Muskoka drum roomI’ve been away from Hometracked for the last week because I had a chance to record in a great space: A Muskoka cottage with 14-foot cathedral ceilings and all-pine interior. Perfect for recording drums!

I was certain the space would yield a better drum sound. Still, I thought it would be interesting to hear how big a difference the room actually makes. So I took lots of measurements, and recreated the drum and mic configuration when I got home.

First, though, here’s a rough mix from one of the drum tracks I recorded at the cottage:

I used a standard arrangement: Recordman overheads; kick, snare, and floor tom close-miked; and my T4 as a room mic, in omni mode about 15 feet from the kit, up high. My home studio doesn’t have anything near 14-foot ceilings, but it’s spacious enough that I could get all the microphones, including the T4, the same distance from the kit that I had them in the cottage.

Here’s the same piece recorded after I got home:

Again, this is the same drum kit, tuned the same way, recorded through the same microphones, played by the same drummer. Literally the only thing that changed is the room in which the drums sit.

The difference, predictably, is most obvious in the solo’d room mic. Here’s how the drums sounded through the room mic in the cottage:

And here’s how they sound through the same microphone, at the same distance, in my home studio:

The clearest differences are the snare drum, which sounds much bigger in the larger room, and kick drum, which sounds like a different drum altogether in each recording.

The end result? The drums sound a little more natural in the high-ceiling, all-wood room. So the space matters, obviously.

I have a fairly large home studio, and it’s well acoustically treated, so I wasn’t expecting a night-and-day comparison – and this isn’t. But while either of these mixes would make a serviceable drum track, depending on the mix, I prefer the stuff I recorded in Muskoka, as it’s a bit more open and natural-sounding.

Perhaps the real lesson here, though, is that every recording decision affects the final product. Just as small tweaks can improve a mix, big changes, like traveling 2 hours north of the city with your drum kit and recording gear, also add up!

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