The Drum Recording Handbook 2nd Edition

The Drum Recording Handbook 2nd Edition will show you:

The secret to making your drums sound great even before you turn the mikes on

Drum tuning tips and techniques from the famous Drum Doctor

How to improve almost any recording environment cheaply and easily

How to avoid the drum sound destroyer – phase cancellation

The ideal mic placement for all the drums, cymbals, and room mics

Simple alternative miking techniques that work every time

How to give your drummer a headphone mix that will make him play his very best
The secret to a great sounding drum mix

and much more!

What It's About

Drums are the foundation of just about any kind of music, and a great drum sound is essential to a great recording, but that sound can be elusive. The Drum Recording Handbook 2nd Edition uncovers the secret of amazing drum recordings in your recording studio even with the most inexpensive gear. It’s all in the technique, and this book is going to show you how.

And you’ll get some great session advice with interviews from hit maker drummers Bernie Dresel, Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez, Ricky Lawson, Brian MacLeod and Dave Weckl.

Kind Words From Readers

Absolute recording Bible! Straight forward, to the point, demystifying the secrets in recording. If material beats method, THIS is the way to go!” 
Axe Follin

A great reference you can keep going back to, and a must-have in any serious musician’s book collection. Worth every penny!

Jordin Brady

I just wanted to say thanks for your work. Straight to the point, and it doesn’t drag on. Perfect. I’ve learned lots from it.”
Jared Gardner

In my opinion, the BEST book for recording TECHNIQUES. There are interviews with professional engineers littered throughout the text, explaining what they use, how they use it, where they put mics. Obviously there are no rules when recording, but this will help you see some of the basic setups for recording literally ANYTHING!
Dr. Kenneth

It’s the best of its kind!
Florian Huckler

Mr. Owsinski’s books and this one in particular are awesome for fundamentals as well as some more advanced concepts. They serve as a great resource/ lecture material to use with my classes. Highly recommended!

Lance Kuyper

…and dozens more like it!

Let's Look Inside

Table Of Contents
From Bobby Owsinski
From Dennis Moody
Meet The Drummers

Chapter 1: The Drum Kit
Engineer’s Drum Kit Checklist
What Makes A Kit Sound Great?
    Drum Construction
        Shell Size
        Shell Depth
        Shell Thickness
        Shell Material
        Shell Interior
        Bearing Edges
A Loot At The Snare
    Snare Construction
    The Snare Unit        
Tuning The Drums
    Step 1 – Secure The Drums
    Step 2 – Replace The Heads
    Step 3 – Head Configuration
    Step 4 – Mute The Rattles
    Step 5 – Tuning The Snare Drum
        Tips To Reduce Snare Buzzing    
    Step 6 – Tune The Drums
Tips From The Famous “Drum Doctor”
    Big Drums Versus Small Drums
    How Long Does It Take To Tune A Drum Kit?
    Prepping The Drums For New Heads
    New Heads
    The Tuning Technique
    Should The Drums Be Tuned To The Key Of The Song?
    Tuning The Snare Drum
    Snare Drum Tuning Tips
    Tuning The Kick Drum
    Tuning The Toms

Chapter 2: The Recording Environment
Room Resonant Frequencies
Inexpensive Yet Effective Room Treatment
    What Won’t Work
    Improving The Isolation
    Acoustic Treatment
    Treating The Floor
    Don’t Forget The Air Conditioning
    The Curse Of Low Ceilings
    Optimizing Your Room Without Construction
    Optimizing Your Room
Placing The Kit
Chapter 3: The Drummer’s Headphone Mix
Headphone Checklist
    Popular Choices
    Most Popular
    Inexpensive Substitutes    
What’s In The Mix?
Using A Click Track
    Preventing Click Bleed
    A Click Alternative
The Headphone System
    Personal Headphone Mixes

Chapter 4: Phase Cancellation – The Drum Sound Destroyer
Acoustic Phase Cancellation
Electronic Phase Cancellation
    Checking Phase The Easy Way
    Checking Phase The Slightly More Difficult Way
Times When You Might Want The Phase Reversed

