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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Nov-16 > FROM STUDIO TO RELEASE Recording A Band


This month, we start a major new series in MusicTech where we look at the entire process of recording, mixing and mastering a band – surely the essential skills that any engineer needs. In the first part, let’s start with the drums. Mike Hillier is at the console…

Part 1

Recording Drums

Here at MusicTech, we often look at the specific parts of the recording process in isolation: providing you with all the assistance we can muster for each section, whether that’s recording guitars, programming synths, editing vocals, or mastering. However, by looking at each process in isolation, it can be difficult to see how the whole fits together to result in a finished song. In this new series, we’re going to follow the development of two songs – both very different in terms of style and instrumentation – from their start in the tracking studio, through editing and mixing, to their final mastering, ready for release.

The track from Reptiles has looser and more traditional rock drums than that of Lock, whose song features acoustic drums playing over a loop

The first of these songs is Fade by Lock, a modern-sounding electro-rock track combining electronic and acoustic drums with synths and guitars. The other track we will be looking at is Shore by Reptile. This track will have a looser feel and a more traditional rock sound, driven by acoustic drums, electric guitars, electric bass and an organ.

The engineering for both recordings was done in the SSL room at Hackney Road Studios, London, with assistance from Indi Brodley. In this opening part of the series, we’re going to look at the first stage in most modern recordings: recording the drum kit. Whether acoustic or electronic, getting the drum groove right from the start is the bedrock that the rest of the song is going to be built on top of.

On this issue’s DVD and at is a folder containing several audio examples recorded in the studio to illustrate the process, in addition to a full Pro Tools session containing the drum recordings we made for each of the two tracks.


Before you start setting up the drum kit, it’s good to have a plan. You should have an idea in advance of the kind of sound you want to achieve. This will help you choose where to set up the drums, and what microphone choices you want to make. If the room is big enough, you can probably get a number of different sounds simply by moving the kit into different locations, but even in small rooms, moving the snare a foot or two can change the reflection pattern and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to get close to the sounds you need.

To test a room, take a snare out and walk around hitting it. Hold it out flat in front of you

The simplest way to test a room is to walk around clapping and listening to the resulting room sound, but I usually take a snare out and walk around hitting the snare – remember to hold it out flat in front of you, as you’re not going to be setting the kit up with the snare at 90 degrees to the floor. The reflections off the floor and ceiling are just as important as those off the walls. When I’ve found a spot I’m happy with, I then set the snare up there, and start setting up the rest of the kit around that. I will then get the drummer to hit the snare while I walk around the room again, to find a good spot for the room mics.

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About MusicTech

The idea of this month’s MusicTech is to give you a flavour of what it’s like to record a band, with all the technical know-how that goes with it. We asked MT expert Mike Hillier to imagine you are sitting watching him prepare the studio and mic the band up and in doing so, Mike offers a hell of a lot of advice. Like I say, it’s like you’re with him... At the other end of the scale we have the new Pioneer Toraiz, a unit that, on the face of it, is packed with DJ appeal. Yet dig beneath the surface and you’ll find an incredibly powerful piece of hardware for the music producer. Talking of scales, we go from dance music remixing and production with Mason (p34) to mastering it with Label Worx. So we cover the complete process of recording to release which, quite handily, brings us right back to our cover feature! The November issue of MusicTech is out now!