Today’s post is serving a purpose none other than to give you a super nerdy, detailed breakdown of every piece of essential drumming and recording gear I use regularly here in my home studio. I hope you enjoy!
We’ll break this up into categories to keep things organized. Here’s what I’ll cover:
*Quick note: I don’t have any official gear endorsements. So know that these are all genuinely my favorite things that I paid for with my money. :) Also, you’ll find that I’m a gear minimalist.
Drums & Cymbals
My main studio kit is a Gretsch Renown (gloss natural finish), which is maple shells with Gretsch’s “silver sealer” on the insides. These drums are smaller than standard rock sizes, but I believe they’re more versatile as a result (topic for another email or video!). The kick is 20”x16”, the two toms that I use are 12”x8” and 16”x16”, and the snare is 14”x5.5”.
I’ve been using Remo clear Emperors on the toms, a coated Ambassador on the snare, and clear Remo resonant heads that came with the kit on the snare and tom undersides. I also switched out the original snare wires with PureSound wires, which are my favorite. I still have the Gretsch logo resonant head on the kick and a clear Remo Powerstroke P3 on batter side. For kick muffling I just have an old, folded beach towel sitting in the drum (little to no muffling most of the time).
The cymbals I use most of the time and that you see in all my YouTube videos are my Zildjian K Custom Darks. I just have the box set of these, which includes 16” & 18” crashes, a 20” ride, and 14” hats. I also have the Zildjian A box set, and I keep them handy for if I ever want something a little brighter and louder. The K’s record the best though, and they sound nice in every scenario.
Also, I use pretty much all DW hardware. I’ve been a fan of their stuff for a while, and I actually use their “6000 series” lightweight hardware for gigging. In my studio I use the 3000 series hardware. My favorite piece of DW gear is my bass drum pedal, which is the DW9000 pedal. It’s my all time favorite pedal. The debate is usually between that one and the Iron Cobra, but I think I ended up leaning toward DW simply because I logged more hours playing the 9000 on house kits before I ever bought mine. In contrast to all the DW hardware, my drum throne is Gibraltar. It’s just a standard, corkscrew-style seat that’s been great for years.
When you’re recording, you can have the nicest drumset in the world but still get a lousy sound if you don’t have good mics. I started out with not-great overhead mics, and you could hear a massive difference when I upgraded.
My overheads are Shure SM81 mics, usually positioned as a spaced pair. I have Shure SM57s as close mics for the snare and toms, and I have a Shure Beta52 inside my kick. I actually just lay the Beta52 on the folded towel, btw - nothing fancy. I also have a Nady RSM-5 ribbon mic that I use as an outside kick mic, which adds a lot of low end and beef to the overall sound. My favorite thing about this is that the ribbon mic only costs $80.
On occasion I’ve used additional room mics for specific sonic purposes like making the kit feel bigger or more gritty. I have this old Tascam DR-1 handheld stereo condenser recorder from 2008 that I’ll sometimes set outside the door to my studio to pick up the echoing rumble of the kit. This actually sounds really cool and can be a useful tool in mixing. I also use a clip-on lav mic for multiple purposes. It’s a Sennheiser condenser microphone, but that’s about all I know about it. I bought it used from someone who bought it used, and it’s a really great mic for recording my voice for YouTube videos. I also use it as a “crunch” mic for the kit, where I’ll leave it gained for my vocal so that the drumset becomes all blown out and distorted. This adds a lot of grit and “coolness” to the drum mix when it’s mixed in slightly.
The main two essential pieces of audio processing gear are my iMac computer and my audio interface.
The computer is a quad core, i7 processor iMac I bought in 2018. The funny thing is, I can still use my old 2011 MacBook Pro (dual core, i5) to record the drums if I need to. It’s not as reliable, but thanks to the super fast SSD I put in it a while back it can still hold its own. But the iMac wins for reliability, and it’s my workstation for all the audio and video editing I have to do for the YouTube stuff.
On my Mac I’m running Logic Pro X to record and edit audio, which has been my go-to since 2013. Logic is honestly just as good as ProTools for what I do, and it’s a good deal cheaper. (I also use Final Cut Pro for video editing.)
I’m currently using a Focusrite Clarett 8 Pre USB interface to connect all the drum mics to my computer. In case you’re new to recording (digital recording, that is)… an audio interface takes the analog signal from microphones and converts it to digital for the computer. The interface just plugs into the computer via USB-C, which is a super fast connection with no noticeable latency. My interface also serves the additional purpose of being my microphone “preamps.” The original analogue signal from a mic has to be amplified before before going to the computer so that you have a clean sound with low distortion, and you want to have good-sounding preamps to do this. The Focusrite interfaces are great for this, and they’re affordable for home studio use.
Room & Acoustical Equipment
My recording space is not very big. It’s the partial basement of my house, originally a 20’x12’ space. It shrunk a tad bit when I finished it out in summer 2019 since I built stud walls on three sides and built a bulkhead around some duct in the ceiling. About two thirds of the room (the side where the kit is) has an 8.5’ ceiling, and the other third (where my desk and computer are) have a 7.5’ ceiling. The walls and ceiling are drywall, and the floor is sealed concrete. I have several rugs though that cover the floor and dampen things acoustically.
I enlisted the assistance of a professional acoustician friend to help me hang acoustic panels. The long, black panels you see behind my kit are part of the Primacoustic “London” set, which are a great option for a home studio. The set also includes a bunch of small, 12”x12” square panels that we placed on the ceiling above the kit. I also had a bunch of Auralex light-weight foam tiles from my apartment studio that we placed on the walls near floor level and ceiling level around the kit.
The large grey panel you see directly behind my kit is actually a homemade acoustical panel my buddy and I were very proud of. We actually made three of them (another to the right of the kit, and another near the other end of the room). These are made up of a wooden frame with a mix of old curtain fabric and plastic drop cloth holding in two strips of R-13 insulation. These are great at reducing slap echo and quickly bringing down any loud, harsh frequencies around the kit. For more info on these, check out the video. Also, here's a link to the whole "studio build" playlist on the channel.
Alright, I think that will do it! Like I warned you, I’m a gear minimalist. I honestly don’t have much stuff, and the truth is that you don’t need a ton of stuff. I gradually accumulated my gear over probably 8 or 9 years, and I didn’t own a lot of the recording equipment until we moved into a house almost 3 years ago.
I hope you found this helpful or interesting, because I know we drummers are always interested in each other’s gear! Know that you don’t need a ton of stuff, though, and you certainly don’t need to spend tons of money. Let me know if you have questions and if you think this would make for a helpful video on the channel where I could go even more in depth.
Take Care & God Bless, and Stay Non Glamorous,