If there is any definitive reference manual for capturing the sound of a drum set, it is Recording Drums - The Complete Guide by Mike Major. In a world with an abundance of beginner level material, it's exciting to see a book which covers the challenge of drum set recording in such great detail. I've never seen any book which even comes close to comparing to this 382 page book.
Each and every page is a reflection of Major's decades of experience working with the drums and recording equipment. Although the material is highly technical, it is presented in a way which is fun to read, easy to understand, and immediately inspiring. Every time I open this book, I have the urge to experiment in my home studio, and I feel excited to practice, learn, and produce more music.
Recording Drums covers each and every aspect of the drum recording process. This includes the logistical issues associated with pre-production, comparisions between different kinds of gear, strategies for utilizing the gear you have, and also the technical challenge of tracking, mixing, and blending the drum sounds with the rest of the music. Each topic is covered in extreme detail.
For example, rather than talking about basic mic placement, Major spends dozens of pages discussing real world examples using one mic, two mics, three mics, four mics, five mics, and 10+ mics - each with detailed discussion of the sound, listing of mics used, and photos of where the mics were placed.
This is the kind of book that won't sit on the shelf; instead, like your coffee mug, it will be on your desk, within arms reach at all times.
The chapter list explains the way the book is organized:
1. Getting Started
2. A Solid Foundation: The Drummer and the Drums
3. The Acoustics of the Recording Space
4. Preparing to Record
5. Choosing Microphones
6. Microphone Placement
7. Stereo, Mono, and Multi-Mic Techniques
8. Microphone Selection Guide
9. Understainding Consoles, Recorders, and Levels
10. Mic Preamps
11. Tracking Mixes
12. An EQ Overview
13. Processing Drums
14. Creating Queue Mixes
15. Tracking and Editing
16. Real World Example Mic Setups
Just for Drummers?
As you can see, the wide range of material presented in this book is practical for drummers and sound engineers alike. Even for engineers who never track drums, there is much to be learned from Major's discussion of equipment, preproduction, sound processing, EQ, and tracking. Because of the depth of discussion on each topic, even the most seasoned engineer will find endless insight into the art of recording drums. Whether you are just starting out with your first microphone and preamp, or if you work at one of the largest studios in Los Angeles, everybody will benefit from the material presented in this book.
The Bottom Line
"It's the driver, not the car" - Mike Major
A book like this reminds me to remain humble about my skill level, and that there is a long journey ahead. But, I feel encouraged, because he has a realistic attitutde about how we must utilize the gear we have to the best of our ability. He makes it clear that it's always possible to make great music, even if we don't have $50,000 worth of equipment.
As a computer programmer, I spend a lot of time working with technical material. I'm always frustrated by the abundance of beginner level books, blogs, and online videos, when the real challenges lie as we dive deeper and deeper into our professions. I believe that audio engineers and professional drummers will find Major's book refreshing and insightful.