He was showing me his basement studio, where he does some drum tracking. He had some great Heil mics, Daking and API preamps, and a few other goodies.
I’m not a drummer, so I can’t tell you what kind of kit he had, but it sounded nice.
But there was one thing that caught my attention…and was really fascinating. I think there’s a lesson for us home studio folk here.
Floor Tom as a KICK Drum?
I know. I thought it was silly at first.
Next to his kit, Tim had a floor tom resting on its side like a kick drum. It was in some sort of stand built to hold drums, djembes, etc. in a “kick drum” position.
I didn’t think much of it until he played a track he had recorded using this makeshift kick drum. And…wow. It sounded great. It had plenty of low end and a LOT of punch. I was shocked.
Naturally, I had him play the drum for me so I could listen to it. As it turns out, it sounds nothing like a kick drum. No, really. It sounded like a floor tom on its side, being played with a beater.
So my next thought was, “Okay, he must’ve processed it like crazy to get that sound.” Nope.
As it turns out…
Mic Placement is Everything.
While the drum didn’t sound all that impressive at first, when Tim put a mic on it and actually RECORDED something, he discovered a killer kick drum sound. And he didn’t do any crazy processing on it either, just normal EQ and compression.
I wouldn’t have discovered this sound. I would have listened to the drum for a second or two then moved on to something else.
Yes, you need to get it right at the source, but sometimes the “source” is a tiny little area on a tom that you can’t hear unless you slap a mic in front of it.
Don’t Judge a Sound By Its Cover
While you certainly need to record quality instruments (and quality performances), sometimes you need to take an extra 5 minutes to experiment further.
No, that guitar might not sound right, but what if we moved the microphone WAY over here? Or what if we faced the mic away from the guitar? Or what if we put the guitarist in a completely different room? The hallway maybe?
Your mixes are dependent on capturing good sounds. There are two main parts to capturing a good sound. First, you need a good source. Secondly, you need a good method of capturing that source.
That’s where mic placement and technique become invaluable.
What are you going to experiment with next time you’re in the studio?