Chapter 7/ Recording | Drums & Percussion

When recording drums, cymbal bleed on other microphones can sometimes become as loud as the drum itself. This poses you with a problem in the mix: when raising the level of the snare for instance, you get the cymbals for free! Bleed may become even worse when eq'ing and compressing the kit, which results in a squashed and harsh cymbal sound. The effect is apparent on U2s "All Because of You."


In 20002, Producer Eric Valentine came up with an equally drastic as effective solution. On Queens of the Stone Age’s “No One Knows,” drummer Dave Grohl played the drums in two takes. In the first take, rubber cymbals were used. In the second take, the drum heads were covered with rubber pads. The result is a very controlled sound, with the cymbals soft in the mix.By the way, the same trick was already used years before, on Tom Petty’s Wildflowers album.


Producer Glyn Johns recorded the drums of Led Zeppelin’s "When the Levee Breaks' in the staircase of a rented villa in the United Kingdom, by using only three mics. Besides natural reverb, slapback echo was added by means of Jimmy Page's Binson Echorec. A last trick was to record the drums at a higher speed. That's why the kit sounds lower and more sturdy when the tape plays back at normal speed. All in all, Led Zeppelin's "IV" album was quite a production-heavy record when you take into account the year of recording (1971!). In chapter 7, you'll read exactly how the 3-mic technique works.