Best Way To Record Drums At Home | Decibel Peak Academy

best way to record drums at home

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For the past few years, I’ve been recording drums at home using MIDI/USB keyboard controllers and sample libraries. It may have worked out just fine, but I’ve realized that my method wasn’t the best way to record drums at home. I recently began considering purchasing an acoustic drum kit and using microphones, but I know that some of you would probably be better off with an electronic drum kit. Either way, we’ll be covering both in this official guide!

Whether you’ve got your own professional recording studio or are simply recording in your bedroom studio, the best way to record drums at home involves using an actual drum kit (acoustic and/or electronic). To be completely honest, both of these methods can be expensive and the acoustic method will most certainly require your room to be acoustically treated. However, I firmly believe that getting yourself as close to the source as possible (the actual drum kit) will multiply your expressive capabilities tenfold! By the end of this article, you’ll know which method to use and how to make it happen. Let’s go!




PART I: Acoustics

Recording drums at home using an acoustic drum kit

If you have the appropriate environment, I firmly believe that the best way to record drums at home involves using an acoustic drum kit. You’ll definitely need to allocate an entire room for recording purposes if you haven’t done so already.

We’ll be covering acoustic treatment briefly, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

best way to record drums at home - acoustic panels

Once you’ve reserved your space (ideally without windows), the only thing you’ll need to purchase is some acoustic foam panels and maybe some carpets. The amount you’ll need really depends on the acoustic properties of your room.

The best way to verify is by clapping your hands and listening for any unpleasant rattling.

You’ll absolutely need to cover those areas with your panels, but the rest is up to you. I personally covered the entire surface of my walls because I didn’t want to risk it. As far as carpets are concerned, you should ideally place one underneath your kit to dampen the floor’s resonance (and protect it from your playing).

At the end of the procedure, your room should sound “tight” and if it doesn’t, you haven’t covered enough surface area with your materials. Once you’ve got that covered (regardless of the quality of your material), your room will be ready for recording drums at home. 

Great, so let’s actually talk about the kit now!

The reason I personally prefer using an acoustic drum kit is simple… The only limitations you’ll have are those you impose on yourself. Anything you can hear in your head, you can technically produce with your acoustic drum kit (as long as you’ve got the skills, of course).

There’s nothing comparable to playing the actual instrument. You don’t need to know what buttons to press or which sounds to choose… You simply play drums!

When I was debating between an electronic or acoustic drum kit, one of the deciding factors was the pricing. Considering what I wanted to achieve, it would’ve been much more expensive to go with the alternative and honestly, I’d rather play the real instrument.

Besides, I’ve actually got the appropriate space for it so why not!

Another thing you’ll need to consider if you decide to go acoustic is the margin for error. What I’m saying is that it’s much more difficult to make one of these instruments sound professional compared to how easy it is for you to sound terrible… 

Needless to say, you’ll need to practice and become really good!

Since we’ll be recording using microphones, the audio files aren’t as malleable as MIDI files. With an electronic drum kit, any timing issues could easily be adjusted using your DAW’s quantization function,

With an acoustic drum kit though, you’ll need to develop impeccable time (there’s no safety net).

In other words, the barrier to entry is much higher but the results are completely worth the struggle in the long run. So if you’re just getting started with drums, be warned that you’ll have to be very patient before your “chops” become consistent.

However, if you’ve already been playing for quite some time and simply want to upgrade to an acoustic kit, you’ll be completely satisfied!

If you’ve already got an acoustic kit and simply want to start recording with it, you can skip over the next section.

Next, we’ll be looking at the best drum kit out there at the most reasonable price.

Recording drums at home using the Mapex Tornado

Using the Mapex Tornado is by far the best way to record drums at home on a budget. It’s an excellent sounding kit (even for professionals) and comes equipped with everything you need to start playing/recording right out of the box.

Just so you know, I’m personally using this kit at the moment and I absolutely love it!

best way to record drums at home - mapex tornado acoustic drum kit

Despite the attractive pricing, believe me when I say that this product is as durable as some of the higher-end Mapex drum kits. It’s beautiful and it almost seems like they designed this kit just for me (or people LIKE me).

Look, I’m not the best drummer in the world (my main instrument is guitar/bass) so I wasn’t looking to spend much.

I didn’t want something cheap either, but it really seems like the Mapex Tornado is the best value drum kit currently on the market. They’ve essentially made drumming accessible to pretty much anybody, especially for us so-called multi-instrumentalists!

Now, I’m sure you’re dying to know what comes included in the box… 

  • Kick Drum (20” x 16”)
  • Snare Drum (14” x 5”)
  • Rack Tom (10” x 8”)
  • Rack Tom (12” x 9”)
  • Floor Tom (14” x 14”)
  • Hi-Hat
  • Crash
  • Pedal
  • Throne
  • Hardware
  • Drum Sticks

Mapex has LITERALLY thought of everything!

My only complaint is that I would’ve preferred having a ride cymbal instead of the crash (although it could be used as a ride). Considering the price though, I had no problem with purchasing the ride cymbal separately!

In case you’re wondering, the shells are made of basswood which (as its name suggests) resonates much better than most woods.

That being said, I think this kit is much more suited for Pop/Rock music considering it’ll have that “beefy” tone because of the basswood. Personally, I would’ve preferred birchwood because of its “snappy” character, but now I know why drummers own more than one set of drums… 

If you’re ever looking for different sounds though, I personally still use sample libraries to layer different sounds on top of my performance.

Using a combination of acoustic drum kits and sample libraries is a technique used by professional music producers in all musical genres. It’s easier than ever to have the appeal of an actual performance while having access to virtually any sound.

However, I personally intend to introduce some new drums to my collection every now and then.

It’s my personal recommendation, but feel free to choose whatever you like because we’re moving onto microphones now!

Recording drums at home using microphones

It’ll require more labour, but I believe that the best way to record drums at home is to use microphones (and an acoustic drum kit, of course). The first question you’ll be asking yourself is HOW MANY microphones you’ll need.

The next logical question would be to ask WHAT KIND of microphones you’ll need.

best way to record drums at home - microphone placement

It really depends on the style of music you’ll be producing and of course, your personal preference as an engineer (welcome to the club). The best place to get started would be to study your favourite artists and to find out how they record drums.

For example, I recently found out that Vulfpeck (one of my favourite bands) uses the minimalist four microphone configuration.

  • One for the the kick
  • One for the snare
  • One for the left overhead
  • One for the right overhead

Another popular microphone configuration (2 microphones) can be traced back to The Beatles’ earlier recordings.

  • One for the overhead (they recorded in mono, not stereo)
  • One for the kick drum
best way to record drums at home - the beatles drum kit

Of course, you can also use more microphones (like 8 of them) to have as much precision as possible, but it’s really not necessary (really, it’s not). My favourite microphone configuration is the same as Vulfpeck because it does an excellent job while keeping things simple.

So don’t worry, we’ll be covering both of these configurations and you can always apply what you’ll learn to larger microphone configurations.

Before moving onto my recommendations though, let’s briefly discuss the microphone types.

I wrote an entire article going over the different types of microphones and another one covering the different microphone polar patterns. However, we’ll only be needing two types of microphones for now… 

  • Dynamic (Moving-Coil)
  • Condenser (Small Diaphragm)

You can also use dynamic (ribbon) microphones, but I really wanted to stay on budget.

Ideally, I’d like to get you started without getting too invested. You can always add more microphones to your collection later, use the ones you already own and/or sell the ones you don’t need anymore at any point in time (I’m always selling/buying, it’s part of the lifestyle).

The last thing I want to discuss before getting into the actual microphones is what you’ll be connecting them to (kind of important, right?).

Basically, you’ll either need… 

  • An audio interface with at least THREE inputs (which I don’t have)
  • Multiple thunderbolt audio interfaces in a daisy-chain
  • One mixing console that can also act as an audio interface

Out of these options, I prefer the last one.

We’ll be discussing mixing consoles in the last section. Basically, you’ve either got one of the two first options covered already or I seriously recommend going with the mixing console. I already own an audio interface and I still went the mixer (there are many advantages).

It’ll make sense later, I promise… 

Now, let’s start thinking about those microphones! Shall we?

Recording drums at home using the Shure Beta 52A + RODE M5 

The best way to record drums at home using three microphones involves the Shure Beta 52A (kick drum microphone) and the RODE M5 matched pair (overheads). I personally like this combination because it’s relatively affordable and the microphones are excellent.