Chapter 5: Miking The Bass Drum
Bass Drum Checklist
    Popular Mic Pick
    Most Alternatives
    Good Substitutes
Choosing The Mic
Bass DrumHead Configuration
    Front Head Removed
    Front Head On
Bass Drum Mic Positioning
    Without The Front Head
    With The Front Head
    Increasing The Isolation
    Increasing The Low End
Bass Drum Sound Check
Adding Compression
The Sub-kick    
    Making A Sub-kick
Chapter 6: Miking The Snare Drum
Snare Drum Equipment Checklist
Microphone Choice
Snare Mic Position
Snare Mic Sound Check
Snare Drum Bottom Head Miking
    The Bottom Mic In the Mix
Adding Compression To The Snare Sound
Chapter 7: Miking The Hi-Hat
High-Hat Equipment Checklist
Microphone Choice
Hi-Hat Mic Positioning
Hi-Hat Mic Sound Check
    Tips and Tricks

Chapter 8: Miking The Tom-Toms    
Tom Equipment Equipment Checklist
Microphone Choice
Rack Tom Mic Positioning
Floor tom Mic Positioning
Tom Sound Check
Chapter 9: Overhead Mics    
Overhead Mic Equipment Checklist
Microphone Choice
Overhead Or Cymbal Mic?
Miking The Cymbals
Overhead Mic Position #1
Overhead Mic Position #2
Overhead Sound Check

Chapter 10: Room Mics
Room Mic Checklist    
Microphone Choice
Room Mic Position #1
    Room Mic Position #1 Alternate
Room Mic Position #2
Room Mic Position #3
Room Mic Sound Check
    Tips and Tricks
Chapter 11: Alternative Miking Techniques
Alternative Miking Checklist    
Microphone Choice
    Most Popular
        Good Substitutes    
    Single Mic Technique
    Two Mic Technique
    Three Mic Technique 
        Option Two
        Option Three
    Four Mic Technique
        Option Two

Chapter 12: Getting The Drum Mix Together    
Have A Listen
Balancing The Drum Kit
    Drum Kit Balance Technique 1
    Drum Kit Balance Technique 2
    Drum Kit Balance Technique 3
Checking The Drum Phase
Drum Mix Panning
Equalizing The Drums
Adding Artificial Ambience To The Drum Kit
Assigning The Drums To A Group Or Subgroup
Compressing The Drums
    Compressing The Snare
    Compressing The Room Mics
Gating The Drums
    Using A Gate On The Snare Drum
    Using A Gate On The Toms

Chapter 13: Percussion    
Percussion Miking Checklist    
Microphone Choice
The Two Percussion Groups
    Recording Drum Percussion
    Recording Hand-held Percussion
Recording Specific Percussion Instruments
    Hand Claps
EQing Percussion

Chapter 14: Final Drum Sound Checklist

Bernie Dresel
Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez
Ricky Lawson
Brain McLeod
Kellii Scott
Dave Weckl    

Chapter 14 Excerpt - Final Drum Sound Checklist

Final Drum Sound Checklist

Like the foundation of a house, the drums are the foundation of a recording. With a strong foundation, you can build almost anything on it that you or your clients can imagine. A little effort and time spent miking the drums and getting the sound just right can result in a recording that sounds great. Remember, take risks, experiment, take notes on what works for you and what doesn’t, be creative and most of all have fun!

Here’s a list of things to check if things just don’t sound right. Remember that each situation is different and ultimately the sound depends upon the drums, the drummer, the song, the arrangement, and even the other players. Sometimes things are just out of your control. Also, these are not hard and fast rules, just a starting place. If you try something that’s different from what you’ll read below and it sounds good, it is good!

1. Do the drums sound great acoustically? Make sure that you start with a great acoustic drum sound with the drums well tuned and minimum of sympathetic vibrations.

2. Are the mics acoustically in phase? Make sure that tom mics and room mics are parallel to each other. Make sure that any underneath mics are at a 45° angle to the top mics.

3. Are the mics electronically in phase? Make sure that any bottom mics have the phase reversed. Make sure that all the mic cables are wired the same by doing a phase check.

