Thanks for being interested. I followed the link and thought people might prefer a more raw version. This is the revised text as I sent it to them.
DRUM recording feature
Aaron Mullan of Sonic Youth
Key to a great drum sound whether at pro studio or in a garage?
You have to understand frequencies for EQ. I do a lot of live sound as well as studio, and once I learned all 31 bands of the graphic equalizer, then everything opened up. If you plug a microphone into a 31 band graphic EQ and talk through it and make it feed back at each point, then eventually youíll realize what each tone is at that [respective] point. So when you think there is too much head sound in a drum, you know that is around 630 or 800 Hz. If you want more boom from the drum, that will be around 80 or 100 or even in the 63hz range. That tells you what to cut or boost. That is a real building block. With cymbals, for instance, if you want more sizzle, maybe thatís 10, 12 or 16K. If itís too trashy you need to cut a little 2k. If itís not those precise frequency values then at least you know youíre in the ballpark.
GIVEN CHEAP MICS WOULD your mic POSTIONING STAY THE SAME?
For the most part. A Shure SM57 is a pretty good mic for kick drum, snare, or toms. Try this. If you find a drum sound you really like, such as an individual tom hit, then sample that and record your own tom sound on a separate track and start experimenting with EQ until the two sounds are similar. Make a one bar loop of that sampled tom sound, and try to EQ your sound until it sounds similar. I did this recently with a plate reverb sound which I was trying to emulate with my home studio reverb. I took a vocal that I had put through the plate at the Sonic Youth studio and with a dry vocal tried to match my reverb at home using a plug-in. It really helped me to understand the parameters of the plug-in. It left me with a pretty good emulation. Now I have a preset I can recall.
Itís always good to go back to basic principles. Just as you would in any scientific endeavor. Like knowing signal paths. If you can name every single piece of wire that it goes through, from being vibrations in the air, to being reproduced vibrations in the air coming out of a speaker, you are so far ahead of the game. You have to know it comes from the source, it causes vibrations in the air, it hits the diaphragm of the microphone -- if you can really visualize the signal path, then youíll understand what kind of interventions are needed. Then mic placement and cables and preamps can make a difference.
RULES OF THUMB FOR mic placement?
I place the bass drum mic in the middle of the shell at a 45 degree angle to the head. Straight in would be for more of a metal sound. 45 degree angle takes the tack off. You have to do the right amount of dampening for the bass drum. For toms mics, they have to be outside but aimed towards the center of tom, maybe a 60 degree angle. They shouldnít be aimed at the outer part of the head because you will get less of the fundamental tone. You have to angle the mic at the center. If youíre going to mic the snare from the top and bottom, the mics should be at a 90 degree angle to each other. Generally, one of them will require the phase to be flipped. Typically itís the bottom mic. But listen with the overheads to verify that. Recently Iíve been doing one mono mic for an overhead. Iíve got a nice U47, but you can do it with something else. I place it opposite the drummerís head, above the bass drum. Facing towards the kit but on the other side from the drummer. Iíve been doing the one mono mic and hitting it hard with compression. Room mics are further away. The mono overhead is the Led Zeppelin effect, then the room mics are like the Motown sound. I balance them depending on the song. I place room mics about six feet high, ten feet from the snare. You get a bigger stereo effect if you donít have the mics exactly equidistant from the snare. If you pan them hard you get a slight delay from one side of the image to the other. I place hi-hat mics about four inches away, halfway between the edge and the bell. The overheads usually pick up the ride cymbal.
With Steve, I use an EV RE666 in the kick; I think it was used on Stones records, totally classic. Itís not too hyped, like the Beta 52. For snare, just an SM57, it does the job. About an inch in and pointed toward the center of the drum. For toms, weíve been using the Sennheiser 421s, very much the classic rock choice. Or the Shure SM7, which is similar sounding. You have to sneak the floor tom mic in there between the ride and the second rack tom. For hi-hat, I use a Shure SM81 or a Neumann KM184. And I use a Neumann U47 for a mono overhead. But if I was going to do two traditional overheads, sometimes I will measure so that they are equidistant from the snare drum. Then you donít have any phase or delay issues between the two. I like Royer 121s for room mics, ten or twelve feet away from the kit (in Sonic Youthís 18x40 room). The drums are in the corner, then the room mics are placed to create a 90 degree triangle. If the mics are out like that, it gives you the actual sense of being in the room.
