A Drummer’s Studio Sampling Guide
There are a variety of quality applications available that will let you record, edit, and save your audio. The following is by no means an exhaustive list. As a studio owner, I recommend you use a studio in your area. They will have microphones, preamplifiers, and an acoustic space designed to give you the best quality. However, if you want to try this at home, you’ll need to have a capture program to help you. I found a great title called SAMPLIT by SAFTA CONSULTING, Inc. (http://www.cdxtract.com). With SAMPLIT, you can record your drums and cymbals, edit the file, and convert the sounds to a sampler library. As a bonus, SAMPLIT works on both PC and Mac OS X. All you need is an audio interface, some microphones, and a preamp. These items are beyond the scope of our discussion, but have been covered in these pages in past issues of DRUM!
For the most straightforward project, we are going to record each drum and each cymbal in the kit. Each drum will be miked separately in a room that has minimal or no reflections. We want this “dry” sound to allow users of the samples to be able to add their own ambience based on the needs of their project.
Moving from drum to drum, Dan will hit each drum three different ways: soft, medium, and hard. We’ll capture the audio in our capture software and in a little while we will have a complete sample of his kit.
The following are some suggestions for sampling your kit. You may or may not want to follow these depending on your needs, time, and budget.
Set Up The Entire Kit. In the real world, you don’t play your drums with each drum in a different room, so why sample them in isolation? When you hit the snare it vibrates the other drums and reflects off of hardware. Although subtle, this added ambient information is captured when you record. I believe this can help increase the depth and believability of your samples. In our session, we placed ten microphones using two Latch Lake Mike King 2200 stands and several Xtra Boom add-on arms.
Three Is Not Enough. Traditional samplers might have had only enough storage for three volume intensities, but that’s changed. If you are going for authenticity, consider five or more levels of striking force. With kick and snare, you definitely want more than three options.
A Little Ambience Is All Right. While there is significant merit in avoiding effects such as reverberation when we sample, the fact remains that we don’t often play our drums in a completely dead room. From a small club to a recording studio to a stadium, the spaces in which we play have some degree of liveliness to them. Provided there are not significant slap-back echoes or pronounced reflections, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to sample your drums in a room that is not completely flat and dead-sounding. In our session, we included two overhead microphones and a monophonic omni-directional room mike.
Strike Different Areas Of The Head/Cymbal. We’re not all perfect – sometimes we hit a drum slightly off center. Make sure to record striking at different parts of the head (this is especially true for the snare). When recording cymbals, the hi-hats and ride samples will benefit from hits at different parts of the cymbal. Don’t forget to try different parts of the stick as well. Side-stick sounds and rimshots are two crucial samples for drums.
Use Different Sticks/Striking Devices. Speaking of sticks, consider using wood and nylon tips on the cymbals. You might also want to take advantage of the numerous alternate devices on the market: brushes, dowel rods, polymer brush-things, broom stick stalks, and so on. Many drummers utilize these products to open up their sonic palette. Don’t leave them out in the sampling process – especially if you have a favorite.
Multiple Microphones. For delicate work, like brushes, it might be a good idea to use multiple microphones. A large-diaphragm condenser mike placed farther away from the drum can often do a better job picking up nuances than a close-on dynamic model (Fig. 3).