By: Agustinas Beksta
Hello! I am Augustinas, a drummer from Vilnius, Lithuania. I play in a metal band called Juodvarnis, and for my own project called Dausa. My interest in music began when I was in my early teens; that’s when I started playing guitar and later – drums. I remember considering starting to learn drums, but being hesitant to do so because of the price of the instrument. One day my friends told me that they’re forming a rock band and required a drummer. They actually had a drumkit and cymbals (I still have that Paiste 101 ride), so I immediately said yes. And thus the journey began.
Since then I have played a lot of shows with different bands all over Lithuania and Europe. Drumming was always my passion, but my interest in audio production was always there as well. In 2016 I completed my Masters Degree in sound engineering and have been working in the field for 8 years now. I’ve recorded a lot of bands and numerous drummers and I want to share with you guys some of my experience.
I know that among you reading this will be some new drummers who haven’t been to the studio yet or have little experience recording. I’ve prepared some tips that’ll help you get through the recording process as painlessly as possible and will make look more professional. So, here we go!
TIP #1 - Bring more than 1 pair of sticks
This has happened to me more than I would like to. That’s why it’s on the top. Imagine it’s a Sunday, you’re recording your massive LP, everything’s going great, you’ve only two songs left, and ‘crack!’, your stick breaks. You only had that pair. Music stores are closed and the studio doesn’t have any as well. Now, you’re causing problems for everyone and costing precious studio time. Please, bring a few pairs. If you’ve only got money for one pair, buy Collision Drumsticks – they tend not to break.
TIP #2 - Know your songs
This one is all over the internet, but still somehow fails to reach the minds of a lot of drummers. It’s quite okay to forget something or make mistakes in the studio. But you don’t want to feel the pressure of the room while you try to learn your song which you should have done a week ago. Bare in mind that this will cost you.
TIP #3 - Bring decent heads
This applies if the kit you’re recording is yours. Good quality heads are essential to your sound. They don’t have to be brand new and can even be played on once or twice, but don’t come to a studio with heads that look like the surface of the moon. If you don’t know which ones to buy, consult somebody who does, or just visit some web pages of drumhead brands. They usually have a buyer’s guide.
TIP #4 - Eliminate pedal squeaking
This includes any other unwanted noise from drum hardware. When all elements of the kit are miked up, we hear every little detail coming from the instrument. If you don’t want to hear your pedal squeak before every kick hit, grease your pedal. Do not use WD40! Take the pedal apart, grease the moving parts, and wipe off the excess. Use something like bicycle chain oil. It’s best if you did this before you enter the studio, so you’ll save other people’s time.
TIP #5 - Tune the kit between takes
When you hit the drums for extended periods, it’s only natural that they go out of tune. If you’re a hard hitter, they detune exceptionally fast. You don’t want to have your snare higher at the beginning of the song and lower near the end (unless that is your intention). That would make it much more complicated for the mix engineer and would generally sound weird. I recommend using TuneBot, as it makes it easy to tune back to your favorite tension.
TIP #6 - Prepare a tempo map and a backing track
If you’re going to record drums first and the rest of the band later, it’s a great idea to have a backing track – something to play along to. Maybe the guitarist can record his riffs to a click, or maybe you already have a full home-recorded demo of the song with all the instruments? Also, find out the tempos of each song. If the tempo changes, write down all the tempos in the song. You will save yours and the engineer’s time.
TIP #7 - Bring good quality cymbals if possible
This is one I don’t hear or see very often, but in my humble opinion is very important. You may not know actually how much of your sound is actually in the cymbals. The general rule here is cheap cymbals sound bad and more expensive cymbals sound good. The problem with cheap cymbals is that they tend to sound dull, have short decay, and a lot of nasty overtones that need to be surgically removed in mixing. The thing is that with a lot of surgical eq is that we lose brightness of the sound (that wasn’t very bright to begin with). Now with higher class cymbals, this is not the case and usually less eq is needed to sound good in the mix. If you don’t have good cymbals, maybe you can borrow or rent some? I don’t mean to say that you will sound bad with entry-level cymbals, I only mean that with good ones you’ll sound that much better.
TIP #8 - Have a positive frame of mind
This one should actually be #1. Be optimistic, patient, and open-minded. Be open to new ideas and be ready to change something in your playing. Most times your engineer will also be your producer and can offer ideas about certain parts. Be open to these ideas and at least try them out. They may make your song sound that much better. And please don’t have the mindset of ‘nevermind, it’s okay, he’ll fix it in the mix’. Believe me, if your drumming is bad, editing will not help it. It’ll just make it sound robotic and boring. Come prepared and ready to nail your parts. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it has to be human. We want to hear you!
Augustinas is an Endorsed Cruise Artist with Collision Drumsticks.
Not only has he been drumming for over 10 years, he also composes his own music and teaches drumming to younger students in his spare time. In 2014, Augustinas joined Juodvarnis and it has since remained his main band; they have played many festivals around Europe, including Wacken Open Air in 2014. To learn more from Augustinas himself, here’s how you can get in touch: