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Recording Drums: The Complete Guide

Book Review By Matt Houghton
Published October 2013

This title (ISBN: 1133788920) is one of Cengage publishing's most recent audio production books. Penned by Mike Major, it sets itself an ambitious target — I mean, can anything really be a complete guide to drum recording? Obviously not, but Major has had a better crack at meeting the brief than most. Over 370 pages are crammed with advice, practical tips and useful pictures and diagrams. His exploration of the art of acoustic drum recording is certainly complete in the sense that he starts with the essentials that are so often skipped in lesser 'how to' guides. This includes working with the drummer on their sound and preparing everything in advance of the session, popular and alternative mic choices for different roles, different miking techniques from the most minimal setup to a full-on multi-close-miked extravaganza, and practical considerations, such as where around the kit it's possible to place a mic without it getting clobbered by the animal wielding the sticks! It's not just recording, though, as Major also explores post-production techniques, including drum replacement and editing. Throughout, Major always manages to keep the end goal in sight: what tools and techniques are appropriate to the sonic aesthetic the artist is aiming for, which is just as it should be. Reassuringly, the author doesn't seem to feel the need to evangelise their own preferred techniques or mic selections.

Recording Drums: The Complete GuideThe newcomer to recording or drum production will find a wealth of useful information and opinion in this book, expressed in easy-to-follow English, and this should help them get to grips with miking up a full drum kit. There's plenty of more general production advice in these pages too, from management of DAW sessions, to gain structure, to click tracks, and tracking and selection of overdubs. There's a similarly in-depth exploration of recording technology such as analogue tape and compressors, too. Obviously, for the seasoned engineer, this means that there'll be plenty in here to skip or skim — but I reckon pretty much everyone should still find something useful in here to learn, or at least brush up on. The street price makes this book rather more accessible than the published price, and even though it would have been improved massively with the addition of some accompanying audio or video media on DVD or online, this is one of the best and easiest to read of such books I've seen. A drummer who is inexperienced at recording should be able to follow Major's advice and achieve a decent result, and an experienced recordist with little experience of drum miking should similarly be able to progress. If you have more comprehensive experience, you might want to think before buying. If you want some food for thought for your upcoming drum sessions, then this should serve well for most readers. Matt Houghton

£20.99 (there's no VAT on books in UK)$35.