Room and Location
Before setting up your drum set, think about the location that you should position the kit in the room. It doesn’t matter if you’re about to record in a traditional recording studio, drum room, live room or bedroom – how does the kit sound in that room? Let’s say you have just tuned all of your toms perfectly. You put the drums in their cases and make your way over to the studio or gig. You start setting up the kit and notice that the toms don’t sound like they once did. What happened? Typically, some fine tuning will help. But the bigger issue here is the environment. Different size rooms, treatment, furniture and ceiling height all influence how things sound. Obviously, there’s not a lot you can actually do to the room itself right at that moment. The one thing you CAN control is where you position your drum kit in the room.
Floor Tom Sweet Spot
Finding the best position for your drum set in the room is actually pretty simple. I learned this trick a while ago when I was setting up for a session in Nashville, TN. The engineer (brilliant guy by the way) helped me set up the drum kit the evening before the session. In this particular studio, they had a built in drum room off from the live room. At the time, I remember thinking that it doesn’t probably matter where the kit is set up since I’m in a really nice studio and acoustically balanced drum room. Anywhere is good, right? Wrong. The engineer asked me to grab my floor tom. I walked it around the room while I just laid into it with a drumstick with quarter notes. I did this for a few minutes until he said, “STOP! There’s the sweet spot.” I sat the drum down right there and pieced together the drum kit around the floor tom.
What an amazingly simple concept, but one that I would have never thought of before. Of course, in a club or bar gig this is a bit more tricky because of drum risers and stage sizes. You don’t get to set up your drums just anywhere. However, try this technique the next time you’re setting up that kit to record in your home studio or even major recording studio. Find that floor tom sweet spot. Your entire drum kit will sound better.