Recording an EP: drums

The first step in the recording process was to get the drum tracks down. As discussed in the previous post, we wanted a live sound for the record. This impacted how we recorded the drums in two ways. Firstly, we didn’t use a click track, which meant that all drum tracks were recorded during live performances by Niall (drums) and Matt (vocals/guitar). Secondly, we opted for a more natural sounding mic placement on the drums than you might hear on some records. We had allocated three 3-4 hour evening sessions to get the drums recorded for the five songs that would appear on the EP.

What was the recording process like? Most of the first session was spent setting up the drum kit, placing the mics and making sure we were happy with the overall sound. The mic placement strategy was to use them close to the snare and kick drum to get these core sounds well-isolated (which would help later during mixing). However, the remaining microphones were placed further away from the kit, to help create a more natural sound – more like you would hear if you were standing in the room. One of the more unusual decisions was to close-mic the bottom of the snare drum, rather than the top. To our ears, this sounded better in the context of the whole kit and helped add some “punch” to the snare sound.

Recording the drum tracks for Matt Palmer Band debut EP. Niall on drums (left) and Matt on guitar/vocals (right)
Drums were recorded during live performances, with Matt on vocals & guitar and Niall on drums.

Once the kit had been set up it was a case of Matt and Niall playing a few takes of a song deciding when we had a good enough take for the final record. Our decision not to use a click track (essentially like having a metronome running the whole time) meant that we couldn’t go back and fix any mistakes later – each recording of a whole song was very much take-it-or-leave-it. The advantage of recording this way is that it allows the speed of the song to ebb and flow a bit and avoid the tendency of click-based-recordings to sound a bit robotic.

The previous rehearsal sessions really paid off and we managed to get the drum recording finished in just two evenings! So, we had the drum tracks down and the first stage of the recording process was complete. These drum tracks would form the basis of everything we did after that, acting as the glue that would stick all subsequent recordings together. The next step was to record acoustic guitars, which we’ll get on to next time..

Niall setting up for the drum recording. Dynamic microphones were used close-mic the snare and kick drum. A mixture of large- and small-diaphragm condenser microphones were used elsewhere, placed further away from the drum kit.
Niall setting up for the drum recording. Dynamic microphones were used close-mic the snare and kick drum. A mixture of large- and small-diaphragm condenser microphones were used elsewhere, placed further away from the drum kit.

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