In reality, you can choose whatever combination you like, but this is what I’m recommending.

best way to record drums at home 6

Starting with the Shure Beta 52A, it’s essentially the Shure SM57 for kick drums. If you’re not familiar with the Shure SM57, let me rephrase that… The Shure Beta 52A is the industry-standard for recording kick drums.

The microphone is designed specifically for kick drums and provides the best results.

One of the things I personally like about this microphone is the supercardioid polar pattern. If you’re not familiar with polar patterns (and you don’t want to read this post), supercardioid basically means the pickup range is SUPER narrow. One of the most narrow in fact!

What this means is that your sound source (kick drums) will be incredibly isolated.

Another thing about Shure microphones is that they’re literally indestructible (if you manage to break yours, let us know in the comments)! It’s important because you’ll most likely want to experiment with the proximity effect by moving this microphone REALLY close to your drum.

If you’re not familiar with the proximity effect, it’s simple… The closer your microphone is to the source, the more bass frequencies are emphasized.

So, move on to those RODE M5s now!

If you’re not familiar with RODE, they’ve essentially built their reputation by creating some of the most cutting-edge microphones at the lowest prices. It almost feels like you’re stealing from them (that’s how underpriced they are).

Another thing I like about RODE is that they don’t outsource their labour, so most of their microphones are made in Australia (they’re an Australian company).

The M5s are considered “pencil” condenser microphones (because they look like pencils) and come as a stereo pair. These microphones are also considered some of the best overhead microphones and you know what, the M5s are hands down the most affordable by a long shot!

Two things I LOVE about these little guys:

  • Ultra-low noise (virtually noiseless)
  • 10 year extended warranty (typical RODE)

Just like the Beta 52A, these microphones are also designed to handle pretty high sound pressure levels (SPL). The M5s aren’t as rugged as the Beta 52A, but they’ve been used to record drum kits countless times.

The only thing you’ll need for this configuration is… 

  • 3 XLR inputs
  • 2 of them with 48V Phantom Power

Recording drums at home using the Samson DK707 bundle

I know I said we’d be covering the four microphone configuration, so why do we need seven microphones? In my opinion, the best way to record drums at home involves using the Samson DK707 microphone kit for drums because of its affordability.

The only reason I chose this kit is because it costs less and you get WAY more.

best way to record drums at home - microphone placement for acoustic drum kit

You can still four out of the seven microphones, but at least you’ll have more! The drum microphone kit from Shure includes four microphones (not including the overheads) and it costs more. So, you’ll be much happier with his collection and trust me, Samson microphones are pretty amazing.

Don’t let the price tag fool you!

Let’s start by looking at what we have included in the kit:

  • 1x Q71 (kick drum)
  • 4x Q72 (snare drum/toms)
  • 2x C02 (overheads)

If you’d be pairing these microphones with the Mapex Tornado, everything would be covered!

My favourite part about the Samson DK707 is the rim clips that allow you to mount the Q72s without using microphone stands. The only stands you’ll need are for the Q71 and the overheads. The included hardshell case is also practical for storage and transport!

The Q71/Q72s are also supercardioid microphones, so your sound source will be isolated.

Regardless of the quality of your room, these microphones will sound great and microphone bleed (ex.: hearing the snare in the tom microphone) will be tamed. However, the C02s are very sensitive condenser microphones (cardioid) which is important for creating your stereo image.

If your room sounds off, these microphones will be the first to pick it up!

Other than that, the Samson DK707 drum microphone kit is both the most affordable and highest value product on the market. It’s the best way to record drums at home without breaking the bank and you’ll have everything you need (and more)!

By combining the Mapex Tornado, Samson DK707 and the mixing console we’ll be covering very soon, you’ll have everything you need to record drums at home TODAY (or whenever your shipment comes in)!

Okay, let’s talk about the last component to our recording system… 

Recording drums at home using your mixer/audio interface

One of my biggest concerns going into this project was the limited amount of inputs on my audio interface (Universal Audio Arrow). However, I had an idea one day… What if I bought myself one of those small mixing consoles and routed its stereo output to my audio interface’s inputs?

As it turns out I was right! The best way to record drums at home would be to purchase one of these small mixing consoles.

best way to record drums at home - mixing console for recording

What I didn’t realize is that you could actually use these devices as your main audio interface. Considering you’d simply be using it to record straight into your DAW, it doesn’t even matter that they use USB instead of Thunderbolt. It’s actually better for our wallets (Thunderbolt gear is generally more expensive).

