Sticks, Heads, and Wires

The Art of Recording Drums with Brad Smalling

Brad Smalling
Brian Jaffe

Date: October 23-25, 2015
Class limit: 6 students
Cost: $500
Registration: Sticks, Heads, and Wires – The Art of Recording Drums with Brad Smalling

Writing and recording a song is very similar to building a house: you start with an idea and work through many drafts until you finalize the blueprint or arrangement. A house requires a solid foundation in order to be sturdy, reliable, and attractive; a song also requires a strong foundation, and in most musical styles, the drums act as the foundation on which the song rests. In order to build that foundation of drums, we need to know how to select, tune, and maintain those drums. We have to know how to mic and record them in a way appropriate for the song. We need to know how to edit those drums and finally mix them in a way that supports, and is flattering to, the song.

The Evergroove Academy of Recording (EAR) wants to help you learn how to build the solid foundation that your songs need, and we are excited to announce our newest workshop Sticks, Heads, and Wires – The Art of Recording Drums with Brad Smalling. This 3 day workshop has been designed to teach you more than the simple tips you can read on the Internet. Instead, for this workshop we pulling out all the stops and bringing in Master Drummer and Drum Technician Brian Jaffe. A graduate of the University of Denver, Brian is a busy drummer in the Denver music scene doing session work and playing in various bands such as, Sol Kidz on their album New Americana, The Feels, and The Speaking on their album Louder (Mixed/Mastered/Produced at Evergroove Studio). Currently, Brian performs with many theater companies around the Denver metro area, as well as with his band Sir Captain who released their debut album, Rise Above, in July 2015.

Day 1: Brian will go deep into the understanding of what a drum is and how it works. You will learn how different woods and shell sizes affect the pitch and tone of a drum. You will learn drum maintenance and, most importantly, how to tune a drum, including different tuning techniques for different musical styles. Brian will also impart some advanced tips and tricks to help make your drums sounds the best they can.

Day 2: Brian will take the drum throne, and our Head Engineer Brad Smalling will take over the class. Brad will cover the myriad ways to mic drums from simple, minimal, mic’ing techniques to large, multi-mic setups that require many inputs and careful attention to detail. You will learn about phase, what it is, what it sounds like, and why it must be respected so that it becomes your friend and not your enemy. Brad will also cover overhead and room mic techniques, as well as show you how to use your recording space to it’s fullest with room mics. All the while, you are learning about the various mic’ing techniques Brad will be recording Brian as he plays some basic grooves in various styles for use in the mixing portion (Day 3). Towards the end of the day, Brad will task the class to choose two different mic’ing techniques and two different musical styles. The class will then set up those mics, and we will record Brian playing longer sample grooves in each style (which we will use to cover mixing in more detail on Day 3).

Day 3: It’s time to roll up our sleeves and learn about mixing drums! Brad will teach you the basics, best practices for editing drums, and show you how to avoid dangerous pitfalls. We will revisit the topic of phase and how phase relationships can change with volume, EQ, and compression. We will talk about toms, cover the difference between editing and gating toms, and learn when you might use one technique over the other. We’ll have fun with the room and special effect mics, and we’ll cover the addition of effects like reverb, delay, etc. We will use the short groove samples to cover mixing for different styles, and we will use the longer samples from Day 2 to dive in and really mix some drums! You will learn about parallel compression for the whole kit, as well as individual components, to help add some excitement to your drum mix. Finally we will print our drum mixes.

That’s three full days, packed with information on drums and the art of recording, editing, and mixing drums – that’s a good time!


Day 1: Drum Physics, Tuning, and Maintenance

  • What is a drum? How is it made? How does it work?
  • Wood types and thickness – what do they mean?
  • Drum sizes and their effect on pitch and tone.
  • Drum tuning the right way!
  • Solving tuning problems.
  • Drum tuning tips and tricks.
  • End of day Q&A.

Day 2: Mic’ing and Recording

  • Phase!
  • Single mic technique & minimal mic’ing options.
  • Overheads: X-Y, ORTF, Mid-Side, Spaced pair, Glyn Johns, “under” heads.
  • Snare top, bottom, side.
  • Toms top, bottom, and “attack” vs. “resonance”.
  • Cymbals, hi-hat, and ride.
  • Room mics, hallways, and other creative “room” ideas.
  • Special effect mics.
  • Recording, recording, recording!
  • End of day Q&A.

Day 3: Editing and Mixing

  • Phase! (It’s that important)
  • Best practices for editing drums.
  • Comping takes tracked to a click and without a click.
  • Mixing for different styles.
  • Editing and gating toms.
  • How to handle room mics.
  • Adding reverb and other effects.
  • Parallel compression.
  • Drum sample replacement.
  • Printing the drum mix.
  • End of day Q&A.

But wait – there’s more. More? Much more!

What You Get

  • A welcoming reception the evening of October 22 at Evergroove Studio.
  • Three days of instruction October 23-25.
  • Personal interaction with an awesome educational team.
  • One free hour of post-workshop one-on-one time with Brad Smalling.
  • 15% off any studio service at Evergroove Studio for six months after the workshop.
  • A chance to win one of many prizes.
  • Multi-track files of the session.
  • Tasty lunch options.
  • SNACKS!!
  • A variety of tasty beverages.

What You Provide

  • Breakfast and Dinner
  • Lodging
    • Evergroove, 45 minutes outside of Denver, is an easy drive from the city. However, for the workshop you may want to stay at one of our lovely local inns. It will feel more like a retreat if you do.
    • Out-of-towners can book a room at one of our lovely local inns. There are also some fantastic deals on AirBNB for Evergreen, CO.
  • Transportation
    • Commuting from Denver: Evergroove is a short drive away (and going against traffic!). It is DEFINITELY more gorgeous than your daily commute (unless you live up here, in which case you know what we are talking about).
    • For out-of-towners: If you do not have a car, there is a local taxi service. You will also need to arrange for transport to and from the airport. Let us know your travel plans, and we’ll help you with options.
  • Mentally steel yourself for information absorption – this workshop is intense.

How To Sign Up and Other Nuggets

  • If we have to reschedule (snowpocolypse, Yellowstone supervolcano explosion, zombie alien invasion, etc.) we will offer a rain date.
  • No refunds. But what if…? No refunds. Thanks for understanding.

Recording the workshop is not permitted. Photos are cool though.