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SOUND ADVICE: On Drums KIQ Productions

Welcome back to Sound Advice on Recording Drums! Michael Schulze has finally finished guiding us through the complicated but rewarding process of time-aligning a drum kit’s recorded tracks. Now we wrap up by working out what to do with room mics, and throwing in a few final hints and ideas.

If you record your drums in a big space and you have mics out in the room, align your drum kit as I have described and then add delay time to the stereo drum sub mix to align the entire drum mix to the room mics. You will be able to use a lot more of the room now that you have done this.

However, if you want a nice delayed slap from the room mics, point them away from the drums and towards the back wall. The room mics will now pick up almost no direct sound, but mostly reflections off the back wall. In this case the time delay works for you and will give the drums a huge sense of space.

Here are a few more tricks using time alignment.

~ If you use a mic under the snare or any other drum, treat its polarity as you did the polarity of the kick drum.

~ Anytime you mike the same thing from two different distances, delay the close mic to the distant mic. For example, delay the SM57 that is right up on your guitar amp to the condenser mic you placed a few feet back in the room.

~ Delay the direct (DI) signal from your bass guitar to the mic that is a few inches from the bass amp—and zoom in close enough to check the polarity! Sometimes an instrument amplifier reverses the polarity of its input. Do what you must to get the attacks of the notes to go positive before they go negative.

~ At a live-sound gig, figure out the difference in distance between the drum kit and the front-of-house console and the PA speakers and the front-of-house console. If you have a digital mixer or a digital effects processor you can delay the entire PA mix by this difference so that the amplified drums coming through the speakers reach your ears at the same time as the acoustic energy in the room.

Oh, and we’ll wrap up our discussion with one more time-shift tweak that you might find useful, for your own health if not for the ultimate drum sound on your track.

If you told certain drummers that you’ll be delaying the kick and snare hits by 3 ms, they might bite your head off. To avoid such indignity, you can put the entire drum kit back to where it was in time originally, by moving the entire drum mix, time-aligned and polarity-tweaked as it now is, forward (to the left on the screen) by 3 ms. I don’t usually worry about it—the difference is really only that of standing, say, either 6 ft or 9 ft from the drummer, but at least you can’t ever be accused of having messed with the groove if you put the drums back to where they were!

And there you have it: why drums are out of alignment in multitrack sessions, and how to fix them! We’ll see you next time for more Sound Advice on Recording Drums!

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