For those of you that didn’t understand anything I just said, don’t worry! It’s not that important… 

What’s important is that these mixers can actually offer much more benefits than your typical audio interface (especially for recording drums). For example, the one we’ll be looking at features onboard effects (reverb, delay, etc…), 3-band EQ and even compression on each channel. Now, that’s really useful!

If you wanted to simplify your life, you could basically mix your entire drum kit using the mixing console’s onboard processing and then route the master output to your audio interface.

You’d be saving lots of resources down the line because your drum kit would be pre-mixed. However, the disadvantage is that it’d be impossible to go back and adjust anything down the line. In other words, you’d need to re-record the entire part to make modifications.

This is why I would consider using the mixing console as your audio interface, at least temporarily anyway.

Audio latency wouldn’t be an issue because you’d be monitoring directly from the console. Each microphone would have its own track in your DAW so you could easily mix the drum kit as your project progresses without fearing the need to do it all over again.

Either way, it’s nice to know that you have options.

The other advantage about these small mixers is that you could obviously use much more microphones. They come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what you’ll need for your personal recording system.

Great, now let’s talk about the mixers I’ve chosen!

Recording drums at home using the Behringer XENYX 1202FX

For you minimalists out there, the best way to record drums at home involves using the Behringer XENYX 1202FX. It’s technically got twelve inputs, however, only four of those channels can be connected with your microphones’ balanced XLR cables.

For those of you may be skeptical about the Behringer brand, you need to understand why their products are so affordable (and actually really good).

best way to record drums at home 9

The reason they’re so affordable is that Behringer actually manufactures everything themselves 100%. It’s gotten to the point where they’ve gotten so big that other manufacturers actually purchase their parts from Behringer.

So if Behringer is not good, then I guess TC Electronics (owned by them) and others aren’t.

Now that we got that out of the way, I hope you’ll be capable of appreciating the value of the Behringer mixers we’ll be covering starting with the XENYX 1202FX.

The first thing you probably weren’t expecting from this little guy is its integrated 24-bit multi-effects processor (DSP-powered). Compared to your typical audio interface, this is already starting to sound like a much better deal!

Here are some of the effects you’ll have access to:

  • Reverb
  • Delay
  • Chorus
  • Flanger
  • Phaser
  • Detune
  • Pitch Shifter

With over 100 presets to work with, you can focus on recording your drums.

Either way, you’ll probably end up using some reverb at the most. I just wanted you to be aware that you could essentially accomplish a lot with the 1202FX. It’s even more useful if you ever intend to use it on-stage!

Now, let’s focus on the recording aspect.

With four XLR inputs, you can basically use both the three microphone/four microphone configuration. Even if you end up purchasing the Samson DK707, you can eventually purchase another 1202FX and pair them together to use up to eight microphones.

Strangely enough, going about things this way will actually cost you less than purchasing the next Behringer mixer we’ll be talking about.

The only problem is you’ll be using only one of the mixers as your audio interface (if you use this method). The other mixer will be “mixed down” into your main mixer making it impossible to make modifications once it’s already been recorded.

Although you could technically connect two USB interfaces at the same time, I don’t recommend doing this (you may have synchronization issues).

The last thing I want to talk about before moving onto the next model is the microphone preamps.

They actually sound incredible and that’s why I decided to go with Behringer. The bells and whistles are interesting, but if the preamps don’t do your microphones justice, the whole thing is worthless. That being said, you’ll be amazed at the quality for the price that you’re paying!

Another important addition to these preamps is the so-called “british” 3-band EQ and the one-knob compressor.

If you’re planning to send your “mixed down” drum kit signal to an external audio interface, you’ll absolutely need these basic tools. If not, then you can still use them to make some subtle adjustments to your mix before sending it to your computer.

Just keep in mind that you can’t undo any of these changes, so make sure it’s subtle (I personally leave the EQ and use a bit of compression).

Great, let’s look at the alternative if you’re looking for more inputs!

Recording drums at home using the Behringer X2222USB

I personally think that using the Behringer X2222USB is the best way to record drums at home. It’s part of the same series at the XENYX 1202FX (the X stands for XENYX) so it’s essentially got the same basic features.

