Studio drummer gear requirements

JimmyM

Regular Poster
Not that I'm ever going to be a studio drummer, but as a pro musician who has to cover whatever situation, I'm really fascinated about minimum gear requirements that are expected out of studio musicians to cover whatever situation. Drums are especially fascinating to me because they're bulky, harder to record well than anything, and spare drums in a studio aren't looked at with great fondness by engineers. That said, I would think you'd need a small handful of choices at your disposal for everything, like at the very least, 2 or 3 snare drum choices, a bag or two of cymbals, and some basic percussion.

So that's what I'm asking here...what do you think is the bare minimum you need to have at sessions to cover anything? Or do you just tune one set of drums as you go to suit the session?
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Platinum Member
most of the sessions I have done are on a kit that is already at the studio...I just bring my own cymbals, throne, pedal and extra cymbal stands just in case. 99% of the time, the studio kit is tuned to what the engineers like to hear/use.

I have my own set of Pearl Master Custom maples that I bring for when my own bands record, but as far as hired session work goes, I have never used that kit for the reason above.

I do bring a wood snare and metal snare of my own sometimes

i do own 34 different cymbals, and always ask what style I will be doing and then bring a choice of cymbals accordingly... I have found that engineers I have worked with like smaller sized/higher pitched/quicker decay crash cymbals, and rides that are no too washy for country and straight out rock;
 

C.M. Jones

Drum Authority
It depends on where you're recording. Every reputable studio where I've recorded has had several snares and cymbals on hand if I've wanted to incorporate a sound I haven't brought in with me. In terms of snares, however, I find it just as easy to adjust the tuning/muffling of a snare that's already mic'd up as it is to switch to different snares between tracks. Efficiency is key when I'm in the studio, as the clock is always running. Things move quickly. Laboring over gear selections can be costly.

I have never, under any circumstances, been asked by an engineer, a musician, or a singer to use gear other than that I've shown up with. No one has ever said, "Oh, your wood snare doesn't fit for these tracks. You should have brought a brass shell." That's mostly forum talk. Real-life playing doesn't exhibit those expectations, at least not in my experience. Others may have different accounts.

As for toms and bass drums, unless I'm playing a studio's house kit, I always bring my standard setup: 12", 16", 22". I've never taken extras to a session with the intent of trying various combinations. That would be a logistical nightmare for the type of recording I do. There's just no time to fool around with complicated gear substitutions once things get started. Clients want me in and out as quickly as possible. They pay by the hour and generally don't appreciate gingerly approaches. I set up, get mic'd and sound-checked (which happens very quickly), and start laying down tracks, which I've usually prepared for by practicing to rough tracks, otherwise known as scratch tracks. Often, I do two takes of each track, just for comparative purposes. Then I pack up and hit the road. It's a wham-bam process that isn't half as painstaking or romantic as some may imagine.

I should point out that I don't record with Taylor Swift or Justin Timberlake, stars who enjoy generous budgets and might work on records for months at a time. I do mostly demo stuff for singers/songwriters and for local bands that are between drummers. Consistent, reliable, and orderly drumming is what matters in my case. No one cares how much gear I have, what that gear is composed of, or how that gear is constructed. I've never landed a single session because of my badges or logos, and whether my shells are metal, maple, or mahogany is ultimately meaningless.
 
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JimmyM

Regular Poster
most of the sessions I have done are on a kit that is already at the studio...I just bring my own cymbals, throne, pedal and extra cymbal stands just in case. 99% of the time, the studio kit is tuned to what the engineers like to hear/use.

I have my own set of Pearl Master Custom maples that I bring for when my own bands record, but as far as hired session work goes, I have never used that kit for the reason above.

I do bring a wood snare and metal snare of my own sometimes

i do own 34 different cymbals, and always ask what style I will be doing and then bring a choice of cymbals accordingly... I have found that engineers I have worked with like smaller sized/higher pitched/quicker decay crash cymbals, and rides that are no too washy for country and straight out rock;
That makes perfect sense. And I'm with the engineers who like rides that aren't too washy and smaller crashes with short decays. Good...I won't need too big a cymbal collection and I've already got the obligatory choice vintage Ludwig wood snare from the 50's :D
 

JimmyM

Regular Poster
It depends on where you're recording. Every reputable studio where I've recorded has had several snares and cymbals on hand if I've wanted to incorporate a sound I haven't brought in with me. In terms of snares, however, I find it just as easy to adjust the tuning/muffling of a snare that's already mic'd up as it is to switch to different snares between tracks. Efficiency is key in the studio, as the clock is always running. Things move quickly. Laboring over gear selections can be costly.

