June 4, 2020

HOW TO RECORD YOUR OWN PERCUSSION


HOW TO RECORD YOUR OWN PERCUSSION?


In this blog post i will talk about:

  • How to position your percussion instruments / drums and how to position the microphones
  • How to approach the recording itself in order to produce high quality, creative and useful recordings
  • How to offer remote percussion recordings for others

This is how I record my percussion samples and loops in my home recording studio

DRUM POSITIONING 

First of all, you do not need fancy gear and microphones in order to record percussion instruments. For me, percussion recordings are all about the vibe, and a great vibe can be captured with any good descent microphone. The most important thing is the positioning of the microphones and the area of the room where the drums are located.

I always find the sweet spot where my percussion instruments sound the best and then I put the microphones accordingly.

If you have a home recording studio or any recording setup at your home, you better get familiar with how and where your percussion sounds best in that room and you won’t have to deal with it any more after figuring that out.

Take your percussion instrument and play it around the room in different locations. Find a balanced spot where it rings beautifully.

If the percussion instrument produces low frequencies like a Djembe or a Brazilian Alfaia drum, find the sweet spot where it vibrates but doesn’t overcome the overall balance and same for high frequency percussion like the Pandeiro or other frame drums with small cymbals attached. Finding the right spot will get you a balanced and smooth result in the final percussion recording.



MICROPHONE POSITIONING 

After finding the sweet spot for your percussion recording, the next step will be to position the microphones.

For a recording of a single drum I use several mics so I can get more mixing control later on. I actually put more microphones when I record a single drum then when I record a set of percussion instruments.


Single Drum Microphone Positioning:

When recording a single drum like the Djembe, I use several microphones so I will have more creative options for the mixing stage and be able to curate an interesting character for the drum. The options are endless and you should play and experiment with the microphone positioning.

What I usually use is:

  • One dynamic mic, my favourite is Shure 57 Beta
  • Two condenser mics if I want a stereo image
  • One condenser or a Ribbon mic for the room vibes


Multi Drums Microphone Positioning:

For a recording of several / multi drums set up, I use less mics and usually try to capture the whole percussion setup with two microphones. This gives a live feeling and a wide picture of the moment. Again, it's all about positioning so build your percussion set up to be as close as possible to the image you want to get and then position the mics accordingly.

Record some playing and check out the result and tweak the positioning till you are satisfied with the sound of the recording. Don’t forget to pan one mic to the right and the other the left so you have the full stereo image

What I usually use is:

  • Two condenser mics for stereo imaging
  • One Ribbon mic for capturing the room vibes and character


Recording a full set of percussion instruments Is about getting a total picture of the set and the goal is to do so with as few microphones as possible. I recommend getting a hold of some cool reliable microphones such as the Shure 57 Beta, Shure SM58, AKG 414 and a couple of paired condenser microphones.

Here is an example for a recording I did using a ZOOM H2n stereo microphone. Without any computer, software or sound card. The positioning took me  a while and I had in mind while playing that I should play too loud on specific drums so I kept it in balance and the result is a cool sounding recording.


THE RECORDING

This post is written assuming that you have a basic knowledge on how to use a recording software such as Logic, Ableton, Cubase etc. I will create a post later on on how to begin your path in home recording with an emphasis on percussion recordings.


Gain:

So, the next step is to check all the gain parameters and to make sure you have a wide range of dynamics. Gain level should allow you to play soft and loud without peaking and creating digital distortion. Play soft to loud and check out the level of the indicators so you are not too loud or too low.


You don’t want to record an amazing percussion loop or track and realise later that you have messed it up with a digital distortion and that it is not usable. It happens to all of us :)

Dont Let It Peak


Ergonomics: 

I like to arrange a default setup that is comfortable for me so I can put less energy in setting up every time I want to record. Of course, I will change the setting if the percussion setup requires that but still I succeeded in creating a microphone setup that allows me to record and add layers easily.


Here is an example of how I arranged my percussion set up when I recorded my DounDoun Beats sample pack. It was important for me to record each drum with its own mic this time, and one overhead getting the whole sound of the drums together. So I got the stereo image from the close microphones and then the condenser gave it all the overall vibe of the room atmosphere.

It was important for me to be in front of the table and screen so I could easily watch the screen without hurting my neck and back while working. This is very individual, try to find the most ergonomic way for you to record and work. I prefer to record and still have easy access to the gear and screen.

DounDoun Beats Sample Pack Recording Setup



Creativity:

Getting a creative percussion recording is all about having fun and going to unexpected directions. Try adding a percussion or hand drum that you don’t really know how to use and use it in a different way than it was meant to. Change the order of the drums so you’ll have a spontaneous set up that will bring out new ideas from you.


You can use an FX from your recording software to create an inspiring environment like a long hall reverb so you are inspired by the sound just for the recording itself. You can take the FX off after that and you are left with a cool new inspiring drum or percussion part that you would never have played if you haven’t played through the FX.


Try listening to new music or play with music that inspires you just before the recording itself. This will pump up fresh energy and ideas so your recording will be filled with inspiration and on the moment ideas.

A Creative Percussion Setup


REMOTE RECORDINGS:

After experiencing with your own percussion recordings you can start offering your services to other people around the globe. percussion is something so elementary in music so there is a vast demand for it. A lot of people like to have their percussion from Loop and Sample libraries such as Splice or Noiiz


Some people prefer to have personal connections and have their percussion tracks created especially for them and the music they create. As you can see in my website, I offer online percussion recording services / remote percussion recordings.


There are many great websites connecting between producers / musicians for hire who offer their talent to other musicians looking for these services. These websites are AirGigs, SoundBetter and SupremeTracks. You can sign up easily and offer your services.


I prefer not to use these websites and work directly with producers and musicians from all over the world, giving them creative percussion recordings with a big emphasis on quality and fast delivery time and most important - personal connection and dialogue. I really enjoy this work, collaboration with people from all over the world and for me its all about creating a long term connection.


This pretty much sums up how I approach my percussion recordings. I didn’t get into the production and mixing details, but will do so in the next posts. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below. Peace

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