The real difference with this model involves the back panel and obviously, the fact that it’s got eight XLR inputs (22 inputs in total though).

best way to record drums at home 8

If you’re really looking for something professional, the Behringer X2222USB will most certainly come in handy down the road, especially if you’re planning to scale your studio. By scale, I mean if you were planning to use more microphones, record live sessions (studio/on-stage) and/or start implementing outboard gear.

Compared to the XENYX 1202FX, you can actually insert your outboard gear using the X2222USB’s dedicated channel inserts (eight of them in total).

It’s also got three auxiliary sends for each channel which makes monitoring and post-processing breezy. The control-room output is also convenient if you’ve got a second pair of monitors you’d like to reference your mixes with.

And just like the 1202FX, the X2222USB also has integrated 24-bit multi-effects processing.

Other than that, you’ll have a lot more flexibility with this unit. It’s got WAY more inputs/outputs so if you ever want to record the entire band together, you’ll be needing that!

Okay, so let’s summarize the acoustic method before moving on…

  • Choose your acoustic drum kit (ideally the Mapex Tornado)
  • Purchase your microphones (ideally the Samson DK707)
  • You’ll need three microphone stands (no more, no less)
  • Pick out your mixer/audio interface (ideally the X2222USB)

And there you have it! If you feel that the acoustic method isn’t suitable for you, then you’ll want to consider the electronic method.

Coming right up!

PART II: Electronics

Recording drums at home using an electronic drum kit

Alright, so the best way to record drums at home for most of us would be to use an electronic drum kit. However, we need to make the distinction between the “Rock Band” (the video game) drum sets and the ones we’ll be talking about.

Another thing you’ll want to consider is that these electronic instruments aren’t completely noiseless (although they make about 90% less noise than acoustic drum kits).

best way to record drums at home - electronic drum pad

Now, the reason I made reference to the Rock Band video game is simple… Most of the kits on the market below the 1000$ threshold are essentially expensive toys. These kits may seem enticing, but there’s no way they can actually replicate the expressive capabilities of an acoustic drum kit.

At that point, you’re better off sticking with your MIDI/USB keyboard controller.

The advantage with electronic drum kits, however, is the fact that you’ll be saving on… 

  • Acoustic treatment
  • Microphones
  • Mixing consoles

The only thing I recommend pairing with your kit is an excellent sample library (which we’ll be discussing later). Most of these electronic drum kits include their default sounds though, so you may be capable of sparing yourself the expense if you decide to splurge.

However, we’re not going to be basing our decision on sound modules, no… we’ll be basing our decision on the actual quality of the kit and its ability to reflect EVERY single nuance of our performance.

By recording drums with your keyboard, this is what you’re missing out on… 

  • Ghost-notes
  • Buzz-rolls
  • Flams
  • Brush strokes
  • Realistic ride cymbal

I know, it doesn’t seem like much but these are HUGE elements of any percussive performance. It’s what I personally wish I could do with my MIDI/USB keyboard controller, but these articulations don’t translate well to keys.

I did find an interesting way to layer ghost-notes using my keyboard controller (I might have to show you that one day), but forget about the other four. It’s impossible!

You can always program them in your MIDI sequencer, but that’s not very musical… 

So, when I was shopping for electronic drum kits, I was looking mostly at snares and rides. In my opinion (and I’m sure you’ll agree), these are the most functional components of any electronic drum kit. Let’s not forget those hi-hats as well!

Kick drums, toms and other cymbals are important, but I’ve never had any issues recreating these sounds using my MIDI/USB keyboard controller.

However, it’s the overall sensitivity of each kit that truly determines whether they’ll add value to your recordings or leave you disappointed (and running back to your keyboard controller). Remember, we’re looking for significant improvements or else it ain’t worth it!

Great, so now we’ll actually be looking at the electronic kit I’ve personally selected.

Recording drums at home using the Roland V-Drums TD-27KV

If you’re looking for the best way to record drums at home using an electronic kit… Let’s take a look at the Roland V-Drums TD-27KV. Roland V-Drums have redefined what electronic drum kits are capable of and this model takes it one step further.

It’s capable of doing everything we mentioned in the previous section which is rare!

best way to record drums at home - roland v-drum electronic drum kit
Courtesy of Kuba Bozanowski

The TD-27KV actually looks pretty close to an actual acoustic drum kit, but it’s much more than just an appearance. Out of all the V-Drums, this one behaves EXACTLY like an acoustic drum kit, especially with the addition of that hi-hat stand (not included).

