How to record drums with two microphones and Duet 2
by Apogee’s Chris Lawson
When it came time to add music to the Duet 2 launch video, I asked Jingle Punks to write it. (To hear more about that, and see the behind the scenes video they filmed, click here.) When initially talking to Jingle Punks, we discussed the idea of sending the track to us and recording live drums at Berkeley St. Studio. When they finished writing an amazing track, they sent it from the Jingle Punks studio in New York to the Berkeley St. studio in Santa Monica, so that live drums could be recorded using Duet 2. The drummer I asked to play on the track is an excellent drummer out of Los Angeles named Brian Zarlenga, and the engineer was non other than Bob Clearmountain. Both Brian and Bob were very excited to work on the song and be part of the Duet 2 launch. I then, however, mentioned to Bob that I really wanted the drums to be recorded with only Duet 2 and with only 2 microphones. No external mic pre amps, mixer, etc. Just two microphones into Duet 2, connected to a Mac Book Pro, and recorded into Logic. I thought for sure he would kick me out of his studio and would never allow me back in again. But, being the true pro that he is, he was up for it. Here is a great behind the scenes video of Bob Clearmountain recording drums with Duet 2 and only two microphones:
Bob actually recorded Brian playing two different drum takes, using different microphones each time. In the video you only see one take, but the first take (not shown in the video) was recorded with what I would call the “budget” high-quality workhorse microphones. Shure Beta 52 on the kick and a Shure SM57 for the overhead.
Here is a closer shot of where the Beta 52 was placed:
As you can see, the Beta 52 was placed just inside the hole on the front head of the kick drum, pointed toward the beater. All drums, drum heads, and players are different, so adjust it until it sounds right for the drums you’re recording. Here is another close up shot of where the SM57 was placed:
The SM57 was about 18 inches (46cm) above the kick and pointed at the snare drum. The trick to this mic placement is to move it around to get the best balance of all the drums, which will also change depending on the room, drums, player, etc. The second take (the one you see and hear in the video) was recorded with a higher end “vintage” set up. Beyerdynamic M88 on the kick and a Neumann M49 for the overhead. Here is a close up of the Beyerdynamic M88:
As you can see, the M88 is at about the same position that the Beta 52 was, only pointed slightly off from the beater. Here is a closer look at the M49 on the overhead:
The M49 was at the same position as the SM57 was, about 18 inches (46cm) above the kick pointed toward the snare. Once again, when using just one mic to capture the whole drum set, it’s really important to find that sweet spot where all the drums are picked up equally. Also, how good the room, drum set, and player are will make an even bigger impact on how good your drum recordings come out when using only two microphones.
Both versions sounded great, but for the final mix that ended up in the finished video, we chose the 88/M49 set up. I would have been really happy with either take, but since I had the choice, the 88/M49 set up seemed to fit a little better for this song. The toms and cymbals just sounded bigger to me with an overall slightly bigger sound.
The take that was recorded with the 52/57 combo had more crack in the snare sound, which I think would actually work better than the 88/M49 combo for heavier, faster rock songs.
Thank you again to the guys at Jingle Punks for writing an amazing song, to Bob Clearmountain and his assistant Brandon Duncan for a phenomenal job recording the drum tracks and mixing, and to Brian Zarlenga for playing an awesome drum track.