Benefits of expensive mics?
A Neumann U47 has that silky smooth top end. Itís very detailed yet very velvety. The Neumann TLM103 is a great large diaphragm condenser for 1/10th the price. There are tons of cheap large diaphragm condensers around these days itís so hard to keep track of them all. I think youíre better off with one pretty nice mic than a collection of OK mics. For dynamics, I like Sennheiser 421ís, which are mid-price. A Shure 57 is pretty similar, the 421 has a boost around 4k, whereas the 57 boost is around 2k. A Shure SM 81; that is a great midrange small diaphragm condenser. But I think anyone interested in recording should figure out how to make a great recording with an SM57 and an Mbox. Then worry about getting more gear.
ROOM TREATMENT? HOW TREAT A GARAGE ON THE CHEAP?
Parallel walls are such a disaster for sound. So anything you can do to change that. You donít have to buy the name brand foam triangles, get some Owens Corning 703 fiberglass. Put that on the wall and cover it with any kind of fabric. That will absorb high frequencies which are the problem there. You can even build some little 4x4 frames, and fill them with the foam. Then move them around, or space them evenly along the walls.
When micing in new situation, what is your process?
First of all, I make sure the drummer tunes his drums. A well tuned drum and a good player are the most important elements to getting a good drum sound. Some times you can identify a drummer blindly by just a snare hit. In the studio I want to listen to individual drums for a pretty short time. Maybe five minutes apiece. Mostly to make sure that everything is working, that the signal path is good. Then, going back to the idea of being familiar with frequencies, you might want to make a cut from 400 to 500hz on the toms. And you do want to boost depending on the fundamental note of the drum, in the 80 to 125 range. If you have overheads, they will provide the head and air of the tom. Then the close mics provide the body. So I check the signal and do some preliminary EQ and hopefully the band plays the song a few times, then I make adjustments.
Balancing ROOM SOUND VS CLOSE MICING?
With Steve, it depends on the song regarding room vs overheads. The denser the song, you end up using more of the close microphones.
RECCOS FOR A GOOD CHEAPER SETUP OF MICS, PRES AND RECORDING SOFTWARE? ESSENTIAL PLUG INS?
As far as preamps, I am really into the Metric Halo gear. They make the 2882 box which has eight mic preamps and it also does A to D conversion and with Pro Tools 9 you can use whatever hardware. That is really handy and sounds great. The 2882 has its own channel strip built in to the software that sounds great. For mics, I donít tend to like the standard kick drum mics, like the Beta 52. An AKG D112 can be good but the Sennheiser 421 is a great kick drum mic. I donít know what they sell for, but you can probably get a good deal on an Electro Voice RE666. My general rule: If it was used on a Stones record before 1977 itís gonna sound good. ($250 on ebay.) Iím spoiled because I have access to great analog tape machines and outboard. For DAW software, I really only know Pro Tools and the stock plug-ins. The Pro Tools gate is as effective as any hardware gate and itís convenient. The Pro Tools EQ can sound good if you know how to use it. If you know what youíre trying to do with an EQ, that is more important than the tool itself.
MOST IMPORTANT MIC IF YOU HAVE ONLY ONE GOOD ONE? Itís more about using your ear. Just listen. Listen to other music, then listen to your recording. If your recording sounds better than your favorite record, then actually it doesnít sound good. Itís not going to translate anywhere else. Just listen to your microphones without any EQ or compression, if they donít sound good move them around. If I had one good mic, I would use that mic as the mono overhead. Other than that, I would put the best mic on the kick drum.
Fave records for drum sound: Can Tago Mago, Eye Bamyasi;
Originally Posted by Bal