So, we’ve got an actual realistic hi-hat, the PD-140DS digital snare drum and Roland’s latest innovation; the CY-18DR digital ride cymbal.

Let’s remember what we need out of our electronic drum kit… 

  • Ghost-notes
  • Buzz-rolls
  • Flams
  • Brush strokes
  • Realistic ride cymbal

You’ll realize that the TD-27KV can accomplish much more than that.

For starters, most electronic snare drums can reproduce ghost-notes, but most of them don’t feature EIGHT sensors. That’s right, the PD-140DS digital snare is EXTREMELY sensitive. Your ghost-notes, buzz-rolls and flams will sound distinct each time depending on where you articulate your patterns.

The TD-27KV is also one of the few kits that actually supports brushes (use nylon brushes though, not metal)!

Although the product demonstrated is the TD-30KV (replaced by the TD-50KV), it features the same PD-140DS digital snare drum and CY-18DR digital ride as the TD-27KV.

Seriously, there aren’t many kits that allow you to use brushes (not convincingly anyway), so this is one of the reasons I chose this specific V-Drum. However, any Roland kit that includes the PD-140DS will perform just as well under these circumstances. It’ll even detect your hand placement to trigger rim shots (other e-snares require you to actually hit the rim).

Although, what really distinguishes the TD-27KV is the CY-18DR digital ride.

Most electronic drum kits’ ride cymbal usually features a maximum of four zones:

  • Bell
  • Ride
  • Edge
  • Choke

And let’s not forget that this is the best case scenario!

If you’ve ever played an acoustic ride though, you know that it’s got many shades of “ride” between each of these extremities. Your ride cymbal is probably the most organic element of your drum kit and the Roland CY-18DR is as close as you’ll get to replicating the real thing.

It features multiple sensors and allows you to trigger different sounds depending on your hand placement/where you strike.

It’s truly revolutionary and what puts the TD-27KV in a league of its own!

Lastly, having an actual hi-hat with a stand (once again, sold separately) and an actual kick drum to hit really creates the convincing illusion of performing on an actual acoustic drum kit. If you’re into metal, you can even use your favourite double pedal with the TD-27KV!

The last thing I want to mention about the Roland TD-27KV is the fact that you won’t need an audio interface.

That’s right! The sound module itself acts as an audio interface allowing you to use up to 28 channels. Using the integrated USB port, you can use your V-Drum as an audio and/or MIDI interface to trigger the sample libraries we’ll be talking about next.

Alright, so let’s move onto those sample libraries!

Recording drums at home using sample libraries

Personally, I still believe that the best way to record drums at home is to use sample libraries as your sound source. Although the electronic drum kits I mentioned may include some decent sounds, I still don’t think they compare to the professional sample libraries I’ve been using.

Even by using MIDI/USB keyboard controllers, you can easily craft realistic drum parts.

best way to record drums at home - computer software for recording drums

Although using keyboard controllers instead of drum kits may not be the best way to record drums at home, it certainly worked for me up until now. It’s definitely the most cost-efficient option and you can get started right away (especially once you hear about the free software I’ll be recommending)!

If you’ve never worked with sample libraries before, they’re essentially software instruments.

Using your digital audio workstation (DAW), you’d insert these plugins into your project and control them using MIDI. Some kits may require the additional purchase of an audio interface in order to connect to your computer, but the Roland TD-27KV isn’t one of those!

Using it’s USB connection, you’ll have the option of choosing between audio and/or MIDI.

I personally feel that working with MIDI is much more practical though. This is especially true if you don’t consider yourself the “best” drummer in the world. Audio files are pretty much set in stone, but MIDI files can be manipulated and imperfections can be corrected.

It’s beyond the scope of this article, but there are many advantages to working with MIDI.

For example, you can use the same MIDI sequences to trigger different instruments. If you’re unsatisfied with your drum sound, no problem! You can easily swap through presets while playing back your performance until you find that perfect sound.

Do I need to point out that doing the same with an audio file would be IMPOSSIBLE?!

So in my opinion, using a combination of electronic drum kits and sample libraries is the best way to record drums at home without using an acoustic kit. You’ll have an excellent instrument/controller to articulate every nuance of your performance while having access to some of the best sounding kits ever recorded.

