by Justin Bowden
Tip One: Choose the right DAW
Choosing the right one
Choosing a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is a necessity. This is where you will record and mix your music. Some of the Industry Standards include Pro Tools, Logic Pro X (I use this), and Ableton. Choose the one right for you based on compatibility (Logic Pro X is only available on Mac), comfort, and affordability. Pick the one that suits you and what you think would be easy to work with. Do a lot of research!
Tip Two: Focus on the sound that goes into the mic before recording
Tuning and Cymbals
Tuning and cymbal choices really do matter if you want to have good-sounding drums. Tune your drums depending on the song or mix it up and try new ideas. Spend time on each individual drum, especially the snare. Try out different drumheads when you can and find some that you like. If you struggle or are not as familiar with tuning drums, there are tons of online videos that can help. Choosing cymbals can be challenging and expensive. One thing I learned was that you cannot go too cheap on cymbals. You can tune drums but there isn’t much you can do to “tune” cymbals.
Treating the Room
The room you’re in can impact the sound of your recording. When you record you are also recording the frequencies from the room itself. For example, if you have a giant room, you might have problems with echoes that ruin the flow of your recording, or you might hear an annoying frequency in your recording and have trouble muffling it. This is why I believe it is crucial to deaden the room a bit to have some flexibility with the sounds you want to create. It makes a big difference. You can buy sound panels or make your own. I made my own panels which made things a lot less expensive.
Tip Three: Mic Picks and Placement
Pick your mics
A mic kit is a great place to start. I would recommend doing lots of research on different kinds of mics and why people use them. You do not need to invest everything upfront. It's ok to slowly build your “arsenal.” Currently I use eight mics, two over heads, a bottom mic for the snare and a top mic for the snare, a kick mic, a rack tom mic, a floor tom mic, and a room mic.
Mic Placement / Balancing
How you set up your mics depends on many factors but the most obvious one is how many you have. The key mics to have are overheads. It's really important to get them sounding good. I use the XY position for my overheads. Look up lots of miking tutorials online. Move the mics around to see what sounds good in other parts of the room. It can take some time to find the right placement.
Tip Four: Mixing Drums
Knowledge of Compression and Reverb can greatly help your mix
After recording, mixing your drums is where the fun begins. Compressing your drums can really glue everything together. It can also help add more punch and power to your drums when needed. With reverb you can really affect the whole perception of the listener. Try out different reverbs to see which plug-ins you like. Experiment with early reflections. Reverb can add life to your drums and change the whole mix. The best thing to do is research and experiment to understand how everything works. Be careful not to mess up the rest of your mix! Don’t over-process!
Just like with compression and reverb, you should try out other plug-ins and sounds. They can generate new ideas! Stock plug-ins are all you really need, but they can get boring. Don’t be afraid to experiment with “weird” sounds. Get creative with it!
Tip Five: Patience and Practice
Listen to tons of different songs and how the drums in those songs are recorded. Drums everywhere are recorded with different gear, concepts, and people. Your ear is important. You have to imagine someone else listening to your drums. How would they hear them? Make sure your drums fit the song. Are these drums in the same world as the rest of the song? Ask yourself these questions and think hard on them.
Take it Slow
Patience and practice; that’s what it takes. Getting good takes in general requires that you know how, what, and why you’re playing. It could take 1 take or 100! Really familiarize yourself with different grooves and phrasing to boost your creativity and skills. Do not get frustrated with the entire process even though it’s easy to. Take breaks. Enjoy what you’re doing and just know that you are not going to be amazing at the beginning. It takes determination, practice, and a good ear. Take your time. Always grow!