I'm new to the recording scene, and I'd like to jump right into making professional sounding, high-quality productions. Now that I can play the instruments, I need to know a few things about recording:

How do I record acoustic drums without having to buy 5 or 6 mics?

I have tried Garage Band and thought that the overall sound is good for 15 bucks, but I'm willing to spend more than that in order to truly get clean sounding recordings. So, what makes ProTools worth its price? If not ProTools, then what's another good program for editing and processing?

Finally, what is a kind of snare drum that really makes a crisp sound like the one Travis Barker uses in Feeling This?


  • Just a quick tip, getting "professional sounding, high-quality productions" will take time and a lot of practice. Producing is a skill just like playing an instrument, the more you do it the better you get. As far as the drums go, it will be a lot easier if you start with drum loops/constructing beats with samples, instead of trying to record a whole drum kit, especially if you only have one mic. As far as software, that's a more complicated decision. I like Ableton but it's more for jamming with yourself or writing/arranging tracks and trying ideas, less popular for straight up recording.
    – charlie
    Sep 19, 2014 at 5:26
  • 3
    For the future you might want to think about asking multiple questions. This will yield specialized, in detail answers rather than a good answer to one question and rough guesses on the rest. (Also: Easier headlines for you, better search results for all others, differentiated voting on question and/or answers and much more :D )
    – user13400
    Sep 19, 2014 at 9:04
  • I don't want to be rude, but if you want to make a "professional sounding", you will have to split all your components and recording them all together, but on a different mic, and then remaster it. It is a little investment, but you can find mics and mixing console for less than 500€ on the internet, and it will be enough for your needs. Sep 19, 2014 at 9:08
  • One on-topic question, one blatantly-off-topic question and the answer to the third question: Piccolo snare drum.
    – MikeV
    Sep 19, 2014 at 21:51
  • I would suggest splitting this question into the three separate questions that you have stated although be warned the second question WILL be closed as off topic. and the third will not be well received as it is purely down to personal preference. but for the first question you need only buy 4 cheep mics 2 for overhead 1 for snare and 1 for bass drum. Oct 13, 2014 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


First of all, "making professional sounding, high-quality productions" takes years of experience and investment in decent quality gear. So, don't be disappointed if you can't "jump right into" it. Unfortunately, as with anything about music, patience is the key here.

I would recommend you to start with reading some books on recording, mixing and mastering; probably in that order. All three are equally important and a good recording engineer is not necessarily a good mixing engineer or a good mastering engineer (and vice versa). They are different domains of expertise.

A good producer needs to know about all these fields, at least enough to know who to hire. Producer's job is to conceptualize the final product from the beginning and direct the song writers, performers and recording, mixing and mastering engineers towards that concept (whether he does or does not perform one/some/all of these functions).

Now, about your specific questions:

Recording acoustic drums

It depends on the genre. For jazz, you can get away with a pair of good overhead mics and a good drummer with good control, possibly complemented with a good bass drum mic. But if you're aiming at processed rock drums for example, you're going to need more than that so you can process the bass drum and the snare drum separately at the very least. Drum mic setups with 10+ mics are not uncommon.

There are cheaper high-quality mics on the market now, but it's still quite an investment. Also, the quality of the recording room is at least as important as the quality of the drum set and the mic set, if not more so. You will also need good mic preamps and a good sound interface.

The only cheaper option I can think of is using a MIDI drum set (or writing MIDI data by hand) and a good software drum sample library. Depending on the genre, they can be totally unacceptable or better than real drums.

Recording software

Believe it or not, all major recording software (or DAWs -digital audio workstations- as they call them) have more or less the same functionality and the same sound quality. ProTools can come with some external cards that takes the CPU load off of the main computer but with a powerful computer it's not an absolute necessity. The choice is more about workflow habits (and budget!) than sound quality.

You can buy a cheap DAW (like Reaper) and spend the rest of your money on effects and synth plugins and/or external gear. In fact, effects and synth plugins are more important than your DAW.

Crisp snare drum

I don't feel qualified to answer this question but you can definitely achieve good results with most crisp sounding snare drums with proper room, mics, preamps and effects (eq, compressor etc.).


You can record a drumset with just two overhead microphones or a stereo pair, but it'll sound jazzy with not much punch on bass-drum and snare-drum. Also with just two microphones, the room in which you record gets more important, as in such a setup the mics pick up substantial amouts of "room" compared to the direct sound from the drums. Placing mics near the drums mitigates this problem, but you'll need more mics or the drums close to the mics will sound too loud.

If you want EQed/compressed fat bass and snare you need dedicated microphones for these. You can buy a mic for 50 bucks or less. It should tolerate high sound levels, but other than that quality requirements are moderate for bass and snare (and somewhat higher for the overheads).

As for the choice of snare drum, I am not an expert, but I would assume that the overall sound is determined primarily by the way it is played, mic'ed and EQed, the damping of the room and not so much by the snare drum itself.

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