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Pro Guide To Recording Instruments: How To Record Drums

April 2, 2024 by Tero Potila — Learn how to record drums effectively in your home studio. Get tips on mic placement, room acoustics, and mixing for a pro sound.

Drums being recorded live

Recording drums can be one of the more challenging aspects of creating music in a home studio setup, but with the right tools, techniques, and best practices you can capture the perfect drum sound.

The goal is to capture the punch and detail of each drum and cymbal while ensuring the acoustics of your space complement the overall sound. 

How To Record Drums

One of the most important details is to consider the room's acoustics and make sure that your recording space is optimized for sound quality, which often involves managing reflections and controlling ambient noise.

Next, selecting the right microphones and placing them correctly plays a pivotal role in the quality of your drum recordings. A standard approach includes using both close mics for individual drums and overhead mics to capture the cymbals and the overall kit. 

This method gives you control over the mix and the ability to balance each element of the drum set effectively.

Once your mics are in place, it's time to fine-tune the levels and consider the sound from the drummer's perspective. Are the drums tuned properly? Do they sound good in the room? Then, proceed with the recording session, keeping an eye on levels and listening carefully for the nuances that make a drum track stand out. 

It's all about capturing a clean, dynamic sound that serves the song and supports the other instruments.

Setting Up Your Drum Kit

Setting up your drum kit properly is a crucial step that will significantly affect the quality of your drum sounds. Let’s look at a clear, straightforward approach:

Drum Heads

The first thing to do is to ensure all your drum heads are in good condition and properly tuned. Fresh drum heads can enhance the sound quality, giving you a good starting point. 

Use a drum key to evenly tighten the lugs in a diagonal pattern for consistent tension.

Snare Drum

Position your snare drum at a comfortable height ensuring it’s centered. It's often the focal point of your kit, so make sure it's tuned for a crisp sound with no unwanted overtones.

Bass Drum

Make sure your bass drum is stable and the beater hits the center of the drum head. This will give you the punch you're aiming for. 

If your bass drum has a hole in the front head, consider placing a pillow or foam inside to dampen excess resonance.

Tom Placement

The Rack Toms should be mounted above the bass drum for easy accessibility.

The Floor Tom should be positioned to the right for a right-handed drummer, making sure it's at a convenient angle and height.

Overall Kit Adjustments

Keep all drums within comfortable reach, maintaining an ergonomic layout. A well-set kit not only makes playing enjoyable but also contributes to the consistency and quality of your drum sounds when recorded.

Give each drum its space and avoid overcrowding. The arrangement of your acoustic drums should feel natural, allowing you to transition smoothly between them. 

Choosing the Right Microphones

When recording drums, the microphones you choose lay the foundation for the quality of your final sound. It's critical to understand the types of microphones available and which ones are best suited for each component of your drum kit.

Dynamic vs Condenser Mics

Dynamic Mics

Dynamic mics are robust and can handle high sound pressure levels, making them ideal for loud sources like drums

For example, the Shure SM57 is a legendary dynamic mic often used on the top of the snare drum for its ability to capture the potent attack and rich body of the snare.

Condenser Mics

Condenser mics are more sensitive and can capture greater detail and a wider frequency range. They require phantom power and are available in large-diaphragm and small-diaphragm varieties. 

Large-diaphragm condenser mics are excellent for capturing the ambiance of a smaller room or as overheads for the whole kit. 

Small diaphragm condenser mics, like the Neumann KM 184, are often chosen for their precision and clarity in capturing the nuanced sounds of cymbals.

Ribbon Mics

Ribbon mics are not as often talked about, but there are some great ribbon mic options for recording drums, especially for capturing the room's ambient sound.

The Best Mics for Each Drum Component

Kick Drum

There are a few great options for the kick drum mic; your final choice will depend on the sound and tone you want to capture. 

Both dynamic and condenser large diaphragm mics can work well. A dynamic mic such as the AKG D112 or a Beta 52A will accurately capture the low-end punch and presence.