4. Are the mics at the correct distance from the drum? If they’re too far away they’ll pick up too much of the other drums. If they’re too close the sound will be unbalanced with too much attack or ring.

5. Are the drum mics pointing at the center of the head? Pointing at the center of the drum will give you the best balance of attack and fullness.

6. Are the cymbal mics pointed at the bell. If the mic is pointed at the edge of the cymbal, you might hear more air “swishing” than cymbal tone.

7. Is the high-hat mic pointed at the middle of the hat? Too much towards the bell will make the sound thicker and duller. Too much towards the edge will make the sound thinner and pick up more air noise.

8. Are the room mics parallel? If you’re using two room mics instead of a stereo mic to mic the room, make sure that the mics are on the same plane and are exactly parallel to each other. Also make sure that they’re on the very edge of the kit looking at the outside edge of the cymbals.

9. Does the balance of the mix sound the same as when you’re standing in front of the drums? This is your reference point and what you should be trying to match. You can embellish the sound after you’ve achieved this.

Drummer Ricky Lawson Interview Excerpt

Drummer Ricky Lawson Interview Excerpt

It just might be easier to say who Ricky Lawson hasn’t played with rather than list all of credits. Having performed with the likes of Quincy Jones, the Brothers Johnson, Phil Collins, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Babyface, Lionel Ritchie, Anita Baker (The Rapture), Whitney Houston (I Will Always Love You), not to mention as musical director for Michael Jackson, Ricky was also the original drummer for The Yellowjackets, where he won best R&B Instrumental Grammy in 1986 (And You Know That). There’s obviously a reason why these musical superstars have Ricky on a first-call basis, and that’s not only because he is so massively talented and guaranteed to give a record a giant grove, but he’s so exceedingly humble and helpful to others as well.

Can you describe your kit? Do you take a different kit on the road than you use in the studio?
I’ve been with the Pearl company for about 3 ½ years now and use a Pearl Studio Master kit with maple shells. I use a different kit on the road from the studio because the studio is such a detailed environment and everything has to be precise since it’s always under a microscope. On the road things don’t need to be so precise so I do take a different kit. With the economy being what it is these days, we can’t always afford to take equipment with us on the road so we get backline companies to supply us with equipment. I just order what I have at home and they supply it for me.

What size are your drums?
I generally use five toms in the studio – 8×8”, 10×10”, 12×12”, 14x 14”, and a 16” over on my high-hat side. The bass drum is usually 22×16”. I’ll use a host of different snare drums depending upon what you’re going for. For a Hip-Hop or R&B kind of vibe I’ll use a snare that’s 14×6” or 6 ½”. Something that’s reasonably deep.

Sometimes for something that’s a little on the Pop side, I may use a 14×4 ½” piccolo snare or maybe even a 13” snare which has become very popular because it has the weight to it but it still has the snap because of the smaller diameter. I’ve used snare drums as small as 10” in diameter and maybe 5 ½” deep for Jazz projects and Hip Hop projects. Usually I enjoy the wood snares better because they have a tendency to sound a little warmer than the metal snare drums but it’s all a combination of drum heads and microphones and processing and the engineer to make things sound good. You can have a $10,000 drum kit and he can make things sound like cracker boxes, and you can have cracker boxes and he can make it sound like a $10,000 kit. There are a lot of little factors that make a difference and what we try to do is cut down as many as possible or turn them to our advantage.

So I have my own kit tuned the way I like it, with the heads that I like and with the kind of microphones and the kind of engineer that I know can capture it, because a lot of engineers cannot capture what a real acoustic drum set sounds like.

What do you like to use for mics on your kit?
I always use Shure mics because they’re consistent and always work. When I toured with Steely Dan those were the mics that we used. We used the KSM’s, the VP-88, and the Beta 52. If a guy pulls these mics out I know it’s usually going to be great. 95% of the time they use an SM-57 on the snare drum. I’ve seen some teeny, tiny mics where the guy got a killer sound and I’ve had a session where the guy used $30,000 worth of mics on the drums and it sounded like $500 worth. I’m telling you that the sound is in the engineering and the studio environment. It’s not really what I like to see on the drums, it’s who I see engineering because you can get a cat that doesn’t know what he’s doing and it can be a nightmare. Back in the day, they might have only used three or four mics tops, but if a guy knew what he was doing, he got a killer drum sound. It’s the engineering factor that plays such a big part in the situation.

