The Art of Recording Classic Drums

Class Mission: to show engineers, young and old, the techniques of the great masters and to bring back a level of beauty and purity in drum sound realization. Long Live the Golden Age of Recording Drums (1958 - 1978)!

Rich Pagano has been teaching this course at his New York City studio, New Calcutta Recordings for 8 years and also as an adjunct teacher at The Clive Davis Institute of Music at NYU in New York City for the past 3 years to rave reviews from students.

Here is his MO: Students talk with the teacher about classic drum sounds that are definitive of a particular style. The conversation covers comprehensive techniques of, for example (but not limited to), a John Bonham sound, Ringo Starr early and late period sound, Nigel Olsson/mid '70s sound, Phil Spector 'Wall Of Sound' approach or a Van Gelder jazz sound and hypothetical guesses on mic placement and choices when a sonic is not so clear. Rich has a list of 'how to' drum sound approaches through tracking down the engineer and conducting a personal and comprehensive interview for his own knowledge. This list includes, Geoff Emerick (Beatles), Chris Huston (Led Zeppelin 2), Henry Hirsch and more.

'The Art of Recording Classic Drums':
A "That 70's Sound" drum session excerpt:
A "Blue Note Jazz Sound" excerpt:


Study session photos from Motown sessions, Jimmy Miller Rolling Stones sessions and many more. At this point we list the drum sounds that we will tackle for the duration of the course and the get to work:

1. Pick the correct drums and drum heads

2. Find the 'sweet spots' in the live room for the overheads and room micas by walking around the room with a tone (could be a drum tuned a particular way or an acoustic guitar while walking around the room).

3. Comprehensive tuning and dampening of drums

4. Picking the microphones

5. Placing mics tthrough finding optimum resonance by the way the drum is tuned and through studying official classic session photos. Students will be hands-on and will be working both sides of the glass while creatively manipulating the room.

6. Adding compression and EQ - understanding ratio/threshold settings in a classic sense. Stereo/mono bus compression. Utilizing high and low pass filters to bring out a vintage landscape.

7. Recording the drums - a student may play or I can also perform

8. Comparison of existing stems of audio (my collection of actual isolated classic drum tracks culled from analog transfers) and what we have accomplished.

9. Student will leave with files of stems from all stages of the drum sound.

Soundcloud page of various period piece drum sounds:


"This was an extremely valuable learning experience and well worth the investment for anyone who is serious about improving the quality of their recorded drum sound. We replicated a John Bonham drum sound and a Lucinda Williams drum session sound. Top-notch. Flat-out pro!"


"Being a part of Rich's class was a joy. It was an organic process and group effort finding the sweet spot in the room, placing the mics and tuning appropriately. I especially dug learning how to dial in the compressors to where they were reacting to my touch on the drums, creating that classic sound right in my headphone mix. Very musical and in the moment! Highly recommended!"


I was a guest drummer for Rich’s Art of Recording Classic Drums class. The day I was there, he was covering Blue Note Jazz & The Motown he had me tune the kit in those styles, and play grooves and fills in those styles, while he broke down the recording process for the students.

His attention to detail, in every aspect of the drum recording process was remarkable. He had a very hands-on approach, and was in the live room, with the students, as he demonstrated different techniques, and he patiently made sure all of the students “got it”, every step of the way.

At the end of the class, he brought the students into the control room, and played them the recordings we'd made of each style…and I have to say, Rich really nailed both styles.

I’ve known Rich for years, and I’ve always known what a gifted musician he is, but I had no idea what a phenomenal recording engineer he is. In terms of recording drums, he’s easily as good as any engineer I’ve worked with (and I’ve worked with many of the world’s top engineers).

I’m sure the other days, where he covered other classic drum sounds (Beatles, Zeppelin, etc) were just as good. His students are very lucky…and kudos to NYU/Clive Davis School of Music for offering such a valuable class, with such a great teacher!"


"The Master Class with Rich Pagano that I attended was truly eye and ear opening for me. The principles around recording great drums was always a mystery to me. For years on all of my recordings the drum sounds were less than spectacular, I was placing mics in positions that I knew to be the normal and logical spots. Rich's' insight on mic placement, sweet spots, point and clarity have given me a remarkable new perspective on how to get drums to sound great in a room and great coming out of my monitors. Everything I learned that day made perfect sense in building a killer drum sound. I would recommend this class to anyone looking to get better drum tracks than they are already getting."