My Recording Studio
I gutted a hobby room and started on a remodel. Despite being small, the room is actually acoustically perfect for live drums — something I never anticipated when we designed the home, but am so thankful for now. Brick walls and tile flooring complemented by a sloped 13 foot wood beam and wood tongue and groove ceiling. I did some painting, added some decorative wood trim, added custom lighting, installed a 60" TV/monitor & WiFi, put in a kick-ass 4-speaker stereo system and placed a cabinet under the TV/monitor to house all of the stereo and recording gear. So, the room itself was ready. Outfitting it with drums and recording gear would be the challenge.
There were a few concerns in setting up the room with gear due to it's size. First, I'm not one for a basic 3-piece kit with a hi-hat, crash and ride. I've always been 2-hi-hat and double kick guy. I also like a good selection of cymbals. So, all of that takes up space width-wise. Width I didn't have available, so there was no way I'd fit two kick drums, so I opted for the double pedal scenario. Also, I needed to figure out the most effective way to film and record, because there was no room for a multitude of cameras, tripods, mics, mic stands, mixer, interface, other outboard gear and a computer setup.
The first thing that I needed to do was to isolate the kit from the floor. You never want the kit sitting directly on the floor. A rug on the floor is just okay, but what I like to call a floating drum riser is best. I accomplished this by purchasing three tri-fold gym workout mats made of very dense 1.5" foam and placed them underneath 3/4" birch plywood. I then covered the wood with a good quality 3/8" thick area rug. The isolation was perfect.
Now for the drum kit. Since the kit would't be subject to the rigors of touring, or even regular setups and tear-downs from gigging, there was no need to buy an expensive kit. As for the drums (shells) themselves, after a lifetime of customizing my own drums, I can make any drums sound great. Also, when you mic and mix the drum sound during a recording process, the fanciness of the shell material matters even less when it comes to the raw sound. Most of you that spend big bucks on your drums won't like this harsh reality, but experienced session drummers and engineers can take an inexpensive drum kit and make it sound like a top-of-the-line kit. It's all about the bearing edges, prepping the lugs & other hardware, heads, tuning, mics, room, mixing, plug-ins and a drummer's playing style. That doesn't mean that I don't love and appreciate the work of quality drum makers. I have certainly played such kits over the years. I just really didn't have a need to spend that kind of cash for this current scenario, that's all.
I had to order online, because we live in the remote mountains outside of the USA now and we are hours from any music stores. Amazon was my only hope, as any other shipping cost would be almost as much as the kit itself. I didn't care for the finish, but I ended up ordering a PDP Center Stage kit with an "Electric Green Sparkle" finish, because it was the only kit that I was interested in that happened to be in stock and ready to ship outside the USA on Amazon (the others that I could have been interested in configuration-wise were listed as "currently unavailable"). The kit arrived in perfect condition in six days and was surprisingly very nice quality for being one of PDP's "budget" lines. The finish was even more hideous in person than in the product photo, but this was no problem for me, as I have been custom re-finishing my kits all my life, so I was looking forward to coming up with a custom finish.
As soon as I unpacked the kit I got to work stripping it down to the shells. First, I modified the bearing edges for both the batter and resonant edges to my liking (I prefer the bearing edges on the batter and resonant to be different, based on many years of experience in creating my sound). Then after a coat of primer I went to work on my two-tone design of black and bronze, finished off with four coats of high-gloss polyurethane. I also coated the inside of the shells with the bronze so that the drums would have an even more custom look with my clear heads, followed by three coats of satin polyurethane, which helps give poplar shells a warmer resonance. Then I cut the tom mounting arms so that they did not protrude inside the shell, packed all of the lugs, floor tom leg mounts, tom arm mounts, tom bass drum mount and bass drum spur mounts with foam. I also cut and placed 1/8" thick neoprene rubber gaskets between all of the metal fittings and the drum shells. No more buzzing or rattling of any kind when I tapped on any of the shells without the heads installed. Then I re-assembled the drums
I outfitted the kit with Evans heads. For the toms I used Hydraulic Glass for the batter heads and Clear Genera Resonant for the bottom heads. For the snare I also used Hydraulic Glass for the batter head and Clear Genera Resonant for the bottom head, as I turned the PDP snare into a tom, because I already owned a Pearl 6.5 x 14 Modern Utility snare, which has an Evans EC Reverse Dot for the batter. Let me tell you, that snare ROCKS, and for just under $200 it should be in every drummer's collection of snares! I put a Clear EMAD 2 on the kick, with the stock black PDP head on the front, which I cut a 5" port hole into for the mic. After tuning and some strategically-placed Meinl Drum Honey Gel Dampeners, the kit sounds AMAZING! Feel free to contact me regarding making economy-line drums sound like top-of-the-line ones.
As for the cymbals, stands, throne, sticks, pedals, miscellaneous hardware and percussion items, I purchased all of that a la carte on Amazon as well.
