The recording of live drums in the home studio environment has become increasingly rare. Most artists who record at home choose a drum machine or a sequenced drum track.
There is something special about a drum kit that's recorded live. A live kit can make songs that are recorded in a home studio sound like songs that have been recorded in a professional studio. Live drums give songs life and power. A well-recorded drum kit will give songs a certain power and feel that can not be replicated with a drum machine.
If you are lucky and you have the time, budget and space to record a drum kit, you will need microphones. Selecting the correct microphones is the most important part of the process. The correct microphones positioned correctly can make a home recording sound like it has come out of a professional studio.
The Kick Drum
This is one of the hardest parts of the drum kit to record. It is very easy for a kick drum to sound dull and muffled. The positioning of a kick drum microphone is all about trial and error.
Whatever your budget, one of the best kick drum microphones is the AKG D112. You can buy them for under $200. This is a large diaphragmic microphone built with the kick drum in mind. The AKG D112 has a reputation for being the best kick drum microphone ever made. This is why you will find the AKG D112 in nearly every recording studio in the world. They also sound great with Bass guitars.
The snare drum can be a nightmare when it comes to positioning microphones. You want your snare to sound bright, with no ring and as little interference as possible from the rest of the kit.
You want your microphone to sit close and at an angle to the snare. In a Professional studio, an engineer will often spend most of the first day positioning microphones on a drum kit. The drum kit is all about trying and trying again. It can take a long time, but when you get it right, they sound amazing.
One of the best snare drum microphones is the Shure SM57. This microphone is an industry standard for the snare drum. It also sounds great on acoustic guitars, electric guitars and high hats. In my opinion, this is one of the best all-around microphones you can have in a home recording studio. Another great thing about the Shure SM58 is its price, at under $100. They are perfect for the home studio.
Great sounding high hats are crisp and clean. If you are on a budget, consider overdubbing and using the same Shure SM57 you used on your snare drum. If your budget is bigger and you want the full live kit experience, the Shure SM94 is an excellent choice.
I have recommended the Shure SM94 for use with acoustic guitars. This microphone has a low and wide frequency response, making it perfect for high hats. It is a little expensive, costing just under $200. If this is beyond your budget, you need to look for a good quality condenser microphone, similar to the AKG C214. The best thing about the AKG C214 is, you can use the same microphone for guitars and vocals.
You can do so much with overhead microphones on drum kits. You can create a great ambient sounding kit through the selection of just two microphones and some good positioning. The Shure SM57 is a good pick as this will give you the best all-around sound. It is a good idea to start with the overhead track as your start point, and build the rest of the mix from here.