I have never, under any circumstances, been asked by an engineer, a musician, or a singer to use gear other other than that I've shown up with. No one has ever said, "Oh, your wood snare doesn't fit for these tracks. You should have brought a brass shell." That's mostly forum talk. Real-life playing doesn't exhibit those expectations, at least not in my experience. Others may have different accounts.

As for toms and bass drums, I've never taken extras to a session. That would be a logistical nightmare for the type of recording I do. There's just no time to fool around with complicated gear substitutions once things get started. Clients want me in and out as quickly as possible. They pay by the hour and generally don't appreciate gingerly approaches. I set up, get mic'd and sound-checked (which happens very quickly), and start laying down tracks, which I've usually prepared for by practicing to rough tracks, otherwise known as scratch tracks. Often, I do two takes of each track, just for comparative purposes. Then I pack up and hit the road. It's a wham-bam process that isn't half as painstaking or romantic as some may imagine.

I should point out that I don't record with Taylor Swift or Justin Timberlake, stars who enjoy generous budgets and who might work on records for months at a time. I do mostly demo stuff for singers/songwriters and for local bands that are between drummers. Consistent, reliable, and efficient drumming is what matters in my case. No one cares how much gear I have, what that gear is composed of, or how that gear is constructed. I've never gotten a single session because of my badges or labels, and no one cares if my shells are metal, maple, or mahogany.
In bass world, that can happen a lot where the person in charge wants you to play a different bass than what you showed up with, especially if you don't have a Fender or reasonable facsimile. Well good...considering I only like playing a little Ringo style set and don't want a house full of drums and cymbals, it sounds like I could get away with two snares and maybe 7 or 8 cymbals and still be a session maven. First I have to get good again, though :D
 

C.M. Jones

Drum Authority
In bass world, that can happen a lot where the person in charge wants you to play a different bass than what you showed up with, especially if you don't have a Fender or reasonable facsimile. Well good...considering I only like playing a little Ringo style set and don't want a house full of drums and cymbals, it sounds like I could get away with two snares and maybe 7 or 8 cymbals and still be a session maven. First I have to get good again, though :D
Again, I think it will depend on your unique circumstances -- where and with whom you're recording. Having quality drums and cymbals that record well is important, but you shouldn't need access to the full inventory of a drum shop to get studio sessions.
 

JimmyM

Regular Poster
Maybe a Producer Switch is all that's needed. :)


(I'm guessing being Lee Sklar also helps.)
Hahahaha! I actually have a producer knob on this modded 76 Precision of mine. I had it routed for a 4 knob setup and went to a 3, and left the 4th knob as a dummy because I didn't want to change the pickguard. Never fooled anyone, though.
 

Ryan Culberson

Regular Poster
So that's what I'm asking here...what do you think is the bare minimum you need to have at sessions to cover anything? Or do you just tune one set of drums as you go to suit the session?

If I don’t know the music ahead of time (very rare in my world), I’ll bring 3 toms, bass drum, a couple of snares and a bag of “catch all” cymbals. If I’ve already had time to listen to the demo/scratch, I’ll bring much more specific stuff that’s been worked out well in advance. The last session I did required a basic 4-piece set with hats and 2 other cymbals. I brought a metal and a wood snare just in case, but ended up using the wood one only. I changed the muffling on it to get the specific sounds I wanted for each track.

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JimmyM

Regular Poster
If I don’t know the music ahead of time (very rare in my world), I’ll bring 3 toms, bass drum, a couple of snares and a bag of “catch all” cymbals. If I’ve already had time to listen to the demo/scratch, I’ll bring much more specific stuff that’s been worked out well in advance. The last session I did required a basic 4-piece set with hats and 2 other cymbals. I brought a metal and a wood snare just in case, but ended up using the wood one only. I changed the muffling on it to get the specific sounds I wanted for each track.

View attachment 110525
Nice Yammies, bro. Would love a similar setup. Always been a fan of their drums. But I have a longtime Ludwig fetish, and though I have an endorsement deal with Yamaha, it only covers bass and guitar gear and not drums. That said, I'll play anything if it's good and I can get a good price.
 

Ryan Culberson

Regular Poster
Nice Yammies, bro. Would love a similar setup. Always been a fan of their drums. But I have a longtime Ludwig fetish, and though I have an endorsement deal with Yamaha, it only covers bass and guitar gear and not drums. That said, I'll play anything if it's good and I can get a good price.

