How to shoot drum covers

How to Make a Drum Cover: The Ultimate Guide

Drum covers — we’ve all seen them. 

Whether it’s Cobus, Cooperdrummer, Brooke C, or Kristina Schiano, we all can agree that there’s no shortage of drumming videos online.

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We’re fortunate to live in a time where a platform like YouTube exists, allowing drummers to showcase their talents for the world to see.

And YouTube is just one of many outlets you can use. 

There are countless numbers of drum videos on other social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.

But what if you want to make your own drum cover videos? 

Well, don’t worry, as I’ve written a foolproof guide to shoot drum cover videos on pretty much any budget.


How to Make a Drum Cover Video on Almost Any Budget

Disclaimer: Links in the table below and throughout the article are affiliated — some with Sweetwater and some with Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Recording Drum Covers

Now, before I go any further, there are all-in-one solutions for shooting drum covers, like Casey Cooper’s Content Creator Pack from Sweetwater.

Casey Cooper Content Drum Content Creator Pack

The bundle has everything you need to get going — a GoPro, studio monitors, a Focusrite 18i20 audio interface, headphones, drum mics, stands, and cables.

If that seems a little too much, perhaps a more ala carte approach will serve you better.

Before I dive into the various ways you can shoot a drum cover video, let me first talk about the different options you have for cameras.

Cameras for Shooting Drum Cover Videos

It should go without saying that you need some sort of camera to shoot a drum video. Whichever one you choose doesn’t really matter in my eyes. 

It’s more about the content of the video than the production, in my opinion. Using something expensive, like a DSLR, will make your videos look fantastic, however.

There’s three types of cameras commonly used when making drum cover videos:

  • Smartphones — Best for Instagram
  • Action Cameras — Great for both Instagram and YouTube
  • DSLR Cameras — Best for YouTube

Smartphone

Today’s modern smartphones, like iPhones and Androids, have high-quality video cameras built-in. I’m assuming most of you own a smartphone. I’d even bet you’re reading this article on one.

To make drum cover videos with your phone, you’ll need three things:

  • Your phone
  • A tripod
  • A smartphone tripod mount

Tripods aren’t always the cheapest, but I scored one of mine at my local Goodwill for just $6. 

My other tripod is a Manfrotto Element. It’s incredibly stable and well-made. The tripod features an independent pan lock, eliminating the need to screw my camera on each time. We’ll get to DSLRs later on.

Another popular option is the JOBY GorillaPod. The small tripod features flexible legs that wrap around almost anything. 

You can mount your camera or phone from the ceiling — perfect for those overhead drum shots.

Smartphone Tripod Mount

iPhone Tripod Mount

I remember not too long ago when smartphone tripod mounts were rare. Fortunately for today, they’re incredibly affordable.

The one I bought is really cheap. It’s made from thin plastic. If I could go back, I’d get something better, like the aluminum one I’ve got listed below.

Zetci Aluminum Smartphone Mount

I went ahead and picked up a two-pack in case I misplaced one. Most smartphone tripod mounts are cheaply-made, so if you want something built to last, check out Zetci’s aluminum tripod mount.

GoPro Cameras for Drum Covers

An action camera might seem like the best option for shooting drum videos. I own two, but they’re pretty old by today’s standards.

The benefit of using a GoPro is that they can mount almost anywhere. You don’t need to have a tripod. When I’ve used them in videos, I attach one to the ceiling to capture the overhead shot. 

GoPro Action Camera for Drum Covers

But don’t limit yourself — GoPros look great on all sorts of angles due to their super wide-angle lens. The clip included with the camera secures to almost anything you can imagine.

  • Rack tom rim
  • Floor tom rim
  • Mounted under a cymbal
  • On the overhead mic stand
  • Attached to the hi-hat legs for pedal shots

Which Action Camera for Drum Covers?

The latest iteration of the GoPro is the HERO8. Being that you’re planning to shoot drum videos, I don’t think you need the most up-to-date GoPro, but if you find a deal go for it.

