Drums - How many tracks can I record at once?

How do you other users record drums?

What do I need to record drums on seperate tracks into n-Track? I guess I need 5-6 channels for drums.

Is there such a thing as a USB interface with 5-6 Inputs? If so, how would n-Track work with something like that?

What are you other n-Track’ers doing to record drums???

Well, that’s a can of worms!

Truth is, you don’t need more than one track. Most important are a good drum set, a good drummer, and a good room; a couple of good mics and preamps won’t hurt either. :)

A while back (hmmm…almost two years now) I got an Aardvark Q10 (and now they are out of business!) to record drums - 8 inputs - now I mostly use two and mix to mono.

Then there is the school that says you need a mic on everything…I think they’re also the Les Paul crowd… :D

The big limiting factor here is your sound card. You will need a sound card with enough channels. So if you want to record 8 separate tracks at the same time, you will need a sound card with 8 separate channels. As for USB, I haven’t seen such an animal… yet. However, USB tends to not be the best choice for audio due to its sustained transfer rate being low. Therefore, you usually see multi channel cards being either PCI or Firewire.


Then there is the school that says you need a mic on everything…

Well, it all has to do with the sound you want. If you want the Dave Weckl fusion sound or Mike Portnoy metal sound, you gotta mic everything. You want Oasis or Weezer sounding drums, a mic in a room is all you need. It is all about the sound you want. That will determine number of mics and how they are used.

I use a c-port by st audio, which has a total of 10 ins and 10 outs. Not sure about usb, but isn’t there a throughput problem for multitracking? Firewire may be better for an external unit.

I close mic every individual drum with dynamic mics plus a pair of condensor mics up top as a stereo overhead. I usually blend the snare and kick tracks with samples for more punch and snap. Feel free to use my free collection of 16 bit drum samples.


General thoughts:
Front head of the bass drum off with pillows or similar inside. Back off the mic from the beater contact point unless you like clicky. Snare mic pointing across the top of the snare head rather than pointing right at it. Bottom heads on the toms slightly detuned to make that “doooooom” falling pitch effect. Stereo overheads equidistant from the snare to center the snare in the soundfield. If you have a little bitty crappy room, bring the overheads down below the cymbals and inside the kit to minimise reflections from the ceiling. I call that the “underhead” technique. No need to put the drums into the headphone mix as they are so darn LOUD. Just whatever you are having him play to in terms of guide tracks. Try to get at least three takes AT THE EXACT SAME TEMPO which means click track or other guide track each time. that will allow you to make a “comp” take (or compilation take) if this verse sounds killer with that chorus.

Good luck!

first time i recorded drums i plugged 6 mics into a mixer, did a live mix “guesstimate” (with level and eq adjustments on the mixer) and recorded to a single stereo wav file. when mixing my songs in the end, i could do very little to the drums besides eq, compression, and a bit of reverb on the entire drum track.

since then i have recorded a drum kit many times using mutiple tracks giving me complete power over the sound during mixing… YET there are some things about that first attempt that still sound better than the stuff i am doing with seperate tracks…

i think it kind of demonstrates the importance of the things that happen during the tracking process (sound of the room, the kit itself, mics, placement, etc)… and that you can still learn alot and achieve something decent even with a very basic setup.

now since you asked, i’m using an 8-input soundcard. i use a mixer to preamplify each track, then send the individual channel outputs to the inputs in my soundcard. if you’re doing it this way, it is important to NOT apply any effects, eq, etc. during tracking or you’ll regret it later. leave that part for mixing.

if you’re looking for an external sound device, i will agree that you’re probably best off looking for a firewire interface of some kind. there are tons of these out there.

Behringer ADA8000 preamp (ADAT connector) - 8 channels
Echo Audio Gina24 (ADAT)

kick - resonant head side (front of the kick) (mono track)
snare (near top rim - best sound has been below the rim slightly pointing at the shell about 1.5" away)(mono track)
tom 1 (close mic clipped on the rim) (mono track)
tom 2 (close mic clipped on the rim) (mono track)
tom 3 (close mic clipped on the rim) (mono track)
two overheads (Large diaphragm in special placement that keeps the kick and snare centered) (stereo track)

After all that, most of the sound heard after mixdown is what’s coming from overheads, including the kick.

one channel left over - I move the mic around every time experimenting. I’ve used it for anything from a distant room mic to a second snare mic to a fourth tom mic (my normal live set has 4 toms). Next project it’s going to be a batter side kick mic.

Ooohh, there’s some fighting words here!

4 - 6 channels for me. 2xkick, 1xsnare, 2x overhead (condensors), 1xfloor tom. Sometimes I’ll ditch the 2nd kick and the floor tom.

I’ve gotten pretty good sounds with just kick and LD condenser OH mics.


Front head of the bass drum off with pillows or similar inside. Back off the mic from the beater contact point unless you like clicky.

Front skin on, both skins fairly loose, ATM25 just outside an off center hole barely off axis pointing towards the center of the drum, RS omni inside next to the beater skin with the bareset amount of stuff inside the drum, up against the beater side skin.

Overheads in an x-y configuration over the center of the kit just behind the drummer’s head.

