Recording Drums 6 – Percussion et al

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Recording Drums, Percussion – & Dealing with People Who Like to Hit Things 6.  

Here at The Coolest Recording Studio in London Town – we know it’s All about Rhythm & Timing.

Unless they’re Wild Alt Punks & it’s meant to sound like it’s all falling apart (good for insano energy) – you’re gonna need a solid, tight rhythm section to lock down your floating elements (gtrs/vox/keys etc) – cause a lot of the time – you want your vocals & guitars slightly off time – it creates focus – & contra rhythms make things interesting.

Percussion can add huge amounts of positive energy to a recording, and not only in the high registers like tambourines or cowbells – congas / floor toms & mid range hand drums can all increase energy at differing frequencies.

How you mic them up can make a huge difference to the final feel of the session – so think about it first. 

The High Road

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Hi Mic Postition

For an open, Airy sound that you can place in the back of a mix without it being too prominent – put a large diaphragm condenser mic like the AT4033a approx 4-5 feet above the drum facing across the skin & slightly down. Position the player to the side of the mic so it doesn’t pick up too much of their breathing.

At The Bottom

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Bottom Conga Mic

This is where you get your subs from – & boy I mean subs (low frequencies) – you can use a dynamic mic for low end & punchy low mids, or a condenser mic for low end clarity – this mic may be out of phase with the high mic if you use them together – read about that HERE. & HERE.

Close Up

Where most of us first heard congas & hand percussion in popular music – was in the soul & especially funk records of the early 70’s. These were generally close miked as they were usually recorded live in a room with other musicians – so to avoid bleed or spillage the mics had to be close to the sound source or instrument. To give them some natrual “distance” from the listener they were heavily compressed (we’ll go into compression later).

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Close Mic Conga

This is the most common way to mic up hand drums for popular music – though many pro studios will use a mix of all 3 to get the desired balance.

The Metal 

For Tambourines / Cowbells – anything metallic – you need to place the instrument approx 12 – 16 inches below the diaphragm of a condenser microphone facing towards the player.

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Cowbell Recording

You want a bit of ambience to be recorded to stop the attack of the instrument being too harsh – the higher the mic – the sweeter & less defined the recorded sound – these are generaly supporting instruments so do not need to be too prominent in the mix.
Tambourine Recording

Tuned Percussion

Glockenspiels – as with all metallic tuned percussion can be a nightmare to record – as usually the first thing you hear is the attack note (as the instrument is hit) – but it’s the overtones that are generally the actual tuned note of the plate – so – Always use a good percussion player – someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing will make a mess – & always place either one (for mono work) or two ( for stereo work) condernser mics approx 4 feet above the instrument. 

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Tuned Percussion Recording

Mic positioning will be dependant on the recording environment – for mono use try a mic at either end – but generally in the centre facing the player. For stereo you can put one mic ar each end facing the player – or the same but facing away from the player (i.e. over their shoulders) – or in an X/Y position in the middle of the instrument. 

First thing you have to do though – is think about what these instruments are doing – & where they are going to be positioned in the mix!

Measure Thrice – cut once!

You can visit the studio Here.
Shrunken Goddamn Heads !!!


Senor Al & the Honolulus New Record 2018 Como La Luna

Como La Luna

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Como La Luna

It’s !!! Como La Luna – the new Record from Senor Al & the Honolulus.

Recorded, mixed & mastered at Shrunkenheadsstudios during the latter half of 2017 – & due for release 2018 – it’s the Honolulus’ most eclectic release to date (Jazz / latin / funk / rock / gospel / electronica) & features a plethora of artists: 


Johnny Procter on Drums 

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Johnny Procter

 J K Benson – Backing Vocals & Choir Assignments

Jo Kate Benson

 Robbie Redway – Backing Vocals & Trumpets

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Robbie Redway

You can get the LP Here – or by clicking on any of the pics below! 

Enjoy folks – it’s a freebie! 

Senor Al xxxx

Recording Drums 5 – Overdriving / Distorting Mics for Clarity & Power!

Recording Drums, Percussion – & Dealing with People Who Like to Hit Things 5

Here at The Coolest Recording Studio in London Town – we got a thing for alchemy – cause that’s what music production is all about – you get a bunch of musicians – place them into an environment conducive to creativity – let ’em get the feel – then hit the Big Red Record button & listen out for the magic takes. 

That’s just the beginning – once you have all that recorded material edited & knocked into shape – it’s funtime – & this is where Mixing begins. 

However – when you’re trying to construct a piece of art – it’s always good to have different flavours, textures & options to experiment with – so – here’s how we use distortion to capture some pretty mean, savage & beautiful drum energy.

1. Using Distortion / Overdrive Pedals

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Mic Preamp Distortion

Place the mic facing the drumkit approx 3-6 feet away from the top of the kick drum. Run the mic into a mic preamp – then run the mic preamp (keep the output low so it doesn’t break the pedal) into a distortion pedal – like the Boss Metalzone – this pedal has a ton of cool overdrive – but also has a superb mid scoop eq – so you should be able to find your sweet spot real easy. Turn the level & Dist knobs full left – leave the eq centred for now – put the level slowly up to 12 o’clock to get your level as the drummer plays – then start turning up the distortion – don’t be shy. Then ! start taking out mid frequencies to clear up the mud – don’t add too much treble or bass – unless it sounds right. 

