Drums are essential to any beat or production and you must get them right before sending them off for mixing and mastering. Thus, it would not hurt to learn how to capture an excellent drum sound. But before we divulge into the how it is important to consider the why. For starters, it is a well-known fact that the quality of your mixing and mastering will depend heavily on how you record your drums or how you choose your samples. Furthermore, in this digital age of music, drums provide energy and heart. In other words, the drums are used to create the soul and heart of a beat.
You should keep a few things into consideration when creating the perfect drum tone for your beats. First is the material of the drum head or skin. Snare drums are made from different materials, all of which produce sounds varying pitch and quality. An old worn out drum surface will create a sound of lesser quality than a new skin. The second factor to consider is the pitch of the snare drums. The pitch of the drum has to be in perfect harmony with the tone of your song. If you do not like the sound of the snare drum, you might consider tuning the drum or replacing the drum skin. If your working with samples, don’t be afraid to flip through your libraries to find the right snare for the production you are working on.
After selecting the right snare drum, the next step is selecting a good mic. A good mic will be able to detect any resonances, noises and even rattles that cannot be detected by the human ear. In essence, a good microphone will let you know whether a snare drum tone has been created to perfection or not. The standard microphone used to record snare drums is the Shure SM57. However, the latter is not the only microphone that can be used; it depends on your preferences. Though some people might prefer using two mics, it is not recommended as two mics complicate things.
The third step towards creating a great drum tone is finding an appropriate microphone position. Similar to the microphone, the location will depend on your preference. There are several positions you can experiment with. First, you can place the mic some few centimeters above the drum skin at an angle of 45 degrees from the rim of the drum. This position produces a bass heavy and ringing tone. Another common position is placing the microphone under the hi-hat. Put the receiver under the static underside of the hi-hat at the center of the drum. This place is ideal if you are looking for a and more natural tone with less ringing.
It is important to note that some microphone positions will produce an inferior quality sound if used as the only option. One such position entails placing the microphone before a drummer’s hi-hat leg. In this position, the microphone faces the outer rim of the drum. This position is ideal for omitting the high frequency, strike and attack detail of the snare drum and is the ideal position to use when using multiple microphones. This position is not to be used as the only option as the mic may not capture the perfect tone. In conclusion, there are different ways of recording a snare drum sound; it all depends on your needs and preferences.
Like we mentioned earlier, if you are making your beats on the computer and are using samples, it’s a good idea to start with quality sounds. So flip through your libraries and audition the sounds in your beat as your producing. Remember that you don’t want to wait until the very end to “mix” your beats. You have to do all the quality and work up front during the production. This way, when you get to mixing, you won’t have to do very much. In regards to mastering, that’s a whole other ball of wax. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend mastering while your making the beat, I would leave it until the very end. But mastering a beat goes way beyond the scope of this article, so I suggest you check out this post on Modern Samples for a detailed look at how you can master your beats.
There you have it. Now you have all you need to make sure you get some great drum tones that will make it through the mixing and mastering stage without a hitch.