Thanks! Those older 9000 series Yamaha drums are special sauce. Can’t make ‘em sound bad if I tried. Very easy to change their sound on the fly, as well. They respond very favorably to head changes and/or muffling. Mics love ‘em.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
JR Robinson said in an interview once that he showed up with a 2-up, 1-down Kit, quite a few cymbals and quite a few snares. But I guess in the LA studios it’s all about having your gear ready for load in (time is money). So if your toms and bass drum sound decent, and your snares sound like what they look like, that makes the engineers job easier.
 

JimmyM

Regular Poster
Thanks! Those older 9000 series Yamaha drums are special sauce. Can’t make ‘em sound bad if I tried. Very easy to change their sound on the fly, as well. They respond very favorably to head changes and/or muffling. Mics love ‘em.
Just looked them up. Not prohibitively expensive, either.
 

JimmyM

Regular Poster
Folks, thank you for your input here. My drum budget is quite limited because of my separation from both wife and temporary Covid day gig, and while I intend to get my skills back to where I can gig drums again, it's going to be a while, and I don't want to spend a fortune on it. Doesn't look like I'll have to, either, from what you all are saying. Everything but my shell pack are high quality if a bit old and looks like it, and really, those CB700's aren't horrible and I think they're perfectly workable for the time being. They're the first things that are going, but they'll do the job. Never hurts to have a beater set you don't care much about when you live in Florida and play outdoors a lot.
 

Living Dead Drummer

Platinum Member
My "studio kit" is a late 80's RC, 2 up, 2 down. I've been able to use that on 99% of all the session work I've done over the last decade. I don't always use all the toms either. It's actually rare that I break out all 4. Most of the time it's a 4 or 5 pc setup. For snares I do have a collection and will bring 3-4 different options to each session. Most of the time my 14" x 5.5" Black Brass does the trick. My cymbal setup doesn't change much either. Paiste 2002's all around. The only thing I will swap out depending on the situation is the Ride. I like to have few options. 9/10 sessions my 22" Power Ride works just fine, but I do have a Mega Bell Ride and a Vintage Ride just in case. I also have a collection of China and FX cymbals, again depending on the music.
 

MusiQmaN

Platinum Member
Im all for the “if they ask me, they ask me for my sound too” approach.

So im using using one of everything (kit, cymbal set, sn, side snare).

Even heads, sticks, and beaters don’t get changed much.

If i’m recording in my studio at home, I even use the same neutral mic selection.

So far it has worked out.
 

JimmyM

Regular Poster
Im all for the “if they ask me, they ask me for my sound too” approach.

So im using using one of everything (kit, cymbal set, sn, side snare).

Even heads, sticks, and beaters don’t get changed much.

If i’m recording in my studio at home, I even use the same neutral mic selection.

So far it has worked out.
Fair enough, but you have to have some sort of name or a major rep in your circle to be able to get away with they "If they ask me, they ask for my sound" thing. So congratulations if you made it happen.
 

MusiQmaN

Platinum Member
Fair enough, but you have to have some sort of name or a major rep in your circle to be able to get away with they "If they ask me, they ask for my sound" thing. So congratulations if you made it happen.
It’s not for everyone.

It’s also that my sound is very editable due to its clean nature, so its like a canvas for them which they can tweak.

I don’t use effects or anything, and very natural sounding pre-amps when recording in my home studio to accomplish this too.

And of course if a producer really want’s diffent sounds in one session, Its possible too.

But it isn’t my initial way of working.
 

doggyd69b

Drum Expert
Not that I'm ever going to be a studio drummer, but as a pro musician who has to cover whatever situation, I'm really fascinated about minimum gear requirements that are expected out of studio musicians to cover whatever situation. Drums are especially fascinating to me because they're bulky, harder to record well than anything, and spare drums in a studio aren't looked at with great fondness by engineers. That said, I would think you'd need a small handful of choices at your disposal for everything, like at the very least, 2 or 3 snare drum choices, a bag or two of cymbals, and some basic percussion.

So that's what I'm asking here...what do you think is the bare minimum you need to have at sessions to cover anything? Or do you just tune one set of drums as you go to suit the session?
If you have your preferred cymbals, and maybe 3 snares if they are really good, but most studios have their own gear that the engineers are already familiar with. Tested and proven to record well. Maybe your pedals if you are more comfortable with them. I brought my own snare which was perfect for playing live, really loud and very similar sounding to the one in Metallica's black album, but for recording, it was a nightmare because it was just too loud. No matter what we adjusted it just sounded off...and in the studio the longer you spend tweaking, the more you pay.
 

TOMANO

Senior Member
If a gig calls for me to supply all equipment for studio, I ask the artist and engineer to list what I'll need.

For the majority of recording gigs, equipment is there, so I will bring my bd pedal, some cymbals and, if there's a lot to track, a couple of snares.

Peace,

MT
 
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