To get a great sound, we need a great sounding kit before we even put one microphone on it, and the drummer can assist us in this. Prior to coming into the studio try and replace at least the top head of all of your toms with matching skins. Put them on before you come to the studio (why waste time and money doing it when you are there?) and tune them up as best you can. You can get a also new snare batter head as this will immediately improve the liveliness of the drum, but these are usually better once played in a little so do this one gig/rehearsal before coming in. Make sure you keep the old heads as they could be made into ‘hoops’.
Please remove any damping you’ve added for rehearsal purposes, particularly if it is on the inside of the drum. It only takes seconds to add a bit if extra damping is needed, but removing it can take a long time in some cases. Note where your ‘sweet spot’ is on your snare, maybe draw a circle on the skin and try to hit within the circle, this is especially useful for high tension snares where the sound changes a lot the nearer the rim you hit it. If possible, bring kick drum skins with holes in the front for easy microphone positioning, but don’t worry if you can’t, there are ways around this. It doesn’t hurt to clean the cymbals as well, it can add a little extra sparkle if they haven’t got greasy finger marks and smoke machine oil all over them.
This may sound daft, but make sure you have got everything you need before you leave. We have had drummers turn up without stools, pedals, snare drums and occasionally the whole kit – the drummer assuming an in-house kit was available but did not check first! One occasion the drummer had driven 50 miles to the studio, forgotten his snare drum and to save time had to hire one from a local shop rather than drive back home.
When you arrive at the studio set up the kit and tune it if you are able – remembering that the bottom skins are often as important as the tops! Don’t worry if you aren’t comfortable doing this – many drummers are unable to tune their own kit, and we are more than capable of doing it for you. We will then mic up the kit. Once all the mics are up and working we will need you to play to get a sound, this does not mean ‘paling’ one drum at a time, but playing one of your songs, this then gives us an impression of how you are going to be playing the kit and can adjust mic positioning or gain settings accordingly. If the kit sounds good it should only take a few minutes, though there may be some ‘tweaking’ to do on the tuning, damping, and microphone positioning.