Drum setup is one of the most exciting parts of any session for me. This is very often where the artist and I start committing to the sound of a project because the way we tune, setup and mic the drum kit will have a huge influence on how everything else is going to sit in and around that. Here’s a time lapse of drum setup on a recent session where I was working on some soundtrack music with my drummer and assistant, Christian Burgess, and composer Deon van Heerden (Orchestrata).
The first part of drum setup, which isn’t shown here, is the tuning of the kick drum and toms. Learning to tune drums properly was probably one of the biggest improvements I ever made to my drum recordings. In the video you’ll see me tuning the snare that we picked for this track while Christian is setting up the rest of the kit to his liking. I always try to make sure that a drummer is comfortable and has everything in place before I start micing the kit. It also really helps that Christian is a very flexible drummer and can adapt to pretty much anything I throw at him, so I can get the mics where I want them while he’s still playing comfortably. Double win!
For the sound we were going for in this track I went with a subkick and a close mic in the kick drum, a single mic on the snare (I don’t really care for bottom snare mics), close mics on the toms, a spaced pair of cardioid condensers as overheads and a pair of omni small-diaphragm condensers in an ORTF setup as room mics. I almost never feel the need to close mic hi-hats (and 99% of the times where I play it safe and do mic hi-hats, I end up not using it in the mix). You’ll see me using a measuring tape to make sure that my overheads are placed in such a way that my kick drum is centered and that the rest of the kit is then automatically “panned” to where they should be. A lot of the drum sound comes from the overheads so I make sure that I get a really good overall sound of the kit from them.