Home Recording Drums with Emree Wilson
November 8, 2018
by Dan Gordon
One of Whisky & Spice Music’s most important missions has been to showcase local musicians like Emree Wilson, a remarkably talented young drummer.
As a huge fan of drumming and percussion, I wanted to work on a project with Emree that would highlight his skill and create a template for how Whisky & Spice Music works with individual musicians to showcase and promote their talent.
Working as an independent musician always means working with a tight budget. Emree and I agreed that it would be fun to experiment with a low-budget, home recording process that took advantage of simple recording equipment and techniques.
Of course, the best gear is the gear you already have. Using Whisky & Spice Music’s existing equipment, we were able to turn a “low budget” project into a “no budget” project that we could be proud of.
Our equipment included:
- a field recorder (Zoom H6)
- a kick drum microphone (Audix D6)
- a snare drum microphone (Shure SM57)
- overheard microphones (Rode M5)
To minimize phase issues, we used a classic four-microphone set-up with an XY configuration for the overheads. We relied on Reaper for mixing – using only EQ, pan, compression, reverb, and levels – and Emastered.com for online mastering. The whole project was recorded in two sessions.
The First Session: Vintage Ludwig
Emree plays Rick Sacks‘ 1969/70 vintage Ludwig kit.
We pushed aside my own Pearl Export kit to set up the vintage Ludwigs in my basement.
A basement with 7.5 foot ceilings isn’t an ideal environment for recording drums, but this project was about experimenting with the kinds of sound that we could capture with basic equipment and a down-and-dirty recording set-up.
Emree paired his cymbals with the drums, we mic’d the kit, and started recording.
The Second Session: Ludwig Breakbeats
Emree making big sounds from the compact Ludwig Breakbeats kit.
For our second session, Emree pulled out his very cool Ludwig Breakbeats kit. This compact kit features an unorthodox 16” kick drum, is relatively inexpensive, and is designed for city life and playing in small spaces. That made it ideal for our home recording experiment.
This time we set up the drum kit on the main floor of my home, which is an open concept space with 9 foot ceilings.
For a number of reasons, drums are one of the most challenging instruments to record in a home environment. From the start of this experiment, we tried to temper our expectations. We embraced the limitations of our equipment and recording environment, as well as my own limited experience with mic’ing a drum kit, mixing, and mastering.
That said, the goal was to see if we could produce a sound that was good enough to showcase an individual musician’s talent using our existing resources. We were both pleased with the sound and grooves we were able to capture.
The moral of this story is worth remembering for any independent artists with plans to record in unconventional spaces: buy, beg, or borrow the equipment that you can afford and is available to you, use the space you have, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Embrace the challenges as a learning experience and adapt what you learn.
There’s a lot that we both learned from this experiment which we will be applying to future home drum recording sessions.