The unnecessary features of the HERO8 for us are night timelapse, GPS and motion sensors, face detection, and wind-noise reduction. While all cool features, they do not apply to shooting drum covers.

However, some of the features you may want are:

  • Superphoto + HDR 
  • Digital Lenses — Narrow, linear, wide, Superview 
  • Live streaming in 1080p — Build an army of drum fans on Twitch
  • Voice control — Super useful if you’re already behind the kit
  • Raw in all photo modes
  • 4K 60fps, 1080p 240fps

If you’re intent is uploading videos to YouTube and Instagram, you can get away with the HERO5. It’s significantly cheaper and performs just as great with fewer features.

DSLR Cameras for Drum Covers

If phones and action cameras aren’t enough for you, maybe a DSLR camera will satisfy your needs.

I use my DSLR a lot. The majority of the photos on this website are from my camera. That said, I am no expert on these types of cameras, so be sure to read up on customer reviews before you purchase.

I started with a Canon T3i, but recently traded it in and upgraded to an SL2. It has a vary-angle flip-screen where I can watch myself as I play the kit as the camera records.

Canon EOS Rebel SL2

Canon SL2 Camera

My reason for upgrading — I wanted to shoot 60fps in 1080p to capture the movement and nuance of drumming. Some drum videos use 24fps for a more cinematic look, but I prefer the motion of 60fps. We’ll get into that later.

DSLR cameras can be on the expensive side, so shopping used might be a smart idea if you’re on a budget.


Recording Separate Audio for Drum Covers

There are two ways you can go about the sound of your drum videos. You can either use the camera’s external microphone or record your drums using an audio interface and microphones.

I like Focusrite’s line of Scarlett interfaces, specifically the 18i20, for recording drums. 

You get eight microphone inputs and a lite version of both Pro Tools and Ableton, so there’s no need to get expensive recording software.

For microphones, here’s what I use:

  • Kick — Shure Beta 91a
  • Snare — Shure SM57
  • Overheads — Shure KSM 137s
  • Toms — Sennheiser e604s

That’s it! I run a straightforward setup to record covers.

The level of production you aim for will determine if you use drum microphones. Most drum covers published today on YouTube feature full-fledged pro audio recordings of the drums. Instagram tells a different story.

Instagram is a quicker-consumed video medium. Many drummers slap their phones up on a tripod, record a quick video, and hit publish.

Smartphone microphones have improved vastly in recent years. The iPhone microphone is surprisingly decent, producing a result that sounds compressed, yet balanced.

I suggest recording your drums and syncing them to the video if you plan to go all-in on YouTube. Understand that this is an added cost and is far more time consuming to setup.

Now, I won’t go into detail about how to record drums here, but the process is pretty straightforward if you understand audio recording:

  • Record video and audio at the same time
  • Sync the video and audio together during post-production in the video editing suite of your choice

Be sure to use an aligning indicator (like hitting the snare drum once or clapping) for aligning the audio and video together in post.


Prepping for Your Drum Cover

Now that we have our camera situation sorted, let’s talk about what to do before the session. Preparation is crucial, as it can make a difference in how well a video will perform.

Choosing Music

If you aim to grow a YouTube audience quickly, the easiest way to do is to play along to brand new, popular music.

Note: Using copyrighted music for drum covers may result in flags from YouTube. In general, it seems there isn’t a problem, as the royalties from ads still make it to the artist. You cannot monetize a drum cover of a song that either you don’t don’t own or isn’t royalty free.

The idea is simple — upload a drum cover of the newest pop song before any of the other big dogs.

As soon as a new chart-topping single comes out, people search for covers of the given song. If your video happens to be somewhere near the top of the results, you’ll get viewers.

Doing some basic keyword research before picking a song increases your chances of ranking and showing up in the search for a given song. 

First, navigate to the Billboard Top 40 Charts. In a separate tab, type in the following string with the YouTube search bar: song title drum cover

For example — circles drum cover

YouTube search for circles drum cover

As you can tell, there’s already a bunch of drummers here for this song. It’s probably not a good idea to go after this song unless you really like the song and want to have it on your channel.