I know it looks like I can't get past my kit in order to access my gear cabinet, but that's just a bit of a depth perception illusion from the camera angles. I can go through on the left side of the kit . . shuffling sideways . . sucking in my gut.
Now for the recording gear, I use a combination of close mics and room mics as follows:
2 Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser mics placed 5.7 ft. overhead at 10 o'clock & 2 o'clock.
Shure Beta 52A kick drum mic placed partially inside the port hole at 6 o'clock at the lowest point.
AEA R84A Active Ribbon mic placed 3.5 feet in front of the kit and off to my left at 59" height.
Aston Spirit Multi-pattern Condenser
Aston Spirit placed diagonally behind the kit to my right, 4 feet back at 55" eight.
Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface
In addition to the room mics I fluctuate with various close snare & tom mics depending on the sound that I am going for given a particular project. I use the following for close-mic setups:
Snare (Audix i5)
Rack Toms (Audix D2)
Floor Tom (Audix D4)
Snare & Rack (Alctron SD2)
Floor Tom (Alctron KD6)
Hi-Hats & Ride (Alctron DM03)
Toms (Sennheiser e 604)
Snare (Shure SM-57)
My audio interfaces and laptops are hidden inside of the drawers in the cabinet seen below. This keeps my small room clean looking and clutter free. The mic cords run unobtrusively underneath the cabinet, coming up from the back and connect to the interfaces inside of the drawers. The laptops sit on an insert on top of the opened drawers and are also connected to the 60" TV/monitor via HDMI. Everything is also connected to the kick-ass stereo system, which consists of a Yamaha RS202 Stereo Receiver, two Bose 201 Series IV speakers and two Polk Audio T15 speakers.
My DAW is Reaper. I can either mix and edit at my computer workstations, or on my 60" TV/monitor via an Arteck wireless keyboard with touchpad. I also use the wireless keyboard to operate everything from behind the kit when I am recording. Yea, I know . . I suck.
Arteck 2.4G Wireless Keyboard w/Touchpad
My voice workstation is minimalistic in nature as well. The setup provides for excellent acoustics, in conjunction with the rest of the room's auditory properties. Again, Reaper is my DAW at this workstation, with all of the cool plugins related to voice recording. A Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface connects Audio-Technica AT2020 and a Shure Beta 52 mics to the computer. Yes, I know what you're thinking . . "a Beta 52 kick drum mic, for voice?" For me, with the right settings and plugins, that track gives me a nice smooth underlying low end that compliments the AT2020 perfectly. Trust me, I've tried several other higher-end mics and this combination just works perfectly for my voice work.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
I also have a small laptop workstation. that is equipped with a high-quality voice microphone that is connected to a wireless transmitter. This sends the mic signal to its wireless receiver that is connected to the audio interface at the voiceover workstation. This desk is also outfitted with a small softbox light and cell phone camera for filming my podcasts and social media videos. I also enjoy killer sound with Creative Pebble V2 bluetooth speakers and OneOdio Studio Pro-10 headhones.
I also get a lot questions regarding what gear do I use for filming.
My studio is equipped with 3 cell phones that have killer cameras. 1 Huawei Mate 40 Pro (overhead), 1 Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus (side views) and 1 Google Pixel 6 Pro (front & side views). I started doing this after an article I read in 2019 about well-known full-length Hollywood movies that were shot with cell phones.
Pixel 6 Pro
I also utilize two Canon XL2 professional camcorders that I have had since they came out in 2004. They are cinema-quality cameras that still more than hold their own today. Although they weren't HD, they shoot in 16:9 and their footage still rivals HD cameras of today. The footage can be rendered along with the 4K footage from the rest of my cameras and you can barely tell the difference from the 4K cameras.
Canon XL2 Camcorder
I have tried about five or six mirrorless cameras in my studio, and even though this was one of the less expensive from my collection, its 4K video quality in my particular studio is superior to my more expensive mirrorless cameras. I highly recommend it for you video bloggers that are just starting out.
Neewer 40cm Softbox
Aside from the regular room lighting, I have four 16" x 16" Neewer softbox lights that are equipped with some super-bright LED bulbs that really make the drum kit pop in the video recordings. I also have a small homemade softbox at my laptop workstation for filming podcasts and social media content.
The Neewer softboxes are outfitted with DooVii 500W Equivalent, 6000K, Daylight LED Corn Bulbs. These are without a doubt the brightest and coolest bulbs I have ever used. They literally generate no noticeable heat.
DooVii 500W Equivalent Corn Bulbs
Brief Studio Video Tour
So there you have it. That's how I created a killer drum studio that produces badass drum tracks — in a 15 x 8 foot home studio. And when I don't feel like mixing or working on my website content in the studio, I do it from my outdoor office with a view of a portion of my wife's massive amazing garden!