Snare Drum

A dynamic mic typically works well for the snare drum, specifically one with a cardioid pattern that focuses on the snare while rejecting off-axis sounds. 

There are many great options for this, however probably the most used mic for this job is the Shure SM57.


The toms also typically work well with a dynamic mic; the Sennheiser MD 421 is one of many great options for this task.

Cymbals & Overheads

A small diaphragm condenser mic will most likely serve well here; one great option for this would be the Neumann KM 184.

Room Ambience

Capturing the room's ambiance is extremely important in order to get the full sound and energy of the drummer's performance. 

There are some great ribbon and large diaphragm condenser mic options for this, like the Royer R-121 and the AKG C414.

Mic Placement and Techniques

Now that you have selected your mics, we'll focus on your mic placement and techniques; both are crucial for capturing the true essence of a drum set, each method bringing its own unique flavor to the recording.

Close-Miking Each Drum

When you close-mic a drum set, place microphones near each individual drum to capture a direct and isolated sound:

  • Snare: Position a mic a few inches above the rim, aimed at the center of the drum.

  • Kick Drum: For depth, place a mic just inside the port hole or just outside the bass drum.

  • Toms: Suspend a mic roughly an inch over the rim, angled toward the center.

Maintaining consistent distance with close miking ensures clarity and punchiness in the mix.

Room Mics and Overheads

Utilize room mics and overheads to capture the ambiance and a stereo image of your drum kit:

  • Overheads: A popular overhead technique is the spaced pair above the kit, forming an equilateral triangle with each other and the snare. Ensure equal distance to retain a balanced stereo field.

  • Room Mics: To grab a broader sound, place room mics further away from the kit, potentially using an equilateral triangle placement with the kick drum. Experiment with various positions to find the best sound for your space.

The choice of mic types, such as a small-diaphragm condenser for precision or a large-diaphragm condenser for warmth, alters the captured sound significantly.

If you have access to both options, you should try each and go for the setup that gives you the sound and tone that best suits the style and feel of the track.

The Glyn Johns Method

Mastering this classic method lets you set up a minimalist yet comprehensive mic array. Here’s what to do:

  1. Overhead Mic: Place one mic a few feet above the drummer's right shoulder (or left, if they're left-handed), pointing down at the snare.

  2. Side Mic: Approximately equal distance from the snare, position the second mic near the floor tom, pointing towards the hi-hat.

Make sure both mics are the same distance from the center of the snare to maintain phase coherence. The Glyn Johns method requires careful listening and slight adjustments until the kit sounds balanced within the stereo field.

Producer tweeking the studio mixing board.

Mic placement and techniques; both are crucial for capturing the true essence of a drum set.

Understanding Room Acoustics

When you record drums, the room acoustics significantly impact the quality of your sound. Your recording space, whether a small room or a large studio, shapes the character of the drum tones captured by your microphones.

Dealing with Small and Reflective Spaces

Small spaces and hard surfaces can lead to excessive reverberation, making your drums sound boxy or muddy. If your room has low ceilings and reflective walls, sound waves can bounce around and muddle your recording. 

To counter this, consider using acoustic panels attached to walls to absorb excess sound, bass traps placed in corners to manage low-frequency buildup, and diffusers to help scatter sound evenly, reducing focal points of reflections.

It's also helpful if you arrange your drum kit centrally in the room, away from walls, to minimize direct reflections.

You should experiment with microphone placement until you're able to capture the room sound accurately and in a way that complements the overall kit sound.

Manipulating the Room for Better Drum Sound

Changing a room's characteristics can be accomplished without major renovations:

  • Rugs or Carpets: Lay these down to absorb sound, particularly on hard floors.

  • Temporary Structures: Set up makeshift gobos or partitions to alter sound paths and reduce direct reflections.

  • Furniture: Strategically placed furniture can absorb and scatter sound waves, altering the acoustics.

