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Setting up a basic recording studio at home

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by sothoth, Nov 10, 2020.

  1. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm using a 20-year old Yamaha set and it's just black rubber for all the drums. You don't want that, and I think only the cheapest sets are like that now.

    A drummer I was playing with for a while bought a mesh set so he could play quietly at night. It has mesh heads over the rubber pads, and you tighten the mesh to where it responds more like a real drum set when you hit them. I think he paid around $800 for it. It's great for laying down tracks and feels good, although still not quite like real acoustic drums.
     
  2. scottser

    scottser Friend of Leo's

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    seriously, get an electronic kit if you're starting off. real drums are too loud, too expensive, too hard to tune, take up loads of tracks and you need at least 4 mics.
    an e kit you can midi straight into your recording software or just take a stereo out if you want to keep it old school.
     
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  3. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Although not impossible it is hard to get a great sound for all of the reasons above and nobody can decide for you if the effort and expense is worth it. No way to know but try, you might be surprised.
     
  4. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    There's another option if you really want to play REAL drums. You could record them one at a time. Then you only need one mike. You record each drum to its own separate track. You don't have the experience of playing a whole kit, but in theory it actually becomes easier to lay down a tight overall drum part because you can really, really focus on each individual drum part, one at a time. Now it's easy. One mike, one drum or cymbal, one at a time, one track at a time.
     
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  5. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

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    Here is the mental process I went through when needing drums in a house studio.

    - I'm not a drummer, do I want to learn?
    - Do I have a space I can put acoustic drums in?
    - Do I have 3 to 8 channels of decent preamps and microphones, cables etc. ?
    - Can live drums not interfere with family or neighbors?
    - Would I be happy with inexpensive edrums?
    - Would I be happy with just creating drums from scratch in software?
    - Would software drums sound like real drums?

    I answered no to the first four on the list. Actually, I did buy inexpensive edrums and frankly, it was a hassle as the distance from the computer to the e-drums presented significant problems which became a creative killer. Not to mention the unrealistic stick feel from the bounce back of low cost mesh drums. What I wanted, the really nice mesh, realistic feeling drum heads, were way too expensive.

    So I went with software, tried several. Landed on Superior Drummer 3. Building a believable performance comes pretty quickly although I will say, I am not a drummer, so creative expression is only as good as the software will allow. SD3 is really good though. The fast search or just tap your beat into the software builds a pretty rapid believable track. You can add or delete ghost notes, humanize the feel, build custom sets etc. Really nice software.

    The drums however, do not initially sound like commercial recordings. You have to study up on things like DBX160 compressors, Distressors, API 2500, 1176 and SSL compressors not to mention others which are used on various drum components and overall tracks to get something that sounds like what you hear on commercial recordings. There's a whole creative science to getting your drums to sound like a recording. Then there are room, crush mic and bleed aspects of SD3 which if you take the time to learn, create really believable spaces around your drums. It was initially a lot of work but with the templates you can create and save various approaches that you can use to quicken the process. SD3 also can be used with almost any midi trigger device be it edrums or just a midi keyboard.

    If I were a drummer, had the space and could make the noise, acoustic drums would be my first choice. The rooms in a house are more than adequate although some treatment might be needed. Albums have been done with drums in a closet, so as long as you find the space to hold the drums and allow your arms to swing, you should be good to go.
     
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  6. tweeet

    tweeet Tele-Afflicted

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    If you want to go the way Swanny suggested then you're talking 10-12 mics...that's a lot of money, good mics, well up to $2000 including leads / clips.... and a lot of time and lots of tracks. As some others have suggested four mics. SM57 for snare...dedicated bass drum mic and a pair of overheads, right and left eg. AKG C1000's. When I was engineering / producing, the smaller set up sometimes gave great results...only when I was being paid for lengthy stints in the studio and the other band members had patience with the drummer would I mic each drum. The small set ups worked for the bands in the '60's don't forget !
     
  7. maxvintage

    maxvintage Poster Extraordinaire

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    What everybody else said: drums are exponentially harder to deal with. Loud, hard to get sounding good, hard to mic, take up a lot of space, take up a lot of tracks. In a home studio you really can't hear what the drum sounds like though a mic while you are playing it: you just can't. So you can never really tell what you're doing.

