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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Drums at Home: Phasing the 3:1 Rule

posted by on October 30 at 15:17 PM

recording.jpgGetting good and solid drum sounds at home
is one of the most difficult things the home recorder can do. Getting the equipment you need to do it right is expensive and the time it takes to get it right is extensive. But if you have the time and money, and can figure out a technique that works, the plusses are many. Youíll be in the comfort of your own place, and thereís less pressure. You can relax and being relaxed is key to getting a good take.

Keith Dempster from New Yorkís Ground Control Studio spoke about some basics when it comes to recording drums at home:

What are the first things you do when you are getting drum sounds at home?
Keith: Hide the bong. And hide all bonglike apparati.

Whatís more important, good mics, or good preamps?
Well, the most important thing in home recording your drums is the room. The room dictates the drums’ sound more than anything. If you want a big drum sound, you need a pretty live room. You want lots of reflection. People may only have a small room to use, or rooms that are carpeted. But there are still things you can do to liven it up:

Get three or four 4x8 foot sheets of plywood and put them up against the walls of the room. And place one on the floor, right in front of the kick drum. This adds reflective surfaces to that room.

Also, try the garage, if you have one. Try all the biggest rooms in the place. You want reverberation. Youíll need to get long mic cords so the mics can reach your mixer.

Whatís a special Keith micing trick?
Itís not that special, but after youíve micíd the kit, tuned the drums, and there are no phasing issues, try putting an extra mic just outside the door. It’ll catch additional ambient sound. Itís nice to have that when youíre mixing. It could give your sounds character.

Talk about phasing.
When two mics are picking up the same sound, the problem of delayed sound causes phase issues. Things get worse when outputs are added together at the mixing desk. When two signals are close in frequency and level but out of time with each other, there is a phase difference. The peaks of one signal are in time with the dips of the second signal and the result is a cancellation of the signalsí energy. Your drums sound weak. Someone told me itís like someone pushing on a door at the same time another person pulls on the same door - it doesnít move.

In Phase:
Out of Phase:

To get around phasing issues in multiple mic set-ups the 3:1 Rule is used:

Two mics should be placed apart from each other at least three times their distance from the sound source. In this way, the sound waves that each mic receives are different enough to minimize phase cancellation.

RSS icon Comments


There is a really cool and easy way to get good overhead drum sounds in phase at home called the Recorderman technique. It's not the same as the 3:1 rule, but it works well and is super easy.

Posted by eric w. | October 30, 2008 3:35 PM

Excellent link. Thank you, Eric W.

Posted by trent moorman | October 30, 2008 3:38 PM

The plywood trick is awesome. I only have a small basement to work with.

Posted by patknives | October 30, 2008 3:49 PM

Sweet beans. How 'bout a mic at the opposite end of the room? How close to the wall? Say hi B-osch from J-osh. Word.

Posted by Pico D. Donkey | October 30, 2008 3:58 PM

Another great technique for adding ambience to drums recorded in small spaces is to use a very short delay on the room/ambient mics. We're talking

Posted by danmohr | October 30, 2008 6:09 PM

I must try the short delay!!!! Here I go.....

Posted by WOLF BLITZER: SPECIAL REPORT | October 30, 2008 6:40 PM

Today I walked into the lobby of the Stranger and introduced myself to the attendent. I thought they should know me since I read Line Out.

Posted by WOLF BLITZER: SPECIAL REPORT | October 30, 2008 6:43 PM

I love these sound check articles!

Posted by andrv | October 30, 2008 7:43 PM

Ah, home drum recording. A biatch to pull off and make them sound good. Phasing does seem to have a mind of its own.

I think it's all so much trial and error / trial vs. error.

Good words here.

Posted by Tech Man Tim | October 30, 2008 8:25 PM

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Posted by yikrzg wfyilnud | November 4, 2008 11:24 PM

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