Remember, every adjustment you make alters the room's sound, so you should do some test recordings; frequently record sample hits from different points around the kit while you adjust the room.

Also don't forget to listen critically. It's not just about deadening the sound. Aim for a balance that complements your drum sound.


Recording and mixing drums involve a combination of technology and techniques. The goal is to capture the essence of the drum sound individually and then blend them seamlessly into your mix.

Multitrack Recording

Multitrack recording means that you record each drum and cymbal on its own track. 

For this, you'll need an audio interface with enough inputs to handle the multiple microphones used with a drum set. Ensure your audio interface can connect to your digital audio workstation (DAW) like Sountrap, Logic Pro, Pro Tools or any other recording software

Here's a simple setup you might use:

  • Kick Drum: 1 mic (input 1)

  • Snare Drum: 1 mic (input 2)

  • Hi-Hat: 1 mic (input 3)

  • Toms: 1 mic each (input 4-6)

  • Overhead Mics: 2 mics (input 7-8)

The Setup In Soundtrap

The process would be similar in any DAW, however we'll look at the setup specifically in Soundtrap:

  1. Add Tracks: You should first add tracks for all the inputs listed above for the multitrack recording by clicking the Add New Track button. Make sure to enable microphone access in Sountrap.

  2. Assign Inputs: Make sure to assign the appropriate input for each track, ie. the Kick Drum track should have input 1 since that's where the kick mic is plugged in. You can choose the inputs for each track by selecting the track and clicking on the Input Selector dropdown menu.

  3. Gain Staging: Make sure to test each microphone's level to avoid clipping, and make any adjustments on the inputs using your audio interface's preamp gain levels. Remember to turn on phantom power for any channels using a condenser or ribbon mic.

Check For Phase Issues

When you record drums, pay attention to phase issues that can cause phase cancellation, resulting in a weak or hollow sound. 

Here's how to check for phase issues:

  1. Record a hit on the snare drum with all the mics on.

  2. Listen back and flip the phase on the overhead or snare mic channel.

  3. Choose the option that sounds fuller.

During the recording process, position mics carefully to minimize phase issues. In your DAW, you can use phase correlation meters to assist you. 


Once done recording, you should tighten up the timing of the drums with slight nudges of the audio regions as necessary, but be mindful not to overcorrect or you'll lose the natural feel of the drummer's performance.

Mixing Techniques


You should add compression to the kick and snare for more attack and punchiness. Spacial placement is also important;  you should use panning to place drum elements within the stereo field, reflecting a "drummer's perspective."


Apply equalization to clean up low-end muddiness, add definition to the kick and snare, and bring clarity to cymbals and hi-hats. Remember to always start with EQ cuts, and only boost when necessary. 

And the most important rule of all when using the EQ: Resist the urge to solo the track you're EQing! It doesn't matter how the track sounds when soloed; it just needs to sound right as part of the whole mix. 

Frequencies from the other mix elements often 'fill in' the frequencies that might sound like they're missing when soloing the track. Creating a cohesive mix means each element in the mix needs its own space, and its important frequencies should be able to be heard clearly.


Reverb is your main tool for adding depth and space to your drum tracks. Just remember to use it sparingly, or it could end up muddying up the drum sound.

Using the tools of your DAW effectively during post-production can lead to professional-sounding drums in your music production. Remember, it's about enhancing, not fixing, so strive for the best sound during the recording phase.


When getting started, recording drums can be challenging. But as long as you take care and follow each stage carefully and attend to crucial aspects such as room acoustics, mic selection, and placement techniques, you'll be on your way to capturing exceptional drum sounds that will take your music productions to another level.

Follow the fundamental steps and techniques we covered in this article, and even with limited resources, you can achieve remarkable results.

About the author

Tero Potila is a professional music composer and producer. His career combining knowledge and experience from music, TV, film, ad, and game industries gives him a unique perspective that he shares through posts on

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