    Save the money you were going to spend on drums and drum mics and drum mic stands and get Superior Drummer3. It's incredible

    If I had to have drums I'd for sure get an electronic kit for home, and set it to trigger one of the kits in SuperiorDrummer
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2020
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  8. fjblair

    fjblair Tele-Holic

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    For your situation OP, I would go with E-drums. I've gone back and forth over the years, but wishing I had an E-kit.
     
  9. Martin R

    Martin R Friend of Leo's

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    We've done four mics and eight mics. Eight mics is better. We also record the drums, (and everything else), individually. Record a scratch track live with a click track and usually the bass going in direct. Then come back and redo each instrument.
    Our room is very live and reverberates at D. So close mic'ing is the only way to go. When we recorded drums with just four mics the drummer said it as a good "live" sound.
    This was four mics. To me, it sounds muddy and undefined.
    This is eight mics. A lot more detail.
    And one last thing about home recording...Give up life as you now know it.
    Good luck
     
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  10. mojek

    mojek Tele-Meister

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    I think the room is your biggest challenge. First, to isolate it sonically from bothering the neighbors. Second, make it good sounding. The first will be expensive, second maybe impossible:)
    I agree with @braveheart, purchase electronic drums, use some old carpets to damoen the kick and play/record. If you want to record acoustic set, go to studio or find some space with high ceiling;-)
     
  11. Skully

    Skully Doctor of Teleocity

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    Do more mics add more detail? Maybe. The definitely give you more control. I had to count the mics in my setup and, like you, I use eight -- kick (1), snare (1), toms (3), stereo overhead (2) and hi-hat (1). The hi-hat is almost always muted, and the the toms have gates on the tracks (not the line in) to keep them silent when they're toms aren't being hit. I have a mic attached to the floor tom pointing at the spot where the kick pedal hits the bass head, but it's not even plugged in. The good thing is that I can isolate and treat different pieces of the kit, but I one might be able to get a better sound with a simpler set-up.

    The experts may disagree, but I don't think it's so important to find a great room for your acoustic drum kit. You can add all the fake room you need. The big problem I see is getting room sound you don't want. I'm lucky. I have a drum isolation room in my garage with a mic'd kit connected to a DAW. I have a monitor and keyboard running to a CPU outside the drum room, connected to another monitor and keyboard, along with MIDI keyboard controllers and my guitar setup, as well as a separate 2-input soundcard. The drum room has barely enough space for the kit and a desk, and its roof is only about seven-feet high, which is just enough for the overheads. The walls are fiberboard covered with foam insulation. It's acoustically dead, but I still get some room sound whether I want it or not.

    I have a Roland electronic kit, too. I'm not a fan of working with electronic drums. I don't like working with MIDI and it's not as expressive as an acoustic kit, especially when it comes to the snare. You can't make it "talk" in the same way. That said, for most people, I would recommend an electronic kit over an acoustic one. It won't take up as much space, it won't bother the neighbors (although the kick pedal might if you're in an apartment), and out of the box you'll get a good sound that will sit well in the mix. Drum tuning is a black art. I used to mess with it more, trying to get them to match certain pitches, etc. Now, if they sound good, I leave them alone, except for the snare. I have roto toms in my kit that I can quickly tune to pitch if I want to screw around with that.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2020
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  12. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Luckily I'm in the Ed Wood school of directing music production. "Great take, that's a wrap". While I really appreciate the unbelievable quality of pro recordings, I don't pretend to believe I can ever achieve those levels. I'm very happy with demo quality production out of my own home studio.

    When I want our band to sound really, really good, including drums, we go to Castaway 7 studios in Ventura to work with a real pro. His rates are very reasonable. For maybe $500 split among the band we can get around three or four songs recorded, and he has all the best toys-- super expensive fancy mics, killer tube pre-amps, etc., etc. More importantly, he knows exactly how to use them al. He will even do a great mix and quick mastering-- and I've always been really happy with his mastering and haven't seen the need to pay someone else more $$ to make a better master.

    I suspect that if you set your goal of recording as well as the pros you will likely come up short, or spend lots of $$ and many years learning the tricks of how to be a great engineer and producer. Which, if you achieve it, then you could probably make money doing it for other bands as well as your own. To be as good as a pro you would essentially become a pro.

    But if you set your goal to making really, really good music, and then doing very solid demo-level recording, that in my opinion is achievable without focusing too much on the recording studio aspects of the art or making music. A great song recorded OK is always going to beat a mediocre song recorded really well.
     
  13. Ed Driscoll

    Ed Driscoll Tele-Holic

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    Watching this video of Nick D'Virgilio playing the recent Eddie Kramer addition to Superior Drummer 3 on an electronic kit, if drums were my first instrument, and I wanted to record in an untreated room, that would be my best bet: trigger the instruments on an electronic kit, and then listen to drums miked by Eddie Kramer in AIR Studios in London, which sounds like the best of all possible worlds, short of recording there yourself. (Or simply stick with the base drums in SD3, which sound pretty darn good themselves.)

     
  14. stepvan

    stepvan Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    For one is to use an actual drummer to get good drumming . All jokes aside it is tough in a house if you cannot set up in a large area I.e. a living room with vaulted ceilings, basement etc as you know drums move air like a speaker and my theory (which is probably wrong) besides the obvious with a small room part of it is the air/precession wave as it travels through a small room does not have a chance to dissipate like it can in a large space causing a more boxed in sound. Maybe an electronic kit could be the solution, and rather then running thru an amp just run it directly into your interface. Someone correct me if I am wrong.
     
  15. mojek

    mojek Tele-Meister

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    If you have isolated garage, don’t need electronic kit. You don’t bother neighbours and also don’t have too much reflections from the walls. If you want to record just the drums, use close mics, mix it and use whatever room/hall plugin you wish. Or, if you like the room, you don’t even need the plugins, test the right mics for overheads and use the room sound. This would be also very probably my choice and you are lucky to have this opportunity:)
    I live in a flat, so the only possibility is to record with Roland’s or take a week off, rent a space(wooden cottage with good room somewhere in mountains) and spend a week there(amazing):) In this case do the best to record/take right from the start and in best case not to use any plugins to “correct” the recording. I don’t have anything against plugins, but it is much less time consuming to record it right with the room sound than add the soace with plugins:)
     
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  16. sothoth

    sothoth Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

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    Well I’d strongly prefer an acoustic drum set for playing enjoyment or if I played them in gigs but for this exercise I’ve determined I’m going buy a copy of EZDrummer. I think an eDrum set is cool but takes up as much space as an acoustic set and my wife is pretty much ready to kill me as it is. So software won’t trigger any divorce papers :)

    I’m either getting a bass around Xmas or I’ll use my son’s bass. Lucky for me I buy him nice instruments “just in case” I want to “borrow” them at some point. It goes both ways, too. He can borrow any number of amazingly cool guitars when he’s ready to impress the chicks.

    I used to have a beat buddy but programming it was like accessing a whole aircraft carrier’s set of functions via a four button interface and it was very time consuming. It was a cool pedal though, I just found it hard to use. Maybe I was too stupid for it.
     
  17. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Poster Extraordinaire

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    I use a MIDI controller and VST drum kits to get something kind of usable, apply a grid groove to it then loop it. Same thing with bass and sometimes keys.
     
  18. gabeNC

    gabeNC TDPRI Member Ad Free Member

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    I use 3 mics on an old Rodgers set i bought cheap on CL. Put some fresh skins on it and it actually sounds pretty good. Beta 52a on the kick, se7 condensers for overheads. I'm in a bonus room over the garage with a vaulted ceiling the reflections were killing me until... I tried using the Recorderman technique, a variation of the Glynn Johns method. Pan hard and the room doesn't wash everything out.

    So less than $400 in mics and I'm very happy with the recordings.
     
  19. Jowes_84

    Jowes_84 Tele-Meister

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    Good choice @sothoth - keep it simple.

    I used to have a muffled Ludwig Breakbeats kit in my living room, but hardly ever used it. I also own a Roland Octapad - which is absolutely fantastic - but I also hardly use it.
    The reason I changed to guitar: it is simple (well not mastering it, but messing around) - they hang on my wall and I grab them when I feel like it. Drums are complicated to have and play around your house - I suggest you don't.

    I always check for a rehearsal room before I move somewhere, so I can drum the hell out of a kit however loud I want it and turn my amps to 11. At home, keep it simple, especially with recordings - the plugins or e-kits these days will sound a zillion times better than anything you can record in your home studio.

    have fun & cheers
     
  20. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    What's the goal for this setup? Are you wanting to produce "product" for sale? Songwriting demos? Recording for your own amusement?

    It really depends on what you want the end result to be, and how much money/effort you're willing to expend to achieve that result. What's your idea of a "good" drum sound? Even in an untreated room, you can still achieve good results with a couple of inexpensive mics if you take the time to learn how to position and process them. It won't sound like you booked Ocean Way for a week, but you may find it suits your purposes at the budget you have.
     
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