Snare mic where I get the best vibrations on the hairs on the back of my middle finger when held over the mics’ diaphram when the snare is being hit.


hey Phoo, i have been seriously tempted by the behringer ADA8000 coupled with an adat card i was probably gonna get the st-audio dsp24 ADAT. Were there any issues/problems with the set up?

I’m only just about to upgrade from a basic full duplex er “hobbyish” system to something more practical for live and studio work, so forgive any newbie-isms. for instance, saying newbie-isms.

eres some drum tips matey’’’’’
…if yer aint got lotsa mics stak drum traks
…mix in latin percushun fer some extra intrest
…blinkin intrestin if yer use two dwummers n two kits n record em all at once
…mix in a hand percushyn trak wiv dwums
…larn ta use diffrent recordin spaces fer diffrent zounds like halls n stairwells n churches n the garden n the gazebo.
gazebos sound gonzo. n greenhouses r goodey too.
… mix in midi dwum traks wiv da real dwum traks
…try different blinkin things fer percushun or bild em yerself’’‘
scratch usin sandpaper, play wiv spoons n glasses n tin cans n wotever else ya got dats got an intrestin sound ta it’’’
…sequence weird sounds wiv dwums like traffic noises, vox burps n finger snaps n industrial motors n anyfin else yer can fink of ta make it diffrent
appy dwummin mates’’’ :D :D

hey Phoo, i have been seriously tempted by the behringer ADA8000 coupled with an adat card i was probably gonna get the st-audio dsp24 ADAT. Were there any issues/problems with the set up?
The only serious issue I had was when the switch on the back of the unit (I'm pretty sure it was on the ADA8000, but might have been the Gina24 - I'm still at work and can't look) that switched between 44.1k and 48k sample rates was in the 48k position and I was recording at 44.1k. The files were blindly written out as 44.1k. As long as I was playing back through the Gina24 using the ADAT clock everything seemed ok. When I switched to my Layla20 (what I usually use for MIDI and everyday mixdown) the files sounded slow and low.

This was hard to figure out because the files were 44.1k sample rate in the file format header and played just fine through the Gina24.

I ended up calling Echo Audio and in all of 20 seconds we had figured out what the problem was.

I had set n-Tracks to be 44.1k, and it happily did what I asked. The Gina24 was doing about the same thing, blindly zipping along at whatever the ADAT said to do.

n-Tracks was using the soundcards clock. By setting n-Tracks to 44.1k I was telling n-Tracks that the soundcards clock was 44.1k. It didn't matter what the actual clock speed was since n-Tracks was syncing to it. It only mattered because it was a lie.

It was easy to fix the wave files to make them real 48k files. The data was fine. The only problem with then was the the sample rate was incorrect in the file format header. Of course I wanted 44.1k files, but that's beside the point.

That was a real head scratcher for a while, but it ended up being 100% user error.

Hey Limey, what makes a gazebo sound good? ???

Not having walls.

tomsy matey’’‘tis all experimentin wiv gazebos or anyfing else’’’‘
gazebos yer can bild wiv high height’’’’‘yer can put em outside, inside in a big room (fer isolashun)’’’‘pretty flexible wiv some or little or no walls’’’‘n they can be bilt cheap’’‘n if yer get da roof right yer can get happy accidents’’’‘i fink its sumtimes da construcshun materials used n type o wood’’’‘yer can try diffrent types of wood n layers’’’‘on drums yer can go a cupla ways’’‘close in deadened sound like real dry n damped by avin stuff dat rolls down in gazebo ta deaden’’‘or roll back deadenin material n get mor a live snd or use half n half’’’‘pretty flexible if yer bild zebo right’’’‘BIG N n the zebo’s kinda got a ring to it’’’ :D :D

You know, I’ve been working hard for the last year or so to learn to hear the room on things, and it is both useful and annoying. For example, I used to love Neil Young’s “Harvest” - the guitar sound on Alabama always killed me - now it sounds to me like it was recorded in a barn, and I don’t like the guitar sound at all. :( Likewise, I haven’t found a use for the stairwell to my basement (which has the oddest resonances) but I know that there is a use for it for something.

Anyway, when you mentioned a gazebo I was thinking like Willy was, of some place outside, but I take it that in part you were thinking of the ways in which the non-parallel walls and ceiling would reflect and break up the sound. ???

Hey, if I only had a space big enough to put in a gazebo for isolation! :D

Here are a couple of misc kick micing tips.

An article in tape op suggested this and it works nicely. With the front head off, point a 57 or other dynamic directly at the shell at its front lip from about an inch away (not the batter head, the shell). Supposedly, a pressure wave runs along just inside the shell with the fundamentel really reinforced. Nice non-clicky tone.

Build a tunnel from sofa cushions with a blanket top out from the kick drum, with a large D condensor at the end of the tunnel. The extra length is supposed the allow the longer wave length to “bloom” fully. Punchy sound.

Use a 12" or larger speaker lying in the kick shell facing UPWARDS (so the sound travels across the top of the cone. Wire the speaker terminals to a 1/4" jack to a preamp. The speaker will act as a mic with a giant diaphragm and record with amazing detail.