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Recording Drums
Articles for Home & Studio Users

How do I Record A Snare Drum?

For the snare drum, it's always a safe and highly effective choice to use the venerable Shure SM57. Bring it in from the audience side of the kit and give it a 45 to 60 degree angle with the capsule about an inch or two above the head. The farther away it is from the head, the roomier the sound, but the more potential you have for phase problems. The closer to the head you get, the more bottom end you’ll get - it will give you that “goosh-y” sound. By the way, it's always a good idea to have the snare mic follow a line to the drummer's crotch - not that it's a particularly good sounding part of the anatomy, but because it's away from the hi-hat and any potential leakage problems.

Recommended eq for the snare is: +2@100Hz on the bottom if necessary; roll off 300 to 700Hz in the lower mids to eliminate the box-like sound; and +2 to + 6 dbs @ 5, 8, or 10Khz to brighten up the top end. Tuning the snare is very important in getting the right sound. If you encounter undesirable ringing in the snare, try a small piece of gaffers’ tape. You can also try taping a small piece of a feminine napkin to the outer edge of the top head to eliminate over ring.

Remember that a snare is full of transients, so keep your levels fairly low to avoid overloading your preamp, tape machine, or the tape itself. -2 or -3 VU or + 2 or +3 peak reading are typical levels.

Is it easier to Mix if each part of the Drum Kit has been recorded onto a Seperate Track?

Whether you like to use many mics and several tracks for the drums or go for a more minimalist approach, there are pros and cons either way when it’s time to mix the song. Splitting up the drum kit into individual instruments (e.g. separate tracks for kick, snare, hi-hat, toms, cymbals, and near & far room mics) certainly gives you more control during mixdown. If you need more kick drum, it’s easy to raise the level without affecting the snare’s volume. Besides the obvious downside of possibly running out of tracks too soon, there’s also the issue of phase cancellation. The more mics you have aimed at a drum kit, the more likely they will be somewhat out of phase with each other. This can lead to a smaller sound overall as certain frequencies get cancelled out (see “phase” question.) It’s a common myth that more mics/tracks equals bigger-sounding drums.

There are a couple good reasons to record drums with only a few mics. First, it saves tracks you might need later. Second, it forces you to commit to getting a good sound on tape (as opposed to spreading a sound over 10-12 tracks, hoping that some blend of which will give you a decent snare sound.) Third, it’s a good safety mechanism against overstating the drums’ presence in the mix. There’s a tendency among novice engineers to overindulge themselves while balancing many tracks of drums. The resulting mix can focus too much on the drums, when the song might require a better balance between the instruments. With only 4-5 tracks dedicated to drums (e.g. kick, snare, overheads, and a mono room mic), you might find yourself moving on to the other instruments sooner and avoid subconscious drum worship.

The downside, of course, is less control. (You want more toms, you get more cymbals.) The minimalist approach is recommended once you’ve gained some confidence as an engineer. Knowing how to anticipate the drums’ role in the song also helps. Will they simply be providing the rhythm and momentum, or will they also be relied upon to bring excitement and dynamics to the song?

The information above came from "Studio Buddy -- The Home Recording Helper." It's a self-contained, easy to use database of recording tips designed specifically for people with home studios. If you find this article helpful, you should download the FREE program at:




This series of recording studio and sound engineering articles are being made available courtesy of our friends at Taxi.  The articles aim to help you make better sounding recordings in your home or project studio and will be available here or online at Taxi, complete with pictures using the link at the end of the article or better still - sign up to receive Taxi's Newsletters FREE and get them delivered straight to your inbox!