It may sound crap by itsself – but mix that audio in with regular mics – & boom! You gonna get you some Mo’ Juicy drum audio!!

If You Want It Killer 

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Mic Preamp FUZZ

Same setup applies here – just use your fave fuzz pedal instead of the Metalzone pedal. It will be Much more scary & outta control – but shit! Push the boat out kidz – just try something new. You’ll need to pull out the mids with this in the mix – but it’s always worth it – you’ll getchaself some Very cool loops if nothing else. 

2. Using Mixing Desks & / Or Preamps 

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Alice 828 Mixer

A lot of older Mixing Desks are transformer fronted – meaning they use Transformers to boost the microphone levels as opposed to transistors or microchips. 

These transformers add weight & colour to the audio passing through them – but! they can also be used to add harmonicaly rich distortion – which is what we want to make our audio sound sweet & interesting. Modern recording equipment can sound bland & boring – because most modern electronics are just that…. bland & boring. Here at SHS – we got a whole Plethora of transformer fronted microphone preamps & mixers – we make that audio Sing!!! 

Just turn up the gain til it all starts shining – eq to taste – & you’re good to go. 

 Next time – Percussion!

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Recording Drums 4 – Compressing Room Mics !

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Recording Drums, Percussion – & Dealing with People Who Like to Hit Things

Here at The Coolest Recording Studio in London Townwe got All Kindsa flavours – old valve mic preamps for a rich & pretty tone to modern broadcast preamps that capture every whisper with clarity and definition – plus a whole plethora! of different mics – ribbons – dynamics – condensers & tube. 

However – sometimes – especially when capturing drums & percussion – you need a little extra something to throw into the mix pot – & this is where compressing room mics comes in. 

We use this setup to add a natural ambience to the recording – & a shedload of energy!

If you don’t know about compression – read about it HERE  – it is – along with eq – the most important audio shaping tool in any studio – you need to work with it ….. a lot – to understand it – we’ll go into all that later – here’s a pic of a regular averagely priced compressor: 

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For now, we’re going to leave the settings (knobs) where they are – & just attenuate the gain & output volume. 

But first: 

Ambient mic compression setups for Drums: 

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1. Putting a large diaphragm (LDC) condenser mic in front (approx 16 inches to 2 feet) from the kick drum – running that into a mic preamp – & the preamp into a compressor will generally give you two things depending on how you set up the compressor. If you leave the attack knob where it is (12 o’clock) & turn the release knob fully left – you’ll get a banging kick sound – & a ton of energy from the whole kit – if you then turn the attack full left – you’ll get the same but with a much more controlled kick. Turn the release knob right – & you’ll get decreasing energy – but a much more controlled audio picture. 

Experiment – & mix this audio track in with the close mics.  

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Drums Recording

 2. Put an ldc mic approx 8 feet away from the kit facing the snare drum – adjust height to taste (higher more ambience & top end – lower more kit & drums) – run through a compressor & tweak to taste – try to imagine how you want the kit to sound in relation to all the other instruments along the timeline of the track. You may want less energy in the verse & more in the chorus – so set / ride the attack & release knobs as needed.

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3. Put an ldc mic in front & facing away from the kit, usually between the top of the kick drum to just above the cymbals – set the mic to cardioid (directional) if you have the option – run it through a compressor & play with the attack & release until the desired energy is achieved.

The Window Mic!

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4. Put an ldc mic facing a reflective surface in the live room – this will give you some nice, natural ambient reflections of the kit you’re recording – it’s an old trick – but one that works every time – run it through a compressor for an extra bit of juice!

All these microphone techniques.

All these microphone techniques are a way to get your kit to sit naturally in the mix – hopefully without having to resort to reverb or other time delay effects – you’re trying to capture the natural ambience of the instrument – in the ambient space it was recorded in.

Think on that & what it means.

Next time – Adding Sweet Sweet Distortion & overdriving preamps on the way in!

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Recording Drums 3 – cymbals / overheads & Front / back mics

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 Recording Drums, Percussion – & Dealing with People Who Like to Hit Things 3

Here at The Coolest Recording Studio in London Town – we cook up some sweet sweet sounds – using all kinds of interesting musicology paraphernalia.

It’s paramount that in a session, drums are recorded well – as it’s Tres difficult to overdub a timing track – even if it’s gone down to click. 



 Are you after a close, tight drum sound (Funk, disco) – a big ambient Rock, Pop or Orchestra feel, something inbetween – like modern hard rock / metal which uses close tight mics & heavily compressed ambient mics. 

Get your brain into the session & make it right.

Here’s the basics of overhead & Front / Back kit miking.  

