I have a good understanding of the console-to-PT and headphone mix routing in the room. I'll preface my question quickly, and state the question at the bottom in bold text.

I want these recordings to come out great, obviously. I'm still somewhat of a beginner, and I'm questioning what I know about phase relationships.

In practice, I've never multi-miked a SINGLE drum (IE snare top/bottom, or kick in/kick out, etc). It seems simple enough to get phase relationships right here, you just make sure each mic is an equal distance from each head, and play with the polarity invert to check how it sounds.

My question is this: How should I be thinking about my overhead mics and room mics? I plan on using two OH, and two room mics in front of the kit. I know about the 3:1 rule, but I understand some people aren't keen on it. How do you do it? ALSO, How can I make sure that these sound good when the client is in the room (I'm talking about phase relationships and levels here mostly, not EQ/compression/etc)? Do you process or phase align these tracks on the way to tape/DAW?

Thank you for reading!

06-04-2015, 03:42 AM
Don't worry about it too much if you already know about 3:1

Just consider room mics more important than overheads. Place one near the kit and another further away. You will likely compress the (mono) room mics heavily and leave the overheads uncompressed.

06-04-2015, 09:11 AM
There are several things that will affect the outcome here, such as:
the drum kit(good heads, proper tuning/damping, good cymbals....)
the room acoustics(you might experiment with where the kit goes)
The mics and placement
All this happens before you hit record:o Assuming the drummer has the kit in good shape(:eek::p), There's too many ways to mic a kit to cover, so this is mine:
Kick-Audix D-6(or any dedicated kick drum mic)
Kick-subkick(homemade with an 8" woofer in a 10" drum shell,)
Snare top-Beta56(SM57 is also good as is the Audix i5)
Snare bottom-anything(I use an EV ND468)polarity inverted
Hat-AT3031(discontinued SDC and the best if you can't afford a KM84)
High Toms-Miktek PM10(or sennheiser 421 or e604)
Low Toms-Miktek PM11(or sennheiser 421 or e604)
overheads-Miktek C1(or any good condenser pair)
Room-I don't use any(small room) but any good LDC or ribbon, single or pair.(and yes, SM57's will work okay for toms if that's all you have).
While tracking, I insert EQ III on every drum track to make them sound "nicer" during the tracking(I want the players to like what they hear). I insert gate plugins on the toms. I also add a touch of a room verb(to make up for not having a big room) with a short decay(around 385ms).

One trick you might benefit from is; once the drums are tracked to satisfaction, before the drummer leaves, I roll well past the end of the song and drop a marker. Then I put the kit in record and have the drummer play a single hit on each tom(letting it fade before hitting the next drum) and a flam on each, if the song used any. Later, I use these single shots to sound-replace the toms during the song. It takes a little time, but allows you to have much better control when it comes to mixing(I know some will cry blasphemy, but it works for me)

Michael Zull
06-04-2015, 10:57 AM
All great advice above. Will you be doing the cue mixes with console sends or from PT sends? Either way, make all the cue sends pre-fader, give the drummer/band what they need in the cans, and then get a nice balance going in the control room. If it's wow-factor from the clients in the control room you are after (other than a great recording :P ), my main tip regarding balance would be to bring the overheads and room mics down considerably in the mix, the drummer/band/producer like to hear a nice big kick and snare. Tuck the toms down a little too or they'll usually muddy things up in your tracking CR mix. The plugin advice Dave gave above is solid; EQ, gate, comp to taste if you can do it without latency issues, and put a nice room or hall reverb on the snare and a bit on the toms. Clients love how "cool" the verb sounds on the kit in the CR.

All of this is "within reason", of course. I'm not suggesting you mute the dang OH's or room mics or anything like that, it's just that nobody wants to hear a huge wash of cymbals way up on top of the mix.

I won't comment on mic setup, selection, or placement, as that's a whole 'nother HUMONGOUS topic for which you will get a different answer from every experienced engineer you talk to.

