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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Sep-15 > How to record… bass drums

How to record… bass drums

John Pickford continues his recording series with advice on how to record that backbone of the beat: the kick drum…

A great kick drum sound is, of course, the foundation of any modern drum kit recording. Getting it right will help give your track the right feel, whether you’re after a killer funky groove or a hard-rocking, driving beat. The first thing to address is the drum itself; no number of fancy mics or techniques will rescue a poor-sounding poor-sounding drum. Before you begin mic’ing, make sure that the drum is nicely tuned and free of rattles, and have some lubricant handy to deal with squeaky bass drum pedals. Bear in mind that drums are sensitive to changes in room temperature, so leave it to settle before evaluating the sound if the drum has come from a cold storage room into a warm studio.

Bass drums come in various sizes, both in terms of diameter and depth, and this has an enormous impact on the type of sound they will produce. The most common sizes are 20–22 inches in diameter with a depth of between 14 and 16 inches. These are usually best for most recordings, although great results can be had from smaller drums, often found with jazz kits. Larger kick drums are capable of delivering a deep low-end, but often lack the tightness and punch of standard sizes. A common problem with bass drums is excessive boom and ringing. Although much of this can be carefully tuned out, it’s often necessary to use some dampening material, such as a blanket or pillow, inside the drum. Depending on the amount of damping required, the material can be placed touching either or both the batter head and resonant (front) head. Some engineers like to remove the resonant head for recording, enabling easy placement of mics inside the drum. However, this will completely alter the tone of the drum and can result in rattling lugs if the rim is left off. A better compromise is to cut a hole in the resonant head, and these days many heads are available with a pre-cut hole.

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About MusicTech

It’s celebration time here at MusicTech as we reveal our 150th issue! quite a milestone we’re sure you’ll agree. What an issue we’ve got to celebrate. First we’ve compiled the 150 best gear, studios, quotes and tips from the last 150 issues of MusicTech and we sit down for chats with studio legends Tony Visconti and Bob Clearmountain. We’ve also got a whole host of tutorials, reviews and a brand new feature looking at the six ways to save time when recording.