Raw notes from CTW on drum sounds

Hi everyone! I decided to just copy and paste my entire Evernote block of notes that I had for CTW into this post. It is kind of organized. I’m going to be doing a series of posts on how I get drums sounding good, but this may be a good starting point for some of you to see where I’m going with this.

Good drum sounds start with the source (tuning, heads that aren’t beat to death, shell, mounting, damping)
Tuning (head should resonate with shell, bottom should be an interval higher or lower than top). Tension on head should make drum sing. Pitch next to each lug should sound the same when tapped lightly.

What decade of drum sound are you going for? 80’s ballad, 90’s pop, y2k’s re-invention. Dark/bright.

Spend money on cymbals. It counts.

Microphones I use at Watermarke Church:

  • Kick: Sennheiser e902  Alternates: Shure Beta 52a, AKG D112, Electro-Voice RE20 / 320, Sennheiser MD421,  Audix D6, Yamaha SubKick (60Hz)
  • Snare top / bottom: Shure sm57 Alternates: beta 57, Audix i5
  • Toms (rack and floor): Sennheiser e904 Alternates: Sennheiser 421, e604, Shure beta 98 (never really had good luck except on high toms)
  • Overheads  Audio-Technica ATM450 ($237 Amazon) I like the side address mics as they look clean on the mic boom. Alternates: Neumann KM84 (184), Shure SM81, Audix ADX51 (decent at $200)
  • Hi Hats: SM81 Alternates: see overheads

Mic’ing drums:

  • Glenn Johns technique:  kick, snare, oh over hi tom, oh beside floor. Equal distant from snare.
  • Close mic everything.
  • Snare mic positioning is 2 fingers up, above rim – maybe a little inside for capsule, pointed at where the drummer will strike head.
  • Bottom snare mic up near wires, maybe a fist away 1/3 of the way in from rim
  • Alternative snare mic’ing method: the side mic – place mic beside drum maybe a fist away from shell 1/3 of the way down pointed directly at shell. Move around to taste.
  • Listen while mic’ing if you can. Grab some IEMs and go at it.

Check Your Cables!

A bad cable can introduce a ton of problems including :


  • Don’t go crazy with levels, just set pre where you need it.
  • Don’t go crazy with compression, use it as an effect as needed.
  • For snare make sure bottom is in the mix and polarity (phase) is set correctly for full sound.
  • Don’t shy away from using overheads.
  • Sometimes a broad cut for toms & kick centered at 250-350Hz works to get fuller sound.
  • Compress the drum group (if you can). It can glue the drum sound together.
  • Use gates, but don’t gate fully (if possible) only gate 6-12 db from the signal, more on kick if needed.
  • For gates, use a keyed signal if you can (hone in on dominant/junk frequency – toms 200-300 hz exclusively). You’ll be able to use a lower threshold without false triggering from cymbals, etc.


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