Have an awesome session and report back!

Michael Zull
06-04-2015, 11:04 AM
Oh and last thing...for goodness sakes, make sure the kit doesn't sound like **** to begin with :-) Have new heads put on the drums and have them tuned properly. It's amazing how very nice kits can be made to sound vile when old, improperly tuned heads are on them. If neither yourself nor the drummer is experienced in getting this done correctly, consult with someone who can assist with that, it can make a massive difference.

06-04-2015, 04:50 PM
Indeed^ I am blessed with a killer kit from Sleischman, but the other posts did jog my brain bucket for one more bit of advice. Regarding headphone sends, I also use Pre-fader for MOST, but there are a couple places I use POST fade, and here is where and why:

Click track-track is set to NO OUTPUT. All the sends are POST-fader, and I add a send that feeds the main outs(bet you didn't know that was possible:D). Here's why; the send to main outs allows me to bring the click up/down for me(control room) without affecting anybody else's phones. Post-fade because, when the band reaches the last note of the song, I will break the click track's volume line(currently at -0) and pull the level down(for everyone). Now, on each subsequent take(assuming the correct arrangement of the song:rolleyes:) the click will automatically stop when the song ends(nothing more annoying than hearing click, bleeding from headphones, while the last note fades:eek:).

TB tracks-I have 2, 1 from the drum room(so the drummer can talk to everyone else) and another in the CR(so anyone in the CR can converse whenever playback is stopped). Post fade, so that if I mute a TB track for any reason(like the producer wants to tell me something the artist should NOT hear...), all the sends on it are muted(pre-fade sends do not follow track mute).

Regardless of pre/post, I never solo anything while the musicians are recording, because it WILL screw with the headphones because of reverb returns and my post-fader stuff(above). If you're wondering how I solo something when I really need to, I also have a pre-fade send(on every track) that is set to -0 and are all muted. When I need to "solo" something, I switch my monitor source to my "solo path" output and Ctrl-click on the send of any channel(s) to listen, without messing with any headphone mix:D

06-05-2015, 07:55 AM
It's a killer kit if it sounds beefy with one mono room mic plus one mono kick mic

06-05-2015, 03:58 PM
It's a killer kit if it sounds beefy with one mono room mic plus one mono kick mic

Could not agree more:D But, if its a crap kit in a crappy room, its pretty easy to replace the bad sounds, while keeping the drummer's performance and dynamics(whaddya mean, DYNAMICS? I'; playing as hard as I can...)

06-08-2015, 03:09 PM
Cool, thanks for the input, will get back to this.

Yeah, I'll figure out how to get a good control room mix going. New to this, but I've done it before. Just not w/ clients in the room.

So I shouldn't be too worried about the room mics, yeah? Just make sure they're in phase and get a good room mix?

I definitely need to check about latency with gates/etc in PT. I'm using a API 1608 board, which doesn't have any gates on it, so I'll have to ask another engineer. I'm an intern, by the way (if that isn't clear enough, yet).

06-08-2015, 03:32 PM
Good advice, thanks all for sharing.

You might also check out the Glyn Johns method (especially if you find yourself limited on channels/mics or setup time). It's discussed on a number of sites like this (http://therecordingrevolution.com/2011/01/10/the-glyn-johns-drum-recording-method/).

Craig F
06-08-2015, 03:32 PM
"don't gate to tape" is an old saw but it still rings true in the modern age of DAWs
if the gate doesn't open you lose the performance

the stock gates in Pro Tools are low latency

06-08-2015, 11:10 PM
So I shouldn't be too worried about the room mics, yeah?

Yep, don't worry about it as it's mono and far away from the other mics; however, take a time listening to the room while the drummer plays the loudest parts and try to find a spot where the high end sounds annoying to you. Then have the mic anywhere else :)

Also, measure the distance between room mic and snare. You most likely want to adjust the timing later.