Recording Drums

This is my first time messing with any real recording, all my experience with Audacity in the past has been messing around with .mp3s and such, so bear with me. I’m trying to get some decent recordings of my drums for some online collaborations and YouTube videos and these forums have answered a ton of questions so far, but I’ve got one issue that I can’t quite figure out.

My audio is finally sounding pretty good, but everything seems to be going a bit off the charts. When I start hitting crashes it gets really bad and starts to look like this:

I thought it would be best to ask here first before I started messing around and figure out what the best way to move forward was.

I’m using one microphone for the kick, one for the snare (which also picks up the hi-hat pretty well), and then two overhead mics that take care of everything else. All of that is going into a crappy little mixer I found laying around (Eurorack UB802) and then being fed out through RCA cables to a single line-in on my PC.

So I guess my question is, where should I start looking to make changes? Should I adjust settings on the hardware side like gain from specific microphones or overall output levels or equalizer settings there? Or should I try and use some kind of compression or equalizer or something in Audacity to adjust the recording once it’s already on the PC?

Any advice would be much appreciated. Also, here’s a link to the recording that the screenshot above was taken from as well, in case listening to it might give a better idea.

That waveform seems to exhibit some clipping, that gets quite pronounced around 33 seconds.

You should lower the gain either in the mic input of the mixer or the output of the mixer (or the line in on the computer). Just from the waveform it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from… I don’t see red lines in the waveform so the clipping is probably ocurring before reaching the computer. It’s usually a good practice to aim the recording peak level at -6dB (or 0.5 in the linear wavform view as in your pic) to avoid clipping.

I’ll try lowering the gain both ways and see what works best, but the -6dB guideline will help when I’m trying to get it set right. Thanks.

master of the understatement :wink:

Are you sure that you’re feeding it into a “Line” input and not a “Mic” input? (a mic input will be far too sensitive and will account for the overloading that you are getting).

When I plug the cable in I get a pop-up from my motherboard audio software asking me if I want to assign it as a line-in, microphone in, headphones, etc. I set it as line-in. I think there’s a single assigned line-in on the back, I’ll try plugging it in there.

Usually, on a desktop computer, line-in is the blue socket.

I lowered the gain of the output of the mixer by a good bit and it made a noticeable difference, then I lowered the gain for my mic inputs of the two overhead microphones and now the crashes are pretty close to that -6dB level and with some tweaking I think I can get them there. But things still aren’t looking quite the way I think they’re supposed to in a couple places. This is just me sitting down and hitting a few things on my kit with all the new adjusted levels:

I find that unless I lower the gain from all of the microphones to the point that I can’t even hear the hi-hat or toms, that snare is just always a straight top-to-bottom line like that. I have a specific microphone set up right over the snare and under the hi-hat that should be picking them both up and I’ve turned that mic way down, but it’s still just such a loud sharp sound I’m not sure how to get that within range.

The super loud percussion may be picked up by more than one microphone.

Drums are hard. Miking them is hard. You are trying to mic controlled explosions and it’s very common to get done and ask why the drums don’t have the presence and intensity of commercial recordings.

That happens in post production. Do you get any red overload lights on the sound mixer? That’s not unusual, either. A good, robust microphone can generate enough signal to beat the pants off the microphone amplifier in the mixer. The larger mixers have a “trimmer” control to deal with that.

Click the graphic. See the little knob way on top labeled “Gain.” Adjust until the red lights go away.

After you get your drums captured in good order, try applying Chris’s Compressor with the compression cranked up to .7. Just to see what it sounds like.

Chris’s Compressor


If you’re after a natural acoustic sound from the kit you may not need to close mic the snare.
Try one mic on the kick and a pair of overheads to pick up the rest. If you have a reasonably well balanced kit you should be able to adjust the position of the overheads so that they pick up everything. If you’re a bit light on high-hat, put a mic close onto that.

If you’re after a natural acoustic sound from the kit

And unless there was a family in the house before you and had a kid that played drums and a father that built a sound-proof room (Thank you Mr. Swenson) you also have to deal with the sound of the room. You may find that you’re getting significant bounce sound from the walls. You may find as you back the microphone up from the drum that you hit a point where the music starts getting louder as the reflection from the wall takes over.

This can make drums even more of an adventure than ever.