The best part about sample libraries is that they cost pennies compared to what it would cost to own these iconic drum kits.

Let’s not forget how much it would cost to sample them using the same quality-standards!

Alright, enough theorizing… Let’s talk about these sample libraries (starting with my favourite).

Recording drums at home using Steven Slate Drummer 5.5

Are you reading this on your computer? If not, go to your computer and download the free version of Steven Slate Drummer 5. If you’re looking for the best way to record drums at home using sample libraries, this is the best place to start.

It’s not a “lite” version by the way, you simply get access to ONE of the premium drum kits.

best way to record drums at home - steven slate drums 4 sample library

If you ever feel like you need more drum kits, you can simply purchase your license and instantly have access to the entire Steven Slate library. It’s one of the most comprehensive and responsive sample libraries on the market (I checked)!

Besides the additional expansion packs that are available, here’s what you’ll have access to:

  • 112 kicks
  • 135 snares
  • 58 toms
  • 11 hi-hats
  • 6 rides
  • 14 crashes
  • 4 splashes
  • 3 chinas
  • 9 percussion
  • 4 SFX

That’s more than most drummers have owned throughout their entire lifetimes!

Now, most drummers usually hesitate between Steven Slate Drums by Slate Digital  and Superior Drummer by ToonTracks.

Personally, I like SSD5 because of its simplicity and affordability. It has everything I need (and more), so I prefer it because it’s easier to get started without getting overwhelmed.

On the other hand, Superior Drummer 3 is HUGE and acts much more like a drum laboratory than a sample library. It’s obviously more expensive, but it’s really been designed for those with more experience, so it’s not the best place to start (it’s a great place to end up though)!

I’ve been using Steven Slate Drums since version 4 and that was almost 10 years ago!

The one thing I firmly believe Steven Slate does better than the competition is CYMBALS. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard recordings and been like, “yeh, he/she’s using Superior Drummer (or something else). Cymbals are difficult to get right… 

However, Steven Slate Drummer 5 excels at this very task. I sometimes use Logic Pro X’s Drum Kit Designer to layer different kicks/snares, but I never use its cymbals.

You can listen to some of my latest tracks if you don’t believe me. The cymbals on Steven Slate’s sample libraries are SPOT ON and sound like the real thing!

Another important thing to consider about Steven Slate Drums is the compatibility with electronic drum kits (especially the Roland V-Drums). They work hand-in-hand and the results are stunning. You’ll never be capable of harnessing the full-potential of this sample library without one of these drum kits.

If you’re looking for something more way more sophisticated though… Let’s talk about Superior Drummer!

Recording drums at home using ToonTracks Superior Drummer 3

Coming Soon…


How I personally record drums at home for best results

I hope you’ve realized that recording drums at home isn’t as difficult as it may have seemed at first. Yes, it’ll require some investment on your part and some hard-work to set everything up, but it’s completely worth it if you ask me!

Once everything is connected, you’ll be capable of recording your drums whenever you want (unless your room isn’t soundproofed from the outside)!

best way to record drums at home - recording drums at home using an acoustic drum kit

If you ask me though, the best way to record drums at home would be to use the Mapex Tornado, the Samson DK707 drum microphone kit and the Behringer X2222USB. It’s what I decided to go with and I’m glad that I did! It’s also one of the most affordable ways to record drums at home.

You can bring down your total if you’re willing to go with the XENYX 1202FX instead!

That being said, I still use Steven Slate Drums (my sample library of choice) to layer some additional textures when mixing. I’m talking about snares/kicks mostly because these have much more weight in the mix.

I occasionally use the cymbals from my sample library as well (there are some I don’t physically own yet).

So, let me summarize that for you… 

  • Mapex Tornado
  • Samson DK707
  • Behringer X2222UBS
  • Steven Slate Drums

With these four things (and the acoustic treatment), you can easily and effectively produce professional sounding drum parts at home. The difference between an expensive studio and something more affordable is so subtle that you won’t be able to tell them apart.

As your ears develop, you may eventually want to try different drums, different microphones and different mixers/preamps.

That’s completely normal, but my objective in writing this guide was to get you started as easily and as cost-efficiently as possible. Once you’ve outgrown your gear (if that ever happens), you can simply sell your stuff and buy new stuff.

