This Article Originally Published September 2001
By Michael Laskow
Get Studio Buddy
Okay . . . I admit it. My name is Michael, and I'm a studio addict. It's been a long time since I've engineered or produced any records, but I still think about twisting knobs and pushing buttons once in a while.
Throughout the years, people have often asked me, "How do I record an acoustic guitar?" and I'm happy to tell them. Then it dawned on me. We probably have thousands of members who have "How do I record . . ." questions. The answer? Studio Buddy, The Home Recording Helper. A self-contained database that answers the questions most people have about home recording.
It's FREE. It runs on PCs and Macs. And it's small enough to e-mail to your friends. We've been quietly working on this for a couple of years, and are just a week or so away from launching it.
Alex Reed, TAXI's Director of A&R, and myself wrote the hundred and some odd answers that are a lay person's guide to getting great sounds out of your home studio, and our friends at Disc Makers, Recording Connection, and Tascam helped fund the programming.
The result is a program that will give you the information you need to make big improvements in your home recordings. Here are a couple of samples to whet your appetite. We'll let you know when the final version is out, and where you can get your FREE copy. Enjoy.
"How do I record a snare drum?"
Recommended mics: Shure SM57, AKG 414, Sennheiser 421, Neumann KM 84, Neumann KM 184
For the snare drum, it's always a safe and highly effective choice to use the venerable Shure SM57. Bring it in from the audience side of the kit and give it a 45 to 60 degree angle with the capsule about an inch or two above the head. The farther away it is from the head, the roomier the sound, but the more potential you have for phase problems. The closer to the head you get, the more bottom end you'll getit will give you that "goosh-y" sound. By the way, it's always a good idea to have the snare mic follow a line to the drummer's crotchnot that it's a particularly good sounding part of the anatomy, but because it's away from the hi-hat and any potential leakage problems.
Recommended eq for the snare is: +2@100Hz on the bottom if necessary; roll off 300 to 700Hz in the lower mids to eliminate the box-like sound; and +2 to + 6 dbs @ 5, 8, or 10Khz to brighten up the top end. Tuning the snare is very important in getting the right sound. If you encounter undesirable ringing in the snare, try a small piece of gaffers' tape. You can also try taping a small piece of a feminine napkin to the outer edge of the top head to eliminate over ring.
Remember that a snare is full of transients, so keep your levels fairly low to avoid overloading your preamp, tape machine, or the tape itself. -2 or -3 VU or + 2 or +3 peak reading are typical levels.
"How do I record a kick or bass drum?"
Favorite mics: Sennheiser 421, AKG D-12 or D-112
If the mic you're using has a pad switch, use it. If not, pad the input at the console. Mic the kick drum from the audience side, but only after throwing a sandbag in the drum to weigh it down. Let the sandbag touch the head (that the beater hits) just enough to dampen out any obnoxious overtones, but not the good, natural sounding ones. The mic should be placed about half way in to the drum itself and pointing at the beater. If you bring the mic in from the right side of the drum and angle it at the beater you will be avoiding leakage from the snare drum, which is a good thing to do. You can experiment with the depth of the mic, but always keep the mic pointed at the beater for maximum attack. If you want a "poofier" kick sound, you can point the mic away from the beater, but again, try to avoid letting it point in the direction of the snare to minimize leakage. If you want a roomier sound, you can pull the mic out of the drum a little bit. The further out you pull it, the roomier it will get. Some engineers use a second mic a foot or two outside the kick. Be sure to check the phase relationship of the two kick mics if you try that technique. If you have phase cancellation problems, they will usually manifest themselves by canceling out the bottom end of the kick.
Eq: If you need more bottom end, try boosting @ 60 or 100Hz. Try rolling off lower mids (300-700Hz) to get rid of a box-like sound. To add more attack, try boosting in the 1K to 3K range.
Remember that a kick drum is full of transients, so keep your levels fairly low to avoid overloading your preamp, tape machine or the tape itself. -2 or -3 VU or + 2 or +3 peak reading are typical levels.
Tips: If you don't have gobos to block incoming and outgoing leakage, try placing a moving blanket in a tent-like fashion around the mic stand and kick drum opening. Tune the kick drum up or down according to the key the song is in, making sure that the tuning works well with the register the bass guitar is in.