Do you know The Sonics?
They are an American legendary garage band, famous for the first two records since explosive and inimitable sound. However, not everyone knows how the battery was recorded at the time.
Here they are:
Well, now that you've had the chance to listen how heavy the battery is pounded on that record and maybe you're wondering with what complicated alchemical techniques it was revived, I will reveal to you that it was recorded with one simple microphone placed between the snare and the case, from behind the kit where the drummer was sitting.
Exactly, nothing else. Simple right?
There position behind the kit it is often the best listening point to represent the drums, because it is the most faithful to the point of listening of the musician who is playing it, the recorderman technique, if used well, is excellent to provide this result.
There recorderman was proposed years ago on some homerecording forums, over time it then became increasingly popular in the united states and then quickly spread in the world among audio enthusiasts because it allows to obtain excellent results in the recording of the battery using cheap microphones and emphasizing to the room where you register.
IS' easy to understand, to organize and can give really good results. One of the many concrete demonstrations that in the audio world there is no need to resort to large budgets to be able to have satisfying and musical recordings (I want to emphasize the attention on this adjective, more and more undervalued today).
If the drummer is good and knows how to play dynamically in relation to the other elements of the band, often 2-3 microphones is the maximum that is necessary to obtain an excellent and satisfying musical sound.
The basic idea is to have two "overhead" microphones that capture a balanced and accurately in phase image of the entire drum kit. There are those who also love to add a third microphone to reinforce the case.
The Recorder Man technique for recording drums
Place the first microphone so that it is about the length of two rods directly above the kit, pointing down towards the center of the snare drum.
Then position the second microphone above the side on which the ride is normally placed, behind the drummer, this one is also aimed directly at the snare drum.
Alternatively you can orient this second microphone so that it points towards the casement door to have greater focus on the sound of this. Solution suitable for those who want to set up the recorderman with only two microphones.
Secondly, you must make sure of the distance between the two microphones of the case and the snare drum. Take two drum sticks and put one in the back of the drum so that they start from the top skin of the snare drum.
This is the distance at which each microphone should be compared to the snare.
To be sure that both microphones are equidistant from kick and snare (to ensure correct phase performance and avoid problems in the mix) it is good to use a microphone cable or a long wire as a reference.
Place one end of the wire at the point where the case pedal foot comes into contact with the skin, perhaps with a skotch. Then stretch the thread where the first microphone is, and hold it there, as you hold this position it attaches the other end of the cable where it makes contact with the top of the snare's skin.
At this point the thread should be in a sort of triangular shape.
Move the upper part of the triangle, the one you hold in your hands, towards each microphone to verify that both are equidistant from kick and snare.
It is essential to lose a minute to adjust this distance well, otherwise there will be gods slight offsets (time discrepancies) between when the sound arrives at one microphone or the other, which will make the final drum sound loose in the mix. This is called phase alignment.
Which microphones to use for the recorderman technique?
When thinking about which microphones to choose for the recorderman technique it is good to use two equal ones. Exploiting two different microphones can produce an interesting stereo image of the kit, don't be afraid to experiment if you have time, as Brian Eno says, errors are harbingers of new solutions otherwise unthinkable.
When mixing the two tracks it is a good idea to try to gently panned the two channels to the left and right respectively, trying to find with your ears to find the magic point in which the battery gives its best.
There are no definitive formulas as always, but it is good don't overdo it with panning, neither too far to the left nor too far to the right.
As microphones to use you can opt for the very simple dynamics like the Shure SM57 or similar, or alternatively try with capacitors. You have no idea with a little patience and inventiveness that results can be achieved with two simple, inexpensive dynamic microphones.
Before venturing into the purchase of complicated battery case kits try to get a great sound with the microphones you already have available, you might be surprised, be confident.
The advantages of Recorderman:
- Place kick and snare directly in the center of the stereo image.
- Gets a balanced image of the kit, very close to what the drummer listens to.
- It's great when you have it few microphones available, or little free entry into the mixer.
- Resolves the situation when you find yourself having to register in spaces with low ceilings or in little space. Everyone knows that batteries sound better in large, open spaces, and this is the optimal situation in which overheads away from the battery can best enhance the airiness of the space.
When they are instead used in small or not optimal spaces they tend to flatten the sound due to reflections coming from the ceiling that interfere with the direct sound coming from the battery. The recorderman technique overcomes this problem by placing the microphones very close to the pieces of the kit.
- If the battery sounds good from the drummer listening point, it will also sound good with the recorderman.
Finally, here is a modern video of the recorderman in action tested with several microphones: