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How to recreate classic recorded drum sounds from The Beatles, Metallica, Nirvana and more

Drum kit in recording studio
(Image credit: Future)

Recording our drums has never been more accessible, at least when it comes to getting our hands on great drum sets, drum mics, and audio interfaces for the job. But as you might have found out, the gear is only part of the equation: what you do with it is the important bit. 

artofdrumming.com has been busy producing tutorials on how to recreate some of the most iconic recorded drum sounds - from The Beatles and Toto to Metallica, Nirvana, Blink 182, and more - and the results are Very Good Indeed.

What’s more, the focus here isn’t on sample replacement or augmenting. The videos cover shell sizes, head choice, tuning and muffling, as well as an overview of the types of mics and placement to recreate the sound. 

Here are a few examples from ArtOfDrumming’s YouTube channel. Like what you hear? Check out more by visiting the channel and subscribing. 

Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight

Phil’s evergreen air-drumming anthem is like a boomerang that we don’t ever want to stop coming back. It had a resurgence last year, but as well as that unmistakeable fill and tom-laden beat, the track is the perfect example of an iconic drum sound, one that Phil helped invent and would go on to change the sound of recorded drums forever.

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Much has been written about Dave Grohl’s drum sound on the album that made Nirvana the biggest band in the world, including Grohl’s recent admission that he took inspiration from disco with his drum parts on Nevermind. 

Sound-wise, there’s the Tama Bell Brass ‘Terminator’ snare, massive rack toms, bass drum tunnel and mixer, Andy Wallace’s apparent use of ambience samples to beef-up the body of the kit. Here, we learn at least two valuable lessons: you don’t need a crazy-expensive cast snare drum to get close to the sound, and, if you have a decent room, you won’t need the samples either.

Metallica - Enter Sandman

Metallica fans might have scoffed at the band’s stylistic left-turn for the Black Album, but thrash or not, there’s no denying that the drum sound is anything short of incredible. 

The slower tempos gave space for the thundering drums, which are now unmistakeable for their sharp attack and deep sustain. As demonstrated here, if you can’t afford to decamp for a few months months in an LA studio with Bob Rock, there’s still hope for an almighty drum recoding!

Toto - Rosanna

We know, you’re already tapping out that halftime shuffle on your knees at the mere mention of one of Jeff Porcaro’s finest grooves. But, as well as the perfectly-placed subdivisions and smoothly executed ghosted snare notes, the magic of Rosanna lies in the pristinely recorded drum sound. 

With a busy groove, tuning and muffling is everything, and in this video you’ll discover how to get the pitch, attack and sustain just right so that all you have to concentrate on is placing those notes as impeccably as Jeff.

The Beatles - I Wanna Hold Your Hand/Come Together

Like all things Beatles, Ringo’s sound evolved quickly. In this video, ArtOfDrumming shows the contrast in the open, natural sounds captured on I Want To Hold Your Hand, as well as the more experimental, heavily-dampened and close-mic’d sounds from Come Together. Spoiler: you’re going to need some tea towels.

Travis Barker took somewhere around eight hours to record his drum parts for Blink 182’s commercial breakthrough, Enema of the State. Not bad for a day at the office considering it almost instantly cemented his place as not only one of the most exciting drummers in punk, but would lay the foundation for him becoming one of the most influential drummers of the last two decades. 

Here we find out how to cop some of Travis’s sounds from Enema…and how his seemingly extreme cymbal/tom placement actually helps create part of the sound in the studio.