Rooms For Drums

Recording musick is something of a dark art. That is, most of us are in the dark when we make it.

And, were Trey to be the dogmatic type*, one thing written in non-permeable stone would go thus:
Just 3 fricken mics max and put the fricker into mono.

The apocrypha would add:
And make sure there's a shiitake load of room in dem mics!!

So, for you lay people, what does that mean in plain Engrish? Here's the glossary:
  • Mics = microphones (not Michaels)
  • Mono = the way we heard recorded music before 1963 (that means we hear it in the centre of the sound stage....)
  • Shiitake = either a tasty Japanese mushroom, or another Anglo-Saxon word that means 'a lot'
  • Dem = is blues for 'them'
Now we got the glossary out the way, what does these commandments portend for our simple ears? In short – pure roquin' goodness of yore.^

All the classic stuff we hear 'most everyday on classic radio etc. is recorded so simply it'd make a Spice Girl's perm go straight. No autotune. One or two live takes, no overdubs. No computer jigglin the timing into place. And deffo no mics on every doggam aprt of the dogammin' drum kit (Ježišmaria!!).

The Rolling Stone, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Beatles, Queen, and maybe even The Beach Boys. Everything from classic Motown, funk and Afrobeat+ . Either 2 or 3 mics only.

Again, at the risk of repeating ourselves like a bloggin' Meatloaf (or Oasis), why is this to me?

A simple mic setup means the drummer has to play each part of the kit just-so to get that sweet exciting, or tasteful balance that underpins the tune.

This means the drums have to be recorded in a sympathetic space to give them character/ beef/ space/ kickassness.
AND the guy recording them has to know his onions. And alliums.

Hear how Roger Taylor's drums push the music, while hanging back on being in-yer-face (where Freddie and Brian belong).

We also love Rog for hitting everything hard, even in the ballads. He's the Jamaican Bonnets in the Queen salsa.

And Phil Collins, when he was a drummer, had that sound that redefined the 80s. Rooooooms.

But kinda better for us here. recorded in Abba's studio (now closed), with an early drum machine intro. Close to our hearts.

Here, simple drum recording, but all but into a nice EMI plate.

For our money, a master of this was Glyn Johns, who recorded Zep, the Stones, the Eagles, Neil Young, the Who, and the Beatles. That's a CV not destined for the shredder, for sure.

If this doesn't hit home, it's his work that makes that flood-sized drum sound that has been sampled almost as much as James Brown band's Funky Drummer§ (another simple mic setup), When the Levee Breaks, off of Led Zep IV.

That's only TWO FRICKEN MICS! You can't buy a drum sound like that now, with y'all fancy kit, y'all.

Here's his work on one of the Stones' best LP's, Exile On Main Street. In a cellar, no less. Also, credit due to Charlie Watts.

But then, here's the antithesis. Dave Grohl did overdubs on cymbals after the other kit parts to make this. With mics up the ying-yang. Recorded by .....

So it all comes back to the drummer, and having some sooouuuul.

......................................................................................................... Trey's now sharpening his chisel to amend them stoney rules.

* Actually, Trey's motto is from Stanley Tucci – There's two ways to do things. The right way, and my way. And both is the same.

^ On reflection, we didn't put that so simple, did we?

+ And funk ain't that disco shiitake. And don't let Parliament Funkadelic tell you otherwise.



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