A complete guide to drum recording

By mic on 7/9/2013

I received, several weeks ago by now, a copy of a book by Mike Major called Recording Drums. The Complete Guide. Now that I have had the time to flip through the book, I'd say it is definitely worth having. I am not sure what info I should be putting here to help the potential buyer get the book. The book is published by Course Technology, Cengage Learning. The copyright date is 2014 (did I get an early copy?). If ISBN numbers help, you have ISBN-13: 978-1-133-78892-8 or ISBN-10: 1-133-78892-0.

So, yes, the book is quite a "complete" guide. It is truly comprehensive. It goes from the drummer, to the drums, to the recording space, to the actual recording session, the microphones, the microphone placement, recording techniques, recording gear, effects, mixing and mastering. This is, actually, the order of topics in the book, some of which span more than one chapter. To top it all, there is a whole chapter with pictures of actual drum and microphone setups.

The book contains things I did not expect. Right at the beginning, there is a section on the drums and the drummer, with such detail as how to hit the drums (i.e., "don't burry the stick in the drum head"), what sticks to choose, etc. I especially enjoyed the chapters on equalization and dynamics processing. I have been liking these topics recently, since they are what I am mostly working with lately. Either way, I liked the fact that these sections actually explain why things are done the way they are done (e.g., why there is so much compression in contemporary music, why overhead microphones are important).

The following are some things I did not know:

  • The floor has much impact on the drum sound.
  • Drums sound better with airspace above (i.e., high ceilings).
  • The tom can be used to test where the drums should go in a room (I could have expected that).
  • Bass can be recorded with simultaneous clean and dirty mic.
  • The differences between the phases of two mikes used to close-mike a drum can reduce ringing.

And I also read some things I did not understand. I didn't understand some of the discussion on sound treatments for the ceiling – probably cause I don't know enough about construction. But, of course, you cannot define everything, or the book will simply be huge. I have always claimed that the drums are the most versatile instrument and if we try to describe absolutely everything, then we will literally be talking about everything. I would have liked a bit more detail on "designing the control room" of the studio and I saw a few terms that probably needed more explanation: comb filter, sound lock, standing wave. But this book is not a dictionary.

All in all, I am glad to have the book. It should prove useful.

authors: mic

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