Written by Todd Terje on October 23, 2011

First question is, how do you record your drums? Can you teach me? I wanna set up a kick/snare/hihat/2tom set in a small room, it´s got wooden floor and no damping on the walls. How do I get this to sound ok? I´ve read somewhere that you have a quite basic approach to this. Please do tell, o oracle of nice sounding drums. Preamps?

For some DFA drums:
It’s simple, but not so simple. Firstly, I like to “deaden” the room quite a bit. I put blankets up on the walls and stuff. And maybe something blocking the drums from the rest of the room with a big duvet on it, to make the reflections less. Then, listen standing in front of the drums when someone plays… Is there a lot of “low mid range”? If so, put something like a plush chair near the kit. Then, I like to make a “kick drum hut”. My favorite thing is to put a piano bench right in front of the kick. That way i can keep the mic on the kick outside the drum while still getting less bleed. Then, take the bottom heads off the toms and deaden them with some fabric gaffer’s tape and small squares of neoprene mouse pad. So they go “thud” instead of “booooongggg”.

For mics, I like to use nice nice nice mics. Me? Kick and snare are Neuman TLM 193s. Medium sized condensors. You can get away with an Equitek e100 for a cheap alternative. Snare top and bottom (with the bottom out of phase). Toms, I use very fast medium diaphragm mics – -EV RE2000s. With a slow pre-amp, like the built in pres on my Otari MX5050Bll 2-track. Overheads, I like something nice, like some Schoepps, or AKG 451s, more over the snare than the cymbals. Then, I make a “beatle sound” as well…  which is a pair of old ribbon mics…  RCA bk5s or Coles 4038s…  One, mono, just over the kit — between the overheads. The other in front of the kick. I get a tape measure and make them both the same distance from where the beater hits the kick drum head. Those 2 mics I mix together as an “image” of the kit. The other mics are like the “disco” sound — tight and dead — and the ribbons are like the “soul” sound. And you can mix them together.
Setting the mic pres….  I run drum pres VERY VERY cold… Low input. As low as possible. So that there’s tons of un-distorted headroom. That way the ring and room and cymbal noise isn’t too loud. People tend to record drums “hot”, which is why they suck. If you record drums “hot”, they should be one or 2 mics at most. You can cook the ribbons, for example, but nothing else. I like UA 610s with the eq on them, no compression. I tend to lift the highs a bit when I print so that they have a nice disco snap. The ribbons I run thru an old Altec tube mixer.
That’s the drums, I guess…

Can you please explain to me what a “word clock” is? You showed me at least 3 boxes of word clocks in your word clock closet the last time. Is this something I need to worry about, or can I be happy without knowing?

Oh…  Right…  It’s the thing that makes sure the digital info all lines up. Each bit of sound info is like a picture. If you think of an image as
pixels, and the image you look at has 300 pixels, and so does the screen you’re using, it’s very critical that the pixels line up… otherwise, each screen pixel will be an averaging of 4 other pixels, making the resolution much shittier. That’s what happens on cheap digital audio. There’s a noticeable “flatness” that you don’t get with analog. No “depth”. That’s from the digital info being translated sloppily. The word clock is the thing that, 48,000 times a second, in 24 places, lines up all those little samples. Not a sexy job, but a critical and difficult one. So WCs tend to be both expensive and ignored. But that’s why so many tracks you get sent in MP3 form as promo sound “good” on your laptop, but then you get the vinyl, and they basically sound the same. Not very deep or interesting. They just sit there, like MP3s, Even though it’s vinyl. And so you say to yourself “well, why bother playing the vinyl”. It’s the in-the-computer-mix disease.

What´s the best compression setting EVAR? Would life be easier if I studied lots of compression theory?

Shit — that depends. I like playing with stuff that sounds awesome. I have some invisible compressors that are amazing, but not exciting, and I have ones with real “sound”. I use a DBX 165 VU (old, black faced VCA
compressor) and an original Teletronix LA2A for vocals. Also Purple Audio copy of an 1176 on tons of other shit. Fuck around.

I hear you´re no enemy of VSTs, anything recommendable?

Not a single thing. Though that shitty “mic modeller” thing was good. Not for “modelling mics”, but it had a “proximity” setting that I thought was great for bass guitar. There’s a logarithm for the curve and shape of low frequencies based on proximity that you can’t replicate with a typical eq (and it’s often the thing that “fixes” low end) that this plug in did quite well. Otherwise I use the gates on the computer (because they can look ahead) and that’s about it.

Have you thought of constructing your own gear? If so, what?

Yes! We make monitors now, which I use in the studio. We’re working on a pre-amp and a DJ mixer (that’s almost done…  totally amazing sounding… really).

What are your 5 most favorite synths?


EMS synthi A or VCS3

Yamaha CS60 (or 50, or 80)

Moog Taurus ll

Korg Poly Ensemble


Synth/effects/thing that´s highest on your wantlist?

Some big Oberheim.

Who should I interview next?

Hmm… Morgan Geist?

Okley dokley. Thanks!


  1. nathanraggett says:

    great insight, interesting techniques in recording drums never heard of a techneque quite like it- in regards to a central mono (ribbon mic’ed)image. would be scared to put a ribbon mic up against the spl’s of a kit but you’re the pro


  2. tremm says:

    The out-front Ribbon would be maybe 5-6 feet in front of the kick drum, too far to be damaged. It’s not really SPL’s that damage ribbons, it’s gusts of air moving in very close proximity.

  3. ian says:

    this is great … looking forward to the next post

  4. Mothman says:

    “Then, take the bottom heads off the toms and deaden them with some fabric gaffer’s tape and small squares of neoprene mouse pad. So they go “thud” instead of “booooongggg”.” — Or you could just tune them, lol.

  5. NOICE says:

    EXCELLENT post. Terje, you sir have just earned yourself a new reader.

  6. Debukas says:

    Big yes to the Morgan Geist suggestion!

    Great post, nice blog layout. I’ll be back.

  7. sid says:

    finally something better than facebook!

  8. LØVE says:

    loved the explanation of word clocks and the effect on resolution.

    Drum recording was chill too, thanks James for letting a few tips out.

    Would love to see the mixer your making.


  9. william wolfman says:

    excellent information! thank you todd and james.

  10. the atomic mr thomson says:

    I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about but it sounds GREAT when its on record

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