Do you tailor the kit that you bring to the session to the type of music?
Yes, sir. If we’re doing Pop stuff I’ll make sure that I have some big toms and if we’re doing Jazz stuff the toms will be a little bit smaller so the sound isn’t as bombastic. A lot of times I choose a kit that’s pretty general that I can use it on just about anything. With the 8”, 10”, and 12” with 14” and 16” floor toms, I can do pretty much anything that’s going down. I can play Jazz, I can play funk, I can play Pop, I can play Gospel with that kit. Whatever is necessary.

At my studio I use four toms but I have the ability to add two more to that configuration, but I bring five toms to an outside session.

Do you tune your toms to intervals?
No, what I do is find the range of the drum and get the drum sounding good. If you get the drum sounding like what it’s supposed to sound like, then I’m done. Maybe a little duct tape to take out some of the overtones, but other than that, I’m through.

Do you have a hole in you kick drum or do you take the front head off?
Sometimes I have to take the front head off, but generally I have a hole in it. That hole is usually anywhere from eight inches to maybe twelve inches.

What kind of cymbals do you use?
Right now I use the Paiste Signature line. I used it on the Steely Dan tour, the Phil Collins tour, all over the place. The hats are 13” heavies. You can play pretty much any style of music with those. I use a 17” crash, 16” crash, 20” dry ride, and a 20” China that I can use on straight ahead, Latin, Jazz, or Funk. The nice thing is that they stay brighter and clearer longer. I use a wood tipped stick so they sound cleaner and make it easy for me to do what I do.

Do you like a musical click or something mechanical?
Preferably a musical one but I’m one of those kind of cats that can work with whatever. Give it to me more on the musical side, but if not, I’ll use whatever you got. It can be an old lady clapping her hands, I’ll take that and work with it. I’ll get used to anything. I’ve done sessions where the guys have had it together, which is great, and I’ve done sessions where the guys didn’t have it together. The key is to get in and make it happen in the least amount of time.

I actually prefer to work at my place because it’s already set up, it sounds really good, and we can work a lot more efficiently in that we can do more tracks in not a lot of time. On one session recently we cut nine tracks in seven hours because of the efficiency of the studio. The artist was loosing his mind because he was used to getting maybe two tracks on a good day.

Any advice for someone just starting to record?
Yeah, come over to the Ricky Lawson studio and take a quick lesson (laughs). I enjoy teaching and I wish I had someone do this with me when I was a young kid, so if someone wants to come over to my place to watch a session, great. Come on over, because a lot of it is not only the playing but the fellowship and how you talk to people and get along with people and comprehend what someone is saying.

As far as advice, the first thing is to play good time. Secondly, you have to make it feel good. If you don’t, you’re going to get beat up from having to play it over and over again. I usually try to get stuff done in one or two takes. Hopefully I can get it done in one (laughs), but if not, two or three is not bad. But job one is to play good time.

Drummer Dave Weckl Interview Excerpt

Drummer Dave Weckl Interview Excerpt

Dave Weckl is truly one of the most widely respected drummers in all of the drumming world. From his early days with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, to touring with the likes of Simon and Garfunke and Mike Sternl, to playing on numerous radio and television jingles and soundtracks, to sessions with Robert Plant, George Benson, and Peobo Bryson (and many, many more), to being a highly regarded solo artist in his own right, Dave has always been recognized as a cutting-edge innovator of his instrument. Dave is also a consummate educator, with many instructional videos/DVDs and play-along packages to his credit, as well as on-line clinics at the Virtual Drummer School. You can learn a lot more about Dave and his instructional products at

Can you describe your kit for us?
I have a few kits, and what I use depends on the music that’s going to be played. I’ve played and endorsed Yamaha drums since 1983, and I received my first Yamaha kit, a Recording Custom model, while on tour with Simon and Garfunkel.