Go down the list of Top 40 songs entering song titles until you find one that isn’t too crowded with other drummers.

graveyard drum cover

YouTube search for graveyard drum cover

In this example, Graveyard by Halsey only has three drum videos, and they’re all brand new. 

One of the results even shows a YouTube Mix, so I’d have high confidence your video could rank in that position if you made one.


How to Remove Drums From a Song

Just yesterday, I would have said, “eh, just play over the original track.” Thankfully, I saw an ad on Facebook for an online software called PhonicMind.

The website offers a relatively affordable software that converts any song file into stems. 

In the past, software that claimed to remove vocals or drums has been terrible, but thankfully PhonicMind performs better.

I tried PhonicMind on two songs, and I couldn’t believe the results. The app is perfect for removing drums from any song.

Pricing ranges from $1.5-$3.99 per song, depending on how many you get. PhonicMind is probably the best bet for removing drums from a stereo mix.

There’s also the option of searching for drumless tracks, but often, they’re not the most current songs.


Setting Up Your Drum Cover Shoot

To get the best results when making drum cover videos, be sure not to skip any of these steps during the process.

Clean Your Drumming Space

Making high-quality productions is becoming easier as technology improves. 

One of the best ways to up your production value is to ensure everything in the shot is clean.

Old beer/soda cans, trash bags, extra sticks, cases — move them out of the shot.

Adam Tuminaro, aka The Orlando Drummer, states this as well. His videos are super clean and professional-looking. He always makes sure his space is clean before shooting any footage.

Reduce Clutter

Another way to improve your drum video production is to reduce the clutter within the shot. Eliminating garbage alone won’t aid here.

Assuming you plan to use microphones in your shoot,

Instead of using big microphone stands with legs, consider using clip-on drum microphones. I love my Sennheiser e604s — they clip to my tom rims.

You may be wondering, “well, what about the overhead microphones?” Fortunately, there’s a technique for this, as well.

The underhead technique, or mounting overheads upside down under the cymbals, is one way to tackle the issue. 

I still use one large stand to hold my overheads in XY, because I like capturing the overall sound of the kit, but it is a technique you can try. 

I usually can get the stand out of the picture, as the boom arm is long enough.

Don’t Forget About Lighting

One of the most overlooked aspects of recording drum covers is the lighting. The camera you’re using doesn’t always determine the overall quality of your video. 

Softboxes for Drumming Cover Videos

Light has a significant impact on how video looks.

In dark situations, cameras have to work much harder to get a good shot free of noise. Even if you’re only using your iPhone for drum covers, I highly suggest investing in lighting.

There are tons of affordable softboxes on Amazon that work great. Size seems to be the most significant downside, however.

The lightboxes I have are from Fovitec. I have them positioned in a way that keeps them out of the front shot. 

If I use an overhead position, they’re clearly in the shot, so that can be an issue.

El Gato Keylight

The other light I own is an El Gato KeyLight. While marketed for streamers, I find it works very well for my application. I can control the light’s temperature from my desktop or phone. 

And it’s bright.

I immediately saw an improvement in the quality of my video shot on my DSLR camera.

Positioning Lights for Drum Covers

I don’t have a technical background when it comes to video lighting.

Still, I like to have the two softboxes in front of the kit, and my El Gato Keylight positioned behind me (not pictured below that way).

I’m happy with the result and find it’s simple to color correct in post-production.

Softbox Lights for Recording Drum Cover Videos

If you don’t have the budget to get lights, be sure your kit is set up in a spot with adequate lighting on you. Make sure you’re not in the dark when you press record.

Motorized Camera Sliders

All of Adam Tuminaro’s have a coherent style and look. They also feature movement. And despite what you may have thought, the movement is not by aid of a cameraman — it’s achieved with a motorized slider.

Motorized sliders either sit on the ground or attach to tripods. When a camera mounts to one, the slider moves the camera with its motor.

Using a slider in your shots adds a ton of production value and makes videos way more interesting to watch.

I picked up mine on Amazon. I chose the 31″ GVM Motorized Camera Slider. I figured that size is more than enough to shoot a drum kit. I was right.

31″ GVM Motorized Camera Slider

GVM Motorized Camera Slider

Though they have come down in price, they’re still not the cheapest piece of gear. You still have to account for your camera, mics, interface, before even considering one.

That said, I can’t recommend the GVM slider enough. It’s well worth it if you can afford it. See it in action on my Instagram account below.

I use mine, not only for drum videos, but also for product videos for Drumming Review. It seemed like a great investment since I do a lot of camera work.


Camera Settings for Drum Covers

There are quite a few settings you can adjust depending on how you want your video to look. Still, for most, the default settings of your camera should be acceptable.

Frames Per Second

For drumming videos, I like to shoot in 60fps. The added motion seems more realistic and lifelike to my eyes.

Some people like the cinematic look of 24fps. Make sure to choose a setting and stick with it before recording a lot of footage. Also, make sure you set all cameras to the same FPS.

There’s nothing worse than being done with a shoot and realizing one camera wasn’t shooting in 60fps.

For the other camera settings like ISO, shutter speed, white balance, auto-focus, I suggest leaving on auto. 

Unless you have the time to dive deep into learning manual camera modes, you’ll fight to get good results.

Resolution

Everyone these days is talking about 4k video. Despite this, I still believe 1080p is perfectly fine to use.

Why? Most 4k TVs upscale the content to fit the additional pixels. 1080p content on a 4k monitor doesn’t look terrible.

Also, 4k video is much larger in file size, so you’ll need more space to hold all your footage. 4k video also is harder on a computer’s resources, so editing will be challenging unless you have a powerful computer.

Shooting at 60 frames also makes the files huge — adding 4k into the equation is not possible, at least for my setup.


Hitting Record

Once that red light is on, it’s go time. 

Now it can be intimidating the first time you attempt a drum cover, but remember to relax. The first time you play on camera most likely won’t be your best.

You need to practice playing in front of the camera. To look and play naturally, getting used to seeing that lens in front of you while you’re playing is crucial.

Don’t settle for the first recording you do, either. If you feel yourself making mistakes, don’t get frustrated and say it’s good enough. 

Take the time and get the right take. It may take you more time, but it will be worth it when you hit publish.


Using Multiple Angles for Drum Covers

Many drummers posting drum cover videos include multiple angle shots. 

Do you need numerous angles? It’s up to you, though I think drum videos are convincing even with just one perspective.

Some common angles include front shot, overhead shot, feet shot, far shot, and other creative positions.

Using multiple cameras makes the process trickier, both in production and in post, so keep that in mind.

I find that with my camera slider, I don’t have the need for multiple angles. The movement of the camera makes the shot interesting enough in my opinion.


Editing

After you have a take you like, it’s time to bring it to the computer.

Video Editing Software for Drum Covers

For editing software, I like the Adobe Suite of products (Premiere Pro), but there are several free options you can use, as well.

  • Lightworks
  • Shotcut
  • HitFilm Express
  • DaVinci Resolve

Start by both importing the footage you took, the audio (if you recorded drums separately), and the song audio.

I’ll leave it up to you to learn the basics of editing clips, but it’s a pretty straightforward process.

I like to add a short fade at the beginning and end of the video. If you want to include text over the video displaying the song title and artist, you’re welcome to, but it’s not necessary.

The less you do, the better your video will look, in my opinion.

I recommend color correcting the video, but for those new to editing video, it’s easy to go overboard. I recommend watching this video tutorial on the basics of color correction.


Wrapping Up

I hope this guide on shooting drum cover videos has helped and inspired you to make some content! 

Let me know in the comments down below if you have any questions. I’m happy to answer!

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One Response

  1. Chris November 20, 2019

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