Overheads 1  

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Two pencil condenser mics above the drummers head mounted on a stereo bar – you can alter the width of the stereo image by moving the mics in & out. You can also use ribbon mics for a softer warmer tone. This setup is excellent for picking up the ambience of the kit & maintaining phase correlation with the snare drum – with All overhead mic setups you need to ensure that both mic capsules are equidistant from the centre of the snare drum. Don’t ask why – you just do. You can lower the mic support stand to get more drums & less ambience – think about the final audio picture you are trying to achieve.

Overheads 2 

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 This is a more traditional setup – again make sure that the two overhead mic capsules are equidistant from the snare centre. You get a wider stereo field using overheads this way. 

Front of Kit Mic

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A very important mic! – This should be 5 – 8 feet away from the front of the kit – you need to experiment with both small & large diaphragm condenser mics – & a ribbon or valve mic to achieve the desired tone. This mic – & the overheads, should define the ambient sound of the drum kit – so do some trial recordings. It will add a 3d-ness to the overheads – & if you’re after a big roomy sound – you only then need to introduce a little bit of the close drum mics (or spot mics) to define their place in the stereo image. If you’re after a tighter drum sound – then the spot mics will predominate the stereo image – & you’ll add the front & overheads to taste. 

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Setting the mic lower will pick up more kick drum & less snare.

As I’ve said before – talk to the drummer Before you start recording & tell them to lay off the cymbals & hats. It’s a recording – not a gig!

Behind Drum Kit Mic

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 This mic (pencil condenser usually) is placed behind the drummers head pointed at the snare – & if you have a good, balanced player – can actually be used by itsself in a mix. Or – for a bigger more ambient drum sound – add it to the overheads & front mic – but be aware – it will be out of phase with the front of kit mic, so at mix time you’ll have to realign it. 

In a mix with all the other ambient mics it can add a sense of depth to the drum mix – & if you’re after a mono – or near mono audio image – you can just use the front & back mics mixed in with the spots. 

Next time – The Joy of Crushing Drum Mics with Compression & Odd Distortion Techniques. 

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Recording Drums 2 – Snares & Toms


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Recording Drums, Percussion – & Dealing with People Who Like to Hit Things 2

Here at The Coolest Studio in London Town – we get all types knock knock knocking at the door – little tiny people – long gangly ones, threadbare gypsies & be-suited impresarios – &  the odd werewolf. 

One thing they all have in common – they come to SHStudios to sound good – & this is how we go about that particular science. 

Snare Drums 

The snare …… is a drummers’ signature – on the record “Burnin’ Beat” you can immediatley tell who’s taking a solo, as Gene Krupa & Buddy Rich are two top-of-the-game boys, who are not only phenomenal players – but also have a unique sound. Most session guys have a collection of snares for differing timbres & shades – & pre thinking a recording – begins with snare selection, as it’s the one sound that will hit the listeners ear consistently throughout the recording – & from the centre of the audio picture. Think about what that means for a minute. At the very least – it better be a Good sound eh. 

It’s a recording – not a gig – so you don’t want the drummer smashing the shit out of the kit – you want good & consistent tone – so – invest in some O rings – buy some Moon Gel to cut down on drum ring or boom – & buy some Hot Rod sticks – these will Save Your Life when you get a drummer who can’t play cymbals of hats properly (They’re Everywhere) – they’re softer than regular sticks butcha don’t miss out on tone. 

You generally mic up a snare about an inch in from the top skin: 

Use an sm57 – a Beyer M201 or a Peavey 520i 

These are good dynamic choices – the 57 has good body, punch & clarity, M201 is drier (in a very good way) and the Peavey 520i is a bit more expansive / deeper. 

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Top Dynamic Microphone

Moving the mic a bit further in will get a deeper tone: 

Just be careful it don’t get whacked!

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You can also under mic the snare for a snappier crisper tone – I use closed back ribbon microphones for this purpose as they are open & honest sounding mics:

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Ribbon Mic Under Snare

And for a bit of extra tone, bottom,  richness & clarity – you can always double up the top dynamic mic with a pencil condenser.

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double mic on the snare

You can add a bit of compresson to the condenser mic on the way in – add a bit of energy Oooomph & bloom. 

If your drummer is a bit heavy handed cymbals wise – you can always build a small mic shield – half a plastic milk bottle lined both sides with felt & taped to the hi hat side of the snare mic will save you a ton of trouble come mix time. Talking of felt – old Motown trick – put 2 strips of felt under the snare & toms top skins – you get All the drum tone – & zero ring. Sounds gorgeous.

I generally always use a peavey 520i on the toms – unless I want a more vintage tone – then it’s the sennheiser md421:

Maybe a small amount of compression & / or gating may help on the way in – just don’t overdo it! 

I tend not to under mic toms – unless it’s specifically asked for – or it’s a classical / jazz combo in session – those forms of music need a very honest picture – most other syles of music have been influenced by edm production – so there’s a lot of behind the scenes engineery programming going on to enhance, clarify & motionise the musical elements of a mix. 

More of that later. 

Next time – Overheads, ambients & cymbal miking. 

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