Today, my standard kit for Fusion, Funk/Jazz-Rock situations is a 5 piece Maple Custom with a vintage finish, with an extra snare to the left. It’s composed of a 22×16” kick, 8×10”, 8×12, 12×14”, and 14×16” toms, and 5.5×14” (maple or aluminum) and 5×13” (maple) signature snares. I’ll also usually use a smaller bass drum (18×16”) for acoustic Jazz gigs, usually with fewer toms as well. I’ve also helped to design cymbals for Sabian, the HHX Evolution and Legacy lines to date, and I use a wide assortment of crashes, splashes, effects cymbals and rides, again, depending on the music to be played. I also use percussion accessories from LP, and my sticks are my signature series from Vic Firth.

What do you look for in a kit?
I look for warm, resonant, projecting shells that help me express what I am hearing in my head, with user-friendly hardware that’s stable but not too bulky or heavy. The kit has to conform to me, not the other way around, meaning the drums and hardware have to be able to be adjusted in fine increments, and needs to stay put where it is. The kit has to feel right and sound right, and Yamaha has the build quality necessary for that to happen. The drum seat and pedals are of utmost importance to feel good and work with the body. Again, Yamaha fits the bill with the Flying Dragon double pedal and very comfortable and stable drum seats.

Do you bring multiple kits or snares to a session?
I try to get as much info about the session ahead of time so I don’t bring unnecessary gear. I usually end up bringing a couple different bass drums (small and big) and a couple different snares, but I bring lots of different cymbals to choose from.

Do you tailor the kit to the session?
Yes, always. It is important for me to know the style of music to be played before I get there.

How does you recording kit differ from your live kit?
It doesn’t change at all. I use the same set up for live shows as I do in the studio.

Do you use bottom heads or a head on front of the kick drum?
I always use bottom heads on toms. The bass drum front head type will depend on the music, and whether I want a resonant or dead bass drum sound. For the dead sound I port the front head at about 4 o’clock with about a 4″ hole. If I play with a full front head, I usually punch small nail size holes about an inch or so in from the hoop at each lug to let some air out while still retaining the full resonant sound of the head and drum. I’ve also co-designed a muffling system for the bass drum with Remo that is part of my tuning formula for the sound of the kick drum.

What kind of heads do you use?
I use Remo heads. Generally I use Coated Ambassadors on all tops of all drums including the bass drum, and Clear Ambassadors on the bottoms of all toms.

How often do you do maintenance on your kit?
Yamaha kits don’t need much maintenance, but I have a cartage/storage company that helps me with that task (Drum Paradise, LA), so I make sure that the kit is constantly in top form.

When you’re recording, what do you like in your headphone mix?
Everything has to be in the phones, including all the drums, but the exact levels will depend on the players, the music, and whether or not there is a click or sequence.

Do you tune your drums yourself or do you hire someone like the Drum Doctor to do it?
No one tunes my drums but me. Ever…

How do you go about tuning your drums then?
That, of course, depends on the music to be played. I usually start with the bottom head (toms), get it in tune with itself, then tune the top head about a minor third lower. The pitch between toms is about a 4th apart most of the time. If mics are involved, I may have to work with the pitch and tuning to accommodate the room or the PA. My main snare is usually tuned medium high in pitch, but again will depend on the music and desired sound. The bottom head is always tighter, and usually pretty tight in general. The bass drum I usually pitch very low.

Which drum do you start with?
I don’t have a preference, but I usually start with the small tom and work my way down in size where the toms are concerned.

Do you tune to the resonant frequency of the drum?
Well, I’ve never understood how that could make sense for all situations, so I would say no. I tune to the pitch and decay factor that I want.

Do you ever adjust the tuning to the song?
Sometimes, especially the snare in a pop vocal song. I want the backbeat snare tone to be somewhat congruent with the song’s tonal center.

Do you deaden any part of your kit with Moon Gel, Deadringers, or tape?
Sometimes. It will depend on the music and the effect I want to get. In general though, no, I don’t deaden anything except maybe the kick a bit. I also designed an active muffler for the snare (with Remo), which works like a physical noise gate. It’s a felt covered plunger that clamps on to the rim, which comes slightly off the drum on impact, then comes back down on the head to muffle it.