Studio Preparation: Drums

Written by George Belben on February 9th, 2016

If you’re anything like me, you live for a killer drum sound. But drums can be one of the hardest elements of a song to get right. If you nail the drums everything else seems to fall into place, but if they lack punch, sound out of tune or the sound just doesn’t suit the song then it can ruin everything.

So how can you avoid that happening in your music?


Set up your Drums properly

When I say this, most drummers will assume I’m talking about replacing the heads, but as much as that’s a necessity, it’s also only the very beginning. Take apart your kit and check over every nut, bolt and screw, tighten anything that’s loose and oil anything that might squeak.

An important note to make is that at this stage I find it’s better to fix what you have than replace drums/hardware (unless vital). You know your kit, you know how it sounds best and how it acts, new equipment might not act as you expect.

Once your kit is feeling fresh and looked after, then yes, those battered old heads need replacing. Make sure you get the right heads for your sound, but if in doubt, you can’t go wrong with Evans or Remo.


Make sure you have everything you might need, and some things you might not

Spare sticks, drum keys, and heads are essential, but replacement parts such as beater heads, snare wires, and cymbal felts are always good things to have with you, and never forget duct tape, and plenty of it!


Know your songs like the back of your hand

Next to a great sound, the performance is key to a fantastic drum recording, and as cheesy as it sounds, the best way to achieve this is by practice.

Know your songs inside out, know every single beat, every fill, and every change; playing through them should be like second nature, this way you can focus more on your timing and making sure every hit is perfect rather than what part of the song comes next.

A good idea would also be to practice to a click track at the right tempo for the song, this can help you get used to playing in a studio environment before wasting money getting used to it while you’re in the studio.

A lot of drummers I’ve worked with have really struggled with playing to a click as they’re so used to playing with their band, a click track can feel like a blank canvas and they often forget when changes are and struggle to focus on their playing. It often helps them have a guitarist/vocalist record to the click track first to give the drummer a familiar sound to play along with.


Learn for next time

The most important thing to remember about working in a studio is that your engineers are very talented professionals that have recorded a lot more music than you have, so listen to them. Don’t go in thinking you know exactly what is best for your song, or even your drum part, the chances are that if you take their input onboard then the finished product will sound a whole lot better.

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