As I mentioned, it’s part of the lifestyle and there are always people looking for what you’re selling and people selling what you’re looking for!

If you decide to go with electronic drums, however, I highly suggest considering the Roland V-Drums TD-27KV. I know it’s expensive, but it’s NOT the most expensive. I really made sure to find the most affordable kit without having you compromise any expressive functionality.

It’s the least expensive V-Drum that includes the PD-140DS digital snare drum and CY-18DR digital ride cymbal (and there’s nothing comparable at the moment).

So whatever you decide to go with, make sure it’s not your MIDI/USB keyboard controller (just kidding, but seriously… it’s not the best way to record drums at home)!

Before leaving you, here’s all the equipment I mentioned in this guide:

For the acoustic method:

The most affordable/best acoustic drum kit for home recording, the Mapex Tornado… 

The most affordable/best microphone for your kick drum, the Shure Beta 52A… 

The most affordable/best microphones for your overheads, the RODE M5s… 

The most affordable/best drum microphone kit, the Samson DK707… 

The most affordable/best mixer for small setups, the Behringer XENYX 1202FX… 

The most affordable/best mixer for large setups, the Behringer X2222USB… 

For the electronic method:

The most affordable/best electronic drum kit for home recording, the Roland V-Drums TD-27KV… 

The most affordable/best sample library for EVERY genre, Steven Slate Drums 5.5… 

The most affordable/best sample library for Rock/Metal, ToonTracks Superior Drummer 3… 

There you have it folks, if you read through the entire guide I know it was a long one! I normally don’t provide two options, but it was necessary in this case because I know that most people aren’t capable of owning an acoustic drum kit. The best way to record drums at home involves using an acoustic kit and honestly, I believe it’s one of the only instruments (besides vocals) that can’t be emulated by computer software. Electronic drum kits can certainly get the job done though, but it’s extremely important to go with the best if you’re serious about drumming! If you enjoyed learning about the best way to record drums at home with me, consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter for more great articles like this one. I really appreciate your time, thanks for reading!

4 Responses

  1. Hi Stefan – do you have anything published for using the USB and getting the audio right from the TD27KV without using MIDI? I love the sounds I have on the kit and just want to send those directly out to bandlab to collaborate with friends across the country. I haven’t been able to find the right settings to do that; it keeps showing up as MIDI. 35 years acoustic and <1 year electronic. 🙂

    1. Hello Brian!

      It’s definitely possible to record the kit’s audio via the USB cable.

      HOWEVER, you need to make sure to install the drivers first (or else it won’t detect the “virtual” audio outputs).

      You can find those by clicking on this link.

      I also recommend checking out this video for setting up. I personally haven’t published any guides on the TD-27KV, but the TD-50 sound module is very similar. Basically, your computer needs to recognize the TD-27KV sound module as an audio interface. Once you’ve installed the necessary drivers, you’ll be capapble of selecting it as your main audio interface.

      The difficult part will be routing everything which is why I recommend watching the video.

      If you need anything else, don’t be shy. Thanks for dropping by!

      – Stefan

  2. Great explanation of the differences between using live drums versus electronic/MIDI methods. I would agree that the real thing is a lot better. The nuances that even a semi-skilled drummer can apply to tie the entire song together is not the same when using anything but a real kit. Certainly not with a keyboard drum performance. Even the feel of electric drums can be off putting to a drummer and limit their performance.

    I learned quite a bit from you regarding the use of a mixer as an audio interface. Also, the simplicity of a 4-mic set up is encouraging. Thanks for the article.  I’ll be back to view more and to read your reviews on the Rode mics.

    1. Hey Darrin!

      You’re right about the nuances. It completely blew me away when I started playing drums, it never occurred to me how profound the dynamic range could be. There’s even the angle/specific area where you hit each drum. There’s no way any sample library could ever replicate that!

      I didn’t even mention how you can literally change the sound of each drum by using towels, paper, cloth, pillows and changing the tuning. It’s just too complex of an instrument to synthesize.

      I’m glad you found the bit about mixers and smaller microphone configurations useful. That’s actually the part that intimidated me the most at first, but recording drums at home is easier than I thought! Some people even use one microphone to mic the entire thing, but I personally wouldn’t go that far…

      Thanks for writing, all the best!

      – Stefan

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