how hot to record drums

when recording drums at what level do you guys set? cause my drummer really BANGS a lot and when we set the levels i tell him to play his loudest so i can set the levels. but when we record sometimes he plays louder than when we set the levels. i could tell him to back down his volume, but we lose the energy or feeling you may say. we record mono drums by the way using 2 mics (over head & kick) we just can’t purchase gears right now. please help :D


What you report is sort of a univeral phenomenon, this happens with all drummers, and guitarists, and vocalists…

So just do a short take where he plays as hard as he can, and then reset the levels. Better yet, put some limiters on the mics? :)

thanks toms! could you give me a typical setting for setting up a limiter.:smiley:


Limiters are especially handy with drums. The alternative is to just assume they’ll be 6 to 9 dB louder than the sound check. That’s SOP for recording or live work. (Actually for live, you usually need to reserve more headroom than that, because many musicians creep up in loudness throughout a gig.)

Well, as to limiters, basically it’s compression at 10 to 1 or greater ratio, set so that it just captures really high peaks. The idea is to get whatever you are recording down without affecting it in any obvious way. So what you’d do is set up to record, and set the levels so that the limiter would just kick in on the very loudest notes. Even so, you will still need to reset levels after the first take because of the changes in volume that always happen with drummers as they warm up.

Also, you might just try haivng the drummer play with a lighter touch - often really loud playing works for live, but doesn’t sound loud when recorded, but not-so-loud playing will sound very loud, because the relative volumes between the attack and release of the drum hit are closer that way. Dunno if I explained that well enough. Also, it is always a good exercise for a drummer to learn how to groove without completely bashing the kit. Just something to think about. :)

thanks guys! :)


Right Tom, plus the attack has to be set much shorter (much, much shorter) than it is when doing compression.

Some compressors work fine as compressors or limiters. Other items are designed with one application or the other in mind and don’t work so well when you try to apply it to the other task. Sometimes this is because you can’t set the parameters to the desired ranges.

Even among limiters there are distinctions, between normal limiters and “brickwall” limiters.

One mistake that we used to make was setting the level of each mic separately. We would have the drummer hit as hard as he could, yet once we recorded the peaks would be flashing. Turns out, his snare was so loud (vented) that it was peaking out the tom and cymbal condenser mics. So we had to set those levels by hitting the snare. We have also done other things, like stuffing foam in the vents for recording, repositioning the mics, etc.

Percussion transients are sometimes too fast for analog meters to catch. I’d back off a good bit (- 15 dB). With 24 bit recording you have so much more headroom anyway, why take a chance on an over?

Compression and limiting are techniques you can use, but the squeeze changes the timbre a bit.

Quote (learjeff @ Jan. 10 2005,14:24)
Right Tom, plus the attack has to be set much shorter (much, much shorter) than it is when doing compression.

Oops - forgot that part! :)

What we need is some sort of device to send an electric shock up the drummer’s stool when he plays too loud. :cool:

Yeah – I’m a software engineer and have done some sales support work. A salesman I worked with wanted that device for me : “Sure, that would be easZAAAAAAP … er, we’ll have to look into that, but with some hard work, I think it’s quite possible.”