Drums for heavy music? Strip them back!
I've recently changed up my technique for recording drums for hardcore/metal bands and I'm loving the results!
One thing I've always loved about listening to heavy music, whatever the specific genre may be - is how big the guitars and drums can sound. In fact, I used to find it hard to connect with a record where the drums/guitars didn't sound as monstrous as can be. I've always been obsessed with bands that had huge sounding drums on their albums, like Failure's "Fantastic Planet" or "In Utero" by Nirvana to name a few. Reading countless articles and watching loads of videos on recording drums with all these lush room microphones in massive cave like live rooms.
So basically because of that, with recording drums in the past I used to stick up about a thousand room mics in all different positions and use 3 mics for snare and kick and etc. etc. and urgh.
Recently I decided to strip my process right back to 1 kick mic, snare top and bottom, rack, floor, overheads and 1 mono room mic. I've found that when focusing on the drum sound through fewer mics, it forces me to focus a lot more on the sound of the source and the playing, rather than whether stereo room pair is affecting the phase of the mono overhead I've hid in the toilet down the hall.
Don't get me wrong, room mics are amazing, they can absolutely make drum sounds sometimes and of course, there are no rules - If you want to put a condenser in a toilet and it works for you, then you do you man.
But what I have learnt is that in the room I'm working in, there's a limit to what room mics will add to the overall drum sound, because the space I'm working in is so tight sounding.
In heavy/guitar driven music, the guitars rule the mid range more often than not and I found myself muting stereo room mics at the mixing stage more and more, so that's partly why I decided to cut it all down and try a minimal close-mic set up with one mono room mic. And again, with the same process in mind - I now make sure to focus real hard on getting that room mic to sound great on it's own and really add something to the drum sound. I'm loving the results of this change so far! Mainly because once I've set up and got the kit sounding rad, I feel a lot more confident knowing that I've not got to worry about 16+ microphones to constantly check up on.
Matt's kit sounded so rad last Saturday, his band fucking rule - really gnarly Nails type stuff with a hint of late 90's/early 00's metal. We tuned the snare real high and it almost sounds nu metal. Love it, can't wait for it to be released!
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