Essential tips for setting up your drum kit for studio sessions

Our partners at Bell Music give us their top tips on how drummers should set up their kits for studio sessions…


New drummers and anyone wishing to learn the drums in London will be faced with a number of challenges when starting out and setting up their kit is one of them.

Whether it comes to tuning issues or looking after other musicians in the session, there are myriad factors to take into consideration for drumming students. But thankfully our friends and partners at Bell Music are experts when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of getting your kit studio-ready.

Check out these top tips from Tom Romer and Tom Wood at Bell Music

Know how to play to click

While Beat Detective exists, it certainly damages your pride when it gets used, like a vocalist getting run through Melodyne.

Jeff Porcaro never needed it. However, understand it is difficult for a human being to play perfectly, but always endeavour to beat the Beat Detective!

Don’t play your drums whilst the engineer/producer is setting up the mics

This is guaranteed to annoy your engineer, potentially damage their hearing and is very much an amateur move. Same tip applies to live as well!

Do know how to tune and fix any tuning issues quickly

Get your tuning sorted during your set up and remember to tune for the room as it gives you the opportunity to discuss tuning ranges with your producer. Ideally if the kit is tuned right by the time soundcheck comes around, it will save precious minutes or even hours of time.

But if there is still a horrible overtone, or the microphones aren’t happy with the sound, be prepared to fix it.

Don’t arrive late

Time is money and the first day in the studio is typically for the drum kit. So get there slightly before everyone else to set up. Studio days are long so any opportunities where stress can be avoided, do take advantage of them.

Take care of everyone in the session

Should there be a point where you’re not needed for a while, perhaps the producer is playing with his outboard reverbs or working with the guitarists to get them sounding right, take the opportunity to sort lunch out or make some teas. The days are long and studios require everyone firing on all cylinders, which is difficult to do if you’re hungry, dehydrated or un-caffeinated!

Factors you need to consider

Your fitness

Tiredness will hinder your performance, especially on a physical instrument like the drum kit. Eat right, drink right, be aware you may be playing drums for eight hours or longer. Of course, this depends on the session but something to keep in mind for the longer EP/Album projects.

Stay relaxed!

Being around someone who is ‘stressy’ or negative won’t be good for you or the people around you.

Studios can be psychologically intense for everyone. The microscope is looking at every detail of your playing, and someone else’s stress or negativity won’t help the productivity of the session. Take it all easy.

Be creative

Don’t be afraid to have little ideas, it can be seasoning that takes the dish (your song) to the next level!

How you can best prepare

Know your songs!

If you can play them at 50bpm you can play them full tempo easy!

Make sure everyone is hitting the same pushes. This sounds easy but worth checking if every member is on the same page for accents or pushes in songs.

Prepare your kit

Ensure you have new heads on your kit both top and bottom. Old heads will sound bad so get your kit singing as much as possible!

Generally coated heads are preferred in the studio, Ambassadors/G1s or Emperors/G2s are ideal. However, don’t be afraid to try stuff if you’re confident in your tuning. Remo Clear Control Sounds can sound amazing on record if you know what you’re doing, or Evan’s Hydraulics can be great for that dead punchy sound.

What essential items you should have to hand

Moongel – for quick tuning fixes!

Drum key – for everything!

Hi-Hat Clutch – buy our personal favourite clutch here

Mallets, Brushes and Hot Rods - buy Brushes and Hot Rods here - buy Mallets here

These alternative sticks and mallets will open up a myriad of timbres from the drums.

A selection of percussion is always handy: - buy them here

Tambourines (steel or bronze jingles are desirable in the studio), soft shakers, triangles, etc.

Tune Bot: - buy it here

Imagine having a guitar-tuner for your drums! This will give you accurate and perfect tuning every time.

Ludwig Black Beauty – buy it here

Every producer/engineer will probably mention one at some point during pre-production, production and post-production, and with good reason! One of the all-time great recording snare drums.

Visit for more products or if you wish to hire anything for your session (Yes, we have Black Beauties to hire).

Or pop by our shop in Acton. We hope to see you soon!

Drum Courses at ICMP Music School

If you’re a drummer looking to take your playing and performing to the next level, then why not discover more about our drum courses here at ICMP London? Our drums faculty is going from strength to strength - find out more

Our Admissions Team are on hand to help you, call them on 020 7328 0222 or email

Drum courses

by Tom Romer and Tom Wood, Bell Music
January 17, 2018
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