Recording drums

One of the problems of being a drummer is finding somewhere to record (let alone practice!). These instruments require space, and somewhere isolated to play. Like a lot of musicians, I enjoy working in my own studio, and finally I have found an environment which is ideal for recording live drums. Having spent a long time developing a control room and treating the acoustics of my 40' by 50' live room, I am now able to offer a total "rhythm production facility" where I play on peoples' tracks here at home.

The obvious technical advantages are:

  • The drum kit is permanently set up and miked with highest quality professional microphones (see list below).

  • The desk channels are preset, "sound checked" and ready to record.

  • Hard disk recording via Logic Pro integrates MIDI and audio, and makes editing drum performances easy.

  • Apogee Rosetta with 24 bit 192khz recording possibilities making it fully compatible with any Pro Tools or other DAW computer based systems so clients can continue to work on their tracks in their preferred digital format.

  • I only have to travel 45 feet to work every morning.

The advantages from a drum point of view are numerous - I have a ton of equipment here, more than I could ever manage to bring along to a session without a huge truck! To give you an idea, here's a selection of extras:

  • 30 snare drums

  • 70+ cymbals

  • Hand percussion including bongos, congas, tablas, Indian congas, udu, talking drums, Egyptian drums, Mexican drums

  • Shakers, tambourines, cow bells, triangles, claves, etc

  • The amazing Korg Wavedrum mark 1 and 2, which blends real acoustic percussion timbres with electronically generated waveforms to produce unique sounds.

  • Microphones; AKG C12VR x 2, AKG C414 XLII x 5, AKG C414 XLS x 4, AKG D12VR, Neumann TLM103 x 2, Royer 122 x 2 ribbon mics, AKG CK91 x 3, Sennheiser MD421 x 5 for toms, Shure SM57 x 2 for snares, Audix i5, Beyer M88, Shure SM91, Audix D6, Telefunken M82.

Rhythm Arrangements & Loops

For me, the essence of a great rhythm track is real drums, played live with feel and groove. They form the basis of a good rhythmic arrangement which builds and supports the song. I know many people would love to use real drums on their tunes, but finding a decent drummer is only the first step - you also need a large studio with a great sounding room, a good selection of mics and a sound engineer. Setting up and soundchecking every mic can take hours . . . quite a headache, and lot of expense. Given this, it's not surprising that many people rely on drum loops and drum machines.

However, depending on your musical style, finding the right drum loops can be a problem. Although you might find a loop you like, it's unlikely to have the right variations for your song. This means you end up with a 1- or 2-bar loop that repeats all the way through the track, with a couple of unsympathetic fills awkwardly pasted in. The loop sounds great for the first 10 seconds, but then gets really boring because it can't develop or go anywhere. It can't follow your arrangement, hit the accents, or take into account the stops and dynamics. It's a compromise, and in the worst case, you end up writing your song around the loop rather than the other way round!

Relying solely on loops has other disadvantages. If you're using loops from a sample CD, the grooves won't be unique to your track, and hearing them used on other people's songs or dog food commercials will tend to devalue your production. I've known tracks where the musicians have used some brand new, fashionable loops - but unfortunately, by the time the record was finished, mixed and released, a good year or so had gone by and the loops were already sounding dated, having appeared on a few hit singles and jingles in the meantime.

Drumming credits include

Incognito, Lisa Stansfield, Lewis Taylor, Artful Dodger, Paul Young, Iggy Pop, Level 42, Porcupine Tree, OSI, King Crimson, Shooter, Dizrhythmia, The Pineapple Thief, The Kings Of Oblivion, Sam Brown, Tom Robinson, Go West, Black, Gail Ann Dorsey, B J Cole, Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin, Nathan East, Yasuaki Shimizu, Camouflage, Kevin Ayers, Claudio Baglioni, Franco Battiato, Chizuko Yoshihiro, Renaissance  Mick Karn, Eros Ramazzotti, Nick Johnston, Randy Goodrum, Fates Warning.